Spellbound – FILM REVIEW – on DVD

FILM: Spellbound

FILMMAKER: Jeffrey Blitz

REVIEWER: Katy Jones

I’ve started doing this new thing where we I get a coupon for Borders I go and buy a doc on DVD for my parents so they can get some sense of what it is I’m hoping to do for a living.

First up – Spellbound.  This Jeffrey Blitz movie is one I actually saw in the theatre when it was released in theaters in 2002.  It’s about middle school kids competing in the National Spelling Bee, and if you’ve never seen it, you should.  It’s not going to change your life, but it will make you appreciate it more.

Why would someone make a movie about a spelling bee?  Well,  for the same reason that I love sports documentaries even though I don’t really watch sports – when there’s something at stake, a competition that people care about – it brings what’s awesome about human nature.  And the characters in this movie are so well cast.  Remember how awkward and ungainly you were at 13?  Yeah, well, so are they – and everything is a really BIG DEAL. And they care a lot.  And they work so hard, and they just can’t win – not all of them.

The look of the movie is a little jarring, I forgot how far cameras had come in the short space of time since this movie was made.  The camera work is generally very journalistic style, like it’s being shot for Dateline.   But that’s fine.  That allows you to see all the amazing faces, tears, braces, giggles, and oversized backpacks that this movie has to offer.

I really enjoyed Jeff Blitz’s talent for observation and casting.  He’s got two new movies – one about the American Lottery called Lucky.  Lucky is on HBO right NOW – go watch if you have HBO and tell me how it is!  And next up is a movie about DC Comics, which should be nerdy and awesome too.

The HBO website has a good interview with Jeffrey Blitz about casting for the “Lucky” film

The website for “Lucky” is super fun – you have to “win” $50 by clicking on falling money before you can get in.  Although once you do, it doesn’t have much to offer.

Did a little where are they now follow up on the kids featured in the doc.

Ashley White, probably my favorite character as she is a DC native – has graduated from Howard University despite numerous odds against her.  Go her!  She had an ABC News piece about her and what’s happened since.  And the Washington Post did a nice write up.

Angela Arenivar has her own blog, she’s hoping to be a writer.

Five out of Five Cheers.


2 Replies to “Spellbound – FILM REVIEW – on DVD”

  1. Katy, Good Choice for a DVD “pick of the month”.

    AND Yes – I agree with the awesomeness of SPELLBOUND. But, I can’t possibly give it 5 cheers so I’ll give it 4.

    – b.b


  2. Really, no 5 out of 5 on Spellbound? What’s not to like? Clever characters, tension, something at stake, awkward 13 year old future genius? The look is a little intensely video with a capital V, but it was 1999 when it was shot, which was a little video with a capital V.


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