Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Black Mirror Scratched


I’ve been seeing a lot of people on Facebook raving about Black Mirror on lately (which is, in itself very ironic), so we watched the first episode last night. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a Twilight Zone type morality play (different characters and stories every episode that generally have something to do with technology). I’m going to attempt to be vague as I write about it and not give away too many details, but there will be spoilers.

At first, I found the episode to be very disturbing (but in that good way art can be disturbing) and impactful but also a bit heavy handed.  Characters said or did things they wouldn’t really say in real-life in order for the story to make its comments on technology. There were also a few plot holes that I let slide. (You’re sneaking someone into a building and you not only don’t clear the street but you let someone hangout by the entrance. Then you let that someone take a picture of the person you’re sneaking into the building and you don’t detain said person or confiscate their phone. You just let them walk away. You’re a moron and deserve for your plan to backfire. OR you spend seemingly hours reconnoitering a building and never bother to do any sort of thermal imaging to determine if anyone is actually in the building.)

Still, I was left chewing on something that didn’t quite sit right. Sure enough, when I woke up this morning, in a half-asleep half-awake daze, it hit me.

In addition to the story itself commenting on technology, we find out at the end that the terrorists weren’t really terrorists but an artist making a comment on technology (which a character has to spell out for us because the viewer can’t be trusted to arrive at the conclusion on their own) that everyone was missing what was going on in real life because they were all inside glued to their TV screens.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my problem with the ending. Did you catch it?

The whole episode is an intricate indictment of how technology can trap someone into having to do something truly horrifying and terrible, but at the end, it completely ignores an entire segment of the technology it claims to be indicting: streaming video.

Not once is a member of the general public shown watching the news on their computer or on their phone. The streets of London wouldn’t have been empty at 3:30 because everyone was inside watching the news. There would have been hundreds or thousands of people too self obsessed or busy with their own lives to be inside watching a TV. They would have been out living their busy lives following the events on their mobile device. The princess would have been discovered before the 4:00 PM deadline. The terrible thing wouldn’t have happened at all.

So the first episode ends up being a rather one-sided view of technology, cherry picking the elements that serve the narrative and ignoring the others. Because, let’s face it, there would have been teams of hackers out there trying to trace the video upload (that somehow this artist managed to make untraceable after single-handedly kidnapping a princess…)


The more I scratch the surface, the more it falls apart. I did like it, at the time. I just hope the other episodes hold up better to a little scrutiny.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

New Star Wars Trailer!



Things I like about this trailer:


  1. Everyone character in it looks scared. That's a good thing. It means there are real, personal, life-and-death stakes, not trade embargoes. 
  2. We all know Luke, Lei, Han, and the gang are in the film, but they're nowhere to be seen in trailer. That implies they're not the main characters, which will hopefully keep it fresh. 
  3. Things look gritty, not super polished like the prequels. 
The comic-relief droid is a little worrisome, but we'll over look that for now and remain cautiously optimistic. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day of the Doctors


I enjoyed The Day of the Doctor, but there was a giant Christopher Eccleston sized hole in that story. I suppose it's not Steven Moffat's fault that Eccleston passed on being in the 50th Anniversary Special, but I can fault him for continuing with that story when he knew the Ninth Doctor couldn't be in it in any substantive way.

I noticed his absence the most during the scene when Ten, Eleven, and the War Doctor are standing there with their hands on the button. He really needed to be there in that scene. He was the PTSD Doctor. He was closer to the war and more effected by it then any of them. If this was the story of the Doctor redeeming himself for destroying his own people, Nine needed to be there.

I could have even forgiven his absence if they'd been able to get him in the studio long enough to finish the War Doctor's regeneration sequence. All I needed was for Eccleston to look up and say "Fantastic!" But no. Instead we get old footage of him re-purposed along with old footage of all of the Doctors. It was fine. It worked. It just wasn't satisfying.

And I realize that Peter Capaldi wasn't cast in time for this to be possible, but what would have made the show truly epic would have been to add 30 minutes, include Nine, AND include Thirteen. (I'm going to assume he will be known as Thirteen, but there will be no retroactive renumbering of Nine through Eleven.) There's no reason you have to introduce a new Doctor with his regeneration. You could have brought him in from the future. Maybe that would have been too distracting, but I think it would have been brilliant. At least they worked him briefly into the climax.

