Jeff & Sara's Top Ten 2013: Number 3

Posted 11:22 AM January 14th, 2014 by Binh Ngo
Blue Caprice

Before we went on our holiday break, we were at number 4 in Jeff and Sara's top ten countdown for 2013. Now that we're back, we continue with number 3, where they have Blue Caprice and Computer Chess.

Computer Chess is a black-and-white mockumentary by Andrew Bujalski that is about a chess tournament for programmers which took place over a weekend thirty years ago. The work there sets up the groundwork for the artificial intelligence in computers we know and love today.

Starring Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Amy Adams, and Tim Blake Nelson, Blue Caprice is inspired by the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks and is told from the point of view of the two perpetrators, who are involved in sort of a father-son relationship.

If you haven't heard of Computer Chess, we won't blame you since the movie was released in only a couple of theaters. It is now out on VOD. With a Tomatometer of 86%, the critics seem to like the movie well enough.

Like Computer Chess, Blue Caprice also had limited distribution and could be seen on VOD as well. The movie has a Tomatometer of 85%, so the movie is in fine company here.

Here are the trailers:
Computer Chess

Blue Caprice

Binh: I was expecting something more mainstream with movies in your top three, Sara, but Computer Chess is pretty obscure, and its subject matter just screams niche. What am I missing?

Sara: The film is really funny and I realize the intellectual angle threatens to make it alienating to people who'd otherwise like comedies, but it was really funny and the sort of movie that might grow funnier with repeat viewings.

Binh: For a movie like Blue Caprice to work, the story has to be griping and everyone needs to be at the top of their game. I assume that's the case here, Jeff.

Jeff: It's definitely gripping, Binh, although I'd put Blue Caprice solidly in the category of movies that left me awestruck without filling me with any desire to ever see them again. It's a tough film, unflinching in its examination of insanity and brave in its refusal to offer any real explanation for the horrible real-life murder spree that inspired the story by Alexandre Moors and R.F.I. Porto. Instead, Caprice dispassionately illustrates the toxic effects of outrage -- and at a time when outrage seems to be our national past time, it leaves the viewer feeling queasy and afraid. Like I said, not necessarily a pleasant film, but certainly one that exerts an undeniable, icy thrall.

Binh: Sara, please tell me the best scene in Computer Chess isn't the programmers typing commands into the DOS prompt or them playing chess.

Sara: I hazard to call it my favorite, but the scene that most impressed me was near the climax. The junior programmer who's been begging his boss to look at this anomaly he found that might be AI finally gets the brush off from his boss, and ends up in an adjacent hotel room with guests at this "relationship conference" that's totally for swingers. Anyway, the swingers invite him to join them and the programmer is in HELL, vacillating between politeness and an obvious desire to flee the room. It's an oppressive long take that at some points I remember as if a higher angle--like a surveillance camera angle--but I think that might be my memory fooling me.

Binh: I imagine we're dealing with some heavy stuff in Blue Caprice, so what's the most memorable scene in the movie, Jeff?

Jeff: The entire movie asks Richmond and Washington to be at the top of their games, and they deliver in every scene, but off the top of my head, one that I found particularly disturbing was the sequence in which Washington's character leaves Richmond tied to a tree without explanation -- and despite Richmond's anguished howls of protest.

Binh: Since we've already done Jonathan Demme, let's go with Rob Reiner for number 3. How would he direct the two movies?

Sara: I love you asking about Reiner and Computer Chess! If he'd directed that scene (see above), I have a hard time believing he'd do it any differently. But if Reiner had made the film, the romance (SPOILER) would have worked out at the end.

Jeff: Oh, man. Rob Reiner directing Blue Caprice seems about as ill-advised as Michael Bay directing Terms of Endearment, although I suppose Reiner was capable of dabbling in darkness once upon a time. I guess the best-case scenario would be a Stand by Me-style drama, with a grown-up Richmond looking back wistfully on the weeks he spent murdering innocent civilians with a sniper rifle from the trunk of a customized sedan.

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