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Computer Chess (2013)
A Surprising Gem, Even For Computer Illiterates.
Not knowing my way around computers (I still type with two fingers at a time), I was expecting to be bored stupid by this little independent film. However I was pleasantly surprised. Even if you are confused by anything and everything A.I. this movie works on so many levels you're bound to get something from it. Shot in black and white with a cinema verite style, it looks great and feels nostalgic. The performances are very funny, I'm not sure if they all serve to reinforce nerdy stereotypes, but all are very believable. I found the subtle themes of Cold War competition and the anxieties about machines becoming more intelligent than humans to be very interesting.
I saw this film just before Spike Jonze's 'Her' and they make for good company with back to back viewings.
Ignorance Bliss For Hollywood
This film is not only inaccurate, but implicitly racist. I was hoping, while watching, that the supposed 'liberal' Hollywood filmmakers would shed some historical light as to why tensions between Iran and the USA are so poisonous. Apart from mentioning some context at the beginning of the film, the Iranians depicted throughout appear as 2 dimensional characters with an irrational hatred of 'the west'.
I spoke to an Iranian friend to hear his take on the film. He told me that Iranians in the film do not even speak with the correct grammar. So Affleck and co. not only depicted the Iranians as aggressive and irrational but couldn't even accurately portray the way in which they speak. My friend also told me that this film is just a modern application of Said's 'orientalism'. It was hard to disagree.
Technically the film is above average. The performances, editing, camera work and script all achieve a thrilling movie experience. But although it is entertaining it is far more harmful in a cultural context. It propagates myopic bigoted views about Iran and does not once (bar a fleeting opening statement) scrutinize the United States' criminal behaviour towards that country.
'Argo' once again reinforces the view that Hollywood, particularly 'liberal Hollywood' figures/activists like George Clooney, have no historical understanding about places like Iran. It is not surprising Hollywood makes these movies; the only surprise is how many seemingly sensible people applauded the film, without questioning the dangerous stereotypes or inaccurate historical context.