(Awards season) At the Movies: Revisiting recent Oscar snubs

  • Thank You for Smoking for Best Adapted Screenplay

Thank You For Smoking (2005) is Jason Reitman’s directorial debut. Also written by Reitman, it was based on the on the 1994 satirical novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley. The story centers on Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist and divorced father of a 12-year-old, with whom he tries to build a better relationship. The film was generally critically and commercially successful, though it failed to receive the awards love Reitman’s subsequent films did. This mean no love for Smoking‘s awesome, darkly witty screenplay which got me grinning like a Cheshire cat through the whole running time.

The script features sharply biting humour spit out by all of its characters and a well-laid-out satire on the glamorization of unhealthy products and how easy it can be to sway the public’s opinion with some great, convincing arguments, charisma and good commercial strategies. A good example is the opening scene, where Naylor appears on a talk show with a kid who’s dying of cancer and spins it so the anti-smoking people are the bad guys and he’s the good guy, thus the tobacco industry is also the “good guy” who just wants the boy “alive and smoking”. It’s whacked out. Another example of the simplicity of swaying public opinion and the power of media outlets is the character of Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes), who publishes information given to her by Naylor without his approval after beginning a sexual relationship with him, tarnishing his reputation and swaying the popular opinion of him, only to have her reputation tarnished by him later on as he turns her own actions against her, swaying the popular opinion of her.

It features some pretty interesting concepts, such as the ethical questions that come (or don’t) with speaking on behalf of unhealthy products. In a way, you could see it’s almost a wink-wink, sardonic ode to heavy spin tactics and the power of well-used words. The scenes between Naylor and his son are positively refreshing: they’re interesting, well-written, they form the emotional center of the story, and are a perfect example of the very engaging, rich dialogue in the film. Still, what makes Thank You For Smoking‘s story such a winning one is its central character. Naylor is one of the best-written morally grey protagonists of recent times. He’s the best at what he does, even though what he does may not come off as really nice. And he knows it, and he likes it. Also, his narration is the best since Christina Ricci’s character’s in The Opposite of Sex (1998). It’s articulate, funny, intelligent, acerbic, quick-witted, effective and perpetually grin-inducing. It perfectly adds to the tone of the film and Eckhart delivers it in a positively charismatic, slick, self-assured manner. His narrating is just the best way to open and end the film. It’s pretty great. It’s lovely, lovely, lovely. Wow.



2 thoughts on “(Awards season) At the Movies: Revisiting recent Oscar snubs

  1. Good call, and a very good film. A bit of a departure for Cronenberg, but excellent to see how he allowed the plot to develop through actors talking to each other, trusting their body language and the things they said to keep it going instead of inter-cutting with superfluous action scenes e.g. some visual representation of their dreams.

    As for Keira Knightley, she really did shine in it. Quite something to come out of a film starring Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as the most memorable performance, but then she stole it with the development of her character, the facial and bodily contortions in the early scenes of her hysteria blending into controlled poise, whilst the emotions are writ just as large.

    A shame about the Oscars snub, though in fairness I think the voting process within the Academy often has so little to do with the best work and performances that who gets it is rendered meaningless. This was the year that Meryl Streep won it for playing Margaret Thatcher, wasn’t it? Not a bad impersonation, not a patch on this, but then it’s Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher. It was a shoo-in.


  2. There’s no denying there’s some real issues at the moment with the awards. And as you pointed out – it’s not just BLACK or WHITE. I had this discussion with a friend earlier about race and cinema. The idea of a black James Bond. Fair enough, but…what about an Indian James Bond? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? The awards highlight such issues even more, focusing so much on race….in many ways when clearly it should just be a case of the winner goes to ….whoever was the best, so open up the flood gates and start to recognize more films and talent from all over the planet. It’s mad isn’t it?


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