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Thread: Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

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    Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

    Pot, stalk and smoking pipe barrels. Devil weed. Mary Jane. Playing twister. Reefer. No matter what you call it, cannabis continues to spark debate in popular culture. More than 70 years into the drug's prohibition at the hands of U.S. lawmakers, it seems Hollywood is ready to blow smoke in the face of current policy.

    The proof can be seen in a new crop of films that don't just depict glassy-eyed potheads giggling at moronic gags in the tradition of Cheech and Chong, but go much further, suggesting pot as the symbolic cure for personal and cultural oppression.

    Using pot as an overt sign of rebellion is nothing new. Since the weed was banned in the U.S. in 1937 -- in part due to William Randolph Hearst's desire to use cheap, yellowing wood pulp in place of its competitor hemp in order to print his newspapers (giving rise to "yellow journalism") -- marijuana has assumed an iconic place in the annals of counter-culture, from the haze of Harlem dance halls to the full-throttle rebellion of Easy Rider.

    Yet with Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay's North American release today, it's clear the pot movie has shifted away from its stoner base to become more than blissfully empty nonsense. Now, it's political, man.

    The first example of this brand of pot movie is Sam Mendes's 1999 classic American Beauty, in which Kevin Spacey plays ganja-smoking suburban dad named Lester Burnham. Lester is your average white-collar Everyman. He's white, affluent and married to a gorgeous real estate agent. He should be happy, but Lester lusts after his youthful neighbour, resents his employers and dislikes his wife almost as much as she hates him.

    The only happiness Lester finds comes in the form of a $3,000-an-ounce bag of bud he buys from the boy next door. When Lester tokes, he feels free. Moreover, he feels good about himself and his increasingly meaningless life.

    We've never seen a pothead like Lester onscreen before. One might argue The Big Lebowski features an aging white male sucking on Zig-Zags in an attempt to "find freedom," but the Coen brothers' vision of white male purgatory differs greatly from that of Sam Mendes.

    In Lebowski, we're watching a self-exiled social dropout indulge in escapism. In American Beauty, it's the cannabis that helps Lester wake up from the American Dream and discover his inner truth. The difference is significant because where the Coens' film essentially reaffirms the status quo by linking pot to a listless slacker, Alan Ball's script turns the moral order on its ear and suggests everything we've been taught is a lie -- from the sanctity of marriage to the suburban ideal.

    Harold and Kumar don't face the same dramatic complexities as Burnham in their latest gonzo adventure, but the film triggers a political thought or two about the nature of "freedom." The plot sees our two heroes jailed as suspected terrorists when they attempt to smuggle a bong on board their plane to Amsterdam. Holed up in Gitmo sans habeas corpus, the boys do whatever they can to set the record straight -- and that means the rule of law is gonna get real bent.

    Subversion has always been the thematic heart of the stoner movie, which explains why the genre was born when trust in government was at its nadir in the wake of Richard Nixon's presidency.

    Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke (1978) was the first film to show rampant pot use without exacting a moral price for all that fun, offering an emotional and cultural antidote to overt anti-drug films such as Reefer Madness.

    Around the same time Cheech and Chong started their big screen puffing, the American government banned the word "hemp" from all school text books, insisting any mention of the once powerful hemp industry (predicted to be the No. 1 crop in the U.S. by Popular Mechanics in 1938) would only confuse youngsters who didn't understand the difference between useful hemp fibre and the combustible of choice among teens.

    Pot and politics had entered into an indirect but equal relationship that continues today.

    The more American lawmakers try to ring the moral alarm, the more adamantly the creative community rallies around the latest social villain. This not only explains the recent rise in pot-friendly films, it also sheds light on the birth of the relatively recent sub-genre of pot movie, the hip-hop stoner film.

    Where Cheech and Chong exposed devil weed to the world of white people on screen, the likes of Dave Chapelle and Chris Tucker brought Mary Jane home to the 'hood 30 years later.

    It seems wherever there's oppression, there's a good pot movie waiting to happen. Whether this rising tide of marijuana-friendly movies results in a revision of current drug laws remains to be seen, but if it does, we don't have to look far for the smoking gun.

    FILMS WITH HIGH THC CONTENT


    Pineapple Express
    Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
    The Wackness
    Knocked Up
    Up in Smoke
    Go Further
    Grandma's Boy
    Deception
    Bong Water
    Dude, Where's My Car?
    Pot Zombies
    The Big Lebowski
    Smiley Face
    Harold & Kumar go to White Castle
    Anywhere, USA
    Across the Universe
    Almost Famous
    Alpha Dog
    American Beauty
    The Anniversary Party
    The Breakfast Club
    Clerks
    Easy Rider
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    School Daze
    Friday
    Go
    Grindhouse
    Half Baked
    Hustle & Flow
    Igby Goes Down
    Puff, Puff, Pass
    Reefer Madness
    The Royal Tenenbaums
    Saving Grace
    Slackers
    Superbad
    Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

    Source: The Vancouver Sun
    Copyright: 2008, The Vancouver Sun 2008
    Contact: Katherine Monk, Canwest News Service
    Website: Hollywood gets political with its stoner movies

  2. #2
    420 Member OpenYourEyes's Avatar
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    Re: Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

    I really liked this article especially because The Big Lebowski and American Beauty are two of my favorite films ever. The only thing is how could she not list Dazed and Confused?

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    Re: Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

    Quote Originally Posted by OpenYourEyes View Post
    I really liked this article especially because The Big Lebowski and American Beauty are two of my favorite films ever. The only thing is how could she not list Dazed and Confused?
    Maybe she was dazed and confused.

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    Re: Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

    or Rolling Kansas, come on...... its a classic
    If everybody smoked a blunt to relieve their mind what could be a better place

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    Nug of the Month Winner Carrie8300's Avatar
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    Re: Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

    I cant wait to see pineapple express. looks good.

    I love grandmas boy. lol
    “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture. “

    Thomas Jefferson

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    Re: Hollywood Gets Political With Its Stoner Movies

    Have you guys seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? Bill Murray smokes a lot of weed in that movie. I'd love to watch the movie baked.