Director Douglas Tirola charted a narrow course when he put together All In: The Poker Movie. The documentary, which charts the cyclical popularity of the card game and eventual dustup over its legality, doesn’t indulge in the oblivious rhetoric of some stubborn players (“It’s not gambling”) but also doesn’t swing in the opposite direction and imply any moral imperative to abolish it.
Most relevant to Big Easy audiences, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band provides the soundtrack, with director Ben Jaffe making an appearance. The film spends a good deal of time talking about poker’s origins in New Orleans, as well, and the importance of riverboats on the Mississippi River and elsewhere in the game's expansion.
The content of the film itself runs the gamut from bombastic (marketers comparing the origins of poker to Genesis, Jennifer Tilly calling herself a cowboy) to the nuanced (interviews with experts and journalists on the recent crackdown on online poker), but never becomes preachy or overbearing, even when addressing the more cynical – or conspiratorial – interpretations of how and why casinos, online gaming sites and the government have acted as they have.
The pomposity of some of the players featured is offset by a segment in which, quite blasé, they riff about the dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of times they’ve “gone bust.”
And, of course, there’s plenty of footage of championship card playing.
Many of the big names of professional poker lend their opinions to the film, from the congenial Chris Moneymaker to the notoriously condescending Phil Hellmuth Jr. (who asserts that he’s “a really great guy away from the table").
All In opens tonight at the Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) at 8 p.m. and will run through April 5, with no screening Wednesday. Tickets are $7 with discounts for students, seniors and members. Director Tirola will attend tonight’s opening and offer a Q&A afterward.
Also at the Zeitgeist this weekend will be Art Is … The Permanent Revolution, a documentary by Manfred Kirchheimer about the connections between art and protest. Art Is plays the same evenings as All In, but at 6:30 p.m.
Here are some other flicks playing around town and off the beaten path:
Barbershop Punk (Documentary)
Loyola University Moot Court Auditorium
6363 St. Charles Ave.
Friday, 6:30 p.m.
The Blind Side (Drama)
Pentacost Baptist Church
1510 Harrison Ave.
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Nunemaker Auditorium, Loyola University
6363 St. Charles Ave.
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Dazed & Confused (Comedy)
NOLA Drive-In (Rooftop)
840 Carondelet St.
Saturday, 7 p.m.
The Wiz (Musical)
2500 Filmore Ave.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.