First Aussie review: Special When Lit

As promised, here’s our exclusive Australian review of Special When Lit, thanks to Aussie Arcade member AskJacob:

The Australian premiere screening was at the Chauvel Cinema, a well known Arthouse cinema in Paddington. When we got there, I thought I’d wandered into some other function – it was full! REALLY full of people, and LOUD – christmas party loud. It was a unique experience, I have never been in a cinema lobby with that kind of vibe before. “Perhaps they’re here for another function – there are several cinemas” said the Mrs – and I thought it was likely. None of these folk seemed to look like my mental image of a Pin-Head!

Fortunately while waiting in the lobby I started to see a few likely candidates floating around – there was someone with a shirt that says “TILT! I’ll give you tilt!” – and another with an arcade themed shirt. I relaxed – this must have been the right place, but I was still wondering what the other event that must be going on at the same time was…?

The crowd gathers for the SWL Australian premiere

The crowd gathers for the SWL Australian premiere

An announcement was made for the opening of the cinema doors – and holy cow! All these people were here for the same movie! It started to click – a big chunk of these people must be friends and family of “those who made it”. I joked to the wife “You watch how quick they are going to sneak out of the cinema when it gets dark” – thinking there was no way these people would ride out two hours in a movie about pinball.

Suspicions confirmed – the rock star cheers and excitement when Brett Sullivan (Director/Producer) stood in the spotlight to introduce himself and the film are something that surprised me, and brought a grin to my face. I hope he loved every moment! It’s his first feature length film. Next up was Clayton Jacobsen (the Producer) who spoke about how they came up with the idea, and how it was a challenge to make a feature compared to their normal (advertising) work.

Then the film started.

Wow. The production work on the titles was awe inspiring – as was the graphic work overall for the movie. Translites, backglasses and flyers come to life as part of the credits, and the whole thing just popped and was sharp (my only wish was to see more!). Again, the cheers from the crowd when the local talent were listed in the credits was fun and set the mood well.

Special When Lit had a very strong Autumn theme – to me a vibrant image of the state of pinball – as we all have to realise, it is fading away from the public, and on it’s way out. The movie explores this a bit – Is this sad? Why is it this way? Who cares?

Is the film factual? I believe so. Is it a documentary? Kind of – but really has a story or five to tell too. Did I learn any new facts? Not particularly, but it is my hobby and I came pre-loaded with pinball data. I did hear people in the crowd making exclamations (“did you know that?”) – and that was great, because I’m sure a lot of non pin-heads took away a lot from the movie. Did I learn a lot about serious pinball fans? Oh yes indeed. Following some of these characters was the most entertaining and fascinating part of the film. Some people’s passion is truly overwhelming.

Special When Lit shows some people we’ve heard of before (if you’re a keen hobbyist) – and see their relationship with pinball. The film definitely has humour – some of it unintentional from the character’s point of view – but it is gentle, and in no way attacks people. I think they allowed these people to be who they really are in front of the camera, and yes, obsessive and passionate people do seem pretty odd.

There’s some coverage of pinball tournaments in the film, which could have been trimmed a bit as I really enjoyed the focus on the people of the hobby more. For those who have seen “King Of Kong” you won’t see that kind of interaction here – there’s no focus on good guy/bad guy characters in this movie.

So, let’s sum it up:

  • Did I enjoy it? Hell yes, it was great!
  • Did I think it was well made? Yes, I think a lot of attention and care went into it.
  • Would I recommend it? Oh yes.

You know pinfolk will enjoy it. Even better, non pinfolk should too. It may be just the thing to show friends and family who “Just don’t get” why you are in this hobby. This flick will be good for two reasons – first to illustrate what pinball can mean to some people, and secondly to show that there are people far nuttier than you out there!

Things to look for during the film: funky extreme playing moves, a link between pinball and sexual frustration, the pingeek, Sam Harvey’s Belly button, and wait at the end to see if Koi ever wins.

Oh, and that quip I made about people sneaking out? Well, gotta eat my hat on that one. Everyone was absorbed by this film; no one left. It was amazing to see everyone so engaged with it!

…5 flips from me!

Thanks so much AskJacob! And as I receive further feedback from other attendees, I’ll be updating this post. Hopefully after such a successful launch, a DVD/Blueray release is a firmer possibility…?

Here’s the trailer to whet your appetite…


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