Portraits of Obsession

Ransom Riggs

There's nothing I enjoy watching quite so much as someone else getting excited about something they love -- and then taking things too far. Lucky for me, there are plenty of documentaries out there to fulfill my craving, as obsessives and collectors are easy to film and usually more than happy to sit down for interviews about their awesome hobby (which just happens to be dominating their lives to an unusual and unhealthy degree). Here are some of my favorite portraits of obsession.

Confessions of a Superhero

A beautifully-done, sort of heartbreaking documentary about the folks who dress up like superheroes and stand on Hollywood Blvd. posing for pictures and working for tips. Most of them do it for the money, but Superman -- aka Christopher Lloyd Dennis, son of actress Sandy Dennis -- does it for love, and some (most) would say obsession. His apartment is a shrine to all things Superman, and he's a walking encyclopedia of Superman trivia. Here's a short scene of Dennis getting into costume:

The King of Kong

I never knew people took -- and still take -- arcade video games so seriously. This is a portrait of true obsession, through the lens of the two world's two best Donkey Kong players, each vying to be Number One.


Okay, I lied before. This is a portrait of true obsession -- a klatch of movie-lovers in New York City who seem to do nothing but go to see films. Can you imagine watching 6 or 7 movies in one day -- every day? "Film is a substitute for life," one of them admits. "Film is a form of living." A fascinating film that will make almost any movie addict feel better about their habit by comparison.

Piece by Piece

A fascinating short film about the world's best Rubik's Cubers: "Over three decades after the invention of the Rubik's Cube, filmmaker Sachi Schuricht details the art of so-called "speedcubing" with this short documentary that introduces the creators of the renowned speedcubing algorithm before visiting a competition in which Rubik's Cube fans from all walks of life attempt to solve the popular puzzle while blindfolded, and others race to match the like colors with only one hand." Just watching them solve their cubes makes you dizzy. The film isn't available online, but can be seen on the venerable video magazine Wholphin, edition number 5.

Here are a few of the world's top-ranked "speedcubers" doing their thing. And if you think this is impressive, note the fact that they're cubing after having had a few drinks at a party. That's right: drunken cubing.

Vernon, Florida

Errol Morris' early documentary masterpiece Vernon, Florida is mostly just a portrait of weirdos (who live in a small town in northern Florida), but there's one fellow in particular whom Morris interviews, a turkey hunter, who is almost literally incapable of talking about anything other than turkeys and turkey hunting. He is, in a word, obsessed.