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Tag Archive: Arrested Development


By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Both Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade and The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters premiered the same day.  Chasing Ghosts premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2007.  The King of Kong premiered at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival, taking place as well in Park City, Utah, but reserved for films with budgets under $1 million and only for first time directors.  Other movies at Sundance included Black Snake Moan, King of California, The Savages, Snow Angels, Eagle vs. Shark, Reprise, Waitress, Once and Rocket Science. The King of Kong, by my personal calculation*, is easily the biggest movie out of Slamdance that year.

Don’t mistake that I’m saying popularity equals quality or the film festival where your movie premieres means a difference in quality.  Still, Sundance, like Toronto and Cannes just seems to mean a higher pedigree, the difference between a regional dog show and the Westminster Kennel Club.

So, why is The King of Kong more popular than Chasing Ghosts?**  I think it is that same reason that made the video gamers of both stories so special: specialization.

I just finished Chasing Ghosts and it is fascinating.  Just like Confessions of a Superhero or Murderball or Grizzly Man or Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room or Capturing the Friedmans, there’s something about true stories and the voyages in life that people take to get to today that make my eyes and heart open wide.***  Following the story behind the boys and older boys**** in a picture from a Life magazine photo shoot in 1982 on the main drag of Ottumwa, Iowa made me smile many times.

The classic Life Magazine photo from November 1982, taken in downtown Ottumwa, Iowa with the gamers and some Ottumwa High School cheerleaders. Billy Mitchell, featured in King of Kong, is third from right at front with the moustache and his hand on the Centipede game.

But, it’s no King of Kong Chasing Ghosts gave us glimpses of many different video game champions.  Boys that spent up to 60 some hours straight playing video games.*****  We learned about strategies (and saw some cool, modern 3-D images) for Pac Man, Berzerk, Centipede, Frogger and Missile Command.******  Each person had strategies and abilities that made these games easy for them.  Each person had a compelling life story.  The only names I remember though are Steve Sanders and Billy Mitchell and that’s because they were also in The King of Kong.*******

The King of Kong just looked at one game.  The King of Kong just looked at the rivalry for this one high score.  It followed Steve Wiebe as he tried to unseat Mitchell’s high score and what how much that meant for him at that time in his life.  It had a compelling narrative because it focused on one thing, kind of like these video game specialists.

Why do we love specialists?  Why do we put the most elite athletes, the most elite soldiers like Navy Seals, the most elite actors/directors/producers that win Oscars on pedestals, sometimes literally in the case of the Olympics or sports draft coverage?

I’d like to think this is some grand philosophical question, but it’s not.  We all want to be the best at something, so we celebrate those that become the best.  The richest man in the world.  The most beautiful woman in the universe.  The fastest.  The strongest.  The biggest weekend at the box office.  The smartest.  In recent years of baseball analysis and the Baseball Hall of Fame, most researchers (and conversely voters) show that emphasis every year.  The guys like Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell who were pretty good at everything–and therefore each a great player–aren’t nearly as appreciated as those that did one thing well, like hit for average, play defense, steal bases or hit a bucket load of home runs (though because of steroids, that isn’t as smiled upon as before).  Being the best wins, second place will always be a set of steak knives and third prize is you’re fired.

Capitalism expects us to specialize.  We do one thing well, and we trade the money we make from that to other people that do their one thing well.  So, did I like The King of Kong because I’ve been trained to like the specialized over the general?  I’d like to think that isn’t the case.  There’s room in the world for both movies, and I’m glad I saw both.  If you ask me which one I liked better in this case, it’s Kong.

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*Check out the list here. I’ll admit, films with James Cromwell, Tony Hale^, Ali Larter and Gary Busey feel like they should be bigger, emphasis on “feel” and nothing more.

**I’m basing this on the fact that I saw The King of Kong in a movie theater and watched it on TV over Thanksgiving this year.  I finally found Chasing Ghosts on Netflix Instant when a friend recently recommended it to me and it appeared in one of the lists that Netflix tailors to my watching patterns.  Netflix is like my best friend who always can tell what I’m in the mood to watch.  Except that Netflix is a cyborg, bent on taking over the world.

