Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading (2008)

TOBACCO INCIDENTS 36
AVG PER MINUTE 0.40
EDITION Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD released December 21, 2008
MOVIE SUMMARY Two fitness trainers blackmail a CIA analyst after finding his disk of encrypted files.
TOBACCO IN SHORT At one point the trainers try to sell the disk to a chainsmoker at the Russian embassy.
POSSIBLE SMOKESCREENS (?) The stupidity of most characters, George Clooney’s homemade dildo machine, the sudden death of Brad Pitt.

TOBACCO INCIDENTS: 36

AVG PER MINUTE: 0.40

First visual frame at 0:26
Last visual frame at 91:53
Total visual running time: 91:27

# TIME ANGLE DESCRIPTION
* 13:40 TS/WS A Chevy Impala slowly creeps past a jogging George Clooney.
* 14:22 CU A Dell computer is clearly visible on the desk.
1-6 14:34 HH/TS At least three cigar & three cigarette smokers are seen but actor John Malkovich swings a turkey leg instead.
In this beautifully orchestrated and broad sweeping shot inside some old historic room, dozens of men dressed in black tie all sing along to the same fraternity song. Most men are holding liquor drinks or waving cigars & cigarettes, however Malkovich Malkovich swings a turkey leg instead. Could the Coens be trying to say something about tobacco and liquor being a staple just as important as food? After all, these men have just finished a huge feast like knights at a giant roundtable.
* 18:08 MD/2S Frances McDormand & Brad Pitt looking at a Dell computer screen.
* 18:47 MD/2S Brad Pitt mentions a Brione suit.
* 22:52 CU Cards for 7-11, American Express, and Safeway are visible.
* 23:06 CU A note reads: Please pick up – Plunge – Honey Nut Cheerios.
* 27:48 MD A Buick logo is visible on George Clooney’s station wagon.
7 28:22 ES/2S A black plastic ashtray appears on the bar next to Frances McDormand.
* 28:22 ES/2S F.M. asks for an “Absolut Saketini” and R.J. asks for a “Tab”
* 34:00 Various Brad Pitt wears an Apple Ipod on his arm the entire scene.
* 36:08 MD Brad Pitt drinks a bottle of Tropicana orange juice.
* 44:52 MD John Malkovich and Brad Pitt both mention a Schwinn bicycle.
8 46:30 MD Smoke rolls into frame from an implied cigarette held offscreen by the Russian embassy guy.
9 46:39 MD Alternate angle of Russian embassy guy, smoke rolls into frame from an implied cigarette.
10 46:49 MD Repeat of Russian embassy guy, smoke rolls into frame from an implied cigarette.
11 47:02 MD Repeat of Russian embassy guy, smoke rolls into frame from an implied cigarette.
12 47:12 MD Repeat of Russian embassy guy, smoke rolls into frame from an implied cigarette.
13 47:30 MD Repeat of Russian embassy guy, smoke rolls into frame from an implied cigarette.
* 47:35 MD Russian guy asks “PC or Mac?”
14 47:42 ES Russian embassy guy stands up from his desk holding the lit cigarette implied in earlier shots.
15 47:51 WS Russian embassy guy exits through the doorway with the lit cigarette in his mouth.
16-17 48:03 HA A large ashtray & pack of cigarettes are visible on Russian embassy guy’s desk.
18 48:21 CU A large carved marble ashtray with a bear on top is visible behind the disk of secrets.
19 48:27 2S The top of the bear ashtray from earlier shot is partially visible.
20 48:29 OTS Same marble ashtray with bear is clearly visible between Frances McDormand & Brad Pitt.
21 48:38 2S Repeat of bear ashtray partially visible between Frances McDormand & Brad Pitt.
22 48:48 2S Repeat of bear ashtray partially visible between Frances McDormand & Brad Pitt.
* 51:05 Dolly in Slow dolly into the back end of a Mercedes car.
* 51:35 CU Closeup of a Motorola brand cell phone.
* 52:40 Dolly in George Clooney mentions Home Depot.
23 53:24 ES A large black ashtray is visible on the background table of the lounge.
24 53:27 OTS Part of a similar black ashtray is visible on Osborne’s table.
25 53:35 ES Repeat of same black ashtray on background table.
*
26 53:40 OTS Repeat of same black ashtray on Osborne’s table.
27 53:42 ES Repeat of same black ashtray on background table plus another momentarily.
28 53:55 ES Repeat of same black ashtray on background table.
29 53:58 OTS Repeat of same black ashtray on Osborne’s table.
30-31 54:01 WS Two similar black ashtrays adorn other tables in the lounge.
32 54:03 OTS/Pan Repeat of same black ashtray on Osborne’s table.
33-34 54:07 WS/Pan Repeat of two black ashtrays on other tables.
* Brad Pitt & Frances McDormand talk inside a Jamba Juice.
* 56:12 Various A Lexus car is seen several times in only a few minutes.
* 59:47 CU A computer desktop displaying Microsoft Windows XP.
* 68:14 MD A Sharp brand television is visible.
35 76:21 ES A silver canister ashtray full of cigarette butts is clearly visible at the top of the stairs.
36 77:08 ES Another silver canister ashtray is visible as Frances McDormand is escorted down the hallway.
* 79:00   Actor Richard Jenkins asks for a 7 & 7 drink (Seagrams Seven Crown & 7-UP).
* 80:30   Jamba Juice is mentioned by actor Frances McDormand.
* 81:17 ES What appears to be a small silver ashtray is visible momentarily.
* 82:22 CU A liquor cabinet with many brands visible including Maker’s Mark, Cointreau, and more.
* 83:15 OTS Jamba Juice is mentioned by actor George Clooney.
* 84:28 FS A Jose Cuervo box is clearly visible next to Malkovich.
* 84:59   Same Chevy Impala from earlier is visible.

