This is my first (and probably only) movie review that I will do on this blog.  As soon as I heard that there would be a documentary produced about my favorite writing implement, I was excited.  Up until now, the story and use of wooden pencils has only existed in small, close-knit groups and this documentary would provide more exposure to something I hold near and dear to my heart.  Let’s get to it:

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No.2, overlooked as a common tool, continues to lose dominance in a media saturated world. However, history tells a different story.

The Pencil changed everything. Invention, craftsmanship, art, engineering, manufacturing, government, history, and business are a result of the pencil. Although the Pencil technology provided a way to move thoughts to a tangible form, technology is never static.

As technology is a key focus to every aspect of society today, the pencil begins to lose its significance. With so many aspects of society existing in binary code, the pencil needs to be honored. We are in a battle against time. If we move away from using this analog piece of technology, what is society losing? How significant is the pencil to ingenuity? Should we care if the pencil shifts to the backseat?

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I wanted to love this documentary, but I walked away feeling meh.  Let me address the pros first.  As I have mentioned earlier, just having a documentary about the pencil is awesome in itself.  I also loved seeing Caroline and her shop featured, how the filmmaker traveled to various locations to document the history of graphite, and Petroski’s commentary.  That’s where my love affair ends.  First, the music.  There was constant music playing throughout the documentary which I found distracting.  I was hoping it would cut out, but it didn’t and really took away from the message some interviewees were trying to deliver.  Also, it was a bit pretentious at times.  I think for the layperson this would ring especially true.  What would have been an ideal setup would be the history, a lot more of the manufacturing, the players in the pencil community, and– most glaringly omitted– the Erasable community.  I enjoyed the commentary, but I KNOW about pencils and all the nerdy things about them.  I guess what I am trying to say is to make it a bit more approachable to all.  Also, my opinion may be entirely invalid because I enjoy seeing things being manufactured and learning about the different elements of said manufactured item.

Overall, I don’t think this film was entirely crap.  It hit some good notes with me, but fell short on a lot of others.  I’d give it two out of five pencils.  It’s definitely a rent and not an own.  I am glad that the object of my beloved hobby has been featured in a full length film, but it could have done so much more.

3 thoughts on “No. 2: Story of the Pencil

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I left saying “meh” too. What I wanted more of is the history of pencil brands, not ruminations on creativity and how the pencil is a metaphor for this or that. I think they dropped the ball..I mean, you have access to one of the oldest pencil makers in America and that’s what you get? Some of the questions were BS…it seems like the filmmakers were trying to lead their subjects into “high concept” ideas.

    And you couldn’t be more right about the music….it felt like a super long trailer.

    What I’d really love to see is the guy who made “Helvetica”, Gary Hustwit, make a pencil documentary. I think he could do it right.

    Great review!!

    Like

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