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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

dvd mashup: got a light? ‘Thank You for Smoking’ and ‘Cold Turkey’

If you missed Thank You for Smoking in theaters this spring — and chances are you did; the film made it to only a little over 1,000 screens at the height of its release — now’s your chance to catch up on the immoral adventures in undue influence with Washington tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. Nick is utterly without conscience, which makes him so much wicked fun to watch, particularly as played by Aaron Eckhart, who makes Nick so charming and so appealing that you almost get sucked into his cigarette-promoting evil. As an exploration of the seductive power of spin, Smoking barely feels satirical, but I don’t know that we can blame the movie for that: the real world, it seems, is increasingly beyond satire. [buy the DVD at Amazon]

That wasn’t quite the case in 1971, when the comedy Cold Turkey could actually manage to be satirical, coming long before all the shameful revelations in the 1990s about what the tobacco companies knew about the addictive power of nicotine, when they knew it, and how they worked to make ciggies even more tasty and satisfying. I confess that I cheated here: this Norman Lear flick — starring Dick Van Dyke, Tom Poston, and others — isn’t yet available on DVD, despite the pleas of fans desperate for their digital fix. But it’s the perfect match for Smoking, with its depiction of tobacco execs as brazen, blatant cheats and scoundrels: a cigarette company offers a multimillion-dollar prize to a small Midwestern town if the entire population can quit smoking for 30 days… and then they go out of their way to tempt them with smokes, which is easy to do when the townspeople are all going crazy with nicotine withdrawal. You can buy a used VHS copy of Cold Turkey on Amazon, or, even better, point your TiVo or VCR to The Movie Channel on Tuesday, October 10, at 8:20am Eastern, and Friday, October 13, at 7:20am Eastern, when it makes a rare cable appearance.

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