Then there was Tom Baker. I spent the whole episode assuming the asthmatic with the scarf would somehow turn out to be him. Then he pops in at the end. I thought it was a clever way to work in one of the older actors, even if he did ham it up.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Troilus and Go-see-it-a

I went to opening night of Impact's Troilus and Cressida on Saturday night. I didn't know anything about the play before I showed up at the theater that night, except that it was Shakespeare. You don't need to either. As soon as you open your program, you'll recognize character names and think to yourself "That's what this play is about? I didn't realize Shakespeare wrote a play about that. I wonder who plays the Brad Pitt and Eric Bana characters..."

About halfway through the first act, I found myself thinking "This is really good. It's modern. It's funny. It's tragic. It's way better than that stupid movie. Why isn't this play done more often?". Then the second half began and things started to go a little sideways. Then it started getting really weird. Then it ended, and I thought "Whaaaaat?!" It's not the production's fault at all. It's solid and approachable and engaging and everything you'd expect from an Impact Shakespeare.

It's Shakespeare's fault. Or rather it's time's fault. T & C is one of his "problem plays", a problem because times have changed so much that the humor and dramatic weight of the show are all but incomprehensible to a modern audience.

Even so, I have to highly recommend seeing the show. Why? Think about it: What could be more engaging than watching Shakespeare drive a train wreck? It's riveting to watch just how out of control and weird it gets. The director, Melissa Hillman, does a great job of toning it down and making it hold together into some sort of satisfying arc, but seriously, just go and watch the shit fly. It's worth it for the fight scenes, the humor, and the beer, if nothing else. And you can impress people by telling them you've actually seen a production of Troilus and Cressida that didn't suck.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WHO Doctor Doctor Who

The casting of the 12th Doctor was announced on Sunday, via a live TV special shown at the same time on the BBC and BBC America, except of course for me because I don't pay for HD cable. As such, my BBC America feed is three hours delayed. Still, the twittersphere did not disappoint in conveying the news to me in real time. The new Doctor will be:



I've never seen The Thick of It, the show for which he is famous for playing the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker. But a friend of mine on Facebook, who clearly has seen the show, was nearly peeing her pants with joy. More recently you might recognize him as the World Health Organization (WHO) Doctor in World War Z. (See how that works? He went from a WHO Doctor to Doctor Who...)

My first reaction to his casting was to have a moment of disappointment that they cast yet another white male in the role and passed up the opportunity to cast a minority, whether a woman or a person of color. Then that moment passed because as much as I would like to see that happen someday, I don't trust Steven Moffat to handle either of those things well. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of what he's done for the show since taking over for Russel T. Davies, but he tends to write in broad, stereotypical strokes that would not have gone well. He strikes me as one of those white males who doesn't understand that other people's life experience isn't identical to his own.

Otherwise I quite like the choice. Moving from the youngest Doctor, Matt Smith (27 when he debuted), to the second oldest in Capaldi (55 and second only to the first Doctor, William Hartnell) will provide a nice contrast, and maybe it will stop the companions from falling in love with him. Matt Smith also did a wonderful job of conveying through his performance how old the character is in spite of Smith's physical youth, which I think will allow the transition to Capaldi to be smoother. Smith's Doctor doesn't feel young at all. Now the Doctor will just look more his age.

It's interesting to note that Capaldi appeared in The Fires of Pompeii episode of Series 4 opposite David Tennant's Doctor. I wonder if they'll do some retconing and make his character in that episode the 12th Doctor in disguise. Actually, it would be pretty brilliant to bring back David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and show us that whole episode from the 12th Doctor's perspective pretending to be Caecilius.

In any case, Capaldi will make his debut at the end of this year's Christmas special, undoubtedly poking his face a lot, frowning at his bow tie, and being disappointed that after 11 regenerations, he still hasn't been a ginger.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sleepy Hollow

I don't care if it's in this new Grimm knock-off on FOX...



Or the old Tim Burton movie with Johnny Depp and Christa Ricci...



Watching a guy without a head walk around and attack people is impressive.
In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.