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Betrayed by Kevin Smith

I am a little embarassed by the fact that I ever had any expectations of Kevin Smith as a film maker.  But the truth is, once upon a time, I looked to Kevin Smith as a voice for my generation.  It seems silly now.  But in 1994, it was the truth.

I started my first job at 15.  I was a stock boy at my dad’s convenience store.  That’s how I was able to start working before 16.  My dad was just a partner in the store.  I answered to his partner who was also the store manager.  I was, in retrospect, a pretty lousy stock boy.  When I was old enough, I got put on the cash register.  I’m sure I wasn’t any better at that.

I had a lot of customer service jobs all through college.  So when Kevin Smith’s ode to minimum wage-earning slackers came out in 1994, I could seriously relate.  I laughed my ass off the first time I saw Clerks.  Sure, the production values were amateurish.  But Smith did the best he could with the resources afforded him.  I was impressed.

What’s more, I could see something of myself in Smith.  Clerks was the kind of movie I would have made if I had decided to max out my credit card and roll the dice on a film career.  Smith represented the road not taken.  I couldn’t help but cheer him on.

smith - mallrats

Following the success of Clerks, Smith had access to all the resources he lacked the first time out.  The result was 1995’s Mallrats.  It was basically Clerks in color.  Instead of being limited to a single storefront, Smith expanded to a mall.  It wasn’t a big step up.

The critics pounced on Mallrats.  Unfairly so, I thought at the time.  Mallrats still makes me laugh.  It may not have been the most ambitious sophmore film ever made.  But as a Gen X-er who read comic books, it was in my sweet spot.  Looking at the film today, I can see why critics were disappointed.

They naturally assumed that the limitations in Clerks were a result of Smith’s limited budget.  But it turns out, many of Clerks‘ short-comings were also an indication of Smith’s limitations as a film-maker.  Giving Smith more money to work with is a waste of resources.  He’s just going to point a static camera at his friends and have them tell vulger jokes about super heroes and Star Wars.

Smith was very publicly stung by the reaction to Mallrats.  His response was to make a slightly more personal and mature film in the form of 1997’s Chasing AmyChasing Amy isn’t high art.  It’s still loaded with Smith’s trademark crude humor.  But it’s a quantum leap up from the mall movie that used the “stink palm” as a plot point.

Chasing Amy gave me (and many critics) hope that Kevin Smith was growing as a film-maker.  So when he decided to take on religion in the controversial 1999 film, Dogma, I was curious to see what Smith had to say.  Turns out, he made a movie that includes a monster made of shit.  Which was somewhat disappointing.

There are elements of Dogma that work.  But the movie gets bogged down in too many tangents that go nowhere.  The end result is a mess of a movie with occasional moments of brilliance.

In 2001, Smith announced that he was retiring his recurring characters of Jay and Silent Bob.  It was time for him to mature as a film-maker.  As a final farewell, he made Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  It’s about what you would expect from a film that centers on the two stoners who usually provide comic relief in the background of Smith’s movies.  It is arguably too much of a good thing.

Smith’s next movie (the one that was supposed to represent Smith’s maturation) was 2004’s notorious flop Jersey GirlJersey Girl was released at a dark time in Ben Affleck’s career.  His relationship with Jennifer Lopez was all over the tabloids where they were collectively known as Bennifer.  The backlash was brutal.  Both Jersey Girl and Gigli got caught up in its wake.

Although, in fairness, Jersey Girl is a pretty lousy movie.  Once again, the limits of Smith’s talents are on full display.  It turns out Kevin Smith is really good at crafting vulger dialogue loaded with pop culture references.  And not a lot else.  When he attempts to make a Hollywood movie, he makes the most banal and generic Hollywood movie imaginable.

Humiliated by his first attempt to make a traditional film, Smith retreated to familiar territory with Clerks 2.  It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect a Clerks sequel to be like – except better than you probably expected.  As a fan of the original, I enjoyed it.  But I couldn’t help but be saddened by how little Smith had grown in more than a decade of film-making.  Clerks 2 was barely more sophisticated than Mallrats.

zack and miri

Smith’s next film was 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno.  Amazingly, Smith pinned his Hollywood hopes on this movie to break out into the mainstream.  I suppose the casting of Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks justified his raised expectations.  But the movie is pure Kevin Smith.  Even a fan like me couldn’t help asking, “Is this all you’ve got?”

I was entertained by Zack and Miri.  But I had seen it all before.  Not surprisingly, even with main stream stars, Zack and Miri performed the way all Kevin Smith movies always do.  Smith has expressed his disappointment that it failed to cross over into the mainstream the way he had hoped.

In 2010, Smith tried his hand at making a traditional Hollywood movie once again with the buddy cop movie, Cop Out.  And the results were once again disastrous.  What was ostensibly supposed to be a satire of buddy cop movies turned out to be just another mediocre entry in the genre.  The critics savaged the movie and it bombed at the box office.

Based on prior history, you might expect Smith to retreat from Cop Out with another Jay and Silent Bob movie.  But it seems like Smith reached a breaking point.  With nothing to lose, he did something kind of crazy.

Smith made headlines by announcing that he would auction off the rights to release his next film at Cannes.  He then proceeded to sell the rights to himself for $1 and announce he was releasing Red State himself.  It was a saavy PR move that rankled the Hollywood establishment.  But it also gave Smith back some of his cred as an independent film-maker.

