Two Glowing Reviews

Everybody’s out of town but me so yesterday was a day of smoking way too much pot and binge watching two entire mini-series, along with one pretty bad sci-fi movie about the evils of body stealing, but I’m not even going to talk about that one.
I highly recommend “Barbarians” and “Queen’s Gambit” which is only called Queen’s Gambit because it was about a woman chess player. As far as chess strategies go, the Sicilian Defense was a much more significant part of the plot.
It was entirely fictional, of course. There have been very few women in the world of chess, and this wasn’t one of them, but the story is convincing. Raised as an orphan after her mother’s suicide, which seems to have been intended as a murder suicide, in a truly horrible, but likely typical, christian orphanage, where she kept getting sent down to the basement to clean erasers because she was too quick at math, and there she learned chess from the janitor.
A gawky, socially awkward girl, she grows into a neurotic, drug dependent, alcoholic adult who is a stone cold fox. Her Russian driver (unaware she speaks the language) says she looks like Ann Margaret, and the comparison is not unjustified.
The last episode drags a bit, at her triumph, there are a few two many scenes of all her friends, and crowds of adoring Russians, cheering for her, but it’s expected of this kind of film.
As far as the treatment of chess goes, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen. If you love chess, you’ll love this film. If you just like films about the underdog beating everybody, you’ll probably like it O.K., too.
The other one I watched straight through yesterday was “Barbarians.” Good, because it covers a moment in history that I don’t think gets covered enough, the Battle of the Teutoborg Forest in 9 a.d. Now, anything going back to 9 a.d. is speculative history at best. They say history is written by the winners, but almost none of the winners could read and write. Although the site of the battle, and other specific details, are still matters of speculation, the history as presented in the film is consistent with the historical account I just read in Wikipedia this second.
Very much like “Queen’s Gambit”, it works on two levels. If you are an aficionado of either German or Roman history, you will be pleased with the film. If you just like to watch bloody fights with swords, spears, and bare hands, you’ll probably like it, too.

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