Movie Butts

Why does almost every movie have to have a scene, or more, of characters smoking? At one point I used a cigarette rating at the end of every review, to comment on how extensive or unnecessary the smoking was – e.g., obviously a film taking place in the 1930s had more reason to show smoking than a movie taking place today – but that became tiresome and distracted,  I admit, from more important critical judgments.  I have decided, therefore, to set up this separate post as a resting place for my comments about smoking in films, as I see them.

Long Shot. Set in modern-day Washington, apparently, there is no reason to have a character smoke; yet Secretary of State Charlize Theron spots a pack of Gauloises in the Situation Room and bums a fag from one of the Chiefs of Staff to smoke while negotiating a hostage release on the phone with a Middle East leader. Would a Federal building, let alone the War Room of the Chiefs of Staff (or whatever it was), not be a No-Smoking area?

The Souvenir. This may set the mark for 2019 for constant, distracting fagging. The loathsome male lead apparently can’t breathe without a cigarette in his hand or his face. Plenty of others indulge, too, to show that this is all taking place in the distant past of 1983.

Non-Fiction. Here, at least, the characters are slightly guilty about their cigarettes – making apologies and stepping out-of-doors to light up – and usually not doing much more than that. Of course, why even that is necessary to the plot or the characterizations is not evident.

Gloria Bell. Julianne Moore becomes a chimney half-way through the film. At least she looks uncomfortable holding her cigarette.

Late Night. Cigarettes appear wildly out of the blue on two occasions: late in the game when Emma Thompson’s three-year-old affair is revealed, she lights up in bed; and in a meta moment, Mindy Kaling’s colleague has a smoke on the street while she tells him of a benefit for lung cancer she is about to emcee.

Yesterday. This film pulls off the cleverest obligatory but gratuitous  smoking reference: when the lead character, out of the blue, says if he smoked he’d need a cigarette, his companion expresses bewilderment because cigarettes, like Coke, Harry Potter and the Beatles, were erased from human consciousness during a global 12-second electric grid collapse.

Wild Rose. Just two shots, I think, enough to check the box. The neighbor on her porch next door is puffing away, and our heroine lights up once, for no obvious reason.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio are smoking cigarettes pretty much the entire movie. Sure, we have to know it’s a time past – but even in 1969 most of my acquaintances weren’t smoking – and Pitt and DiCaprio have to look “cool.” But that’s my problem. How can having two of Hollywood’s leading heartthrobs looking cool with a cigarette in their mouth not have an effect on a teenager today? When Tarantino accompanied the closing credits with DiCaprio’s character filming a commercial for Red Apple cigs, I was hoping it would turn into a public-service disclaimer, but no, the character just dumped on the brand.

Aquarela. For no reason at all, in the opening scene of Russians pulling a car out of a frozen lake, one of the rescuers lifts his mask to light a cigarette.

Judy.  It’s hard to argue with the profligate use of cigarettes by Judy (and cigar by Louis Mayer), given her general dissolution and similar abuse of alcohol.

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