Red State promised to be a controversial movie.  The title alone suggests the political divides that are tearing the country apart.  Smith announced that he would tour the country speaking at showings of Red State.

It was a unique strategy.  But one that made a lot of business sense for Smith.  In the years since Clerks, Smith had stumbled as a film-maker.  But he had become tremendously successful as a personality.  In addition to being a talking head on late night TV shows, Smith’s speaking engagements were sell out shows.  Pairing that with a controversial movie (and a low budget) was a recipe for success.

In all the talk about the unconventional release strategy, I think the movie itself got lost in the shuffle.  Red State is a pretty good movie.  You can still see Smith’s limits as a film-maker.  For example, he loves hearing his characters talk.  Red State is loaded with monologues that go on and on.  Smith delivers all of his exposition in the form of a teacher lecturing her students (and the audience).  It’s the laziest form of storytelling imaginable.

But in spite of the flaws, Red State is also a quantum leap forward for Smith.  It’s a serious and sometimes thought-provoking movie.  It deals with real world issues and in a way that at least attempts to be even handed.  Smith essentially demonizes everyone.  It’s a pretty depressing view on life, but it’s interesting all the same.

TUSK

Unfortunately, Smith followed up whatever progress he made with the prolonged in-joke, Tusk.  Ugh.  I already reviewed this movie.  You can read the review if you want, just do yourself a favor and skip the movie.

When Kevin Smith broke out on the film scene, I had great expectations for his career.  In the years since, Smith has failed to live up to those expectations.  As someone who once looked to Smith as a voice for my generation, I was disappointed if not betrayed.

But even if Smith failed to meet my unrealistically high expectations, I have to give it up to the guy.  He may not be a great director.  But Smith is living the dream.  He’s a successful business man, a famous personality, he owns his own comic shop and even writes some (usually awful) comic books on the side.   I’d love to be even half as successful as Kevin Smith, so I can’t hate on the guy too much.

Having said that, Comic Book Men is one of the worst things on TV and can’t be cancelled soon enough.  I can’t believe enough people watch it to keep it on AMC.

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Posted on March 23, 2012, in Betrayed, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 63 Comments.

  1. Sabra Victoria Kekahuna

    I am sadden that we think if a person is making money,that somehow we overlook,at what price. This man Smith i have no respect for.I have seen his work ,I think of all the young people that have seen such trash,and think its cool to behave like that.Oh yes he is a great guy.What has happened to Hollywood,Great Artists are so very,very very few.For the record smith is not.

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    • Obviously, I just wrote an entire article which was largely critical of Kevin Smith. But I think we are being critical for different reasons. I don’t object to the fact that he has made a bunch of slacker movies filled with all kinds of R-rated material. I find fault with him because he hasn’t really grown much beyond that in nearly 2 decades of making movies. Even then, I have to let him off the hook a bit because the expectations that Smith would one day grow into a great film-maker were mine. Apparently I expected too much of him.

      I have no problem with Smith pursuing what interests him. He’s successfully carved a niche in pop culture and if he’s comfortable staying within that nitch, who am I to judge? (Says the guy who just spent an entire article basically judging Kevin Smith…)

      You seem to object to Kevin Smith based on the lowbrow content of his movies. Or on a moralistic level. Would you care to elaborate as to what you find offensive?

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  2. Sabra Victoria Kekahuna

    i am watching right now Comic Book Men(Really terrible,you know when you listen to someone who thinks there a great singer and you get embarrassed listening to the person singing and you can’t wait for it to be over so you can run out. Well thank God i have a remote and i can change the channel never to watch again. Note: these men should never been put in this Comic mess,To bad i love comics. I will say that When i first saw Kevin Smith as a actor,i really like him.I just think when actors get into the lowbrow (good word) it cheapens there gift,and it is a gift to make people enjoy your company in a story..I have to remember that Kevin Smith is in a tuff,tuff Business.
    And who i am i to judge,I raised my children in Aspen,in the 70s now there raising me. I really am enjoying all your commentaries. As far as i am concerned you right on. Sabra

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    • Thanks for the kinds words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles and that you have taken the time to comment.

      I agree that Comic Book Men is dreadful. As a man who reads comic books, the show reinforces every negative stereotype out there about people like me. It’s the reason I dread setting foot in a comic book shop.

      Personally, I think Smith was never cut out to be a director. He has a gift for dialogue and a strange charisma that makes him more of a personality than a film maker. I think he has found his niche with these speaking engagements. Although I personally find them intolerable to watch. I expected more from him and I can’t help but be disappointed. But I also grudgingly respect that he has parlayed his limited talents into such success.

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  3. cop out sucked anyway. and i hated seann william scott. there are a lot of annoying actors i hate which i will never watch in a movie again like will ferrell, chris rock, zach galifanakis, and even seann william scott. kevin smith should have made the movie better. but it was good to hear music from harold faltermeyer after hearing his pieces from top gun, tango and cash and beverly hills cop. i enjoyed clerks and mallrats and even dogma.

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    • Cop Out is actually the only Kevin Smith movie I have never watched. From what I hear, cast members complained that Smith was stoned all the time. I think that explains why Cop Out turned out the way it did.

