Thursday, April 29, 2010

Battle of the Netflix Stars #9

Wow, so I haven't done one of these since August! I guess I got burned out, but I've been watching a lot of Netflix movies lately, so I should have more battles lined up soon.

Bout #9: Battle of the Documentaries About Seemingly Uninteresting Topics


Movie:Wordplay


The King of Kong:
A Fistful of Quarters

Year:20062007
Director:Patrick Creadon
Seth Gordon
Star Power:Ken Burns, Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers
None to most of the world; immense to the gaming community.
Plot:Along with commentary by New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and celebrity crossword fanatics, this documentary gets up close and personal with several competitors hoping to win the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
This doc takes a look at the world of competitive video gaming and follows mild-mannered Steve Wiebe on his journey to beat cocky world record-holder Billy Mitchell's high Donkey Kong score. Steve soon finds that the video game universe is filled with lots of drama, as he seems to get foiled at every turn by Billy and his pals in the scorekeeping organization, Twin Galaxies.
Pros:Gives a glimpse into the complicated process of creating crosswords; offers some funny celeb commentary (especially from Jon Stewart); does a great job of capturing each contestant's personality and giving you someone (or more than one) to root for

Perfectly structured and paced storytelling; a classic David vs. Goliath tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat and completely invested in the outcome
Cons:None that I can think of.

You might end up with an overwhelming desire to murder Billy Mitchell.
My Thoughts:On the "word documentary" scale, I would put this slightly below Spellbound and right above Word Wars. Even though I love Scrabble, I felt that the latter doc often treated its subjects like mental cases. Wordplay has none of that. Instead of trying to play up a "nerdy" angle, it portrays each competitor exactly as they are and treats them with respect. Even if you don't like crosswords, it's easy to get wrapped up in the competition and the different personalities involved. You kind of have to appreciate people who are so good at and so devoted to one thing, no matter what that thing is. (Unless that thing is, say, murder.)
If you're anything like me, you might wonder, "Oh my God. How am I going to watch 79 minutes of nerd drama?" Well, trust me. Just start watching it and those concerns will go out the window in about the first 10 minutes. Much like you don't need to like crosswords to enjoy Wordplay, you don't need to really care about video games to find this film completely engrossing. If you like superhero flicks or movies like Star Wars and Terminator—anything with a clear good vs. evil premise—then you'll love this. Steve Wiebe makes it so easy to root for him and Billy Mitchell is so damn easy to hate. Even as I type this now, I'm thinking about finding him and beating him about the face and head with a Donkey Kong-esque mallet. Really. He's such a lying bastard. And poor Steve just keeps powering on, even though he constantly gets screwed over by Billy and his inner circle of all-powerful geeks. I actually started to tear up a little bit at the end. How's that for nerdy?
Final Grade:
B

A

10 comments:

red said...

I enjoyed both of these as well and was totally into King of Kong. Billy Mitchell is evil!!!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I loved King of Kong. Like you I wanted Billy Mitchell dead. Hey Billy, the eighties called, they want your mullet back. Um what was I saying? Yeah, you really root for Steve the whole movie and really get angry for the crap he puts up with because of the clique that are the Twin Galaxies people.

Still, I can't help thinking that some creative editing was in evidence here. I did read something about stuff that was left out that would actually make Billy more likable, although not MUCH. :) There's still no denying that Steve was treated badly.

Jim said...

Nice. You need a review category for "memorable lines," though.

XO

words...words...words... said...

I enjoyed both of these. But while Wordplay deals with a subject I like a lot more, The King of Kong is the movie I liked a great deal better.

Damn you, Billy Mitchell! And damn your shiny shirts and themed ties and mullet! He looks like every metalhead from 1987 that's forced to go to someone's wedding or funeral.

Some Guy said...

Two great picks! I liked both of these a lot.

mylittlebecky said...

i loooove will shortz. he's the ballz. i may have to give that one a try

McGone said...

Thanks for the reminders! I've been meaning to rent "Wordplay" for awhile now, but it's kind of fallen by the wayside. Oh, AND I've been meaning to find Billy Mitchell and give him and his beard a wedgie ever since seeing "King of Kong." I'll put that back at the top of my to-do list.

BeckEye said...

Veg, I wondered about the editing too, but seriously. Mitchell dug his own grave. Two scenes in particular convinced me that he's just an asshole man child:

1 - When he finally shows up at the arcade with his wife and strolls around acting like he's King Shit and says, loud enough for Steve to hear him, "There are certain people I don't want to spend too much time with."

2 - The very end, when his buddy is actually saying nice things about Steve and Billy is giving him the evil-eyed stare of death and then has the balls to say something like, "I don't know enough about him/the situation to comment."

carissajaded said...

Ok so I haven't seen Wordplay, bit King of Kong is one of my favorite docs I have ever seen! I may have cried a bit too. LOVED IT!

Ps : My captcha is "ackface" .. I like that.

Penny said...

ooooo I think I may add these to my queue. I forgot about the gamer film.

 

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