Thursday, September 03, 2009

No Smoke Without Ire

I started watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on ITV1 has night. Then after about a minute of that nonsense I came to my senses and put on Gran Torino instead because a meditation on guilt and redemption coupled with racial tension in contemporary culture seemed a whole lot more interesting than kiddies twatting around on broomsticks. Obviously it’s an age thing.

As the end credits rolled I nipped into the kitchen to grab some juice and when I got back, up on screen came the announcement:

“No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything or value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products.”

We’re all familiar with the American Humane Society notices slapped onto the tail end of the credits, assuring everyone that no animals were harmed in the making of the film, but this seemed new.

Back in 2007 the Motion Picture Association of America announced that it was going to start taking smoking into account when it came to doling out film classifications and I assume over here the BBFC followed suit. I suppose if you think about it characters in movies have been less inclined to spark up during the last few years unless, of course, there were extenuating circumstances.

In the plot of Gran Torino the story hinges on Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski being a smoker. Jeremy Renner’s reckless bomb-tech specialist in The Hurt Locker is repeatedly shown angrily puffing away when he isn’t poking around the latest IED. Given the circumstances you can’t really blame him, but whether Bigelow inserted a grovelling apology of sorts in the end credits I’ve no idea. As soon as the film was over I was out the door eager to get to the street and spark up myself.

If they changed it so Kowalski was reaching for his nicotine gum or Staff Sergeant James was addicted to Liquorice Allsorts you get the feeling both films wouldn’t have the same impact. Then again both films contained enough violence and adult language to get the higher rating whether the characters were lighting up or not. So I suppose they could have changed Clint’s pet dog to a beagle and stuck a Marlboro in its mouth too.

But as mentioned a couple of posts back, it seemed particularly strange in Watchmen that Silk Spectre’s smoking habit was expunged from the film, especially considering the unnecessary addition of particularly brutal acts violence not in the original comic book. So does that mean Adrian Veidt’s PA getting her fingers shot off and Rorschach hacking open the child-killer’s head with the meat cleaver is more acceptable to seeing Laurie Juspeczyk puffing away on a cigarette?

But what about the movies that aren’t infused with sex and violence? Early last month Liverpool city council announced it was considering giving any film featuring people smoking an automatic 18 certificate. The idea had come from the local Primary Care Trust after half of the young kiddies in the city who smoked, when asked what made them take up the habit, claimed they had been influenced by films.

The motion had been put out to public consultation, although the results weren’t in yet. If they go ahead maybe Liverpool council should take the next step and slap adult ratings on any film that involve thieving bastards or annoying wankers with a chip on their shoulder.

Yes, smoking is bad for you but what isn’t these days? And when it comes to the self-righteous fanatics of the anti-smoking lobby campaigning to take away our fun, I’m always reminded of one of the late, great Bill Hicks’ routines on smoking where he announces to the audience:

“Non-smokers die... every day. Sleep tight!”

Since Hollywood now revels more than ever in portraying death in the most gruesome, painful and occasionally unexpected ways to sate the baser appetites of their younger audiences, surely the best advice is, “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!”


At 8:29 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

When Disney's Melody Time went to DVD, the studio digitally removed (frame-by-frame) the cigarette that permanently dangled from Pecos Bill's bottom lip.

Mind you, had you stuck with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire you would have seen on the end-credits to that film: 'No blast-ended skwerts were injured in the making of this motion-picture.' Maybe...

At 4:29 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Getting the digital scrubbing brush out and giving Pecos Bill a makeover like that really is ridiculous. What’ll happen to a release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs if short people start protesting the title?

A few weekends back, probably when you were on holiday, BBC Four ran a Noir Weekend, which turned out to be the perfect antidote to the Avatar trailer that had just been smeared in our faces. The schedule included Matthew Sweet’s insightful documentary The Rules of Film Noir along with screenings of Farewell My Lovely, The Lady from Shanghai, The Big Combo, Out of the Past and Stranger on the Third Floor. Even Channel Four helpfully pitched in by showing Laura on the Sunday afternoon.

Within that genre it was de rigueur for the down at heel detective or poor sap drawn into the web of intrigue by the femme fatale to have a cigarette on the go. Hell, The Lady from Shanghai starts with Orson Welles’ character offering Rita Hayworth a smoke. Maybe that should be changed so he gives her a Sherbet Fountain instead.

The fact that it’s okay for these ghastly horror films to be released filled with the most brutal torture porn but heaven help anyone who lights up pretty much shows how screwed up everything is.

While smoking obviously is bad for people, a “blast-ended skwert” sounds like a pretty serious condition all by itself.


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