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  4. While “Clerks” was definitely a sign of the times in the mid 90s, it was never a great movie. When Smith amped up the character development in “Chasing Amy” and the concept in “Dogma,” I thought he was maturing into a ‘solid’ filmmaker, but something happened…what?
    “Jersey Girl” should have been the type of character-driven movie that he could’ve transitioned into. But it’s almost as if he saw maturing as meaning ‘mailing it in,’ and most of his output since then has shown it.
    I haven’t seen “Red State” yet, so I’ll have to check it out.

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    • Clerks wasn’t great. But you could see the potential for greatness. It was easy to assume the flaws were a result of budgetary constraints. I thought, well if he could make a movie like this with no money and his friends as actors, just imagine what he’ll be able to do with a real budget. Turns out he bought color film stock and hired his friends. We all assumed there was more to Smith than Clerks. But it turns out, that was pretty much it.

      I thought with Chasing Amy and even Dogma, Smith was growing. But somewhere along the line, he gave up. Red State is also not great. But it was a return to growth which is good. It’s just a shame that it got caught up in a PR circus that overshadowed a somewhat interesting movie.

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    • Deader Than Disco: FILM:
      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DeaderThanDisco/FILM

      Note: Simply having one or two underperforming movies does not make a director or franchise “Deader Than Disco.” There needs to have been irreparable damage done to the director’s career or franchise’s popularity, be it through a tarnished reputation or an inability to adapt to changing cultural tastes.

      Kevin Smith and The View Askewniverse movies somewhat glamourized and attempted to hipsterize the comic book Fanboy. Smith’s former status as a comic book guru now seems outdated and trite. Ironically, now, comic book movies are extremely hot Hollywood properties in the New Tens. However, films such as Clerks harken back to the hardcore, purist fanboys who were lifelong exponents of the original source material prior to mainstream popularity. They are widely regarded (arguably) in some circles today as annoying elitist hipsters who often cry It’s Popular, Now It Sucks. The gradual demise of the comic book specialty store has also widely contributed to the movie’s dated appeal. Along with their greying Generation X target audience, Smith and his cohorts have aged out of their Jay and Silent Bob roles. Smith’s most notable headline in recent years concerned an incident involving an airline’s alleged discrimination against obese people; he’s made a few non-Askewniverse films, but all of them flopped.

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  5. Good piece. I was also an early fan of Smith who was disappointed by where he later went. I started to write a reply to this, here, and it ran so long, I decided to turn it into an article of my own:
    http://cinemarchaeologist.blogspot.com/2012/03/betrayed-by-kevin-smith.html

    I make it sound as if we disagree on one point, but we may not. In any event, it gave me a much-welcome excuse to get away from TWD for a while.

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  6. I sort of figured we didn’t really disagree on the matter of humor. J&SBSB is a pure goof-off, without much of the more grounded humor, and that’s fine. DOGMA, though, has some fairly serious matters at its core, and I’m not using “serious,” there, as “non-humorous.” I mean it has a point. The serious parts of the movie are totally undermined by the stupid slapstick, though. This is even worse in CLERKS 2, because you can see something that had the potential to continue the original in a meaningful way, and, in parts, does, but again and again, it’s undermined by that inappropriate goofiness.

    I hadn’t heard that business about MALLRATS being his effort at a next-generation PORKY’S. I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing he missed the mark on that one–the last-generation PORKY’S wasn’t very good anyway.

    I don’t think Smith’s uneven career can be attributed to a lack of ambition (which is what one often hears). He does try, at times, to do something different. He just always picks the wrong kind of “different.” His wife described his decision to abandon the Green Hornet project and go with CLERKS 2 as a retreat, after getting stung and perhaps a bit hurt by the reaction to JERSEY GIRL, but JERSEY GIRL wasn’t bad because it wasn’t a standard View Askew movie. It was bad because it wasn’t any good.

    I haven’t yet seen RED STATE, but it definitely sounds like a step in the right direction. He claims he has decided to retire from directing, but I read that as more a case of burnout, and suspect he’ll be back.

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    • Totally agree on Jay and Silent Bob, Dogma and Clerks 2. I actually own a copy of J&SB. It’s fun for what it is. Had Smith actually left View Askew behind, it would have been a fun last hurrah. I enjoyed Dogma, but I haven’t watched it in years. What sticks out in my memory are the flaws. But “Buddy Christ” was a stroke of genius. I enjoyed Clerks 2 more than I expected to. But again, what I remember is the stupid donkey show. I’d rather rewatch the first one then ever revisit the sequel.

      Smith doesn’t lack for ambition. You don’t get where Smith is without ambition. Having said that, the guy appears to have some issues. I get the impression he swings between megalomania and crippling self doubt. When he dabbles in comic books, he’s known for blowing deadlines. He has said the self-doubt blocks him from finishing projects sometimes. I have heard him say similar things with regards to dropping out of Green Hornet.

      Now, Smith smokes a lot of weed to overcome the self doubt. He’s very vocal about it.

      The one brilliant part of Jersey Girl was the Sweeney Todd bit. I wish the whole movie had that kind of creativity. But the rest was just cookie cutter shit. In 1994, I would never have guessed that Smith was capable of putting out a movie that was so damn banal.

      Red State has its flaws. But I found myself respecting Smith again for the first time in a long time. He struggles with the movie, but at least he’s trying to grow. It feels like the guy who did Clerks, Chasing amy and Dogma instead of the guy who made Jersey Girl and Cop Out.

