The Queen's Gambit
The Queens Gambit 1.jpg

A heady tale of a young chess wonder could also serve as a tempting bait for prize bodies.

Sometimes it feels like 2020 is a black hole for television. Quality programs are posted and briefly celebrated before being swallowed by a gaping gulp of indifference fueled primarily by outrage and fatigue and forgetting to take off your pajamas before working from home for the 244th straight day. Hulu's “Pen15” released the first half of an impeccable second season less than two months ago, but I keep forgetting because way too much of my mental energy is regularly absorbed when deciding whether to be more productive from my bed or mine Working from bed will work from my couch. FX's "Fargo" is about to air a solid fourth season, a fact that refuses to find a buy in my brain after spending all of the last week's sleepless nights wondering about the color of Torturing Steve Kornacki's pants.

That said, if a show breaks the general malaise and resonates with the audience, it is almost certainly producing something spectacular.

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If you've watched Netflix in the past two weeks, you've no doubt noticed that The Queen & # 39; s Gambit played a prominent role, in large part because the limited series has since been ranked # 1 in the US Top 10 The streamer's list is on October 25th and worldwide since October 28th.

On the surface, the series seems like an unconventional hit. The focus is on an orphaned girl who became the chess prodigy and struggles with success and failure, addiction and loss. Detailed chess games can be seen in each episode. It's a far cry from any particular Netflix documentary series that was all the rage at the start of the game's year.

"The Queen & # 39; s Gambit" is Scott Frank's second project with Netflix after "Godless," the 2017 limited western series that secretly earned 12 Emmy nominations and three victories – two for the respective accomplishments of Jeff Daniels and Merritt Wever and one for the score by Carlos Rafael Rivera – so the creator is no stranger to telling nuanced stories that mainly revolve around women.

And Frank, who wrote and directed each of the series' seven episodes, does just that, not least thanks to an electrical performance by Anya Taylor-Joy, whose portrayal by Beth Harmon cannot be overlooked.

What does all of this mean for turning popularity into success in awards?

Marielle Heller and Anya Taylor-Joy in "The Queen’s Gambit"

Phil Bray / Netflix

If Golden Globes or guild voters are looking for things to celebrate, they need look no further than almost every element in The Queen’s Gambit game.

With the adaptation of the novel of the same name from 1983, written by Walter Tevis, and the script by co-creator Allan Scott from an unrealized film that was scrapped after Heath Ledger's death, Frank tackles an almost impossible challenge: How do you do something as internal and possibly stilted as a chess game, not only inviting, but also exciting to look at?

Frank does both, and this is where Taylor-Joy's worth really comes through. The young actress stares into the barrel of the camera, thinking which doesn't sound interesting, but maybe the best thing I've seen on TV this year. The series justifies Beth's process so thoroughly when it comes to visualizing her movements that it feels like watching the gears spin in her head as Taylor-Joy's wide eyes dart over her options and chess pieces move in their pupils reflect.

So, yeah, the writing and directing are pretty good.

However, let's get back to Taylor-Joy, who delivers one of the best performances of the year, simultaneously vibrating on an ultrasonic frequency and impersonating a lazy kind of grace, especially when sitting at a chess board. She's never particularly noticeable in the role, but her gruff, sometimes impatient energy as Beth attracts the audience so efficiently that you'd swear she was a mesmerist.

It's exactly the opposite energy that co-star Marielle Heller brings, perhaps better known for her behind-the-camera work directing “A Nice Day in the Neighborhood” and “What the Constitution Means to Me,” who worked as Alma Wheatley is subdued but never serene. Alma and Beth share the uneasiness of people with an uncertain place in the world, but also the comfort of knowing that they have found a feeling of comfort in each other. Too often a character like Alma has been pushed too far – a hectic antagonist or a worn out washcloth – but Heller finds balance in a woman who knows what to lose, with a tendency towards unhealthy self-medication, but who still can Finding meaning and empathy, especially for Beth.

The Queen's Gambit

"The Queen's Gambit"

Phil Bray / Netflix

That being said, I think there is one aspect of "The Queen's Gambit" that may be worth even more awards than anything that has been talked about before.

The world has something absolutely otherworldly, as the show's production designer, Uli Hanisch, created. Whether it's the orphanage that populates much of the first episode, or the Wheatley House, or one of the fabulous places that chess tournaments take place, everything is palletized and perfect. It's the best possible 1960s version, full of pattern clashes and bold color statements, too perfect and appropriate to be real, but exquisite enough to provide a vivid contrast to a very black and white game played on very black and white becomes blackboard.

Of course, we cannot expect anything less from Hanisch, a long-time employee of the filmmaker Tom Tykwer, whose production design is one of the trademarks of another Netflix prestige player, "Babylon Berlin", a psychological neo-noir import from Germany about the Weimar Republic in 1929 (and arguably one of the best shows currently available in streaming.)

Costumes, hairstyling, performances, writing, directing, art and production design, not to mention music – recorded by the aforementioned Emmy award winner Carlos Rafael Rivera – "The Queen's Gambit" has found its audience and, measured against one, has Embarrassment of Wealth On the creative side, its popularity will almost certainly be reflected in the awards season as well.

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