Random Factoid #495

5 12 2010

We’ve been doing some debates in my Economics class over certain hot-button issues (bailouts, Social Security), and the sessions always end with an open forum for those not participating to throw questions at the debaters.  I’ve been particularly bold, throwing out questions that aren’t easy to answer without the debaters sacrificing their cause to avoid looking like a villain.  It’s earned me a certain … reputation, if you will indulge me.

So, who do I have to thank for this?  Two movie characters who I’d like to thank with this post:

Marylin Delpy (Rashida Jones) in “The Social Network.” Chances are you don’t know the character’s name off the top of your head; I sure didn’t.  Yet her impact in David Fincher’s “The Social Network” is so crucial, particularly in her final scene with the vulnerable Zuckerberg.  She speaks to her abilities to sway a jury in even the simplest of manners.  Delpy talks specifically about the power of the question; even if you can’t prove something, you can get a jury thinking about it by merely suggesting it.  A question has a power to sway anything even if that person has the right answer.  You can get them on how they phrase that answer, how long it takes them to come up with their answer, how eloquently they deliver their answer.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) in “Thank You For Smoking.” Obviously, the smooth-talking lobbyist with a swagger all of his own is the main influence though.  As Naylor puts it, “Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.”  His pointed way of phrasing questions and insatiable desire to be right has definitely been very influential, as well as blending wrong and right to form this vast gray area through which Naylor walks comfortably.  As he says, “If I prove that you’re wrong, I’m right.”  It’s an interesting ideology, and one that can be debated over its correctness.  However, I have definitely learned from Naylor that if you are looking to quickly win an important argument, the quickest way to sway the tide in your direction is by proving the other person wrong.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 4, 2009)

4 12 2009

In honor of Jason Reitman’s third feature, “Up in the Air,” opening today, I wanted to use the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” for the first time in correlation with the release of a movie in theaters.  This week’s “F.I.L.M.” is Reitman’s first feature, “Thank You for Smoking.”  A satire that bites with the sharpness of piranha’s teeth, this look at the lobbying industry is absolutely brilliant.  I have come to expect nothing less from Reitman, but he exhibits the deftness of an old pro as a newcomer.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) has the gift of oratory and the art of spin, making him the perfect person to argue on behalf of the tobacco industry.  He never tries to justify himself or tobacco; he simply uses the rationale that by proving the other person wrong, you must be right.  Affectionately titled a “Merchant of Death,” he often meets for lunch with his respective counterparts in the alcohol and firearms industry (Maria Bello, David Koechner).  The film follows Nick after the announcement of a proposed Congressional measure to put a “POISON” label on all boxes of cigarettes by a peevish Vermont senator (William H. Macy).  However, Nick’s main struggle is not the label that threatens to destroy the product he promotes, but rather the struggle to balance the job he does with his requirement to be a good father to Joey, his budding adolescent son.  The film is at its best when the contrast between the two is evident: Joey has very black-and-white morals and can’t seem to understand why Nick has such grey ones in lobbying for an industry that kills millions of people each year.

Reitman also penned the screenplay, which is packed to the brim with piquant wit and exciting characters.  He also gets the best out of his actors, and the performance on celluloid matches their panache on the page.  Especially exciting to watch is Aaron Eckhart as he really gets to the core of Nick Naylor.  We really see what makes him tick, and as the story progresses, Eckhart really wrestles with his demons.  He gives us one of the most full and electrifying characters that comedy has ever seen, a true sensation.  “Thank You for Smoking” would be a crown jewel for an accomplished director, but as a first feature, Jason Reitman has set the bar extremely high for his masterpiece.  And if “Up in the Air” is as good as I hear, that bar is up in the atmosphere.