Thank You for Smoking


in Daily updates, Films and movies

Gas mask paintingHappy Birthday Antonia M

At Jericho’s Phoenix Cinema, I saw the dark comedy Thank You for Smoking with Antonia tonight. While it’s not without flaws, it can be quite clever – and even very funny – at times. It documents the life and work of a ranking tobacco lobbyist in a way that pokes fun at the connections between business and politics, especially within industries termed ‘merchants of death’ like tobacco and the gun industry.

My favourite single moment of the film is when the protagonist is sitting in the lobby of an aggressively image-focused Hollywood agency and a plasma television is showing an orca with a seal in its mouth, dashing it against the rocks. The juxtaposition between the spin of the advertising industry – which has been applied to whales as much as anything else – and the sheer, direct, and unapologetic happenings of nature was poignant but not overstated.

Not to ruin the film for anyone, but it seems unlikely to me that a successful lobbyist would so thoroughly fail to be circumspect in his dealings with the media, but it’s not a plot failure that compromises the film too badly, overall. Some interesting questions do get raised about the character of personal responsibility within democratic societies. While the lobbyist does have an agenda, it’s not one he advances through outright deceit. It’s more like the self-interested peddling of a libertarian ethic.

Thank You for Smoking is a film that gains little from being seen in theatres, so I would advise people to wait until they can see it on DVD.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian June 30, 2006 at 4:46 am

Re Lomborg:

The only reason I can see for us talking about this man is that right-wing organisations (our own and not so beloved Fraser Institue among them) has elevated him to the status of guru. Or have tried to. Many of his propisitons seem irrelevant. Take Milan’s fishery example. The 500 million people living in the coastal zone of the South China Sea derive 75% of the direct and 85% of their indirect protein from the living resources of those waters. For the millions people who live in areas like the Southern provinces of Viet Nam, such as Minh Hai, there are few if any protein alternatives. Lomborg’s global approach – if valid – is irrelevant to places like this. I have yet to read of one reputable scientist who supports this man, and know of many preposterous persons and outfits who have embraced him and his ideas because he offers solace from divers inconvenient truths..meretricious solace, one should say. Is anyone abe to confirm my memory that his Danish univeristy – Aarhus – has disowned him?

Re Guantanamo Decision:
The senior US judiciary finally remembered its role in the scheme of things, which is not as the abject Clarence Thomas would have it – to help the President through the many and manifest problems with the legality of the actions of his regime – but to do its duty by the Constitution of the US. The blog has touched on the role of law (sorry, BORING!!) in the past few days, but the US SC reminds us that said issues have the capacity to sink their teeth into the behinds of certain lax, slack, and incompetent or mendacious persons, whether or not they sport a badge declaring them to be “the most powerful man in the world”. Speaking as one who has devoted his career to legal matters of one sort or another, I’d be a prouder person tonight were it not for the memory of those decisions where judges have abandoned everything they should hold sacred and caved in, usually on the spurious grounds that “the US is at war”. The US is not “at war”. Does anyone want to give me an argument on this point? (Hint: my sabbatical ends today – my brain needs retooling in preparation for the start of classes is September).


B June 30, 2006 at 11:16 am

Re: Lomborg,

I really don’t think he is as discredited as he is represented as being in the comment above. While ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ was initially condemned by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) in 2003, their decision was found seriously wanting and overturned a month later.

As for Aarhus, Lomborg left to head Denmark’s new Environmental Assessment Institute, not because he was ‘disowned.’

His basic idea, that scientific predictions regarding the environment must be held to external scrutiny and that the generation of a certain narrative of environmental gloom that precedes and colours any attempt at doing reasonably objective work is a good one.

B June 30, 2006 at 11:20 am

Re: Guantanamo

The Supreme Court ruling actually seems pretty limited, in this case, They said that military tribunals of the sort being established are not a legitimate way to deal with the detainees. They didn’t say that the camp had to close – just that the administration had to come up with a new plan for trials.

As for the US being at war: it is pretty clearly at war in Iraq, and probably in Afghanistan as well. Being at war with ‘terror’ isn’t an idea any more coherent than being at war with ‘drugs.’ That said, it is useful rhetoric for justifying the kind of legal exemptions this administration feels empowered to use.

Milan June 30, 2006 at 11:40 am

Given how discussions seem to be spreading between different posts, I thought I should point out a better way of keeping track of them.

Like the posts themselves, the comments are all published in a machine-readable format called RSS. I describe RSS in some detail in this post. If you have a program or website (like BlogLines) that reads RSS, you can use the comment feed here.

If you just want to see all the comments listed in chronological order on a web page, use the Feedburner version.

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