The Hobby

SXSW 2024 Wrap-Up: The Hobby & Dickweed

by Andrew Osborne

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Andrew Osborne
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Although I was unable to attend South by Southwest in person this year, I’ll hop aboard the hot 2024 publicist-thanking bandwagon in gratitude to those who allowed me to experience the festival from afar via digital screeners, including the following double feature of my final two reviews of the season.


At the start of Simon Ennis’s exploration of the recent resurgent popularity of boardgames, an academic who specializes in the subject describes the age-hold hobby as a “mirror of the continuity of the human psyche” — just before admitting that he is most definitely NOT a fan of the form’s current incarnation (including titles like Settlers of Catan, Terraforming Mars, The Cones of Dunshire,etc.) — i.e., complicated endeavors requiring pages of rules, dozens of components, and multiple hours to learn, set up, complete, and tuck away in giant cardboard boxes (and sometimes literal crates).

Yet in the same way that TV programming has evolved beyond the simplicity of procedurals and three-camera sitcoms on a trio of broadcast networks to a complex array of international streaming options, games have likewise diversified into an endless variety of genres from major companies and independent designers fueling a multi-billion dollar ecosystem with its own critics, scholars, bloggers, and celebrities.

Ennis surveys the phenomenon utilizing a scattershot series of  intertwined episodes, from talking head ruminations on topics like the satisfactions of problem-solving and real world socializing to a handful of story arcs (including a first time designer attempting to launch his project on Kickstarter and players competing in the World Series of Board Games) — and the (admittedly low stakes) dramas help to add narrative shape and pacing to a good-natured if somewhat meandering documentary you’re likely to enjoy if you think people who need meeples are the luckiest people in the world.


The most shocking thing in director Jonathan Ignatius Green’s true crime documentary isn’t simply that a man named Michael gets his dick cut off — but rather that the poor bastard’s willing to discuss the incident on camera (suggesting, one hopes, that he’s managed to move on with his life and make peace with an incident that occurred in 2012, when he and a housemate named Mary were kidnapped, driven into the desert, abused, and abandoned).

It’s definitely an attention-grabbing sequence (especially for squeamish male viewers), yet the more that’s revealed about the case, the less interesting the story becomes.  That’s partly because Michael and Mary (arguably the most compelling characters in the documentary) essentially exit stage left once the investigation leads to a sociopathic suspect — and in the age of Trump, watching the antics of grandstanding sociopaths has grown increasingly wearisome.

But perhaps the biggest twist of all is the fact that Dickweed isn’t really a true documentary (in the sense of, say, Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line, which examines larger themes through the lens of a particular crime and its aftermath).  Instead, the SundanceTV production eventually reveals its true colors as jazzy, disposable tabloid journalism as forgettable as yesterday’s news.

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