On The Couch #1 & 2: The King of Kong and Biggie & Tupac

I had grand plans for the start of this blog. Grand plans of getting a jump on my theatergoing early and catching two movies in the opening two days of 2010. Grand plans that involved me leaving my apartment at some point in the past three days. But my post-New Year’s cold and New York’s post New Year’s chill put an end to that.

Instead, I spent that time on the couch. All was not lost; through the magic of Netflix streaming I was able to watch two documentaries: The King of Kong and Biggie & Tupac. Both deal with bitter rivalries. One was very good, the other not so much.
The King of Kong could have been called When We Were Socially Awkward Kings. The story plays out very similar to the fabled Ali/Foreman fight, involving a champ, Billy Mitchell aka Mr. Super-Mullet, refusing to give an up and comer, Steve Wiebe, his due for the coveted title of Donkey Kong World Champion.

Billy Mitchell: harnessing the power of the mullet & the USA tie.

How powerful is Mitchell? He’s both the spokes-figure and a judge in the organization that determines if high scores are legit. But besides that, he has a team of adoring cronies working for him, one of whom is none other than a blonde haired, blue eyed Steve Sanders. Okay, so this Steve Sanders isn’t Ian Zierling, but the similarities are definitely there. Both are blonde, are fans of pink polos, and known for their underhanded ways. One Steve Sanders was expelled after hacking West Beverly’s school computer to change his grades, the other was caught in a lie about his fictional Donkey Kong score.

They’re basically the same person
The King of Kong does a very good job of pulling you into this battle, involving accusations of cheating and cowardice on both sides. It does an even better job of making you realize that you should never ever try to get a world record high score in a video game.

This documentary is a great scare-them-straight PSA to show to anyone thinking about entering the world of competitive videogaming. You think you have what it takes to be the king of Arkanoid, Galaga or Donkey Kong? First things first: can you grow a pervy moustache?

The best line comes from Wiebe’s daughter about three quarters of the way in, after asking about the importance of getting into the Guinness Book of Records says “Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.” Too true. Still, it makes for a highly entertaining movie.

For everything that The King of Kong does right, Biggie & Tupac does wrong. Director Nick Broomfield set out to uncover the mysteries surrounding the grisly murders of rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. But in the end, he created a primer in how not to make a documentary. Let’s have endless boring shots of driving around random parts of LA, Baltimore, and Brooklyn! Let’s not edit anything, so that we can see Nick Broomfield awkwardly enter a lawyer’s office! Let’s interview people who “knew” Tupac and want to play us a bootleg tape they “made together” in some creepy abandoned field. It feels like a magazine article that was stretched into a full length movie. Painfully stretched, like when Arnold on Different Strokes thought he could make himself taller if he hung from a pole in his closet for hours.

King of Kong was the king of this Saturday, knocking out Biggie & Tupac like Donkey Kong knocks out Mario. I rated The King of Kong 4 stars on Netflix, meaning “I liked it a lot,” while giving Biggie & Tupac 1 star, or “I hated it.”