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    • I am a little sad to see Smith going back to the Clerks well again. When the Clerks cartoon aired the first time, I was still a card carrying Smith fan. But the cartoon left me somewhat underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t anything special. When it was cancelled, I didn’t care one way or another. The idea of reviving it leaves me ambivalent.

      Now a Red State cartoon would be something to see… 😉

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  7. You sir or ma’am are a man or woman among men (or woman). You are fair enough to point out Smith has had decent moments, but otherwise say what few are willing: That Kevin Smith has made some crap. Among almost everyone I know who gives a damn about recent-ish cinema they do near born-again Christian mental gymnastics to explain why his films are good knowing that it’s crap. Had he been a (film) writer he might still be in the business. But it’s clear he’s way overstepped his abilities in continuing to direct. Again fellow human being, I thank you.

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    • Thanks for your kind words. Just to clear up the gender question, I am male. 😉

      I have a hard time imagining anyone defending Jersey Girl or Cop Out except to say that while they are bad, they may not be as bad as their toxic reputations.

      Truth is, I think Smith is a talented guy. But I think he’s better suited to writing and public speaking than film directing. I think Smith agrees with me, thus the announced retirement.

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  8. cinemasynergy82

    Wow, for someone who claims to be a Kevin Smith fan all I see is a lot of moaning about how KS didn’t meet your expectations and how bad you think he is. Seriously? You’re not a fan. Period. You’re a Clerks fan (barely).

    Jersey Girl got smashed because one decent film reviewer slammed it and all the others were too scared to have their own opinion – happens all the time. I can enjoy films from Tetro to Brokeback Mountain, and I think Jersey Girl was okay, at the very least it was entertaining – and isn’t that what a film is supposed to be?

    You were disappointed by Mallrats? What were you expecting? It’s a genre film, as is Jay and Silent Bob, Clerks II, Dogma, etc – there are millions of fans (mostly high while they’re watching) that love this stuff and that’s who KS makes them for – himself and the people looking for a specific type of film. Does Michael Bay ever stray from his formula? No, because he delivers to a set market. What I think you failed to realise is that you were never in KS’s market – you were on the fringes. You wanted him to change. Why should he?

    Zack and Miri was hilarious – I loved it, and I’m not a stoner.

    Comic Book Men? Sure, it could be better – but how do you make a show about comics and pop culture and ensure it’s more accessible to the masses?

    “I think Smith agrees with me, thus the announced retirement.” – umm, no, I think he retired because of all the vitriol thrown at him, just like the stuff you wrote 🙂

    rom another source – “Smith announced that he plans on retiring from directing after completing his hockey comedy Hit Somebody, moving instead toward helping other filmmakers follow his example by locating crowd-financing and arranging distribution deals through his newly launched Smodcast Pictures.”

    Your article/opinion is so misguided, it’s all over the show.

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    • I don’t recall claiming to be a Kevin Smith fan. At least not in the present. So, I think I can live with being kicked out of the fan club.

      Jersey Girl got bad reviews because it was at best a very mediocre movie. It may have gotten dumped on a little unfairly due to bad timing. America was in the midst of a Bennifer backlash. JG got caught in the crossfire. But at the end of the day, it was still a cookie cutter romantic comedy.

      I wasn’t actually disappointed in Mallrats. As I said, I quite enjoyed it. It disappointed a lot of critics who were expecting him to show some growth after Clerks. While I enjoyed Mallrats (and still do) I can understand why others were disappointed.

      If your defense of Smith is that he makes movies for stoners or that he is better than Michael Bay, I think you are making my point really.

      I am not asking for Smith to change. I actually think they guy has found his path as a public speaker. The entire point of my article is that once upon a time I thought he would be a great film-maker and a voice for my generation. That didn’t pan out. Shame on me for expecting too much. I feel a little silly about that in retrospect.

      I’m glad you liked Zach and Miri. I didn’t hate it. But I found myself kind of listless. It felt like another Clerks retread. Take away the clever/vulgar dialogue that is Smith’s trademark and Z&M is a pretty lousy movie.

      Comic Book Men is just unwatchable. I’d rather just hear Smith do his podcast. The problem is, the guys the show spends the most time with (Smith’s cronies) don’t have the personalities to carry a show.

      Smith retired because of little ol’ me? I somehow doubt that. Was I vitriolic? If so, I missed it. I think I have bent over backwards to give the guy a fair shake.

      I think one of us may be blinded by personal biases. But I don’t think it’s me. You come off like a Smith apologist of the highest order. You’re reading my article as an attack on everything Smith has ever done when all I am saying is that he didn’t turn out to be the great film-maker I originally hoped he would be.

      I’ll be the first to say that Smith is a talented guy. And he’s ridden that talent to greater heights than he should have been able to. So, good for him. But as a film-maker, he’s disappointed a lot of people. That’s on us for having expectations.

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      • Not really a big Kevin Smith fan so I’ve resisted posting in here but decided to throw in my 1 cents worth. He always came across as second tier to me so I never expected much from him. I’ve seen Clerks and thought it was ok and different for an indie film. The only other one I’ve seen is Dogma which I actually quite liked. It too was different and not really like anything I’d ever seen before. On a five star scale I’d prob give it 3 1/2 or 4 with the understanding that one full star can be attributed to Selma Hayek in a schoolgirl stripper get-up. Mmmmm :). Every movie should have that in it! Another 1/2 star has to go to casting the ultimate atheist George Carlin as a Catholic Cardinal. Classic. So those two relatively minor cameo roles accounted for much of my enjoyment. Still and all it was an amusing and decent movie. It’s the first time I’d been exposed to Jay and Silent Bob; kind of an updated Bill and Ted who did add something to the viewing experience.

