There’s a kind of movies that we found out over the years we had a special connection with. They’re movies about people with an unconventional talent. People who are among the best of the best at what they do, and often compete for the title of THE best in the world. But what they do is extremely specific, unpopular, or weird. So only a very specific community knows and sometimes considers them like gods.
Here’s a selection of 5 movies we watched and enjoyed, around that theme. If you think of others, let us know in a comment!
1. The King of Kong (a Fistful of Quarters) – old-school arcade video games
Seth Gordon (2007)
Now this is one really great documentary. It shows the journey of Steve Wiebe as he tries, from his home, to beat Billy Mitchell’s world record of the old arcade video game King Kong. It is told as a fiction but the characters they film are real…
It’s amazing to see the importance those games can have on the characters. That record – and that of the “perfect game” of Pacman – is Mitchell’s greatest life accomplishment. With that record in hand he always considered himself a winner. Wiebe’s a highschool science teacher with a very clear Asperger’s syndrome, he’s presented as never having won anything, he’s a fair player and a kind man. And he’ll be confronted to the lengths Mitchell would go to to preserve his record.
This movie gets you all excited about a King Kong game. Now that’s a performance! It’s funny, well-filmed, and has a certain depth too. Strongly recommended.
2. Butter – butter sculptures
Jim Field Smith (2011)
Ok so this one really is a fiction. It shows the all-time winner of the local butter sculpture contest (Ty Burrell) – once featured in Time Magazine for his reconstruction of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in butter – as he is asked to retire in order to give other people a chance to compete. His hyper-competitive wife (Jennifer Garner) directly signs up to make sure “that power doesn’t end up on the hands of another family”. Meanwhile a little African-American girl with a passion for butter sculpting (Yara Shahidi) is adopted by a family in the same neighborhood (Reb Corddry and Alicia Silverstone) and signs up for the same competition. And it’s ON!
Very nice little comedy.
3. Populaire – fast typing
Régis Roinsard (2012)
A French movie where the action happens in the 50’s. A woman (Déborah François) wants to make it in life and – like thousands of women in that time – gets a job as a secretary. While she’s pretty terrible at her job, her boss (Romain Duris) does notice that she’s an absolutely excellent typer and decides to train her so she can compete for the title of fastest typer in the world. Again, a pitiless world of competition. And, more surprisingly, a story of fame. Apparently those fast typers were role-models for thousands of women in the world, and extremely popular for a while, hence the title of the movie.
Exciting and fun comedy.
4. Duets – karaoke singing
Bruce Paltrow (2000)
Duets is a special case because while you might expect a light comedy (it’s about karaoke singers for God’s sake!), it goes much deeper than that.
The story follows several characters, several stories, all contemporary, and all with something to do with karaoke. We follow a professional karaoke singer (Huey Lewis) as he reconnects (much against his will) with his long abandoned daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow). Their common interest for singing will help bringing them together. We follow an overworked and unappreciated salesman (the great Paul Giamatti) who decides to leave home, not knowing where to go. He ends up falling for karaoke and beta blockers and drives from karaoke bar to karaoke bar, often winning the prize money, especially after he teams up with the hitchhiker he picked up on the way (Andre Braugher), who happens to be a murderer. Their friendship helps the guy get back on track… And finally a young underachiever (Scott Speedman) meets a female karaoke singer (Maria Bello), wild and competitive – a “winner” type-, who kinda forces him to bring her to the final of the national karaoke competition.
A beautiful film about crossroads, life questions, and choices. I recommend.
5. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – magic
Don Scardino (2013)
My brother is going to kill me for putting this movie in a list like this : he’s a magician himself! But I watched it with him and he really enjoyed it.
Two successful illusionists (Steve Buscemi and Steve Carrell) have been performing the exact same show for the last ten years in an important theater of Las Vegas. The routine is so installed, they lost the passion and one of them just became an asshole. But they see their routine challenged by a new magic sensation (Jim Carey, character based on some kind of trashier Criss Angel), a trashy street magician. Hooked with this new kind of magic, the crowds stop coming to their shows and they eventually get fired. From then on they have to redefine their work, their lives.
While it’s a very uneven movie, I did laugh all the way through it. A hilarious comedy with a surprising outcome.
We put these movies here because they’re great but they’re a little off category for various reasons.
+ Edward Scissorhands – haircutting, bushes sculptures (Tim Burton, 1990)
+ Be Kind Rewind – DIY cinema (Michel Gondry, 2008)
+ Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain – other people’s happiness (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
+ Catch me if you Can – deception (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
+ Big – toys (Penny Marshall, 1988)
+ Little Miss Sunshine – being a little miss… (Michael Arndt, 2006)
Antoine & Susan