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In Your Queue: This [stuff] ain’t checkers

October 18, 2013

2013-10-18 16_12_05-Brooklyn Castle - IN THEATERS OCT. 19TH _Answers Aren't Clear_ - YouTube

Gaming is often serious business, one that can either end in elation or with the board being hurled furiously across the room, sometimes both at the same time. There have been three films released this year that capture that all-or-nothing soul-lifting/crushing addiction to outmaneuvering your friends in the world of small pieces, and don’t require a spec of knowledge about chess or RPGs to enjoy.

In Brooklyn Castle (now streaming), a public junior high school in New York runs riot over the competitive chess world, winning tournament after tournament, team and individual. But now budget cuts threaten the existence of the school’s chess program and its incredible 10 year run. Chess is usually used as a metaphor for life in film, and it is here to a degree, but it’s also a something of a MacGuffin: chess is the door that lets us into this world filled with special kids who are all playing chess for different reasons, whether it be to help with ADD or to help get into a good college. Getting to know these kids — and the school’s chess coach Elizabeth Vicary, who emerges as a star — even for a minute, even through video, is an enriching life experience on its own, one that puts back a little bit of the hope that Teen Mom and Jersey Shore sucked out the world.

Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess (now streaming) takes a slightly different route with its chess story. In this early-80s-set faux documentary, computer programmers take up battle against each other in a depressing roadside hotel ballroom in Texas to see who has the superior machine. Peter (Patrick Riester), of the returning champion Cal Tech team, discovers a flaw in the latest version of their software: it would rather play against humans than computers, and nerdy sexual tension begins to pull at the story when he asks the only girl at the tournament, Shelly (Robin Schwartz) from the MIT team, to help him figure it out. The theories range from programming error to government involvement in this deadpan, quirky comedy. The film was shot in black and white with an early vacuum tube video camera. It’s a strange flourish, one that could have been a distraction, but actually ends up helping sustain the film’s warped sense of atmosphere. As the Dissolve’s Matt Singer put it, “every color of the autism spectrum in muddy black and white.”

In Zero Charisma (now streaming), a charming, nerdy hipster joins a long running D&D-type tabletop role playing game and butts heads with the surly, overweight cartoon character of a Game Master who has sucked all the fun out of the proceedings. The Game Master, Scott (Sam Edison), is the that guy, the geek who lives in his high school bedroom and works in a donut shop. He is the living embodiment of the quote, “Yeah dating is cool but have you ever had stuffed crust pizza?” The lack of life comes out in Scott’s intricate RPG writing, but the thin structure it provides him shatters easily when things stop going his way for a second. He ends up losing his game to Miles (Garrett Graham), the nerdy hipster, and his friends along with it. The film trades on long held stereotypes about geeks and cool kids, and why they don’t necessarily mix, but directors Andrew Matthews and Katie Graham paint an enchanting, realistic story with their limited palette. The lows are quite low and the victories are very small, but that’s how real life tends to work.

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  • carlobarlo


    This project is something I like to call “a brilliantly thoughtless good idea”, particularly if I should talk to Volusia Council member Pat Northey, who, if not in a liquor store clinking bottles of booze together at the checkout counter talking on a cell phone, or inadvertently getting her car locked in Gemini Springs Park off on a wee hours bender with a crony (or ‘somebody’ rendevous), you’d find this politician blowing smoke up the locals’ derriere for more than two years with something else I like to call “a brilliant project proposal complete with phantom blueprints”.

    This two years of smoke up locals’ derrieres is in regard to that phantom 0.9-mile stretch of bicycle safety corridor between Dirksen and Debary Drives where somebody’s gonna get nailed at the I-4 interchange before pedaling along the 6-plus east miles passing Enterprise Road and through the woods along Doyle Road emerging phantom-like onto a loose sand/boggy gravel pit to cross the phantom ‘N-S 415 overpass’ of this phantom bike trail… You know, the one Pat Northey loves to boast about bringing to phantom reality.

    Did you follow all that?

    Here’s even more BS Central Florida politicians amuse me with, even more than the Wizard of Oz retaining his hot air balloon in the advent of a quick getaway: A “Coast-to-coast” thoroughfare bicycle trail civic authority and media love to rhapsodize having mercantile stuff cyclists can purchase or dine along the way coast-to-coast, never dares mention that most cyclists are NOT bicycle mechanics who can ably change a broken chain or flat tire, especially on the rear wheel chain derailleur of their bicycle!
    Hey senior citizen cane walker, ever been stuck out in the middle of nowhere in high-nineties temperatures on your bike with a busted chain or flat tire??? Will you be looking through the scrub oak trees for a sign that says “WE MAKE FLAT TIRES ROUND!” or a state-run trail stopover that’ll let you fill your water bottle?

    Huh? …Wha’? Oh, I’m sorry, …never mind. I must sound like Emily Latella. The Orlando Weekly news site is so weird otherwise, I thought it was a self-improved effort on weekdays being a salute to Rush Limbaugh’s Call-in Friday!