O - V - E - R
The Philly Film Fest has ended. And it couldn't have gone out on a brighter note, for me at least. I attended the final screening of Wordplay, a doc about crossword puzzles and specifically the crosswordsmith, Will Shortz, who edits The New York Times crossword and hosts The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut. This is the sort of doc that's constantly engaging because when it's not throwing you a deep insight into the making of and/or nature of crossword puzzles, it's giving you a puzzle to work out. (I'm going to name a category and you have to name something in that category with the same first two letters as that category. So if I say "Auto Make" you say "Audi." And if I say "Capital City in the US" you say...), a celebrity cameo (Jon Stewart is, not surprisingly, hilarious in the film), or a Spellbound-style profile of one of the tournament contestants.
Patrick Creadon, the director, was there, along with Will Shortz, fellow crossword constructor Merl Reagle, and several contestants from the tournament. It was a lively Q&A, with the director pointing out that once they nailed down Bill Clinton (an avid Times crossword junkie), getting the other celebrities (including Mike Mussina, The Indigo Girls, and Ken Burns) was a snap. Also, we learned that April Fool's Day is one of the crossword puzzle maker's favorite holidays (witness the most recent April 1st edition of the NYT puzzle for proof).
I have to say, the docs this year beat out the fiction. The three best films I saw at the fest were This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Fuck, and Wordplay. (I saw Rated at SXSW, but it was playing at this fest.) The fact that they all deal with words in one way or another is kind of interesting, but regardless, none of the narrative features I saw were as compelling. I will give props to The Descent, however, for the most fun I had at any screening this year.
And at least one answer for the above category puzzle is "Carson City."