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Special When Lit (2009)

6.9
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What made more money than the entire American movie industry through the 50s and 60s? Pinball. Special When Lit rediscovers the lure of a lost pop icon. A product of the mechanical and ... See full summary »

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Title: Special When Lit (2009)

Special When Lit (2009) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Roger Sharpe ...
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Rick Stetta ...
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Sam Harvey ...
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Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tim Arnold ...
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John Broughton ...
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Josh Pingeek Kaplan ...
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Pat Lawlor ...
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Lyman Sheats ...
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Storyline

What made more money than the entire American movie industry through the 50s and 60s? Pinball. Special When Lit rediscovers the lure of a lost pop icon. A product of the mechanical and electrical age, the American invention swept the world and defined cool. Now it is relegated to a nostalgic footnote deserving a better fate. Joining the fans, collectors, designers and champion players from across the globe who share a world many of us didn't know still existed. Written by BSullivan

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Plot Keywords:

pinball | icon | flipper

Taglines:

Rediscover a lost icon

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

G
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Release Date:

17 April 2010 (USA)  »

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$150,000 (estimated)
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Trivia

Koi Morris can be seen briefly in Ecstacy of Order: The Tetris Masters, at the 5:00 mark, standing next to Ben Mullen. See more »

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References Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not perfect, but worth watching
6 November 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I haven't reviewed many films here, doesn't seem like there's much point to it if a movie has already been reviewed by dozens of other people. But as I write this, there are only two reviews for this film - one glowing, and one somewhat negative. Allow me to split the difference. If you are a really die-hard pinball fan, you'll probably find fault with it, while if you have no interest at all in the game, it may not hold your attention. But while not perfect, this doc is worth seeing, especially if you have a passing interest in the subject matter.

The good: First of all, some great art direction, animation, and graphics, especially the opening credits. I find the art of pinball pretty interesting, and I could have used a lot more of that. There's a decent, though shallow, overview of the history of pinball and the rise and fall of the industry, but I wish these parts had been longer. Some good interviews, as well, and a too-brief visit to the only remaining pinball manufacturer.

The bad: Too many interviews with pinball collectors and obsessives, who come across as either charming eccentrics, or slightly off-putting nut jobs, depending on the interview. If you've ever been around any sort of obsessive collector types, be they collectors of records, comic books, movie memorabilia, sports stuff, whatever, you'll know the type

  • they are all remarkably similar even if their chosen obsessions are
completely different. You'll recognize the similar fashion, personal hygiene, and physical fitness issues that these kind of guys (and they're almost always guys) share. Maybe the people who made this movie have only been around normal people before, so they found this fascinating, but it really isn't if you've ever dealt with hard-core collectors (of anything) before.

You also get an over-long descent in the world of championship pinball, which is unfortunate, because watching other people play pinball is not very interesting no matter how good they are. You can only laugh at somebody's outlandish body English while playing pinball once or twice, but the filmmakers try to use this same joke endlessly. They briefly ask one of the champion players to share some pointers, which is pretty cool, but for the most part the shots of the championship action are not from angles where you can actually see what the players are doing. Instead you just see out of shape middle-aged dudes jumping around in front of the games.

I wish more time had been spent on the history of pinball, and talking with the designers and artists who actually made the games, rather than with the players and collectors. Unfortunately, the ratios of what I would have preferred to see, and what the filmmakers chose to spend the most time on, are largely reversed.

Still, some interesting insights are scattered through the film. I think it is fascinating how societal changes can make something like pinball almost universally popular and ubiquitous, and then a few decades later it fades from the culture. One interviewee notes that in the heyday of pinball, people ate dinner at home and went out for their entertainment. Now people eat out much more frequently, but their entertainment needs tend to be met at home. Hadn't really thought about it like that. In another interview, it is mentioned how the frivolous wasting of time to develop "highly-refined skills which were useless in real life" was considered "downwardly mobile and rebellious." Interesting. Unfortunately for pinball, this doc won't do much to bolster the idea of pinball still being a rebellious and youthful pastime. The doc ends with a lament that pinball is not long for this earth. The interview near the end with the owner of a now-closed NYC arcade is poignant and touching.

In conclusion, even though the filmmakers spend too much time on the wrong subject matter, there is enough of interest in this documentary to make it worth checking out.


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Disappointingly not very engaging or informative phillipo-106-184702
One thing that wasn't touched on... ripplinbuckethead
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