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« Digital Organizers | Main | DVD Journal: "Shaun of the Dead" »

May 28, 2007

DVD Journal: "Wordplay"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

In honor of an especially DVDish stretch around the Blowhard household, I'm treating myself to a DVD roundup. First up:

Wordplay. Filmmakingwise, Patrick Creadon's documentary about crossword-puzzle fanatics is a competent exercise from the school of PBS. (Those damn solo-piano scores ...) But it's a very enjoyable -- moving, engrossing, and suspenseful -- look at a special kind of nerdiness anyway.

The film's central figure is Will Shortz, the New York Times' crossword-puzzle editor, and the storyline builds towards a get-together / competition that Shortz hosts at a Marriott Hotel in Stamford, CT. Along the way, we meet celebs (Bill Clinton, Ken Burns) whose days aren't complete until they finish the Times' puzzle, as well as high-end competitors who are able to whip through the toughest crosswords Shortz can dish out in under ten minutes.

What I found especially fascinating was the intensity of the relationship that puzzle buffs have with their puzzles. These people possess brains that are wired in very special ways, and Creadon does a good job of conveying the concentration and energy that obsessive puzzle masters bring to bear on their puzzling. (The film makes nothing of the fact, but it's clear that most of the freakishly gifted puzzlers are male.) It's interesting too what a wide range of personality and physical types are represented among the buffs -- as with child molestors, you apparently never know who's going to turn out to be a crossword-puzzle whiz.

My least favorite celeb appearance was by Jon Stewart, whose evening comedy-news show I've never watched. What a disagreeable and overbearing beast he seems to be. Do people really find this guy funny?



posted by Michael at May 28, 2007


I like Stewart, but I'm 27 and a liberal. Generation gap. Don't worry about it.

Posted by: SFG on May 30, 2007 9:24 AM

I love Jon Stewart! He is completely within his element on the Daily Show. I have noticed, though, that he can come off as a bit arrogant and snotty when he's not on the show. But on the Daily Show his personality and bad attitude is perfect for this type of political and cultural satire. You really ought to give the Daily Show a try sometime.

Posted by: Alexandra on May 30, 2007 9:37 AM

SFG -- I'm not sure it's so much a generational thing -- I know a lot of oldies who like Stewart too. They're generally people who used to love Spy magazine, come to think of it ...

Alexandra -- You're right, the way a personality is framed and presented can make a lot of difference. ("Arrogant and snotty" is a good description of how he came off in the docu I was writing about. Wrong frame, I guess.) So I should check out "The Daily Show" sometime, darn it. Keeping up with the culture is hard work!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 30, 2007 10:21 AM

Yes, people really think Jon Stewart is funny---at least on the Daily Show. I think he's funny.

Posted by: annette on May 31, 2007 11:40 AM

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