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August 1, 2008

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Donkey Kong As Symbol of Modern Oligarchy

Kottke’s plug for the Independent Documentary Association’s list of the 25 best documentaries reminds me to recommend one that was underhyped last year — The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. I like Keith Phipps’ perceptive review best; he calls it “a film about what it takes to make it in America.” It’s hilarious, a bit sad, and enormously revealing.

Posted August 1, 2008 at 1:07 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Video Games


For weeks, King of Kong was the number one "watch instantly" movie on Netflix. It also plays off the obvious Donkey Kong allegory (the unconquerable villain who always flees as soon as you think you've beaten him) with suave subtlety.

I'm wondering if you heard all about the film's "bias". I remember reading about this somewhere other than MTV, but this is roughly the complaint I remember.

For me, who heard all backlash before seeing the movie, The King of Kong seemed little better than alright.

King of Kong also has similar overtones to Crumb, Roger and Me (which likewise shares the same everyman vs. elusive empire structure), and maybe even Grey Gardens or Spellbound, where the characters you meet are so odd but warm that you wind up feeling a confused warmth and pity for all of them, even the ones who are "supposed" to be villains.

It takes sides, but it's not a news report or just an exploration of a subculture; it's a real movie, which means that it has a story that's propelled by conflict and characterization.

Right! Great point, Tim. I think a lot of people who aren't deeply into movies would be a little surprised at how much the language of dramatic film -- character, conflict, arc, resolution, etc. -- is exactly the language of documentary film.

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