FIND MOVIES
Movie List
Loading ...
or
Find Theaters and Movie Times
or
Search Movies

Smoke screens

By PETER KEOUGH  |  August 18, 2008

These films are period pieces looking back at weed’s salad days. What about the aging potheads themselves? People like Bill Clinton, our chief executive from 1992 to 2000, or George W. Bush, his successor, who both tried to dispel the traces of their former indulgences like a teenager spraying air freshener? Or more poignantly, what about those who had the courage to stick to their (potential drug) convictions? Like the legendary Tommy Chong himself, who, as seen in Josh Gilbert’s 2005 documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong, tried to make ends meet in his post-Smoke-sequel, pre–Cheech & Chong reunion days by selling bongs and other paraphernalia online? That is, until a multi-million-dollar sting operation conducted by eager-beavers in John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice nailed his ass and sent him to prison. You can run but you can’t hide, evildoer!

Chong’s fictional counterparts don’t make out much better. Jeff Bridges’s “the Dude” in the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998) vaguely recalls smoking dope and occupying university buildings once upon a time, but all he cares about now (it’s 1991, during the buildup to the first Gulf War) is smoking dope, drinking “Caucasians,” and maybe bowling (does he in fact roll a single ball in the entire movie?). That changes when a case of mistaken identity ends with his rug getting peed on, compounded by a case of mistaken machismo. Egged on by his pal Walter (John Goodman), whose Vietnam past has been stirred up by the senior Bush’s anti-Iraq rhetoric, the Dude decides that this outrage against his carpet “will not stand.”

For his troubles, he ends up in a dopey noir-ish nightmare involving nihilists, a pornographer, and a Busby Berkeley–like production number starring Julianne Moore and Saddam Hussein set in a bowling alley.

The Dude, nonetheless, abides. So, too, does Lester (Kevin Spacey), in Sam Mendes’s Oscar-winning American Beauty (1999). Lester ineffectually protests his suburban domesticity by lusting after a minor and buying dope from a disturbed teenaged neighbor. Barely abiding also is Grady Tripp, Michael Douglas’s academic/novelist in Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys (2000). Tripp tries to break out of his funk by going on a silly quest with a gay protégé (Tobey Maguire) and a flirtatious co-ed (Katie Holmes). Neither of these countercultural relics accomplishes much, other than idling away the time getting stoned. And, sadly for them, that practice no longer even had the cachet of being subversive.

Smart bongs
While the codgers puffed their pipes and reminisced, a new generation of stoners was taking shape. True, there were throwbacks to the morons of the past in films like Road Trip (2000) and Dude, Where’s My Car (2000). But with Kevin Smith’s Clerks (1994), a wise-ass savviness complemented the typical stoner sloth and puerility. Maybe the turning point in the genre came with Bob (“Everybody must get stoned”) Dylan’s son Jesse’s debut feature How High (2001). The plot follows the above mentioned Stoner Film Template pretty closely. Two bud smokers (played by rappers Method Man and Redman) engage in a silly quest (they try to get into, and then try to graduate from, Harvard), opposed by an uptight authority figure (the African-American dean), all ending in a conflagration in which everyone gets stoned.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |   next >
Related: Pot Edward Island, Drugs and culture, Legalize pot now, More more >
  Topics: Features , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Norman Mailer,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY PETER KEOUGH
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BUFFET DINING: THE 15TH BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL  |  March 19, 2013
    "Copraphagy" is a key word at this year's Boston Underground Film Festival at the Brattle.
  •   REVIEW: GINGER & ROSA  |  March 19, 2013
    Sally Potter likes to mess around with form and narrative.
  •   UNDERGROUND CINEMA: THE 12TH BOSTON TURKISH FILM FESTIVAL  |  March 12, 2013
    This year's Boston Turkish Film Festival includes works in which directors ponder the relationships between the secular and the religious, between men and women, and between destiny and identity.
  •   REVIEW: A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III  |  March 12, 2013
    In Roman Coppola's sophomoric second feature (his 2001 debut CQ was promising), Charlie Sheen shows restraint as the titular asshole, a dissolute ad designer and solipsistic whiner who's mooning over the loss of his latest love.
  •   REVIEW: UPSIDE DOWN  |  March 14, 2013
    Had Ed Wood Jr. directed Fritz Lang's Metropolis , he couldn't have achieved the earnest dopiness of Juan Solanas's sci-fi allegory — nor the striking images.

 See all articles by: PETER KEOUGH