Movies of My Yesterdays: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

This might be the first entry in this series from my time in college. It’s not quite from after the inception of this blog, but getting very close to it. It wasn’t long after when I saw this movie when I got my first opportunity to go back and catch up on movies I’d missed. But that wasn’t the way I saw this one.

I first saw Talladega Nights because it belonged to my my freshman roommate, who set up his TV, small movie collection, and mini fridge, told me I was welcome to use all of them, and then found friends outside the dorm to spend all his days and nights with, leaving me alone with the whole room pretty much all the time. I can’t recall whether this movie got played in one of the rare times he was there or if I put it on myself in a bolder move in using his stuff, as using somebody else’s movies without their direct permission still seems like a breach to me even if blanket permission has been given (it occurs to me that I don’t feel this way about the massive movie and game collection of another roommate I had in the early days of the blog, which was probably represented multiple times on here). I’m pretty sure that was the only time I saw it until now.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Mosaic Media Group 2006.

Born in the back of a speeding Chevelle, Ricky Bobby grew up not knowing his father, who left to race cars and do more shady things, which may have imparted his obsession with speed to him. Ricky only saw his father once in his childhood, making an unexpected and ignominious appearance at his class’s Career Day, but he left him with the dictum that “if you’re not first, you’re last”, a phrase Ricky went on to model his life on. Without many career prospects, Ricky found his way into the pit crew for Dennit Racing, finally getting his opportunity to enter a NASCAR race as a replacement for the driver who walked out in the middle of a race while in last place, and Ricky proves himself by finishing third, becoming a racing star. Backed up by his best friend Cal driving Dennit’s second car, who always gives him the assist to get to first, Ricky quickly achieves a life of fame and fortune, living in a mansion with Carley, the smoking hot fangirl he married, their two disgracefully disrespectful sons, and Carley’s father who impotently disapproves of how his grandkids are being raised. Ricky’s maverick driving style makes him a fan favorite, but costs him with the sponsors and the tournament judges, and therefore does him no favors with the new head of Dennit racing, Larry Jr., who hires openly gay Frenchman Jean Girard from the Formula One circuit to be his new, dependable lead driver with European precision. Ricky’s jealousy overwhelms him, causing him to crash and have a psychological breakdown that endangers his ability to ever be able to get behind the wheel of a car again.

This felt really raunchy at the time, but while it’s still kind of raunchy, it doesn’t feel like that’s an exceptional thing. I think the raunchiness largely comes from how it’s both a parody of the contemporary machismo but also kind of an earnest celebration of it. It feels entirely a product of its time, but no moreso than in the jokes about Girard being gay. This is tempered by Girard being revealed to be an honorable guy looking for an equal on the track and definitely a much more rational person than Ricky, but the jokes still significantly Other him. It occurs to me now that by being gay and European, Girard is specifically designed to be the antithesis of the NASCAR stereotype and the American nationalist cultural moment that NASCAR was a significant component of at the time. His being French is probably targeted at the specific distaste for the French after the country refused to support the US in doing some post-9/11 lashing out.

While the extreme farce style can easily get out of hand in a bad way, there were still plenty of laugh out loud moments. Its extremely contemporary nature probably keeps it from being as timeless as Anchorman, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s not something I would come back to a lot, but I can see occasionally revisiting it to get my expectations exceeded again.

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada. Dune Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I think the main reason I was never especially drawn to this movie was because I’m not that into fashion, but then movies can be themed around anything without requiring intimate knowledge of them. And maybe it was also something that didn’t appeal to me because it’s a women-oriented movie and I wasn’t as interested in those in 2006.

I do vaguely recall it being among the movies that I first got a real glimpse of what’s interesting about it at the Academy Awards that year, but like most other movies that I never really considered until the Oscars showed me more than any trailer did, I never really followed up.

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Funny Money

Funny Money. Thinkfactory Media 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I had an impression that Chevy Chase completely disappeared from whenever he left the Vacation movies in the 90s until the late 00s, when he suddenly resurfaced in Zoom, a Tim Allen vehicle about a retired superhero, and on Community. Apparently what he was actually doing at the time was starring in German/Romanian adaptations of British plays. An American company was also involved, but I sure don’t recall any significant American release.

