Through a mirror polluted: Extrapolations

Remember when Don’t Look Up came out, the 2021 satire by Adam McKay about climate change and the way humanity deals with the crisis? Climate change activists generally praised it, conservatives of all stripes berated it for being propaganda, and film critics by and large disliked it as a film. I was largely in the third of these camps: while I agreed with the underlying sentiments, I found too much of the film smug and happy to preach to the choir, and I simply didn’t see much reason to be smug about a film designed to get those people nodding who were already nodding, while being pretty much guaranteed to put those off who weren’t already among those nodding. To my mind, Don’t Look Up was best where it dropped its lazy, easy-target satire (no matter how deserving that satire might be) and went for anger instead of smugness. (Which isn’t to say that I can’t imagine a better, more successful climate change satire than Don’t Look Up, but that’s a different topic.)

Extrapolations, an anthology series by Apple TV+ mostly forgoes the satire, but like Don’t Look Up I am largely in agreement with the thinking behind it. More than Don’t Look Up, though, it fails as activism as well as storytelling – sometimes disastrously so.

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Death and the Politburo

In case the trailer didn’t already give it away, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is a comedy. Its dialogue bristle with sharp, satirical thorns. It is at turns witty, goofy, absurdist and madcap. It is also like one of those works of art that, when you first look at them, seem to depict a rabbit or a beautiful young woman – but then you realise that you’re actually looking at a duck or an old crone, and once that realisation has set in, it’s difficult if not impossible to again see what you thought you saw at first. Once that moment has set in, The Death of Stalin becomes something much darker. The verbal humour remains, but it is revealed to be the poisonous icing on a meal that tastes of ashes and death.

The Death of Stalin

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