Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

* PT: Steve Wiebe. Wadpaw: For his best to be good enough.

* More proof that no sport or pastime is too esoteric for a documentary, Seth Gordon's account of the war for a Donkey Kong world record transcends its who-cares subject matter through crack pacing and a showman's sense of entertainment. Structured like a underdog-sportsman narrative -- it draws as much inspiration from, say, Major League as much as it does Spellbound. I admit I'm a sucker for underdog-sportsman movies, so I found this all pretty thrilling.

* Entertainment value is pretty close to unbeatable; however, worth as a documentary is suspect. Gordon never pretends to be objective. It's clear from the outset that he's siding with Steve Wiebe, which is understandable considering underdogs make for better drama. However, Gordon takes every opportunity to further force our identification with Wiebe by emphasizing his gumption, his hard luck in life, the odds against him and so forth. Furthermore, while I think Billy Mitchell is a slickster and a bit of a tool, that's not enough for Gordon -- he pushes and pushes until Mitchell comes off like a video-game Mephistopheles and a coward besides.

* One wonders what was left out to craft the narrative throughline Gordon sculpts from his footage. In particular, there's the question of Mitchell's magic videotape; as it's being viewed, Gordon cuts in a clip of Twin Galaxies chief judge Robert Mruczek saying something to the effect of videotapes being declared useless if there's so much of a hint of a question of their veracity, and it's later revealed that his left his post shortly after the incident. Thus, it's implied pretty heavily that Mruczek may have had an issue with the tape, yet we see no objections raised. Maybe he didn't raise them at the time, I dunno. But part of me can't help but shake the feeling that Gordon needs us to believe that Twin Galaxies is united for Billy Mitchell and against Steve Wiebe.

* Interesting counterpoint: While the obvious structuring makes the documentary's veracity questionable, it does bring out something basic about our perception of success and what it takes to succeed in American life. Wiebe is your basic nice-guy screwup, forever an outsider banging at the doors, while Mitchell is the prototypical confident go-getter who seemingly conquers everything he attempts without breaking a sweat. It's then natural that someone as charismatic and successful as Mitchell would attract an entourage, and it's just as natural that said entourage would circle the wagons whenever a stranger would try to challenge their de facto leader. We in the audience want to see Wiebe win, but what does that say about us and our desire to see the golden boy torn down? We value humility, but humility isn't what gets one ahead in the business world. The inadvertent message seems to be: Be successful but not TOO successful. Something to chew on, at any rate.

* Brian Kuh: saddest little remora in the world.

Grade: B

3 Comments:

Anonymous Jenng of Jongs said...

HEYYY. I just watched this the other night, once we figured out that we can now watch Netflix movies directly on our groovy home-theater-system-with- thousands-of-speakers.

Oh wait, I ORDERED this movie online and hit "watch now" and realized that, as a tech-savvy computer/home theater hookup guy, my husband is an awesome financial planner.

Now I have to await for it to arrive in the mail. Balls.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Jose said...

wadpaw?

12:59 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Jose: Wadpaw = what does the protagonist want? You'll be seeing that a lot around here.

Jenny: HA HA

2:18 PM  

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