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Monster House

Monster House. ImageMovers 2006.

Before watching the movie:

Part of the original concept for this blog was revisiting movies that I missed when they came around. I definitely remember Monster House being around in 2006. I think I even went to a theater for a different movie while this one was being screened there. I think it looked like more horror than I wanted in a movie at the time, but I can see more clearly now that it’s a children’s scary adventure movie.

I also have vague memories of it coming up in connection with the entertainment news show I worked with all through college, but I would have only started there over a year after it was released.

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The Lake House

The Lake House. Vertigo Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

This seems like a strange pairing for a movie that seems to want to be known as a pensive romance. Reeves and Bullock headlined Speed as well, but that was an action blockbuster, which they’re both better known for.

Similarly to how I was wondering how the original source of You’ve Got Mail got things going without the weird social construct of anonymous chat rooms, it’s my understanding that the central concept here is that they send letters to each other, but they’re in the same place a few years apart. I’m again curious to see how that gets started, but also how it can be sustained.

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Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask. Code Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not a very big fan of horror, but I do enjoy a mockumentary, especially a comedic one, and horror is a genre that’s always ripe to be mocked.

I hadn’t heard of this movie before the part of the internet that works in mysterious ways (okay, the mysterious ways governed by data and math) brought it to the surface. It’s a pretty simple premise, as a serial killer to be invites a documentary team to follow him as he plans his blaze of glory, and instead of calling the police or anything, they go get their killer story.

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Nacho Libre

Nacho Libre. Paramount Pictures 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I’m fairly confident this was the first time I’d heard of Jack Black. I’d heard a lot about Shallow Hal, but since Malcolm in the Middle was such a big presence in my life at the time, my brain kept putting Bryan Cranston in the title role. So with Nacho Libre, Jack Black entered my consciousness as someone new, yet someone I apparently should have already known about.  So I was completely lost later when Tenacious D got a movie and was apparently a well-established band already. And this time it was real, unlike my early confusion about Galaxy Quest.

Anyway, here’s a cult movie about a white guy rising to the top in a Mexican cultural institution from the age where taboo topics were permissible, but insensitivity was in fashion. So I’m hoping this will be fun, but it’s got some hurdles to clear.

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It’s a Boy Girl Thing

It’s a Boy/Girl Thing. Rocket Pictures 2006.

Before watching the movie:

So here’s a high school movie about gender-swapping body swapping. Commentary on the differences between men’s and women’s experiences is something that doesn’t always age well, especially with recent trends, so I’m not sure if this will come out as something to really recommend. It looks like the characters have some traits that make them slightly more than stereotypes, which makes it more likely positive statements can be made.

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The Astronaut Farmer

The Astronaut Farmer. Spring Creek Pictures 2006.

Before watching the movie:

What I’m most interested in about this story of an ex-astronaut who had to quit NASA to save the farm, but then decides to build his own rocket, is how the movie makes it plausible that one man can build a rocket on his own. The farm must be doing really well to be able to afford that kind of DIY equipment.

It’s meant as a feel-good story about Following Your Dreams™, but it’s just about the most extreme way to depict it. Solo rocketry projects are most likely to end up with the hobbyist spread across the landscape, no matter how much of an expert in engineering the rocketeer is.

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This Film is Not Yet Rated

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, IFC Films 2006.

Before watching:

This Film is Not Yet Rated is a documentary about how the MPAA works. I think I’d heard about it before, but what brought the movie to my attention was when Mugglecast discussed the announcement that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince received a mere PG rating. Host Andrew Simms gave a summary of how the MPAA rating board operates, citing from this film. I understand from him and from the box that it’s an exposè of MPAA corruption.

I’d also like to say hi to my parents at this point, who will probably be among the first to read me write about watching a movie that got an NC-17 before appeal. Fun fact: I spent an extra minute finding a work-safe picture.

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