December 14, 2018

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Maryjane goes to the movies

More to see up in smoke than just Cheech and Chong

“Everyone likes smoking weed... It makes everything better. It makes food taste better, makes music better, makes sex feel better, for God’s sake. It makes shitty movies better, you know?”

— Pineapple Express (2008)

Dale Denton, the process server Seth Rogen played in Pineapple Express, is only half right in his comment about how movies and marijuana mix.

In fact, weed only seems to make crappy movies better.

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"Everyone likes smoking weed... It makes everything better. It makes food taste better, makes music better, makes sex feel better, for God’s sake. It makes shitty movies better, you know?"

— Pineapple Express (2008)

Seth Rogan (left) and James Franco in Pineapple Express. (Sony Pictures)

Seth Rogan (left) and James Franco in Pineapple Express. (Sony Pictures)

Dale Denton, the process server Seth Rogen played in Pineapple Express, is only half right in his comment about how movies and marijuana mix.

In fact, weed only seems to make crappy movies better.

It’s an important distinction to anyone who has ever enjoyed a given movie while under the influence, only to discover the enjoyment is null and void when the same movie is viewed straight.

For an example of this, please watch any movie starring Cheech and Chong.

Let’s face it, C&C’s breakthrough movie, Up in Smoke (1978), can only be considered hilarious when viewed high. Seen without any kind of stimulant, it’s a sporadically amusing, mostly dull series of marijuana-themed sketches about acquiring drugs, consuming drugs and contending with the after-effects of drugs.

Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke's box office success in 1978 helped instigate a sub-genre of stoner movies that only occasionally produced worthwhile results. (Paramount)

Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke's box office success in 1978 helped instigate a sub-genre of stoner movies that only occasionally produced worthwhile results. (Paramount)

The fact that the film enjoyed box office success (it was the 15th highest-grossing movie in 1978) helped instigate a sub-genre of stoner movies that only occasionally produced worthwhile results. In general, the stoned moviegoer had to wade through a lot of crap — Cheech and Chong, Bio-Dome, Super Troopers — to occasionally land a true classic, such as The Big Lebowski and Trailer Park Boys: The Movie.

The rule should be: If a movie is dull when viewed straight, it has no more added value when viewed stoned.

With that in mind, here are a few other rules to observe when facing the upcoming prospect of viewing movies while enjoying a perfectly legal high.

1. Robert Altman is king.

Director Robert Altman was himself a prodigious consumer of cannabis, usually in the form of hashish. That tendency helped him develop what might be called a stoner esthetic to his films. His big-cast movies — M*A*S*H (1970), Nashville (1975), A Wedding (1978) — all have the sense of an amused observer zooming in and out of various personal interactions in a kind of removed haze. Even Altman’s entry into the noir genre — The Long Goodbye (1973), an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler mystery starring Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe — may be one of the best stoner movies that’s never been classified as a stoner movie. Vilmos Zsigmond’s dreamy-drifty cinematography may be the best visual approximation of a marijuana high ever committed to film.

2. Just because a movie is about marijuana doesn’t mean it warrants viewing while high.

The collected works of Cheech and Chong prove this point, but the best example of this is a 1938 film that gained popularity in the ’70s. Reefer Madness (originally released as Tell Your Children) is a hysterical anti-pot screed, a work of flat-out propaganda that portrayed marijuana users as hyped-up killers, sex maniacs and criminals. It may have a couple of minutes of ironic pleasure. Mostly, you’ll be subjected to a hateful, badly acted, exploitative 68-minute lie that helped lawmakers criminalize a drug less harmful than alcohol. In short, it’s a bummer.

3. You can’t go wrong with vintage surrealism.


If you choose to go back to the ’30s, see Luis Bunuel’s subversive 1930 masterpiece L’Age d’Or or perhaps Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet of the same year for some jaw-dropping black-and-white imagery. For something a little more mainstream, check out the works of director-choreographer Busby Berkeley, whose depression-era musical Gold Diggers of 1933 is an enduring hallucinogenic treat. Producer Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop shorts often incorporated drug references in the musical segments, particularly the astonishing Minnie the Moocher (1931). Pro tip: German expressionism (Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Last Laugh) is unendingly fascinating.

4. Elaborate cartoon visuals do not necessarily make a good head movie.

If this were true, Tron would be the ultimate Jeff Bridges stoner movie and not The Big Lebowski.

5. Strong characters. A good story. And a twist.

Try to choose a movie with a mind-melting twist such as Get Out. (Universal Pictures)

Try to choose a movie with a mind-melting twist such as Get Out. (Universal Pictures)

You’re always better off to watch good movies. A compelling narrative will always carry you through the most lethargy-inducing dosage of doobie. But to seal the deal, try to choose a movie with a mind-melting twist. Here’s a sampling: Get Out (2017), Donnie Darko (2001), Arrival (2016), Oldboy (the 2003 Korean version), Fight Club (1999) and The Usual Suspects (1995).

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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