Some people like popcorn with their movies. Others like a glass of single-malt Scotch. And still others like a good smoke.
The next time you feel like enjoying a good night of cinema combined with premium cigars, here are some films that are calculated to warm the hearts of committed aficionado cigar smokers. Each of these involves cigars in some way, whether by making them part of the film's plot, associating them inescapably with a particular iconic character, or depicting the joy of cigar smoking itself in imaginative and poetic ways.
First, feast your eyes on the successful recent string of Marvel Comics-based films. Each of these testosterone-fest action movies--including the X-Men trilogy, The Incredible Hulk, and the Spider-Man films--put the spotlight on cigar smoking characters. In The Incredible Hulk, it's General Harold Ross, the corrupt authoritarian who hopes to put the Hulk on ice--for good. (This is after one of Ross's own gone-awry projects creates the Hulk in the first place. How's that for gratitude?) The complicating factor is, of course, that Ross's daughter, Betty (does she knit flags in her spare time?), is Hulk alter ego David Banner's girlfriend. It's a complicated world we live in. Meanwhile, the Spider series features J. Jonah Jameson, a scenery-chewing newspaper editor who declares a one-man propaganda war against Spidey, while paying a salary to his alter ego, nerdy photographer Peter Parker. In the X-Men films, there's Wolverine, who, as comic book collectors know, is hardly able to breathe without his cigar. Wonder if we'll be seeing this side of Wolverine's character in the upcoming movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine? It's iffy.
Physicians' groups protested when 2007's Incredible Hulk allowed General Ross the dignity of his showoffy stogies, on the basis that children would thus be tempted to smoke. Which kind of ignores the fact that Ross is the least likable character in the movie. What will they say to a movie whose hero loves a good premium cigar? If this part of Wolverine's character makes it to the screen, aficionado cigar smoker fans of action films will be saying, "Amen!"
Switching gears completely, Little Cigars is an odd 1973 crime drama about a group of five diminutive gangsters trying to hide a mobster's girlfriend--shades of the Snow White myth. Featuring real Little People (the preferred nomenclature, as "dwarf" and especially "midget" have come to be seen as terms of abuse), this movie is a true curiosity. Not much to do with cigars, but they're in the title.
Then again, why bother with a politically-incorrect curio when you could see one of the strangest, most ravishing visions in film history? Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982) tells the story of an early-twentieth-century businessman with a manic streak who decides he's going to build an opera house in the South American jungle. The movie is irredeemably racist--for the infamous sequence in which Fitzcarraldo (Klaus Kinski) orders hundreds of native South Americans to use a giant pulley to drag a boat up the side of a mountain, Herzog really did order, well, hundreds of South Americans to use a giant pulley to drag a boat up the side of a mountain, and he failed to maintain proper safety standards, risking the loss of dozens of Native lives. The movie displays the same colonial disdain for its Native cast and crew members as Fitzcarraldo does for the Native characters they play. But balanced against this is the film's total originality, its riveting action sequences (as when Fitz takes the boat over some of the most dangerous rapids in the Amazon), and its gorgeous imagery.
And, for aficionado cigar smokers, there's the long moment at the end where Fitz sucks on a giant stogie while listening to Caruso sing along the Amazon--a scene that captures, better than any other filmed, the bliss of a well-earned premium cigar. No movie is worth risking others' lives for (as Herzog certainly did in filming Fitzcarraldo), but, with the movie already in the can (and in the film canon), and available for free at any decent public library, stogie lovers might as well savor the result--perhaps with a Cohiba in hand and a glass of that single-malt scotch nearby. (They might even want to make some popcorn!)
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