        As I’ve said though, I never expected much from Smith and certainly never thought of him as the voice of a generation so he didn’t need to prove much to me. It’s always good to have different, oddball, indie film makers out there shaking things up in my opinion so his work has served a purpose I suppose.

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        • I think you’re right. He’s a minor voice. But I appreciate that he does his own thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad Kevin Smith exists. This article is making fun of my expectations of him moreso than making fun of Smith himself. I cringe when I think back on it. I remember watching Politically Incorrect (which I loved) when Smith would be a guest. And Bill Mahr kept looking to Smith for the Gen X perspective. And Smith would generally stay quiet, shrug it off or make a joke. I was young and stupid. So I wanted Smith to speak up for all of us. But he never did. That pretty much sums up my relationship with Smith as a film-maker.

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  9. Nice article dude. I completely understand what you’re saying and I can’t really disagree with you, I just enjoy Smith more when he’s making mindless slacker comedies. I’m in the small minority in absolutely loving Jersey Girl though. I think that was a mature step that just didn’t pay off for him. I actually thought it was a really sweet movie.

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    • I have to admit I didn’t give Jersey Girl a fair viewing. I watched bits and pieces on cable. The Sweeny Todd bit was pretty genius.

      Mindless slacker comedies is definitely what Smith excels at. I don’t really have any problem with that. The fault is really mine for expecting him to be more versatile than he actually is.

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      • Jersey Girl is a good movie with a sweet heart. The little girl who plays Gertrude was great and I thought Affleck was amazing. I can see why people hate it but I found it heartwarming.

        I’d love to see Smith experiment a little. Red State had flaws but I really enjoyed it and found it very thought provoking. I like the way he filmed it too. I think it shows potential for him. However, 20 odd years in the business you’d think he’d have shown it by now. He’s great in his comfort zone. If he keeps making comedies for the rest of his career I won’t mind. Just no more Cop Out’s lol.

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        • I actually think Smith has found his niche. He’s a talking head. (Dude loves to hear himself talk.) As a film-maker, he’s passable. But for whatever reason, people will pay to hear this guy ramble on about whatever crosses his mind. That is his true talent. Unfortunately, the lunkheads he cast on his TV show do not share this talent.

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        • I agree. Plus he has a strong cult following who will support him in whatever he does. I gave up listening to Smith awhile ago. I love his films and he’s a nice guy but too much of him annoys me a little.

          I watched the first episode of his TV show set in the comic book store. I lost interest after 15 minutes.

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        • I saw some of his early public speaking appearances and they were pretty entertaining. The story about his involvement in the Tim Burton Superman is a great story.

          But it seems like now he is just talking to hear himself speak. But hey, if enough peopl are paying to hear you ramble, more power to you.

          That Comic Book Men show is freaking awful.

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        • ”We’re from the streets.” Lol. Great video. This actually sounds like an awesome movie.

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        • The first time I saw that bit, I thought that Smith should be doing stand-up. Which isn’t too far off from what ended up happening. The bulk of his time is now spent on these kinds of public appearances.

          I am personally glad the Burton Superman never got made. But I would pay to see a movie about the behind-the-scenes trainwreck.

          Ever see the horrific Nick Cage screen test from that film?


          Shudder!

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        • I’d totally support a Nic Cage Superman. I’d support Nic Cage in anything no matter how awful it would turn out.

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        • You raise a valid point. Drive Angry was awesome.

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        • So happy to find someone else who likes it. I only know a few who do. I thought it was great.

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        • I actually wrote up a review last summer. You have to watch it with certain expectations. But if you just roll with the craziness, it’s a lot of fun.

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        • I’ll have a look for your review. I love movies like Drive Angry anyway. I’m not hard to please. I love crazy fun movies. They have the most rewatch factor for me. I’ve been meaning to do a Drive Angry review too.

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  10. I think Kevin Smith is a screenwriter who got lucky and fell into a director/auteur role. This is interesting because Hollywood supposedly killed off the director/auteur.

    I think he’s basically proven that he can’t direct. He’s had enough chances by now.

    Now he seems devoted to his personality career- which often involves taking shots at people he’s worked with – like Bruce Willis and producer Jon Peters (the notorious Superman script story’s villain). This will please a crowd- but might not help him get another movie deal.

    Oh- a Mallrats story- a very attractive woman I was dating told me that Mallrats was one of her favorite movies- we where back at her place and she put in on- I fell asleep- i guess I blew it with her – oh well-

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    • Agreed 100% on Smith.

      I dated an attractive girl who liked Smith’s movies. This was just prior to Dogma which is when I think Smith really started to show his limitations. We planned to see Dogma together, but I don’t think we ever actually did. She turned out to be kind of crazy.

      I’d have had no problem staying awake through Mallrars. Especially if it meant impressing an attractive date. But then, I was heavy into comic books at the time. I wasn’t just the target demo, I could have been a character from the movie.

