Nov 29, 2006


I scan the headlines and I see the usual: Bush insists the civil war in Iraq is not a civil war, as if by sheer force of stubborness and idiocy, reality would actually change to suit him and his petrified brain. It's a civil war, stupid. Ask the relatives of the thousands of Iraqis who've been blown to bits, murdered, kidnapped, etc.

Then, a tiny item in the Theater section of the NYT:
A group of men stormed the stage during a performance in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of “Wasati Bila Wasatiya” (“A Moderate Without Moderation”), a play critical of religious conservatives, Reuters reported, citing Saudi newspapers and Web sites.
As the play began at a cultural festival at Al-Yamamah College in Riyadh, the men, described as Islamic extremists, ran to the stage in an attempt to halt the performance. Police fired shots into the air to break up a violent brawl that followed, as the Islamists, students and actors threw chairs and attacked one another with sticks. Seventeen men were arrested.
There are no public theaters or movie houses in Saudi Arabia.
The boldface is mine. And these are friends of the United States. Geez.

Yesterday on the plane they showed the movie Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, with Will Ferrell. It amused me greatly. I have been much misunderstood by my affection for movies such as this one and the 40-Year-Old Virgin (and Old School, and Zoolander and most of the Farrelly Brothers' oeuvre). I have to say: they make me laugh. There is something in these comedies that celebrates stupidity in a generously infectious way. Had I paid eleven bucks for Ricky Bobby, I may not have been so thrilled, but if you are stuck on an airplane at 40,000 feet, it's quite delightful.
Sacha Baron Cohen plays a French race car driver called Jean Gerard, who drinks espresso and reads existential books while he drives laps in NASCAR with his helmet on.

"Why did I come to America?", he asks Ricky Bobby.
"Because of the public schools and the health care system and the water parks?"

Will Ferrell is wonderful at being clueless but with great conviction, sort of like Bush, but funny. The movie also boasts the wonderful John C. Reilly, a master of enthusiastic naiveté, and the excellent Gary Cole, who is as good in serious roles in TV shows as he is doing seriously funny bits for film comedies, like Dodgeball and Office Space.
Ricky Bobby pokes fun at the NASCAR culture, at people who thank Jesus for everything, at white trash culture, at celebrity endorsements, at product placement. It is designed to attract the very people who fit the demographic it is making fun of, yet it is not abrasive. Sort of a gentle satire. I loved it.
And when it was over, I went back to my Marcel Proust (who, when he is not describing the effects of asparagus on his memory and the consequent smell of his pee, among other endless digressions, can also be quite hilarious himself).

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