March 19, 2012

Movie review - Thank you for Smoking





1.    What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.

The story focuses on the career of successful tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. According to plot of the main line of view, this is an ironical anti-tobacco movie. But it is not blindly preaching and criticism. It neither blames all on the lobbyists nor portrays them as evil spirits. Contrarily, the protagonist Nick was pictured as an ordinary people in the movie. He has family and has a lot of troubles to deal with like all of us. I was impressed with the plot that how Nick explained his work to his son. With his father’s wisdom, the little guy understood the means of being a lobbyist. More importantly, he learned how important it is to distinguish between true and false by one’s own judgment.

I think this movie is reflects of the personal values of the United States: There are a variety of dangers and pitfalls in the world. You must understand the consequence of your own choices. The government is not able to arrange everything for you. So if you fall into the trap, you have nothing to do expect blame yourself. We all know that smoking is bad to our health. However, attacking the tobacco companies blindly would not have any help. The most thorough and effective solution is parents' education. Tell children the dangers of smoking and let them make their own decisions.



2.    If applicable, discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?

This movie depicts the lobbyists vividly with character of "moral flexibility”. In the movie, there are three chief spokespeople meet weekly. They represent the interests of tobacco, alcohol and firearms industries. They compete with each other in daily number of deaths caused by the industries they represent. As top professional lobbyists, of course, their lives are always exciting: facing challenges all the time; ridiculing Rep and misleading media for commercial interests, and facing of the risk of murder from time to time. On the other hand, their lives are very boring: no one likes them and more hate him.



3.    Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film?

The film is directed by Jason Reitman. “Thank you for smoking” is his first feature  film made in 2005.  He is the comedy director Ivan Reitman’s son. He worked as a production assistant on his father’s films when he was 13. So he grew up on movie set and comfortable on sets. I think his family background provides him more opportunities to experience how to director film in his own willings. Consequently, he made such a successful film in his feature debut.



4.    What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class,gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?

I am not sure. But there are some interesting roles showed on the film.

The lobbyists: “Every week we meet here at Bert's. Together, we represent the chief spokespeople for the tobacco, alcohol and firearms industries. We call ourselves the MOD Squad. M-O-D, Merchants of Death.”

The journalist: who uses her body in exchange for valuable news from Nick for her career promotion, which is like a scandal to press field. 

The senator: Senator Autran’s position of anti-smoking seems the extremely firm in the film. However, although he acts opposed to the tobacco companies, he is really a hypocrite. The desk in his office is filled with all kinds of wines; there is a large cheese advertising handing on the wall. These products are definitely not healthy but the companies are his sponsors. His being opposed to smoking and supporting to print skull logo on cigarette packs is just for winning votes.


5.    What the movie added to your visual literacy?

Although this is a movie about anti-smoking, there is not a smoking scene in the movie. They use a lot visual symbols like posts, advertisings and logos to hint tobacco is ubiquitous. I noticed that the opening credits are very interesting and creative, which uses a lot cigarette packs to show the list. And background music in the movie is offered as mainly as a transitional element.


6.    What kind of artistic and/or visual means did the director use in the movie to focus our attention?

Director uses some movie sets to reflect film’s satirical observations, like the EGO building, the CEO’s luxury office, the club where Nick and his friends get together weekly. When showing the opening credits, using of voiceover and music successfully attract people’s attention at the very beginning of the movie.

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