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  11. Dogma is a huge disappointment-(betrayal is a bit much)

    He had a HUGE cast- basically a late nineties Dream Team (post Good Will Hunting Damon and Affleck?, Selma Hayek, Fiorentino and George Carlin?) . He was making a comedy that would take a look at Catholicism- hardly a Hollywood staple- BUT- it was uneven and frankly not that good.

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    • I use the word “betrayed” with tongue planted firmly in cheek. But, yeah, hugely disappointing. There are elements that are good. Even flashes of brilliance. I think there is a reason the Buddy Christ is still an enduring image even if a lot of people don’t know where it comes from. But when Smith stooped to a poop monster, the movie went off the rails. I actually kind of liked the movie. But I’d like to cut at least 20 minutes out of it.

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  12. Kevin Smith makes me laugh. Something in short supply these days.

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    • Sometimes he makes me laugh. In days gone by, he made me laugh harder and more frequently. These days, he frequently makes me roll my eyes. But he still gets a chuckle every now and then.

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  13. So Kevin Smith is doing a horror movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tusk_(2014_film)

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  14. “Red State has its flaws. But I found myself respecting Smith again for the first time in a long time. He struggles with the movie, but at least he’s trying to grow. It feels like the guy who did Clerks, Chasing amy and Dogma instead of the guy who made Jersey Girl and Cop Out.”

    Just saw Red State- more than flawed- a mess- Smith was trying to make a statement I guess- but it just seemed nihilistic to me

    **Spoilier alert*************************

    A good example is how:

    Its not clear if the children survived or not- it was a major plot point in the middle- but didn’t seem to interest Smith much after the climax.

    I won’t do a full review here – but basically the plot had major problems- and I checked to see if Tim McVeigh co-wrote the script with the completely evil take on federal law enforcement.

    Smith has made numerous movies now- his work really should be more polished by now.

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    • It’s been a while since I watched Red State. So my memory is hazy. I can agree that the movie was a mess. But I grudgingly respected the movie just because it showed some ambition as a film maker. Yeah, he falls short. But at least it wasn’t his usual stoner comedy. I didn’t regret watching it. But yeah, Smith should be a more accomplished director by now. I don’t even think of him as a director. He’s a personality who happens to have directed a few movies.

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  15. Smith has announced his intention to retire after making Clerks 3,

    In some ways, I think Smith might be following in the path of his idol John Hughes. Hughes gave up the director’s chair after the terminally cutesy Curly Sue in 1991.

    Smith broke through when he did in 1994 because he was the only director making that kind of comedy: crude humor with a certain sense of smartness and self-deprecation. Clerks worked in spite of its many faults (wooden acting, amateurish production) because it had characters one could identify with and great dialogue. For a while after that he had the market cornered on this style of comedy.

    I’d maintain that the moment Smith jumped the shark was with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. In making that film, he forgot that Jay and Silent Bob work best as supporting characters. By making a film where they were the focal point he made them supremely annoying. In addition, in JASBSB, the smart humor that characterized Dogma and Chasing Amy was replaced with cheap humor and cheap shots.

    Dogma worked so well as it did because underneath the crude humor and satire was a potent message about how organized religion tends to too often restrict man’s relationship with God. Chasing Amy was effective because amidst the sex elements was a touching story of unrequited love and learning to accept what one can and cannot have.

    This highlights the main point: that all of Smith’s pre JASBSB movies were at heart comedies about people trying to find their way in the world. He would return to that theme with some success in Clerks 2 and with less success in Jersey Girl. Yet after Clerks 2 he no longer cornered the market on it. Guys like Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips had started encroaching on his territory. While I personally prefer Smith’s work over Apatow (whose films, aside from The 40 Year Old Virgin, come off as after school specials with dick jokes) and Phillips (who has yet to make anything with real substance) I can’t really argue against people who might say that they’ve managed to take what he used to well to new levels and at this point are doing it better.

    Like I said previously, Smith is at heart more a writer than a director. His main strength has always been dialogue. Perhaps he may find his true calling in graphic novels or even playwriting.

    Smith often cited Richard Linklater and Slacker as the impetus for him to become a filmmaker. But I’d say that Linklater has been able to expand. That could partly be because Linklater has always drawn on a wide range of cinematic influences going back to Vincente Minnelli and the French New Wave. Smith seems to have started with Spielberg and Lucas, drawn his basic template from a few independent directors (Linklater, Jarmusch and a few others) and more or less stopped.

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    • Great summary. I agree with almost everything you’ve said although I don’t appreciate Dogma as much as you. It has its strengths. But there are just so many misfires that drag the movie down. To me, this is where you see Smith starting to lose touch. The shit monster scene is just embarrassing.

      Jay and Silent Bob is definitely where things came off the rails. But I can see what his intent was. Blow up the Askewverse with one big celebration. Make it excessive. Make it for his fans. One final farewell. Then he would go off and make real films. Only it didn’t turn out like that. Instead, his attempts to be a real filmmaker failed and he retreated back to his safe place pretty quickly.

      I definitely agree Smith is a better writer than he is a director. But I think his true talent is for being a “personality”. He’s built up a cult that hangs on his every word and pays good money to hear whatever he has to say. Despite the fact he rarely says anything interesting any more. I think his “retirement” is basically an acknowledgement of the fact he is more successful as a public speaker than he is as a filmmaker. If he keeps making movies, it’s only to provide material for his lectures.

