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Time Is Illmatic

An excellent documentary that focuses more on why the Illmatic album came to be than how successful it became. Prepare to be schooled in many…

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Men, Women & Children

A potentially interesting premise is handled so badly that what might have been a provocative drama quickly and irrevocably devolves into the technological equivalent of…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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My Favorite Roger: Mark Wilkening

Roger's review of "Searching for Bobby Fischer"

Why did I choose this review?

For a six month window in 1995, my seventh grade class became surprisingly enamored with chess, myself a bit more than my classmates. A Chess Life magazine subscription, chess clocks, and a VHS copy of "Searching For Bobby Fischer" soon followed. I probably watched the movie once a week during that time, memorizing the lines and sometimes just fast forwarding and re-watching the final tournament showdown over and over. I found Roger's review a few years later in high school after my chess enthusiasm had faded, and when I reached his closing sentence, "What makes us men is that we can think logically. What makes us human is that we sometimes choose not to.", I felt proud for having loved a movie to which a "serious critic" like Roger gave such high praise. But more importantly, this review led me down the path of a simple, yet profound idea for a teenager: Great art can be about more than its apparent subject matter. "Moby Dick" isn't just about the whale, "Hoop Dreams" isn't just about basketball, and "Searching For Bobby Fischer" isn't just about chess. Introductory art analysis, yes, but for a 15-year-old kid just discovering his love of movies, this was an invitation to sit at the adult table for the first time.


Mark Wilkening is a commercial audio mixer that lives and works in Chicago. He still plays chess occasionally, but hasn't won a match since 1995.

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