"Brooklyn Castle" (
The chess-thletes of Intermediate School 318 are some of the best in the country: "Your opponents are exhausted, they're tired," a coach tells them at one meet. "When they see they have to play someone from 318, they don't even want to show up." There are plenty of triumphant moments here, not only in the meets to which the team travels but also in the context of academic tests and school elections; yet the film is also about learning how to lose, and to move on from losing to play again. The students are serious about the game, with an added adolescent, ear-budded sleepiness that contrasts with the speed of their play. Many are first-generation Americans, with parents working hard to give them a break; the film also takes us into their homes and reminds us that the variety of life is infinite, even around the poverty line, so often painted in a few sweeping strokes with a few dull colors.
The kids include Rochelle, 13, who has a shot at becoming the first female African American chess master; Justus, an 11-year-old prodigy, traveling from the Bronx to Brooklyn in order to train at I.S. 318; Patrick, 11, using it as a way to handle ADHD (as "a fun way to build up your concentration"); Alexis, 12, quiet, feeling the weight of his future; and Pobo, 12, a big personality, team spirit and self-appointed "rock": "By me encouraging my teammates," he says, "I become a better human being."
"Masterpiece: The Paradise" (PBS, Sunday). Based on the 1883 Emile Zola novel "Au Bonheur des Dames," inspired by the Paris department store Le Bon Marche, this pleasingly soapy
Emun Elliott plays John Moray, a self-made man of the future who has turned an old block of Victorian shops into a single gleaming white immensity of fancy goods. (Zola, and "The Paradise," make the point that this is not an unalloyed good -- the old stores are withering in its shadow. Substitute Target or Amazon for the Paradise, and you have yourself a fitfully topical drama.) He is also, potentially, the metaphorical Archie to
The film has been criticized for being somewhat undercooked dramatically, and the use of the clerk played by
"Enter Laughing" (TCM, Wednesday/Thursday). Every month when the Turner Classic Movies program guide comes around, I look for one thing, and it's this otherwise impossible-to-see 1967 comedy, directed by Carl Reiner and written by Reiner and Joseph Stein, from Stein's play, itself based on Reiner's autobiographical novel of late-Depression-era New York. I have praised it as hilarious to my much better half for many years; now I will see whether that is merely a fond folly of my youth. (The few available clips around suggest it is not.)