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Makar Vlasov
Makar Vlasov

The Movie That Shows Chess is the Great Equalizer: Critical Thinking, Based on Real Events

From his daring introductory chess lessons to a group of unruly high school students in detention to the development of the Club and the teens' first local chess competitions, this movie reveals his difficult, inspirational journey and how he changed the lives of a group of teens with no endgame.

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Eugene started playing chess while he was incarcerated in federal prison following a botched bank robbery. Chess was a good distraction from the dreary routine and depressing world around him. Today he is a father, grandfather, a real estate agent, and the Founder and CEO of The Big Chair Chess Club. Eugene Brown believes that having six and seven-year-olds learn to play chess is one way to set them on the right course.

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Principal Kestel, who does not see the value of the chess club at the school and views it as a de facto detention hall, threatens to redirect funding from the club to the school's football team; however, she decides to offer the team an opportunity to fundraise by selling candy bars. When the boys scheme to convert the candy bars into marijuana infused-cookies goes awry, Mr. T uses his personal savings to register the team in the regional chess tournament. The team wins the tournament to advance to the state championship, and at the end of the road trip Sedrick happily tells his dad about his victory. Sedrick's father tells him to get his life straight and decide on his future rather than waste his time on chess. Ito loses his job because of his decision to go out of town to the tournament and his mother throws him out of her apartment, leading him to quit the chess team. The rest of the team realizes that they need money to register for the state championship. They also need Ito, who previously qualified for the regional. If they can't achieve both, they risk forfeiting.

It was of interest, just about, of seemingly a film of a 80s chess convention. After a while the picture is really poor and the people barely talking comprehensibly. As it went on I thought that making the silly people began to seem really stupid but then as it went on even more we begin to wonder what is going on. Gradually it makes clear that we are just watching some mumble-core moment and rather than a 80s documentary instead as a mockumentary and with Andrew Bujalski aiming for laughs. I suppose being about playing chess can make a laugh but I think they find just how difficult it is to be very funny, the watchers of the film are the people also being mocked.

I had absolutely no clue what I was letting myself into. Just that a friend of mine was telling me I had to see it. It played at the International Film Festival in Berlin and I can only say my friend was right. If there is just a slight geeky/nerdy side in you, you will like this movie too. The fact, they had me guessing for a second, if that was actually made back when this is supposed to play is just great.Of course, even if you don't know if this is a real documentary or not (it's not), you will get this very early on. But the jokes are really funny and even when it seems to be dragging a bit, it will pick up speed again and deliver on its funny premise. The acting is great and the film does look as old as it is supposed to look. Jokes work nicely and the overall feeling is just great. Check-mate

I can sit through the most ponderous Joe Swanberg film, the most ridiculous thing ever directed by the Duplass brothers Jay and Mark, respectively, and can even tolerate monotony bestowed upon a talky independent movie in terms of my affection and devotion to the mumblecore movement in cinema. However, when watching a film by the proclaimed "godfather" of the movement Andrew Bujalski, I find myself in a figurative wrestling match between myself and his films. His films are well shot, wonderfully lit and captured given the minimal budgets, and are believably conducted from an acting standpoint, but when the characters open their mouths, not much interesting comes out and when the plot "gets going," not much noteworthy seems to happen. Arriving at the conclusion of his directorial debut Funny Ha Ha, his follow-up effort Mutual Appreciation, and now, his latest endeavor, Computer Chess (arguably his best reviewed film), I am met with nothing other than emptiness, isolation, and very little to write about.When I enjoy a film that falls in line with the mumblecore movement, bearing a micro-budget, naturalistic dialog, simple but thoughtful acting, themes classified under the title of social realism, and a basic plot that offers much discussion, I'll talk about it for days and write a long, healthy review of the film. When I don't enjoy a film of the mumblecore movement, I'll struggle for sometimes over an hour trying to summarize why I didn't enjoy it. Films like these rely so heavily on character and realism that not liking the film likely means that you didn't like the characters for some reasons.Your tolerance for simplicity, tone, and character needs to be relatively high or the film is likely to escape you. Computer Chess escaped me early on and neither I nor it every reconnected.The story concerns a computer chess tournament circa 1980's, when the home-computer/computer revolution was jut gaining momentum. People were in awe at the fact that a person can play a machine in a game like chess and have a chance at losing. The power of a machine shaped like a large box was greatly underestimated and tournaments for computer chess and other basic video games became relatively common. The picture is aesthetically complete, showing the players as probably how they were. Many of them wore button-down shirts, vests over their shirt, pocket-protectors, thick-rimmed glasses, had neatly combed hair and a fine-trimmed mustache, along with the benefits of khaki pants and their brain power.Long story short, they were geeky, but they also were the reason why computers advanced so much in such a relatively short period of time. One look into the history books - or this film, in particular - and you see their equipment was clunky, slow, and unreliable. If they wanted better materials, they couldn't utilize the internet to their advantage. All they could do was do what they could with what they had, and they became the technical pioneers of a larger-than-life industry that many of us take for granted today.Writer/director Bujalski does a nice job on the environment and the atmosphere of the picture, making the entire project have the look and possibly the aroma of a 1980's chess tournament. The computer and software equipment they had defines the very principles of primitive technology, and Bujalski shows this by incorporating memorable computer sounds of the time, along with the believable execution of an early computerized chess tournament. The black and white photography the film bears only emphasizes this quality. It also helps a film with weak or uninteresting material to make up for it in the aesthetic department, but unfortunately, Computer Chess can't entirely rebound.Reviews of Computer Chess have marveled at the existential value of the picture. Most everyone has hailed the set design and the aesthetic work (my sole attraction before and after watching the film). And some claim that there's a great meditative style to the picture that offers a valuable viewing. I was free of almost everything in that vicinity watching the film. Bujalski's commitment to recreating an odd, specific time-frame in history deserves significant recognition, but the story he concocts around alienating characters leaves a lot to be desired. When admiration for the history subsides and fascination with aesthetics simmers, what you have is another film with a tiresome story. Like peeling away at the unique looks of a human being to find we're the same on the inside; that's never any fun.Starring: Kriss Schludermann, Tom Fletcher, and Wiley Wiggins. Directed by: Andrew Bujalski.

The film might make you think Marilyn was a bewildered nitwit too stupid to protest her vile violations, a chessboard piece moved around by loathsome, violent, perverted, lecherous men. She did have enormous problems and was a tragic figure. She grew up in an abusive foster care system and suffered from chronic depression and insomnia. But she was passionately determined to improve herself, to overcome her demons, to dare herself to climb higher, to be great. Blonde strips her of her well-known wit, charm and intelligence. She loved children and was one of the first celebrities to speak out about child abuse. Politically savvy, she challenged the House Un-American Activities Committee and had the guts to demand better scripts and director approval. The movie omits that she was one of the first women to defy the studio system and form her own production company.

Twelve years later I was in New York City fighting for my chess life against just one machine, a $10 million IBM supercomputer nicknamed "Deep Blue." This battle, actually a rematch, became the most famous human-machine competition in history. Newsweek's cover called the it "The Brain's Last Stand" and a flurry of books compared it to Orville Wright's first flight and the moon landing. Hyperbole, of course, but not out of place at all in the history of our love-hate relationship with so-called intelligent machines.

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Jump forward another twenty years to today, to 2017, and you can download any number of free chess apps for your phone that rival any human Grandmaster. You can easily imagine a robot in my place in Hamburg, circling inside the tables and defeating thirty-two of the world's best human players at the same time. The tables have turned, as they always do in our eternal race with our own technology.


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