Additional Thoughts…

Set in the modern day Washington D.C. area, Burn After Reading (2008) is another interesting digression from the normal Coen brothers’ historical period movies. Once again, the Coen brothers take a few more bumbling idiots — or average people, depending on how you look at it — and place them out into the wilderness. Two of the main characters are actually fitness trainers. Most of the characters pine for better things.

Burn After Reading (2008) also features an A-list of Hollywood actors, so the movie was truly destined for some kind of greatness. Famous names like John Malkovich, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and J.K. Simmons help to make this picture hilarious but also unsettling. At times, this is one of the most human portrayals of American life, with all of its ugliness and rejection. The Coen brothers seem to love to tap into a character’s sense of despair, but as usual every actor lights up the screen in their own way. Maybe the Coens’ gift is that all of their films are distinctly unique, whatever they may be. Each film is a real departure from the last, so to speak. A real departure besides that same old tobacco thing, I mean.

Nearly the least amount of tobacco incidents scored in a Coen Brothers movie, Burn After Reading (2008) has a powerful message overall…

“Don’t sweat the small stuff…. And it’s all small stuff!”

In truth, there is very little smoking in Burn After Reading (2008) save for the fraternity banquet attended by Malkovich and the guy at the Russian embassy.

Infamous actor John Malkovich appears at the end of a single beautiful sweeping shot where dozens of men dressed in black tie all sing along to the same fraternity song as they sip drinks and smoke cigars. As you can clearly see several men with cigarettes and cigars, when the camera finds Malkovich he is swinging a turkey leg instead. Could the Coen brothers be trying to say something about tobacco being just as important as food? After all, these men have just finished a huge feast like knights at the roundtable. Above all, these men are part of a fraternity or brotherhood of some kind… Like what you would think a Skull & Bones meeting might be like.

In the case of the Russian embassy guy, the cigarette smoking doesn’t really bring anything to the character, unless you notice the way this Russian guy happens to sit around a huge office inside a big empty building all day… Yeah, I guess he has to fill the void somehow. But even with very few tobacco incidents such as this, the Coen brothers still manage to portray some kind of emotion related to smoking.

It may have the one fewest counts on tobacco references of any Coen brothers film, but don’t worry because this movie is often reviewed by critics as another one of their worst. Ain’t that always the way!? The two films with the least amounts of tobacco also happen to be the two that critics dislike. I could make a correlation here, but I think you can smell what I’m stepping in.