Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Pinball Documentaries Rundown

My greatest obsession right now is with pinball, and it can be traced back to pinball documentaries (geekumentaries being my OTHER greatest obsession).  There are actually several pinball documentaries available, so I thought I'd outline the ones I know about here.

TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball

TILT takes place at the tail-end of the golden age of pinball. It tells the story of an effort by Williams to turn slipping sales trends around in the late 90s with a new type of pinball machine, Pinball 2000, that integrated video on the playfield in an inventive way.  It is one of my favorite geekumentaries, pinball or otherwise.

Trailer for "TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball" from Greg Maletic on Vimeo.

TILT can be had digitally on iTunes, Amazon Instant, and so forth, but I recommend the 2-DVD set for the awesome bonus materials.

Pinball Passion

The Pinball Passion is sort of just a general overview of pinball, but it covers some really great topics and includes a good sampling of the big names in pinball.  It was completed in 2008, so it's a lot more recent look at the hobby than TILT and specifically discusses how Stern is the only remaining pinball manufacturer left from the golden age of pinball, and how they are pulling that off.

Pinball Passion DVD Documentary Teaser Trailer from Bracken James Batson on Vimeo.

This one is another 2-DVD set (also available digitally), though the bonus material isn't as robust as TILT's.

Special When Lit

Whereas TILT told a story focused on pinball designers and manufacturers, Special When Lit dives more into the collector/player side of pinball. Some feel this film went out of its way to show pinball enthusiasts as non-socialized nerds, but I've heard others say that the people in the film were portrayed accurately, if not as representatives of the average pinball fan, at least as a fair overall representation of those individuals' personalities.  I have noticed that so far, pinball documentaries seem to focus mainly on collectors who collect mostly the older machines, EM era vs. SS.

Special When Lit was completed in 2010 and covers pinball after the pinball apocalypse of the late 90s. It portrays a rediscovering of sorts, though it has an overall somber tone and dubious forecast for pinball as a hobby.

Pinball 101

Pinball 101 isn't really a documentary per se, but I include it here because it is another DVD  you can buy about pinball, and it teaches you something that the previously mentioned films don't really delve into; pinball gameplay and how to become more skilled at the game.

And, by the same people, there is apparently also The Pinball Collector, which appears to be about collecting older machines (they say Pinball Collector part 2 will cover newer machines).  Aaaand, they are working on a Pinball 102.


There are definitely more pinball-related documentaries out there, including some really great little featurettes that are available online for free.  Two of my favorites are The Robert Gagno episode of Ingenious Minds, and A Lifelong Love, about collector/competitor John Reuter.  I've posted these before, but they are both just great, so here's an encore:

A Lifelong Love from David Lovejoy on Vimeo.

And lastly, looks like the Japanese were hip to the pinball resurgence way back in 2010 in this featurette about pinball in New York City, New York City Pinball Documentary, featuring - guess who - Reciprocal.  Man, those guys gets around! :)

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