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    • 20 Years Later Part 2: Clerks (1994):
      https://znculturecast.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/20-years-later-part-2-clerks-1994/

      Kevin Smith’s Clerks was a big part of the indie movie revolution of 1994. In 1994, filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (whose 1994 film Pulp Fiction won mass critical and commercial appeal and is generally regarded as one of the best films of the 90s) and Ben Stiller (people forget what a zeitgeist Reality Bites) became huge Hollywood stars and garnered significant cults of personality. Both Stiller and Tarantino have gone on to remain incredibly culturally relevant, with both men making cult films (Death Proof, The Cable Guy) as well as big, mainstream Hollywood hits (Django Unchained, Tropic of Thunder) in the interim. Somewhere along the way, Kevin Smith got left behind.
      I imagine this poster was hanging in every dorm room in American in 1995.

      I imagine this poster was hanging in every dorm room in America in 1995.

      Perhaps it was due to his slacker mentality, his inability to really grow as a director or a writer, or just sheer bad luck, but Smith has never really progressed beyond the shaggy dog director of 1994’s Clerks, an immensely funny and quotable film that nonetheless typecast director Smith for the entirety of his career, so much so that he has gone back to the well multiple times (his “View Askewniverse” as well as the sequel film Clerks 2 and the proposed Clerks 3), with somewhat diminishing returns along the way. But Clerks remains a revered, cult film – and with good reason. Despite a shaky leading performance, the film oozes personality from its supporting characters, particularly in an hilarious Jeff Andrews performance and from the lovable, goofy Jay character, played by Jason Mewes (both men were amateurs, having never acted in a professional film before Clerks).

      So, What Holds Up?:

      Other than Mewes’ and Andersons’ solid, hilarious performances? I think the script largely works, particularly the pop culture dissection, which in 1994 must have seemed considerably fresh. In 2014, the Internet is a massive thing, and there are countless blogs (including ours!) that serve as outlets for cultural dissection. During Clerks’ time, however, the Internet did not exist in this form yet. Heck, tabbed browsing didn’t even exist. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. The dialogue in Clerks, which mostly revolved around Star Wars, the daily minutiae of working a dead end job, and frank discussions on sex and various sex acts, must have been downright shocking. The first time I watched the film, which was probably around 1999 or 2000, I can remember being a bit shocked by what was coming out of the characters’ mouths. If anything, Clerks is downright dirty in the best way.

      I also feel like the black-and-white aesthetic presented by Clerks greatly holds up. Upon initial viewing, I pouted, “This is in black-and-white? That sucks!” But after actually watching the film, I thought Smith’s decision to film it like that was pure genius – it just simply works. The relationship between Dante and Randall is the best one in the film. Forget about the various love interests, Dante and Randall are where it’s at. Brian O’Halloran isn’t a great actor, but he plays the role of the put-upon schmuck fairly well, and Jeff Anderson is great at driving him nuts. I love the dynamic between them that allows Randall to consistently get Dante’s goat over and over again. The characters of Jay and Silent Bob are also great, and hadn’t yet become parodies of themselves.

      And What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

      Holy crap, every time Dante tucks his jeans into his boots I just want to slap him in the face with a fish. That fashion faux pas gets me every time. Jay’s haircut is also awful – he looks like he should have “It’s the mid-90s” tattooed on his head. The music doesn’t hold up as well, and some of it oddly feels out of place. The studio made the choice to add early 90s grunge rock, which I like (I imagine the bulk of the money Miramax pumped into a post-production version of Clerks was spent on music rights). But some of the grunge rock on the soundtrack has aged about as well as cottage cheese, and thus dates the film immensely.

      The worst part of the film to me is probably the character of Caitlin Brea, who Dante pines for throughout the entire movie. The character is under-written and not particularly well-acted either (Lisa Spoonhauer, who plays Caitlin, has only one other credit to her name). Caitlin is built up throughout the movie as Dante pines for her, but I don’t like what is done with her character. She is also given surprisingly little screen time, and is then quickly ushered out of the film without much resolution to her character (and a throw-away line from Dante doesn’t give me enough closure on their relationship).

      So, What’s the Assessment?:

      Ultimately, my main issue with Clerks is that it doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious look at a day in the life of two working-class New Jersey store clerks or a bawdy romantic comedy with sitcom-y trappings. This is pretty much what has also plagued Smith’s subsequent films. Mallrats is basically Clerks set in a brightly-lit shopping mall. Chasing Amy is Clerks with a lesbian character. Dogma is… well, Dogma has not aged well (ugh, those special effects). Clerks 2 is exactly what you think it is, except this time it’s in a fast food restaurant. I’m not ruling out the prospect that Clerks 3 will be good, because I actually kind of like all of these movies a little bit. But the fact remains that Smith has shown incredibly little growth as a filmmaker over the course of a twenty-year career.

      I still think Clerks is a solid little comedy. I love Jeff Anderson as Randal. He is far and away the best character in the movie. He gets the funniest lines and his anarchic spirit makes him a much more interesting character than the dour lead Dante. Clerks is available streaming on Netflix and other services, and I recommend it for a look into that 1994 indie scene. It’s just too bad that Kevin Smith didn’t mature as a filmmaker and give us something with a little more depth and maybe something with a little more important to say.