*** A note – in some cases the emotion from my “heart” is sympathy.  Sometimes it is appreciation.  Sometimes it is horror.  Films that generate feelings always rank high in my book, but the documentaries that evoke horror I’m much more likely to never, ever, ever watch again.  Like Capturing the Friedmans.

**** After watching the documentary, it feels weird to use “men” as their noun, even to this day.  Yes, they have kids, wives, girlfriends and jobs, but you look into those eyes as they talk about video games or other aspects of their lives, and the boy inside still takes center stage.

***** I loved the still picture of one video gamer being fed French fries as he played.  If this happened today in New York, he would have been video gaming’s Alex Rodriguez.

****** I have to admit to being a little more curious about the Missile Command guy.  It looks like he made video game themed pornos.  I can see that having major appeal.  I mean, how many guys would love the fantasy of sitting at home, playing video games, when all of the sudden, a knock comes at the door and there are three buxom women who want to pleasure you.  I’ve probably said too much.  Still in the argument of specialization, I want to see a movie about him.

******* Ok, maybe a slight lie.  I think I remember the name Ben Gold.  I also don’t remember the Twin Galaxies owner/ref names that appeared in both films.  It probably helps that I’ve seen The King of Kong twice.  Then again, it’s been almost four months since I watched it compared to about four hours for Chasing Ghosts.

^That’s the Arrested Development and Community  Season 1, episode 19 fan talking.  I’m going to go ahead and assume you know Ali Larter and not give her a footnote.  Why? She’s the most beautiful woman in the world.^^

Ali Larter in Heroes

^^World is defined as a section of my mind circa the first season of Heroes.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Hi!  It’s been a while.  How are you?  I’m fine.  Now.  After a month long mourning period that we now have to address even though it borders on the very edges of what borg.com talks about.

It’s sports.  In particular, it’s Albert Pujols.

In fact it’s (censored)ing Al(censored)bert Poo(censored)holes (censored) (censored) chorizo-flavored (censored) (censored) pine-scented (censored) (censored) lump of (censored) (censored) stoat (censored).

I know, I know.  It’s not like the old studio days for movies or the old times in the land of baseball where the “owners” could get the “workers” to act or play for however little they wanted or ban them entirely.  It’s freedom.  It’s the free market.  It’s getting paid now what you deserved when you first made it big.

Doesn’t mean I’m not going to pout about it for a month.  So there.

Pujols rare Topps original sketch trading card

Since I write for this site it should be obvious that I’m not an owner.  I’m a fan.  I’m a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, science fiction, comic books, novels, thunderstorms, warm days at the beach, hikes in the mountains, sushi, large pizzas and tall brunettes.  With respect to the Cardinals, I’m going to miss Pujols being a part of my team.

There you have the magic phrase.  My team.  Substitute “team” for any piece of entertainment: “TV show,” “movie,” “book series,” “comic,” etc.  Once an artist has created a work, unless they don’t want to be paid, they release it to the public.  At that point, each person that consumes the piece of art owns it in some way.

Maybe “owns” is a bit strong.  How about “possesses”?  Fans possess the work with their own connotations and meanings that are representative of their life up to that point.

Autographed Pujols MVP ball

If I were to ask what Albert Pujols meant to baseball fans, I would get different answers from each one.  Some would say the greatest first baseman since Lou Gehrig.  Others would say the greatest first baseman ever, since Gehrig didn’t play in an integrated game, fWAR or rWAR be damned.  Others might point to an individual statistic like .328 (career batting average), 445 (career home runs) or three (number of MVP awards).  Some might point to his faith and his work with charities.  Every person would have a different point of view and none would be the same as Albert’s own.
Lou Gehrig autographed ball

Lou Gehrig autographed ball

What if I did the same for the Star Wars franchise?  What if I asked you about the career of Harrison Ford and how would your answer be different if I asked you in 1989 compared to 2012?  What if I asked you about the first movie you ever saw with your current significant other?  How do you feel about that movie and the actors in it?  What about the favorite TV show that you view with that special someone, once a week, when you sit close and enjoy the company of each other and those people on the screen in your living room?  I’m sure each question to each person would get a very different response. Heck, some people might say that they wish Harrison Ford had done more movies like Regarding Henry.  They’d be wrong, but they might say it.

