CULTURE

  • As Black Mirror turns 10, just how well did it predict the future?
    by Stuart Heritage on November 26, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    From chips – lots of chips – in our brains, to VR sex and Uber-style social media ratings, we rank every episode of the sci-fi series, from dystopian hogwash to shockingly prescient plotsNext week, Black Mirror will be a decade old. In that time, it has grown from a weird little British anthology show to a global hit, spawning no end of shoddy imitators in its wake. Perhaps its biggest legacy, however, has been its uncanny ability to tell stories about things that would subsequently become reality. But has every Black Mirror episode managed to predict the future? Below is every single episode ranked from least to most prescient. Continue reading…

  • Move over, The Crown! Why The Great is the racy royal drama you need to watch
    by Hollie Richardson on November 26, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    With its punchy scripts and feminist gaze, the subversive period drama has become a word-of-mouth hit. As it returns, stars Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult talk racy Russians, randy frogs – and the weird things they’ve robbed off the setAt the top of the stairs in his Los Angeles home, a portrait of Nicholas Hoult in military regalia hangs on the wall. “That’s very, very normal,” the actor deadpans, before breaking into a laugh. Gladly it isn’t some kind of big-headed shrine to himself, but rather a prop he took from the set of The Great, the gory and garish TV show in which he stars as the Russian emperor Peter III. His co-star Elle Fanning giggles as she admits pinching a sculpture of herself made of butter (“I receive a lifesize version in the show, but I just took the little one”). In fact, as they recall other decorations – a baby’s teddy bear said to be “made from a real bear”, and the mummified remains of Hoult’s onscreen mother, wheeled around in a glass case – the portrait and sculpture start to sound normal, even mundane, by comparison.Created by Tony McNamara – co-writer of the Oscar-winning film The Favourite – The Great isn’t your average period drama. A racy, raucous and not-at-all historically accurate comedy-drama shot through with feminist revisionism, it tweaks and embellishes the story of how Catherine the Great (Fanning) overthrew Hoult’s Peter to become Russia’s longest serving female leader. Hoult, 31, was cast after nailing the “flamboyant, cruel egotist in a wig” role of the Earl of Oxford in The Favourite. Meanwhile, Hollywood star Fanning is perfectly cast as Catherine, appearing much older than her 23 years, but always with an air of youthful mischief. Continue reading…

  • ‘People think my videos are real!’: meet Megan Stalter, the new queen of online cringe comedy
    by Brian Logan on November 26, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Pinpoint parodies of ‘weird church ladies and soccer moms’ made the Ohio comic famous during the pandemic – even if progressives mistake her for the real thingMegan Stalter put a video online recently of a churchgoer from the US midwest distressed to be served by a Starbucks barista wearing Halloween cat ears. (“We’re not allowed to celebrate Jesus’s birthday, but we’re allowed to celebrate Satan’s parade?”) Played with a beautifully straight bat, it was of a piece with the scores of bitesized character sketches Stalter has uploaded throughout the Covid period. But not everyone got the memo. “I get hundreds of mean comments every day thinking it’s real,” Stalter says, on a video call from New York. “But I’m like: it’s a joke! It would take you only two minutes to look at my profile and know that I’m a comedian.”Not just any comedian, but one of the hottest in the US right now – and in Britain, where her maiden run, at London’s Soho theatre this month, has already sold out. Stalter, 31, is that rare thing, a comic who prospered under lockdown. Her online videos and live broadcasts went stratospheric. A YouTube special, Little Miss Ohio, brought her cringe-comedy portraits to a wider audience. Then she was cast in HBO’s Hacks, which later bagged multiple comedy awards at the 2021 Emmys. “I couldn’t have gotten luckier,” Stalter admits, giggly over Zoom in her signature bright blue eyeshadow. Continue reading…

  • Hands off The Princess Bride! Which 80s fantasy films are due a reboot?
    by Ben Child on November 26, 2021 at 11:22 am

    Several of the decade’s cinematic fantasy adventures are unimprovable but others – Dragonslayer, or The Neverending Story perhaps – are notThere will probably never be a reboot of The Princess Bride, the classic 1980s film fantasy which was adapted by William Goldman from his own novel and directed by Rob Reiner. Certainly not if star Cary Elwes has his way. The dapper face of Westley the farmhand, AKA Dread Pirate Roberts, AKA The Man in Black, confirmed this week that he remains wholly opposed to a new version, the prospect of which has been mooted once or twice over the past decade. “If a film has landed in the hearts of the public, then, to me, it is not a good idea to try and revisit it,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.It’s a fair point. It is hard to imagine a remake of Reiner’s film ending up anything but a shallow retread. Unlike many of its contemporaries, the 1987 movie has not really aged: all its key components would look pretty much the same in 2021 as they did 34 years ago. There are no ambitious special effects and no giant beasties or fantasy landscapes that could be improved upon with modern technology. The closest thing to a non-human character is probably Billy Crystal’s goblin-like Miracle Max. It would be hard to find a living actor as out-of-this-world as the inimitable Andre the Giant to play Fezzik, and completely pointless to CGI a replacement. Continue reading…

  • ‘I am not gonna die on the internet for you!’: how game streaming went from dream job to a burnout nightmare
    by Keza MacDonald on November 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Gamers are making millions by playing in front of audiences on platforms like Twitch. But when fame and money counts on you always being on, can you ever switch off?It is June 2018, and I am sitting at a table in a needlessly fancy restaurant in LA with a bunch of teenagers. Well, some of them must be over 21 as they are able to order alcohol, but most are sticking to Coke or sparkling water with their overpriced steaks. These are some of the up-and-coming stars of Twitch, the livestreaming platform that now broadcasts about 2bn hours per month from more than 9m channels, most of which involve people filming themselves and chatting while playing video games. Later, there will be a lavish party in a similarly extravagant club, where the streamers with the most views and subscribers will be treated like celebrities in the VIP area.And, well, they are celebrities. They have millions of followers. They are stopped in the street or at airports by people wanting a selfie and an autograph. Unlike pro gamers, whose job is to be good enough at video games to win tournaments, a streamer’s job is to be entertaining enough – while playing anything from first person shooters to racing games – to win fans. Back in 2018, streaming was already a huge deal; now, bolstered by the pandemic and an ever-growing audience that boosted Twitch’s viewership by 70% in 2020, it is even bigger. To draw a comparison that makes me feel about 4,000 years old, they are their generation’s rock stars. Continue reading…

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