“Black Mirror (Season 3): Hacking and Hijacking


Episode: "Nosedive"
Episode: “Nosedive”

The third season of “Black Mirror” deftly picks up where Netflix left us at the end of season two (see my December 29, 2014 review of previous seasons) exploring themes of techno-paranoia, the ugly side of social media and its lack of consequences. Technophobia thrives!

Like the prior seasons, this season’s six episodes of “Black Mirror” involve at least one unwitting main character who is controlled by devices or inventions that are supposed either to enhance the quality of life or be a source of entertainment.   Personal freedom is threatened instead. Each episode tackles some form of hacking and hijacking.

The first episode, “Nosedive,” explores the obsession with smartphones. Personal lives become shattered by low star ratings and swiping left, with the ensuing online shaming leading to tragedy.

“Play Test,” reveals what happens to a world traveler who stumbles into a genuinely terrifying video game that is more real than virtual.

In “Shut Up and Dance,” an unseen hacker gains access to a teenager’s webcam and blackmails him. The anonymous hacker blackmails each subsequent victim to engage in criminal acts. Those who saw “Snowden” and now “Shut Up and Dance” will think more seriously about covering their webcam lens with a post-it!

The fourth “Hated in the Nation” is a bit like the classic, “Manchurian Candidate”. An investigator soon sees how murders advocated on Twitter with the hashtag #DeathTo, intersect with the decimation of the bee population.  Use of #DeathTo actually grows rapidly in popularity after users learn that the Twitter “game” is real and actually used to identify people who become public hate figures.

“Men Against Fire” is not your usual mini–war movie. To avoid PTSD after killing enemy combatants, the military embeds electronic implants into soldiers’ brains to dehumanize the enemy and avoid PTSD.

“San Junipero,” is a romantic encounter between two women who time-travel to unexpected places, some real and some virtual. They can choose to live as their younger selves forever, resonating a bit with the movie “Sixth Sense”.

Watching each episode of “Black Mirror” is like falling into a rabbit hole, where the world of the Cheshire Cat is ominous and not only a figment of the imagination. “Black Mirror” poses the question: Do our smart screens prevent us from authentic relationships and a shared reality within a wider community? Or have our moral boundaries been erased by the often tantalizing and addicting worlds our Wi-Fi connections make so real and so easy to pursue?

All six episodes are evocative and open a portal to seeing if our minds can be hacked and hijacked. Choose your own favorite episodes and post your preferences here!

Note: The episode “White Christmas” from the end of last season is quite a somber Christmas to say the least. Starring Jon Hamm (of “Mad Men” fame), I loved this one!

“Good Girls Revolt”: The Upheaval Continues


[Guest blogger, Eva Barrows, has provided a post on the Amazon original series, “Good Girls Revolt”.   Eva  now  is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer and editor of Imitation Fruit, a literary and art journal. Visit her writer website at: www.evabarrows.com and her literary journal at: www.imitationfruit.com. ]



The late 1960s was a time of volatile change in America that kindled the flame of the women’s liberation movement. Good Girls Revolt, an Amazon Original Series (released October 27, 2016) is a period drama based on the historical events that took place at  “Newsweek” magazine, renamed “News of the Week” in the series. The female staff at “News of the Week” documents social changes, and demands equal treatment at their magazine, becoming headline news themselves.

“News of the Week” researchers Patti Robinson (Genevieve Angelson), Jane Hollander (Anna Camp) and Cindy Reston (Erin Darke) expertly acquire data from informants. Their male colleagues would then write the articles and take credit and the byline for themselves. Fair? Norah Ephron, played by Grace Gummer, didn’t see it that way. She researches and writes an entire article, putting her name on it. However, “News of the Week” gives credit to a male reporter who had quit the magazine! Outraged, Norah walks out of the “News of the Week” office to look for opportunity elsewhere.

After Norah’s exit from the newsroom, mounting discontent pushes through the “News of the Week” office to the climactic season finale. The female staff confer with ACLU lawyer, Eleanor Holmes Norton (Joy Bryant), who suggests they take legal action against their employer. Support for the legal action grows as sexist and discriminatory practices continue to plague the women.

This colorful series titillates with sex, drugs, and rock and roll (iconic 1960s tunes from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Iron Butterfly).

Season one ends in a well-crafted cliff hanger. “Good Girls Revolt” is perfectly poised for a thrilling season two, where the fallout of the decision to make a stand for change will spur on dramatic, exciting and uplifting television.

Note:  “The Hollywood Reporter” found that Amazon decided not to renew Good Girls Revolt for a second season. So, Sony will be shopping the second season to other networks. Actresses, Genevieve Angelson (Patti) and Anna Camp (Jane) started a Twitter campaign #savegoodgirlsrevolt in support of renewing the show. The show has a 96% audience score on  Rotten Tomatoes.


“Wadjda”–A Feisty Little Girl


wajdjaWritten and directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, a Saudi woman director, this charming film was nominated for the BAFTA best foreign picture as well as for the Academy Award for best foreign film in 2014. The tale of Wadjda, a 10-year-old girl who defies the cultural norms of Saudi Arabian society, could be any little girl who is trying to make her way in a world of little boys who already understand that boys rule. Waad Mohammed, the 10-year old actress who carries the film, is phenomenal and reminds the viewer of the young Quvenzhané Wallis of  “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” (2012) (See my review of  “Beasts” September 8, 2012.)

Her best friend is a neighborhood boy, Abdullah, who seems to take her headstrong nature in stride. Fun-loving yet tenacious, Wadjda wants to have a green bicycle to race with Abdullah. But girls are not allowed to ride bikes. Undeterred, Wadjda enters a Koran competition, hoping to win the prize money for the bike.

Wadjda’s mother is equally remarkable and supportive, mirroring the child’s independence and yearning for a freer form of life. Yet the viewer is not given a lecture, and misogynistic elements of the treatment of girls (or perhaps the fear of them?) is laced with subtle humor. One example: a fit of giggles erupts when the girls who are menstruating have to cover their hands with a cloth before touching the Koran.  wajdja-2

A delightful gem of a film celebrating the human spirit and the unwillingness to simply accept fate or broken dreams, “Wadjda” is a movie that will touch your heart.

Note: Available on Netflix. Director Haifaa Al-Mansour was not allowed to speak directly to her male film crew. In a nearby van, watching through a monitor, she gave directions via walkie-talkie.



“Requiem for the American Dream”–A Pending Nightmare?


chomskyThis eerily prescient documentary (2015) narrated by Noam Chomsky was in development before the official announcement of Donald Trump’s candidacy. Yet, in the “Ten Principles of the Concentration of Wealth and Power” the viewer sees the redesigning of the US economy.

Perhaps the most disturbing insight in “Requiem for a Dream” is the historical analysis of the US constitution, the drafting of which protected the major landowners from losing political power. Slowly the “protection”evolved into “corporate tyranny” and ultimately “financialization of the US economy”. Job insecurity through weakening unionization created an environment of conquer and divide, of hate and fear for each other, with an ever-growing and unfocused anger and vulnerability on the part of the general workforce. What Chomsky calls “the residue of democracy” is now upon us as the engineering of elections through the concentration of wealth results in paid politicians governing a “bewildered herd”.

“Requiem for the American Dream” is indeed sobering. Chomsky, known for his activism during both the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, bemoans the state of “an uninformed electorate making irrational choices often against their own self-interest.” This is a documentary that is a must-see for all of us trying to make sense of the election three weeks ago. The historical perspective is an eye-opener.

Note:  This documentary is available on Netflix.