Shira Levine‘s Premiere riff about “10 Movies That Made Us Want To Smoke” was, for me, reckless and disgusting. What would the reaction be if someone wrote an article called “10 Junkie Movies That Made Us Want to Shoot Smack”? The piece is also, by my sights, inaccurate. Make that mystifying.
The only mention that hit home for me was her acknowledgement of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Little-man Bogart was one of the three supreme hustlers of movie-smoking sex along with Robert Mitchum (in all those late ’40s and early ’50s noirs he starred in) and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause . But she doesn’t mention the most essential element in successfully selling this delightful life-shortening habit to impressionable youths.
You have to smoke in movies like you don’t give a damn, like you don’t need it, like you don’t care one way or the other if you have any on you, like your Zen-ness is rooted in your soul and not in the way you look when you light up, you desperate asshole. Once an actor looks as if he anxiously wants or needs a smoke to stabilize or enhance his currency with an audience, he’s a dead man. Once an actor pulls out a cigarette in order to have something to do during a scene (and you can always spot actors who do this), the man has permanently surrendered his cool. He’s finished, discredited. And Levine doesn’t even mention this,.
I was profoundly unmoved, in any event, by Levine’s choices for strongest tobacco enticement — Coffee and Cigarettes, 200 Cigarettes, Wild at Heart, The Royal Tenenbaums, Kalifornia, Thank You For Smoking, Reality Bites and all the Madmen guys.
Make no mistake — nicotine is rank and putrid and Levine is pushing it like any R.J. Reynolds corporate scumbag. She’s attempting to sell the same cancer glamour journalistically that movies sold to her, and maybe pick up a Hollywood contact high on the side. In my mind she’s no better and less funny than Weasel J. Weisenheimer, the legendary R. Crumb dope pusher.
I’ve smoked on and off in my life. I truly hate it and particularly myself for succumbing from time to time, which has mainly happened when I’ve been in Europe, more particularly during my times at the Cannes Film Festival. There, I’ve admitted it.