Wordplay (2006) PG 94min
September 28th, 2007 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 3,210 Views
An OK documentary about Will Shortz, a famous “puzzle-master” from The New York Times, and his fans. If you listen to NPR on the weekends or solve puzzles, this movie may work well for you. It’s not particularly gripping, but it’s fine as a background noise while writing a post for your blog. It’s a lot like “Trekkies”, which was a horrible documentary, a real pain to watch. “Wordplay” is somewhat better, mostly thanks to appearance of Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Jon Stewart. I especially enjoyed the interviews related to crossword published in New York Times the day after elections (William Jefferson Clinton vs Bob Dole) – very inventive puzzle. It was also funny somewhat that Shortz majored in puzzles. They are interesting characters and really lit up this film. There’s a lot of footage from Crossword competitions and interviews with contestants, and it’s pretty amazing that there are people who can solve those crossword puzzles in less then 3 minutes and there were interesting tricks of the trade that creators of puzzles use to design them, but there’s a lot of repetition of the same over and over. How many puzzle tournament champions you’d like interviewed in a movie? The contestants are not weirdos like “Trekkies” – most of them are educated people with interesting minds and interesting ways of thinking, but there are also many who do crosswords trying to delay the time when Parkinson’s disease takes over. Somewhat interesting to learn about strategies of solving puzzles. But you don’t really learn. Animation during the competition helps you compare results – which is when the film is in “Reality Show” mode.
If you were flipping channels and saw this film on one of the channels, you’d probably keep flipping channels. Another documentary from a few years back, “Spellbound”, was in many ways similar. I suppose it’d work as a TV special on PBS.
Written, directed and produced by Patrick Creadon. Famous documentary film maker Ken Burns also appears in this movie. Ken Burns is director of 6-part documentary “War” that is coming up on PBS. Original music by Peter Golub – good stuff.
Among DVD bonus features are commentaries by director Patrick Creadon and , deleted scenes, and a short scenes called “5 Unforgetable Puzzles from the pages of The New York Times“. Pretty interesting. This stuff should have been in the movie.
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