Hope you are having a good time. My name is Cuong Lam, and welcome to my blog. For anyone that does not know, I am a third year student studying Communication and Media at University of Wollongong, Australia. For this semester, I am studying a subject called Future Cultures, and for each week we are shown movies in class (yes you got it right, movies in class!) and during the screening we have to live tweet any relevant content or comment about the movie on Twitter. Therefore, in this blog post I will make a reflection on all of the six live tweeting sessions (I missed the first one :P). And here we go:
Week 2: WestWorld (1973).
Westworld is a 1973 American science fiction Western thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton about amusement park androids that malfunction and begin killing visitors (Wikipedia).
It was interesting to see how not only me, but also my classmates reacted to the rebellion of robots in Westworld. In particular, we tend to focus not on the fact that robots were killing human in the movie, but instead the cause of the rebellion, which was the way human treated robots. It seems like the human characters were able to express their darkest side by being put into a world full of what they thought to be insentient and will accept whatever they do. The tweet that I consider best reflects this was Noelle’s: “pays 1K a day and literally ends up in jail lol”. So true. These people paid $1000 not to enjoy the theme park, but to commit crimes that they cannot do in real life, and the chaos was what they deserved.
Week 3: Johnny Mnemonic (1995).
Johnny Mnemonic is a 1995 Canadian-American cyberpunk action thriller film directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. The film stars Keanu Reeves and Dolph Lundgren. The film is based on the story of the same name by William Gibson. Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a man with a cybernetic brain implant designed to store information. The film portrays Gibson’s dystopian view of the future with the world dominated by megacorporations and with strong East Asian influences (Wikipedia).
The common theme dominated across the screening of Johnny Mnemonic was how funny the future was depicted in the movie as everything looked old-fashioned and simply not modern enough to be ‘the future’. However, one thing that was recognised by many of us was how the future in the movie was dark, pessimistic and somehow a dystopia. This can be reflected by my most-likable tweet of this session: “Take a look around, this is actually the future of E-Waste”, and another wonderful tweet from Noelle (again): “Why do they depict the future to have rubbish everywhere idgi”. The future with all the advanced technologies suppose to be fancy, but in the movie, it was only covered in darkness, isn’t it weird? Maybe the answer lies in how the protagonist, Johnny, after all the happenings just wants to be a normal human again, and it seems like most of my peers felt this way too. This tweet from Aiman says it all: “At the end of the day, everyone wants to be “human” again”.
Week 4: The Matrix (1999).
Again, another Keanu Reeves movie featuring the future seems dark and pessimistic. “The buildings and city don’t look futuristic at all – just dystopian and deteriorating” – Claire’s tweet. I feel like a lot of media products, not only movies, tend to depict a future of technologies that does not turn out to be the best, but actually describe a fear of being controlled by technologies instead. Another common theme of the screening was how the green filter used in the movie was widely recognised, which reflected the boundary between virtual world and reality. Besides, the best thing I experienced from this week’s live tweeting was a conversation with several classmates about how simulation technology would be used in the future for tourism purpose. We had discussed several possible technologies, from VR to memory bank and also memory purchase, which I considered very interesting as innovation and prediction seems to be limitless.
Week 5: Black Mirror Season 2 Episode 1
“Be Right Back” is the first episode of the second series of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by series creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris and first aired on Channel 4 on 11 February 2013.
The episode tells the story of Martha (Hayley Atwell), a young woman whose boyfriend Ash Starmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is killed in a car accident. As she mourns him, she discovers that technology now allows her to communicate with an artificial intelligence imitating Ash, and reluctantly decides to try. “Be Right Back” had two sources of inspiration: the question of whether to delete a dead friend’s phone number from one’s contacts, and the idea that Twitter posts could be made by software mimicking dead people.
“Be Right Back” explores the theme of grief; it is a melancholy story similar to the previous episode, “The Entire History of You“. Its presentation of Martha and Ash’s relationship is brief but depicts a loving relationship, many aspects of which are inverted with Martha and the AI that imitates Ash, which is unable to replicate the small details of Ash’s behaviour. (Wikipedia)
Throughout the screening session, I had noticed that how my peers, as well as myself, were uncomfortable thinking of the storyline. What happened in the movie could be a possible outcome of human’s dependence on technology, according to Ashleigh’s tweet: “Humans are always getting attached to our devices, giving names and personalities to them. But this is on a whole different level”. Moreover, it also raised concerns around mental issues, which might happen not only to the protagonist, but anyone of us as a result of excessive attachment to technology: “is anyone else concerned for this woman’s mental health?” – Cassie’s tweet. However, although this technology will face controversies if one day it is brought to life, I cannot tell for sure what I would react to it once I was put in the same situation: “Fooling myself into the illusion that someone you love is still alive, or facing the truth? I don’t have an idea to be honest”. A great episode, a great idea leaving us with a lot of questions inside I believe.
Week 6: Robot and Frank
Robot & Frank is a 2012 American science fiction comedy-drama film directed by Jake Schreier and written by Christopher Ford. Set in the near future, it focuses on Frank Weld, an aging jewel thief played by Frank Langella, whose son buys him a domestic robot. Resistant at first, Frank warms up to the robot when he realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar. It was the first feature film for both Ford and Schreier and received critical acclaim for its writing, production, and acting. It won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, tying with the Kashmiri film Valley of Saints. (Wikipedia)
Unlike Johnny Mnemonic or The Matrix, the future in Robot and Frank seems to be more realistic, maybe because it was made at a recent date. However, without the e-waste or green filter, it still reflects a dystopian view: “The dystopian future in #RobotandFrank is not a robot that cares, but a library without books” – Chris’s tweet. The movie led us to different emotional stages, but I wonder that which stage or scenario was the saddest: the fact that people had to use robots to take care of their parents, aged people get attached to robots more than with their kids, or human could teach robots to commit crime? It was a dystopian view indeed, according to Frank Langella himself: “It doesn’t turn into a sentimental buddy movie at all”. Above all, it was obvious that both I and my peers were touched by the storyline of this movie, by the relationship between Frank and the robot, and by the fact that robots can actually feel, express emotion and empathy: “noooo just go to jail as friends don’t wipe memory” – Ashleigh’s tweet.
Week 7: Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 6
“Hated in the Nation” is the sixth and final episode of the third season of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. Written by series creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker and directed by James Hawes, it premiered on Netflix on 21 October 2016, along with the rest of series three. It is the longest episode in the series at 89 minutes.
The episode is a murder mystery, and follows Detective Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) and her new partner Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay) who, together with the help of National Crime Agency officer Shaun Li (Benedict Wong), try to solve the inexplicable deaths of people who were all the target of social media. (Wikipedia)
It was obvious from this final screening session of another episode from Black Mirror that we all realised how dystopian the theme was. Everyone was freaked out by the fact that tiny bees could be used as killing weapons and could be controlled by a daily social networking tool which was Twitter. Moreover, I was grateful to know that someone did share the same opinion with me that bees and hashtags are just a metaphor for cyberbullying: “I mean it’s not nice for people to wish someone dies on the internet, but they know it wouldn’t actually happen, so how do they actually feel now that someone is making these hated pupils a target of society ?” – Angus’s tweet; “Losing control of the bees a metaphor about how we can never control the internet?” – Edwina’s tweet; “This movie is a metaphor of the effect of online bullying. Victims might not die, but they are dead inside” – my own tweet. I totally agree with them that Internet in particular or technology in general will develop in any way depending on how we use them, just like the bees which can be used for ordinary purposes but can also be used as deadly weapons.