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It was serendipitous that I watched Thank You for Smoking last night, not because it was particularly good—although to its credit the script took argument more seriously than any film I can think of, it was by and large too credulous because of course the Big Tobacco lobby is full of liars, and even though the lobbyist protagonist was rescued because he, like all rats, abandoned ship before it sank, it was still an exercise in kicking Big Tobacco while it was down (not that it doesn’t deserve it, of course, but such a plot makes for shallow filmmaking)—but because it featured Katie Holmes, who always looks sixteen whether she plays a drunk college student (Wonder Boys) or a district attorney (Batman Begins), as a sexpot reporter. In case you were wondering, the wedding went off just fine, with fireworks and Giorgio Armani and a $23,000 watch that Katie gave Tom. Brooke Shields was there, as were David and Posh Spice Beckham, J-Lo, and Richard Gere. It was officiated by a scientologist. Marriage in scientology is “part of the second of the eight dynamics of existence. The second dynamic includes all creative activity, including sex, procreating and the raising of children.” Mostly, though, it’s just like every other marriage, with the addition of one further vow: “As part of the ceremony the minister asks them to make a pact—that they will never close their eyes in sleep without healing any breach of understanding with communication. By this, the love and understanding they have created will remain a reality throughout their future years.” The vow is necessary because, as L. Ron Hubbard said, marriage is a postulate, and a couple like TomKat needs to continually create itself. But all of that they’ll surely discover when they finally decide to gift of their estates to the church; for now, they’re honeymooning in the Republic of Maldives.



we saw thank you for smoking on friday. i thought that they should not’ve deleted the scenes that they deleted, and that the alternate ending was better than the one they used

There were deleted scenes and an alternate ending? I was so unthrilled with the thing I didn’t bother to look; plus, it was late…

somebody’s gone off to the real world and forgotten what satire looks like…

and it was much less about big tobacco than you think.

the book was written in 94, well before big tobacco was shelling out money, right at the beginning of the joe camel controversy.

then again, i was mildly entertained.

i think “mildly entertained” is the way i’d put it. i enjoyed the movie, but it was no Borat. which is actually kind of a relief.

Must I defend my ability to recognize satire or to judge when I think it failed? I didn’t really say much about the movie at all, but I am smart enough to know it was about argument and the perception of argument moreso than about tobacco—tobacco was the means to the rhetoric. The lobbyist’s work, which he did well to explain to his debate-champ son, was the pushing together of truth and ambiguity such that those who heard him would be able to say that truth is nigh impossible to determine. It’s the same doubt that Exxon sows about climate change, the same doubt that intelligent design proponents sow about evolution: you don’t have to convince people you’re right, you just have to convince them that you’re not necessarily wrong and that the other side can’t prove the same. However you slice it, it’s argument sans ethics. All the same, tobacco was the movie’s means to its end. Perhaps it’s because the tobacco lobby isn’t nearly as significant as it once was; perhaps because Big Tobacco has already been exposed for its lies, the satire’s test of relevance failed, and the film neglected to make the leap from the tobacco lobby to equally significant issues of today. No scene better encapsulates it than the last, when the lobbyist is counseling cellular phone dealers how to dissociate their products from brain tumors. There are plenty of other points of relevant political reference that aren’t nearly so specious.

As for the book, when it was published has nothing to do with when the movie was produced (2005). They’re different texts, written with different awareness of history. The book is no justification the film.

That said, I was mildly entertained too, but “mild entertainment” does not equate with “successful satire.”

latte dah! look who knows how to spot satire and judge whether it’s good or not.


but, in the end you are right, the movie and the brazen in your face PCers attitude of the lobbyist is not near so bold as the movie wants it to be precisely because big tobacco has not the power of, say the silicone lobby.

i could not bring myself to see borat. there is a cruel, ruthlessness to borat that i cannot stomach. whereas i think him funny, those moments where people are outright mocked and ridiculed, especially those trying to be polite to him, are too much for me to take.

There are moments in Borat where anyone with a conscience could be excused for hating him. When they stayed at the bed and breakfast run by the sweet old Jewish couple, I was filled with dread and ferverently hoping he wouldn’t do something mean to them. Thankfully Baron Cohen has some sense of decency, for his own people at least.

He did, you may be glad to know, get his lights punched out in NYC a few days ago, when he messed with the wrong guy.

it’s good to know someone took him out.


i took the wrong tack on that attack… i should’ve said… oh, latte dah, look who goes off to iowa, gets a masters and now thinks he’s all sophisticated! he turns democrat and elitist… go figure.

Look, I know you’re jealous of my mad analytical skills, but really, you can stop embarrassing yourself with your lame attempts at wit. You’re charming, J, but you’re no playa.

oh greg, you should know, i’ve never cast myself as the wit of this group.

i am glad, though, that you dropped your rather pathetic attempt to be all hip and urban... really, a z?

and, it seems the only one around here doubtful of your critical thinkstering is you. really, you should at least let a week go by before you bring up how razor sharp you perceive your intellect to be.

Touche; but likewise, it’s “la dee dah,” not “latte da,” which is what? some sort of Allemanglishnol for how to order at Starbucks?

Anyway, a week would be nothing if somebody else would write around here.

well, the da is more russian than german, which would be ja.

it’s actually a coffee house in san francisco, i believe

Ruspangolish, then.

It’s a theater in Minneapolis.

Borat was a strange experience in that it wasn’t blood-vessel-popping funny as some critics claimed; it was just shock-driven entertainment…Happily, the people who made out worst in the movie (e.g. the sexist/racist frat boys) clearly had it coming. But yeah, it’s more the kind of thing where you just sit there for two hours with your hands covering your face, saying “Holy sh-t. I can’t believe he just did/said that.” That’s about it.