Thursday, January 10, 2008

All these worlds of words: who knew?

As I think I've mentioned before, the hubby and I subscribe to Blockbuster online. This service is similar to Netflix. We pay a monthly fee and can have unlimited DVDs (two at a time) each month. Plus, with Blockbuster Online, we also get a certain amount of free rentals in the store each month (which, I might note, we have not once taken advantage of). This system sounds like a good idea, especially for a couple whose social life is not what it once was--what with the bub needing so much supervision and attention and all and babysitting being, if not prohibitively expensive, not cheap and kind of a pain to arrange. You would think we could turn over our two DVDs several times each month, especially lately with the writers' strike. But we do not, and the main reason is because my hubby and I have never agreed about what constitutes an enjoyable movie-watching experience. He wants to watch things like Live Free and Die Harder and Bourne Ultimatum and The Fast and the Furious. I want to watch chick flicks and independent films I read about in Entertainment Weekly. We end up alternating choices so that there is typically a MEP and a hubby selection on the mantle at all times. There are movies we can enjoy together--recent examples include Superbad and Knocked Up--but most of the time the movies don't get watched because we won't watch them together.

A few months ago when my mom was in town visiting and the hubby was at a work dinner, I took advantage of the situation to suggest that my mom and I watch Wordplay together. This documentary follows several competitive crossword players through various tournaments, including the national championship. Wordplay features lots of interviews with Will Shortz, the New York Times editor who is the god of the crossword, as well as celebrities, like Jon Stewart, who love crosswords. The film also gives some air time to some of the puzzle makers. I never stopped to think about the fact that creating crossword puzzles is someone's job and an art and a science. My mom and I ended up being completely delighted by Wordplay. We certainly weren't tempted to become crossword fanatics, but the film leaves you feeling really happy for people who have this passion and for the community of highly-competitive crossword puzzle people that exists. One scene shows a variety show in the evening of one of the crossword tournaments. Good, heartwarming stuff. I just really enjoyed Wordplay.

Inspired by this experience, I added Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit to my Blockbuster queue. This Sunday evening my parents were in town visiting and I suggested watching Word Wars together. The hubby was not enthusiastic (I have tried to get him to watch it with me for the past seven weeks or so), but he decided to be a good sport about it. My mom and I rehashed how much we had enjoyed Wordplay and were optimistic that my dad and hubby would be pleasantly surprised with Word Wars. Not so much. My dad checked out after 30 minutes or so, first by falling asleep and then by leaving the room. The hubby made it through the entire film, but I would not say he kept his disapproval/disdain to himself. Here's the thing. While Wordplay made me feel happy and almost inspired, Word Wars left me feeling fairly sad. The tagline for Word Wars is "This is not your grandmother's Scrabble." I'm fairly sure my grandmother never took a train cross country to a Scrabble tournament in San Diego nor made a side trip to Tijuana to visit a hooker. I'm fairly sure my grandmother, an excellent card player who could likely kick serious ass in Scrabble if she applied herself to it, would not endorse any individual's plan to try to make a living by playing in Scrabble tournaments and playing Scrabble for money with other jobless Scrabble fanatics. I know, I know. Who am I to judge? I guess I just felt more concerned about the role of Scrabble in the lives of three, if not all four, of the players featured. Imagining their lives without Scrabble is even more depressing though. As I was with Wordplay's puzzlers, I am in awe of the way that an individual can hone a skill like Scrabble-playing. In a way it's a testament to how much the human brain is actually capable of processing, and that's cool. But the Scrabble players themselves made me more sad than inspired at the end of the day.

With the writers' strike continuing and my New Year's resolution to use what I have, including the Blockbuster online membership, I'm going to need movie suggestions. What are yours?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm positive you'd like Spellbound, which is a documentary following several contestants in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

I'm less positive that you'd like Capturing the Friedmans, but I highly recommend it anyway. You wouldn't want to watch it based on the description, but take my anonymous word for it.

MEP said...

Dear anonymous-- I loved Spellbound, loved it! Capturing the Friedmans is actually in my Blockbuster queue and thanks to your recommendation, I will move it up on the priority list.

Anonymous said...

I saw "wordplay" on a flight in 07. I thought it was an interesting movie and truly enjoyed. I did wonder the entire time that it seemed an odd choice for an in flight movie.

woonsocket mark said...

Super Bad is the only recent film we have viewed and nifer would not recommend(I would).
Wordwars reminds me of Beyond the Mat. While at SMC, we had a movie channel that played the same four movies for a week at a time (probably similar deal at other schools). I got sucked into beyond the mat everytime. It is a behind the scenes look at professional wrestling. I hate wrestling but really enjoyed this movie although the lives described are very sad. the hubby may go for it......

LAP said...

Reminds me of when we used to watch The Girl Who Spelled Freedom over and over on VHS.

M said...

I found Wordplay interesting and most of the characters were not pathetic at all. Word Wars was F--- pathetic to use the jargon of one of the main characters. I am interested in Spellbound, although, as you know, my tv watching is very minimal.

MEP said...

Yes, M, I should have added that my grandma also does use "f---" for every other word.

MEP said...

Oops . . . above I meant also does NOT use "f---" for every other word.

msp said...

it's been awhile since i've watched a dvd outside of my current obsession--tv series. just finished the first season of weeds (absolutely fantastic) and the first two seasons of entourage (love it love it love it!). i'm currently waiting on the first season of big love (who knew there would be 32 people in the hamilton/fairfield area requesting this from the lane public library!) and again, i must recommend all six seasons of six feet under. i'm convinced it's one of the best series ever, and i think it's something you and troy could watch together. the only movie i've seen and loved lately was into the wild--as soon as it comes out on dvd, put it at the top of the list! that's all i've got!

E... said...

We actually went to the video store for the first time in probably two years over the weekend, as Bourne Ultimatum has yet to make our Pay Per View menu. I actually enjoyed this "male" choice -- Matt Damon being the star doesn't hurt. But I also picked up Year of the Dog with Molly Shannon which is no longer an option on Pay Per View. Being that you are not an animal lover, this may not be your first choice, but I think you would end up being charmed by this performance, and get a laugh out of the over the top parenting ridiculousness portrayed by Laura Dern. I also recommend Lords of Dogtown, which due to the sport angle you may be able to sell to the hubby. Heath Ledger is just fascinating in it.

 
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