Almost two years ago, after New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman used a graph to conquer the space-time continuum in his book Thank You For Being Late, I had to sift through over 3,000 hilarious submissions to name a “Most Meaningless Friedman Graph” contest winner.
It took hours to settle on “Amount of Relish, per ounce, vs. Degree of Nonsense, now and then, relished by the wisest men, vs. Frequency of Relish” as the winner.
Last week, I asked readers to send in entries for another contest, in honor of Friedman’s “Crazy Poor Middle Easterners” column, which he was somehow moved to write after seeing the lighthearted comedy Crazy Rich Asians. The race to name the next “Movie-Themed Friedman Column” wasn’t quite as daunting as the graph contest, but it was close.
There were a lot of truly inspired entries. The best ideas were ones you could imagine being made into trippy/disturbing Friedman-themed movies.
NAFTA Hours by @tomblaker19 could be a sequel where a much older Griffin Dunne has a rental car break down on vacation south of the border and ends up wandering in a maquiladora zone all night. Almost Tedious, submitted by reader “Greg Mendel,” could be a touching Seventies coming-of-age story where a young Friedman gets his big break at Rolling Stone, sending in diaries about a cross-country series of Alan Greenspan speeches.
There were some excellent salutes to the Technicolor epic era. Status Quo Vadis by “Alan Meyers” could be a great story about the historian Friedmanicus insisting over and over that the next six months will be critical in Nero’s effort to put down the Christianity movement. @NYSCRAM’s Lawrence Summers of Arabia should be a four-hour epic in which the sun-cooked economist crosses vast deserts in search of lucrative speaking engagements at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
There were a lot of Eastwood-themed entries. For a Few Dollars Moore’s Law would be worth it just for the scenes involving Lee Van Cleef putting together transistors under gunfire (he gets faster every year). The operating joke in @Rvatimmy’s Trouble With the Yield Curve would probably be an old bond trader unable to see the CNBC crawl anymore: not clear what comes after that. Million Dollar Welfare Baby would probably have a happier ending in the bailout era. The Eiger Taxation gets points for obscurity, and the mountain theme would probably allow a Davos plot point. When I tweeted that I couldn’t figure out the right Invictus joke, @J_K_Smothers correctly noted, “Matt Damon’s accent in it is the Invictus joke.”
The contest came down to a handful of entries. A few were just-misses:
Wahabi Met Sally might have won if the bin Salman reference were a shade more obvious. I almost went with @Chris_nerraW’s excellent “The Man Who Shot Liberal Values,” which would star Barack Obama in the Jimmy Stewart role and probably Rahm Emmanuel as Lee Marvin, but the title just isn’t exclusively Friedman enough — it could also be a David Brooks or even a George Will column. I excluded the subtly excellent Putin Tang only because it made me think of a movie I’d successfully forgotten.
Debt Wish could be a whole action series and the mustache is already in place. Mamma Myanmar! was the best musical, unless you count Straight Outta Guangzhou, which could also be a gangsta capitalism epic. One Flew Business Class Over the Cuckoo’s Nest demonstrated sound knowledge of the Friedman canon. The Center-Right Stuff had possibilities as a history of the little-known U.S.-Soviet mediocrity-in-space race. Bring Me the Hedge Fund of Alfredo Garcia was tempting (a blood-soaked Warren Oates-Sam Peckinpah-Friedman epic couldn’t fail), and it was hard to pass up Mueller’s Crossing, just for the scene in which Michael Cohen drops to his knees and begs Mueller to “Look into your heart!”
In the end, though, there were two clear winners:
Honorable mention goes to @RealJoeWright for The Englishman Who Went Up the Hill and Came Down a Globalist. This is a writes-itself comedy that could perhaps be set in a remote South Asian town where the construction of a new IBM office complex allows officials to reclassify a hill a mountain. Cast must include a slew of lovably eccentric locals. Joe is a fellow New Jerseyan, so thanks for representing. I’ll send him a T-shirt today.
AND THE WINNER IS…
There Will Be Blood, But Also Amazing Dividends by “coup d’etat” a.k.a. @andy_sims was the clear winner from the jump and even had other tweeters surrendering at the sight of it. Coup should get a lifetime supply of free Friedman books for this, unless he would consider that punishment.
Both winners will be receiving a “NOT FLAT—WE CHECKED” cosmic-themed T-shirt, instead of whatever I proposed originally, as this shirt seemed funnier. Coup seemed pleased, saying, “Anything that promotes NASA while simultaneously burning Tom Friedman and Kyrie Irving is fine with me.”
Thanks to all participants for the laughs.