My coach and my professor always argue over which is the better sports movie, Remember the Titans or Computer Chess. I just want the fighting to stop, so tell me Prof. Sportball, which one is better?
I’m going to sieze this opportunity to argue against every lazy middle school teacher who screened Remember the Titans instead of Gattaca or October Sky on in-class movie day. Against every teary-eyed football coach who tried to force a false sense of camaraderie between high school athletes. Against every underachieving dad who tried to relive his glory days by making you watch the movie while he knowingly take sips off his Coors Light.
I’m going to argue against the utterly wrong-headed claim that Remember the Titans is a good movie. Remember the Titans is, in point of fact, a god-awful movie.
For those who haven’t seen this cinematic travesty, Remember the Titans is a 2000 film starring Denzel Washington about the real-life story of an African American coach who tried to create a racially diverse football team in 1970s Virginia. Despite how vehemently the film is touted as a leading example of togetherness and
acceptance—two perfectly admirable qualities to find in a movie—the presentation was predictable, sentimental and uninspired–three dreadful traits to find in a movie. I couldn’t tell you why it’s so bad in so few words, so just think of it like a Hallmark card.
On the surface there’s heart, but it’s hollow on the inside, and it’s far too corny to hang on the fridge, let alone adorn one’s mantle.
If you’re looking for the competition and drama that only a true masterpiece of the sports genre can offer, your professor humbly suggests 2013’s Computer Chess. (I’m going to preface this by saying that I will not entertain the argument of whether or not chess is a sport. Brains are muscles, Chess works out the brain in a competitive game, thus chess is indeed a sport. Check and mate.)
Set in a 1980s hotel, a film crew follows computer programmers as they go head-to-head in a high-pressure tournament that pits their custom-written chess-playing programs-against each other. Based off an eight-page script and shot with analog cameras in black and white, one of my favorite things about this pseudo-documentary is its loving recreation of the ’80s. Writer/director Andrew Bujalski must have looked high and low to find those authentic pocket protectors, as everything from the technology to the Rajneeshee-esque
cult is spot on.
I’d like to tell you all more about it, but I’d hate to spoil how wonderful and bizarre it actually is. Computer Chess is a retro experience that’s equal parts Videodrome and Primer. If you’re looking for a straight forward, feel-good movie chock-full of team-building montages and slow-motion high fives, Computer Chess probably isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a sports flick that boasts a little more, then it’s definitely worth a screening.
Look, you don’t have to trust your professor’s recommendations. This isn’t class. I can’t give you an assignment to watch the damn thing.
I can fail you in life, though. And so help me god, if I find out that you’ve spent class time watching Remember the Titans, you will lose one full letter grade off your final score.