Friday, May 11, 2007

The censors take on filters: casting a pall (mall) on the alluring, noirish coolness of the movies

The ditherbrains at the MPAA are now factoring the act of smoking into their rating considerations. Fine whatever. I don't have any use for the MPAA. (I don't have any bloody use for it!) If the wellbeing of the youth of America is at stake, then they should've slapped any of the Austin Powers movies with an R rating and made Requiem for a Dream a PG. It still boggles my mind that Almost Famous was an R. And that Whale Rider was PG-13 instead of PG or G. Whatever.

The point being: Yes, on rare occasions (i.e. when I've had a stinger, or four) I do pop a cigarette in mouth. I do this because I am drunk and therefore inured to the harmfulness of the product. And because I like to imagine myself as part of a movie. There, you have my confession. Movies can make smoking look cool. Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart were the parents of this coolness. (Of course, if you listen too closely, you can hear cancer in their famous voices.) But if I so deign to smoke a cigarette, I make sure I'm backlit. It's only proper.

Public service announcement: In real life, smoking doesn't make sense. I fail to understand how people get hooked on it. It tastes like garbage and sours your complexion and puckers your lips and stains your teeth. I'm less concerned about the health problems and the dying. All I have are my looks, and I'm not about to give those away. Especially to something that tastes like garbage. It doesn't make sense.

Anyway, the point of all this poopycock:

1) I want your favorite smoking moments from the movies, just in case we never see anyone smoking in a movie ever again. My favorite is when Faye Dunaway fumbles to light a cigarette in Chinatown, and Jack Nicholson informs her that she's already got one lit. Smoking in this case is aesthetically pleasing, contextually appropriate and serves a narrative purpose. Dunaway's character is clearly on edge about something...

2) If a studio wants to secure its film a PG-13 or PG rating but needs a character to convey a sense of alluring, noirish coolness, what should said character do instead of lighting up? My vote: snap into a Slim Jim.

14 comments:

Moohbear said...

1) Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park. "Hold on to your butts."
Adam from Mulholland Dr. lighting his next cigarette with his previous one. I can so see Lynch doing this while he's casting.

2) rub a worry stone

J.J. said...

Grade-A answers. (I forgot about Jackson in "JP." He's in a perpetual state of smoking, and it's lit very profoundly. It would've been great if, when Laura Dern comes upon his severed arm, the hand was still holding a cigarette.)

Lindsey said...

1) Somehow, Pat MacBeth's smoking in Scotland, PA is very memorable to me. Otherwise, I truly couldn't care less about smoking in movies.

2) To be cool, movie characters should have to play a musical instrument, like a banjo. And secondofly, nice McKee shout-out.

J.J. said...

THANK YOU.

Paul C. said...

1. Of course there's the feature-length smoking moment we like to call IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. Practically the BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR of the nicotine porn genre.

I wish I had a smart answer for #2, but all I can say is that, using our contemporary cinematic vernacular, it'd be pretty impossible to really convey that noir sophistication and keep a kid-friendly rating. The whole point of the sophistication is that these folks have been around, and smoking is actually one of the safer things they could do to convey that. Yeah, they could banter knowingly, but nobody really writes that anymore.

millie said...

1) at some point Jen-nay in Forest Gump is smoking, with a delightful nervousness as she's high on something or other.

2) instead of smoking to prove they are cool, people should us GOOD GRAMMAR. wouldn't that be faaaabulous....

millie said...

*or use even.

Middento said...

1. The professor in me says that I should say Dark Victory because we all know that Bette Davis is doomed because she can't light her cigarette properly -- oh, the horror!

And the film geek says, ooh, but what about in Rebel without a Cause when Jim and Buzz go to the cliff's edge right before the chickee run? Jim lights a cigarette -- and then Buzz takes it from his mouth to take a drag! Soooo cool, soooo sexy. Plus, Buzz is about to bite it anyway.

And yet, the giddy kid in me instead chooses Beetlejuice where Silvia Sidney reprimands the Deitzes for not scaring the people out of their home themselves -- and while she does so, she inhales on a cigarette, only to have the exhalation comes from her slit throat.

2. Chalk.

J.J. said...

Sylvia Sidney. Absolutely. Thank you thank you for reminding me of that.

Chalk? Like, write with it? Or pretend to smoke with it?

Lindsey said...

I have a better cigarette moment than Pat MacBeth - Andy Garcia in Dead Again, smoking through a hole in his throat. An anti-smoking ad if there ever was one...

Moohbear said...

Bouncing off what Lindsey mentioned: Juno from Beetlejuice. Her smoke coming out of the slit in her throat.

Beedow said...

not from the movies, but how about the I LOVE LUCY episode called "LA AT LAST" where she lights her own putty nose on fire in an attempt to disguise herself from Bill Holden?

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