If you can’t get to Persepolis, go rent this awesome movie, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Yesterday Chris Blattman posted a positive review of Persepolis with links to a trailer and interview with the author of the book the film was based on.  My wife and I saw the film today and I agree with Chris: this is a very well done girl’s coming-of-age story during Iran’s Islamic Revolution and its many years of war with Iraq.  But it’s a downer (with comic elements).  For people like me who know little about Iran’s history, it yields a peek.

Moving swiftly from the significant to the superfluous but awesome, this evening we finished watching the excellent and highly entertaining DVD (by my estimation as well as by that of the critics), The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, about the ongoing battle for supremacy in … Donkey Kong: Yes, the video game that we played back in the 1980s.  This documentary is particularly skilled in that it gets the viewer to care deeply about a subject and characters that one normally would have no interest in.  I don’t care about video games, but I couldn’t resist rooting for the underdog in this saga.  The tension builds and builds until the credits roll.

In contrast to Spellbound, another extremely entertaining documentary, King of Kong has much less innate appeal.  Spellbound is about kids trying to achieve something great; King of Kong is about middle-aged men playing video games rather than spending time helping their kids with their spelling.  But this film delivers not only a great conflict (with the theme songs from both The Karate Kid and Rocky – Persepolis had Eye of the Tiger as well) but also a cast of characters more entertaining than any screenwriter could invent.

Even the DVD extras, with the brief history of Donkey Kong and the film festival appearances by Donkey Kong challenger Steve Wiebe, were entertaining.

Two favorite lines:

  1. [Walter Day, international referee for retro video games]  I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame. I wanted the pretty girls to come up and say, “Hi, I see that you’re good at Centipede.”
  2. [Steve Wiebe’s daughter, on the Guiness Book of World Records]  Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.

Run, don’t walk.  This is a great film.