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Word Wars - Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit

27 customer reviews

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Word Wars

Editorial Reviews

Tracking four Scrabble fanatics as they travel from tournament to tournament and eventually reach the U.S. nationals in San Diego, the film is a thoroughly entertaining and hilarious look at a board game that's an occasional amusement for some-and a serious obsession (or disturbing addiction) for others.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Joe Edley, Matt Graham, Marlon Hill, Joel Sherman
  • Directors: Eric Chaikin, Julian Petrillo
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: April 5, 2005
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007LPSG8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,618 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Word Wars - Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By B. Merritt VINE VOICE on July 28, 2005
Format: DVD
I had to seriously ask myself exactly what the directors of this amazing little film were trying to accomplish when they put together "Word Wars". Although we take a myopic look at World Championship Scrabble players, the film seemed to focus on human nature and psychology more than anything else.

Let me explain ...

This documentary follows the Scrabble-playing-lives of four obsessed players:

#1. "G.I." Joel Sherman, a dorky looking, 40-something guy with no job, sloppy clothes, and a nervous stomach that causes him to drink Mylanta by the gallon. He spends every minute of every day playing, thinking about, or studying words for Scrabble.

#2. Marlon Hill is a dreadlocked black man who is unemployed, bitter about how America treats its colored countrymen and women, smokes pot, and occasionally visits grade schools to tell the kids about why he plays Scrabble and how they can become good at it, too. He also apparently loves prostitutes, as we watch him go to Tijuana and employ one (or two). This guy also has a serious anger management problem.

#3. Matt Graham takes brain stimulating supplements (PILES of them!), wears sloth-like clothes with holes in them, and will play Scrabble anywhere at anytime with anyone ...especially if there are bets on the table.

#4. Joe Edley is one of the few players we see who actually has a job outside of Scrabble competitions. He's also the 2001 defending national champion. But can he maintain his crown?

Although Scrabble is why these men are battling to reach San Diego and play in the 2002 national tournament (Grand Prize, $25,000), it's their bizarre lifestyles and complete obsessiveness with Scrabble that really caught my interest.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Mingo on March 11, 2005
Format: DVD
This documentary sheds light on four men who prepare to play in the National Scrabble Championship. Upon first impression, these guys may seem like nerds or idiots savants. One is employed; one is underemployed; and two have no jobs whatsoever. The work begs the question of how do they pay for food and shelter, Scrabble issues aside. One interviewee says participants have to pay for transportation and lodging to the Championship. Well, how were they able to do that? The first prize is $25,000. First off, that's less than the average American man earns in a year. Second, Uncle Sam is going to take a good chunk of that in taxes. So why be obsessed over something so trivial?

Original bad impressions aside, these men are mostly admirable and no different from many others. Like most males, they love competition, hanging with their boys, being obsessive over their leisure activities, and placing bets. These guys are no different from professional and student athletes who train 24-7 for very little compensation.

The most intriguing interviewee here is Marlon, the African-American gentleman. He looks like mumZ, the man who played Poet in the "Oz" series. But his actions reminded me of the Black character in "Chasing Amy." Marlon calls himself "a pre-Mecca Malcolm [X]." However, Malcolm at that time was a separatist; though Marlon speaks of Black empowerment and combating Eurocentricity, he hangs with all the white players here without any hesitations. Is he just all talk? Professional movie critics have registered their shock about his foul language and drugs-taking, but what stood out to me was his patronage of the "oldest profession." Like a positive brother, he coaches young, Black students in Scrabble.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2005
Format: DVD
"Word Wars" follows 4 competitive Scrabble players through the months leading up to the 2002 National Scrabble Championship in San Diego, whose winner takes home $25,000 and gets to appear on the Today Show. Invented in the 1930s, Scrabble had become a competitive exercise by the 1970s. Like the movie says, "this is not your grandmother's Scrabble". Each player gets 25 minutes on his or her clock per game. Tournaments last a few days. Some of the players study daily, agonize over strategy, travel from tournament to tournament, and have no visible means of support. Scrabble is an obsession.

"Word Wars" starts by interviewing Scrabble players in New York's Washington Square Park who play for a penny a point. They're a diverse group with some top notch players among them, and we periodically revisit the Park over the course of the film. Documentarians Eric Chaikin & Julian Petrillo have chosen 4 eccentric, but apparently not atypical, players through which to explore the "trials and tribulations on the Scrabble circuit". Matt Graham is a part-time comedy writer and stand-up comedian who takes brain-boosting supplements and smart drugs to sharpen his skills. Joe Edley is a former National Champion who relies on meditation to calm the emotional roller coaster of competitive Scrabble. He's also the only one of the group who has a family and steady job. "G.I." Joel Sherman aspires to be a professional Scrabble player -if only one could make a living at Scrabble. He's never far from his bottle of Maalox, which he chugs constantly for acid reflux. Marlon Hill has dreadlocks and a Scrabble-playing family. He teaches elementary school students how to play the game, answers their questions about competition, and admits that he does nothing for a living.
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