Let’s talk documentaries!

I don’t see a whole lot of documentaries. I think, like most people, I see a handful here and there and after each I say to myself “hm… I should watch more documentaries”. I’m also one of those assholes that watches one or two documentaries a year and has to talk about those as much as possible to everyone I know.

That’s you now, by the way.

Most people who know me know that I rant about two documentaries that both sound boring but have an innate drama and awesomeness built into them: spellbound and king of kong. Spellbound is a documentary about a bunch of really smart kids in the national spelling bee. King of Kong is about a bunch of really smart idiots that play donkey kong with a VENGEANCE.

It’s very hard to convey what it is about these two stories that is so interesting to me. It might be the sense of competition, or the fact that both of them have a great mixture of characters that run the gamut between genuinely likable and “there’s no way this person exists in real life” bizarre. The drama of it is balanced quite well too. I’m sure most viewers of both movies find themselves initially goofing on the characters, but then end up sucked into the story by the end.

They’re both awesome. See them.

Now for the second half let’s talk about a documentary that sounds boring and is. I actually took the time to watch the Helvetica movie a while ago, and it is enragingly dull. It’s a movie about the font Helvetica. Yeah. It doesn’t really have a structure, it’s kind of just a bunch of old dudes talking about the wondrousness of the world’s most perfect font. Every now and then they splice in some European dude who says it’s a shitty font.

There isn’t even a goof factor that will keep you watching. Once you realize that the director of the film has a genuine love of typeface and the movie is not made to laugh at these people in the slightest, it really loses all of its charm.

Sure, there’s some personal bias here when I say Spellbound and King of Kong rule and Helvetica is weak by comparison. I happen to think kids who can spell words that I can’t define are impressive. I happen to think dudes who play marble madness with weight lifting gloves on are hilarious. I happen to think fonts are rather uninteresting.

But the key difference between the two movies is the characters. Even the interesting German dude in the Helvetica movie didn’t have anything really interesting to say because the directors weren’t willing to show him for the oddball he clearly is. The movie assumes that you’re already hopelessly interested in fonts. If, for some reason, you are… then go for it, but it will do nothing to sell you on the idea that fonts are worthy of a 2 hour documentary.

Oh and you know what else rules? Trekkies… hahaha, nerds.


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