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Laramie Movie Scope:
Computer Chess

A weird movie about people and computers

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 8, 2013 -- This is a very strange movie. I don't know what to make of it.

At first, it seems like a documentary about a computer chess tournament held in the early 1980s, but very quickly it becomes clear this is a movie about geeks and computers which was shot to look like a period piece, even going so far as to being shot in black and white with a video camera more than 40 years old.

At first, it seems to be about the interplay between different people at the tournament, being held in a rather plain motel. Then it starts getting strange when a New Age encounter group starts interacting with the computer geeks. At one point, one of the geeks, Michael Papageorge (played by Myles Paige) is given a simulated rebirth by the New Age encounter group. In another scene, another geek has a very strange encounter with a couple of New Agers who seem to be interested in group sex.

This is an extreme clash of cultures. On the one hand, you have the touchy feely new age people who are interested in metaphysical beliefs and non-linear thinking. On the other side you have the geeks, who are into math, logic and computer programming. After a while, these two worlds somehow start to mesh and we get talk of computers with souls and a brief glimpse of an android hooker with a computer for a brain. Can computers love people?

The movie seems to hint at a lot of big ideas without ever really exploring them. Michael Papageorge spends most of his waking hours wandering around the motel looking for love, or at least sex. Most of the geeks have the sorts of stunted social skills you would expect. They clash with each other and trash-talk each other's computer programming skills. They are envious and competitive, but they also have dreams of doing something important with computers.

Maybe this is a movie about people getting lost in computer games and losing their humanity in the process. Chess is one of the very first games which computers were programmed to play. It was also one of the first games that put computers into direct competition with human thought. The era in which this movie is set was also about the time people began to explore artificial intelligence.

I really don't know what to think of this movie. It did not do much for me. It was neither interesting nor compelling. A number of ideas are brought up, but I could not see that they go anywhere. This film rates a D.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)