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Word Wars is a documentary about four Scrabble players on their way to the National Scrabble Championship in San Diego. Scrabble is a crossword game and a fun one at that. However, playing at the national level takes a considerable amount of skill and personal problems.

Each one of these men know every two- and three-letter word in the English language. For instance, who would know that xu, aa, eh, and ka are all playable words on a Scrabble board? They would. They also know all the "Q" without "U" words like: qoph, qintar, and qwerty.

Memorizing the dictionary is something to strive for among Scrabble players, and so is figuring anagrams as efficiently as possible.

Another part of being a National Scrabble player is to have some sort of physical or mental condition. Each of the four players displayed some interesting habits throughout the film. One man, G.I. Joel or Gastro Intestinal Joel, had problems with acid reflux and had to chug Maalox on a regular basis. G.I. Joel sported a shirt that displayed his name, as well as suspenders and pants up to his mid-belly. Round thick-rimmed glasses and a bald head accentuated his "out-of-the-norm" status.

Another man named Marlon was a self-proclaimed Ghanan though he was actually from Brooklyn. Ghana does not recognize, or, most likely, even know who Marlon is.

Marlon blames the Western Europeans for his income level and his inability to earn more. Right or wrong, he does not earn that much and his marijuana habit does not help his cause. Marijuana is a funny thing in Marlon's life. He gets angry at his Scrabble life and smokes to feel better about it.

Two other men are featured in Word Wars. The Zen Master of Scrabble practices Zen and Tai Chi before, during, and after his matches. The remaining featured player literally took hundreds of mind-enhancing pills to improve his play. He has a ring below his lower lip.

Everyone in this documentary is a little nuts. It's funny how a little game can become an obsession. The National Scrabble Championship pays $25,000 to the winner - a pretty handsome sum for all of these folks.

I guess the message of this documentary is simple: Life is a game. And the players are, well, merely players.


Posted on September 13, 2006

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