Elisabeth Bumiller reports in the New York Times on the movie-viewing habits of the president, whose home theater surpasses anything on offer at Bang & Olufson. (The White House screening room was built during Ronald Reagan's presidency, with $150,000 donated by a group of disinterested citizens who just happened to work for Disney, Universal, Fox, Paramount, Columbia, MGM, and Warner Brothers.)
Unlike LBJ, who slept through movies (a presidential trait found also in my spouse), and unlike Nixon, who watched the same movie over and over (yes, it was "Patton"), Bush seems to appreciate movies, as evidenced by his choice for best film of 2004: "Friday Night Lights," a sleeper about high school football in Odessa, Texas.
If you like movies but don't like Bush, then this is a good time not to indulge in stereotypes. Because "Friday Night Lights" is not your typical sports movie, and its portrait of football mania in the sovereign state of Texas is not painted with red-white-and-blue triumphalism.
Based on a book by H.G. Bissinger, "Friday Night Lights" is pretty formulaic on the surface: a team with one star player (Derek Luke) and a crusty coach (Billy Bob Thornton) passes through trials and tribulations, including losing the star to injury, then pulls together and heads for the state championship.
The first fifteen minutes are so fast-paced, it makes your average hip-hop video look sleepy. But then, mercifully, the pace slows, and the film begins to breathe a wonderful, subtle life. It is not triumphalist - indeed, it shows lucidly what happens to people (and towns) when they become too obsessed with winning.
But neither does "Friday Night Lights" take the easy path of ridiculing the narrow horizon of its characters. Instead, it treats them as full human beings and explores the hard realities behind their passionate compulsion to win. And without giving away the ending, I can say that by the time the team hits the boards for the Big Game, this movie has given new vitality to old cliche about sports being more about honor than victory.
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