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Looking Down My Nose into the Mirror

23 March 2006
Thursday, 1:56 PM

I have a disappointing capacity for insufferable snobbery. I won’t deny it. But I’m not beyond accepting my comeuppance, however quietly self-administered it may be.

Last night, I attended a free screening of Thank You for Smoking, a new comedy which satirizes the tobacco legislation debate. It’s a film designed to hook mainstream audiences with simple, recognizable caricatures of the players on both sides of the issue, and an unfaltering confidence in its own cleverness. Each and every gag winks smugly at the viewer, as if to say, “I knew you would get it.”

Accordingly, passes to this free screening were targeted at the sort of people who would appreciate having their intelligence validated without confrontation. It was with this well-populated demographic that I shared the theater. The lights went down, their heads nodded at the proper cues, and they even responded vocally to questions the film posed in the brief pause provided before the film gave the same answers itself. They were eager, agreeable witnesses to a peculiar piece of nonpartisan propaganda, a stylish celebration of complacent neutrality.

Before the movie began, a couple of hairless monkeys from Free FM (formerly known as “The Rock Station,” prior to being statistically established to play less music than any other commercial radio station in the United States) showed up to bark topical celebrity trivia into a microphone and reward correct answers with promotional t-shirts and tchotchkes. Running out of questions before running out of giveaways, they handed out the factory-fresh remains randomly on their way out of the theater. Startled at the vigor with which people literally tripped over each other to get some free crap, I had a condescending chuckle at their expense. It then occurred to me that I was about to give the next ninety minutes of my life to a movie I was not particularly interested in seeing, simply for the fact that it was free.

Filed under: Film, Personal

Comments Closed (9)

1. Dave Simon says…  |  23 March 2006 / 2:48 PM

Great post, Rob.

I think we're all hypocrites at some point.

Let me tell you this though: Even if it is free, don't get caught in a theater showing Ultraviolet.

2. Rob Weychert says…  |  23 March 2006 / 3:22 PM

Hmm, I don’t know, Dave. If there’s a futuristic vampire action film that is not totally amazing, surely it hasn’t been made yet.

3. Cpawl says…  |  24 March 2006 / 12:18 AM

Rob, did you take a writing class during your blogging hiatus? Nicely written.. but what the heck are tchotchkes?? Even the worst of all movies is worth sitting through for free. This movie looks somewhat creative, at least enough to take advantage of the admission price.

4. Rob Weychert says…  |  24 March 2006 / 9:13 AM defines tchotchke as slang for “a cheap, showy trinket.” It is typically used in reference to the most useless kinds of free promotional stuff: coffee mugs, ballpoint pens, etc. As for Thank You for Smoking, it is by no means a terrible movie, and I don’t regret sitting through it for free. However, it is also by no means a great movie (as far as I'm concerned), only some of the reasons for which I mentioned above.

5. P.J. Onori says…  |  27 March 2006 / 12:55 AM

Great point. We all love to watch a movie that proves that we were right all along. Sadly, there is very little intellectual growth in that sort of environment. If anything, we are subjecting ourselves to a 90-minute session of mental atrophy.

Great article about an interesting subject in a very well written format. Kudos.

6. Ian says…  |  28 March 2006 / 1:47 AM

Well put, P.J.

7. BigA says…  |  03 April 2006 / 1:46 PM

Brilliant. At least you can remain in Smug Towers as you managed to spot your own affably pedantic ways.

8. Rob Weychert says…  |  03 April 2006 / 1:54 PM

Exactly. If there is a law against one refusing reform upon discovering he is an asshole, I hereby choose, unapologetically, to break it. :D

9. James Mathias says…  |  27 April 2006 / 4:38 AM

...And for all the movie nerds out there, "tchotchkes" is the name of the restaurant that Jennifer Aniston's character "Joanna" works for in the movie Office Space.

Although it is spelled "Chotchkie's" in the context of the film, it's meaning is the same and actually refers to the "pieces of flair" the employees are "encouraged" to wear.

Enjoyable entry, Mr. Weychert.

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