Ford and beagle friend in Regarding Henry

Around the same time as Albert Pujols shot my heart through with a poison arrow (and you think sports fans aren’t just drama queens waiting to happen), I finished reading A Feast for Crows.  I’ve talked about the other books in the series that I have read so far, but darn it, you put thousands of pages in front of me with well-defined characters and at some point I’m going to get fed up like I have with Harrison Ford in his last fifteen years of work.  LIGHT TO MEDIUM SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

How is there no Tyrion?  Yes, I know, the next book, I read the epilogue, but still, Tyrion!  Tyrion!  I want my Tyrion!  Waawaaaaaaaaa.  You introduce about a thousand new characters to be subjects of chapters and no Tyrion?  Waaaaaa.  What about Brienne of Tarth!  She’s about to get hanged.  Are you going to kill everyone we love?  (With Mr. George R. R. Martin, it could go either way – so I won’t put it as a definite that she is dead.)  Come on!  She can’t die.  Waaaaaaaa.

I have no creative input into the series except for the consumption of it, if you can call imagining how the characters look, move and act in your mind as you read a creative act.  (I do.)  I possess the characters with my viewpoints, with my motivations and my love.  I want to spend time with them.  I don’t want to see them go.  I don’t write fan fiction (yet) but it makes sense as a natural outgrowth of the fandom that consumers of art have.

I’m sure that compulsion for fan fiction is even worse when there’s no hope for further adventures after the lack of a conclusion. For the TV show Terriers (available to watch instantly on Netflix) I will never get to see anything further from Hank and Britt.  Sure, after a few years, maybe the official people behind the series will get a movie like the folks from Party Down or maybe Netflix will reunite them to do the show again like for Arrested Development.  I’m not holding my breath.  The only thing I’ll hold my breath for is a return of Community.  I still hope there will be three more seasons and a movie.  But, I know there is a strong chance that it has already disappeared the same way as Jaye Tyler and Wonderfalls did.

We all really miss Jaye Tyler and Wonderfalls

Did you just notice what I did in those few paragraphs?  I just jumped the gulf between reality and fiction.  Is how I view Albert Pujols and Harrison Ford different than how I view Brienne or Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack?  Is getting weirded out by Tom Cruise after he jumps on a couch different from feeling a pang in your stomach when Peter Parker dies in Ultimate Spider-Man?  I know none of those people personally and doubt I’ll ever meet them.  Through media coverage of the real ones and the creative talents of writers and artists on the fictional ones, we feel we know them.  We possess them with our viewpoint and they can enhance our love or betray it with each successive appearance in the public eye.

Artists may think that the possession is strange, but without it, without those strong connections they created in us, would we consume their art?  Probably not.  Do we throw a hissy fit when the values we’ve ascribed to their characters fall by the wayside as the artist creates a storyline that diverges in tone but makes them creatively happy?  Absolutely.  The artist gets to do whatever they want as that is the beauty of freedom. As a fan, I’m free to give my entertainment dollars to other people and leave it at that.  Right or wrong, it’s how things work.  We trust the good artists though and we will stay with them to see what they have in mind as long as they don’t do something idiotic like sign with the Anaheim Angels or air a show that focuses on tattoos and Bai Ling.  Once we leave, we can find new things worthy of possession and maybe it will be the next best thing ever.  Until we find that next best thing, we just have to be sure not to move from possession to attempted ownership as I think that would be called kidnapping and is illegal in all 50 states.  But, is it ever tempting to try to drag Albert Pujols back to St. Louis.

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