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  16. And a few suggestions for future Betrayed bys:

    John Singleton
    Neil Labute
    Oliver Stone
    Spike Lee
    John Carpenter

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  17. What Went Wrong?: Vol. 50 – Spectacularly Ill Advised Buddy Cop Edition:
    http://znculturecast.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/what-went-wrong-vol-50-spectacularly-ill-advised-buddy-cop-edition/

    Posted by CultureCast-Z on July 19, 2014
    The buddy cop comedy/action film is, at this point, old hat for Hollywood. Even after being perfected by Lethal Weapon (and its eventual sequels) way back in the late 80s, every once in a while someone tries to update the genre anyway, usually to mixed success. A few outliers include the Rush Hour franchise, which was huge for a few years, as well as last year’s The Heat, a Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy “comedy” that was one of the worst films I saw in theaters last year. Something about pairing up two people who do not ostensibly go together just has some kind of special appeal to Hollywood, I guess. I’m not necessarily opposed to the buddy cop genre, but let’s be honest here – it is almost entirely played out.

    Despite this, in 2009 Warner Bros. gave Kevin Smith, who is not particularly known for directing action films, 35 million dollars to make a Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy cop film titled A Couple of Dicks, a film title that was funny the first time I heard it, but grew tiresome after that (much like Homer Simpson’s barbershop quartet The Be Sharps). Smith was forced, however, to change the title after Warner Bros. decided it might not be a good idea to have the word Dicks on a theater marquee. The best thing he could come up with then was Cop Out, another incredibly dumb title. The difference between the two was that while A Couple of Dicks was momentarily clever, Cop Out was always dumb.

    Post name change, negative buzz continued to surround the film, particularly after the initial trailer was released in late 2009. The trailer was met with almost universal disdain, with criticism leveled at the unfunny jokes, the lazy riffing, and yet another bored Bruce Willis performance. When Cop Out was finally released in theaters late February 2010, critics unleashed vitriol not seen in quite some time upon it. The film scored a terrible 19% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and abysmal 31/100 on Metacritic. Reviewers criticized the film’s laziness and poor script (it should be noted that Smith only directed and did not write Cop Out) as well as Bruce Willis’ terrible performance, which marked perhaps his eighth or ninth lazy/disinterested/boring performance in a row.

    So, umm, what else went wrong? Well, for starters the film didn’t exactly light up the box office. Though it opened somewhat strongly with 18 million dollars, the film closed with about 44 million domestically and didn’t even double its budget worldwide, meaning it likely never turned a profit for studio Warner Bros. Furthermore, controversy arose in the aftermath of the film when it was revealed that director Smith feuded constantly with Willis on set. In an interview with podcaster/comedian Marc Maron in early 2011, Smith claimed that Willis would not even so much as sit for a poster shoot, and if not for the interventions of Tracy Morgan, that it could have gotten much worse between the two. A representative for Bruce Willis later claimed Smith smoked way too much marijuana on set, a claim Smith essentially owned up to.

    In the aftermath of the various Cop Out controversies, Smith essentially retired from mainstream filmmaking. In addition to the Willis feud, Smith also unnecessarily provoked the ire of film critics when he claimed he would no longer hold free reviewer’s screenings for his films. This particularly rankled legendary film critic Roger Ebert and caused the reviewer community to claim Smith was both dishonest and disingenuous. Since Cop Out’s release in 2010, Smith has not directed another widely released film. His 2011 film Red State, which was widely panned but at least met with some positive critical notice, was available on video-on-demand. His next film, Tusk (another horror title), will be probably be distributed on video-on-demand once again later this year.

    Kevin Smith has a fairly large and vocal fan base, but he has seemingly alienated everyone else around him. He hasn’t had a hit film in years, his films no longer appear in theaters, and even the movies he has made with big name actors (Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks) have done mediocre business at the box office (2008′s Zack and Miri Make a Porno was Seth Rogen’s first mainstream flop). 2010’s Cop Out drew Smith’s harshest reviews ever, failed to launch at the box office, ignited significant controversy, and has ultimately failed to endure, largely due to poor direction, a tired and cliché script, and an incredibly lazy Bruce Willis performance. Smith likely thought he had a Rush Hour-sized hit on his hands, but Cop Out ended up being one of the worst films of 2010, ultimately appealing to no one at all and essentially ending Kevin Smith’s mainstream directing career.

    -Z-

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  18. 10 Great Directors Who Haven’t Made Anything Good For Years:
    http://whatculture.com/film/10-great-directors-who-havent-made-anything-good-for-years.php/11

    Kevin Smith

    After basically becoming the cinematic voice of an entire geek generation following the release of Clerks, Kevin Smith’s “askewniverse” of shared canon films took him from decent indie director, to one of the most important filmmakers of the new millennium. Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II never quite lived up to his first outing, but were all excellent films in their own right.

    Since then, Smith’s career has only Red State to point to as any sort of saving grace in a mire of bad comedies like Cop Out and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Jersey Girl in particular, which starred long-time collaborator Ben Affleck and his then-wife Jennifer Lopez was so bland, insipid and formulaic that it more or less derailed Smith’s credibility with his original audience.

    Smith’s remained a huge part of the industry and an important voice in filmmaking, but his next outing is arguably his most risky – a third instalment of Clerks some 21 years after the original. If it goes well, he might find himself a hot Hollywood property again, but if it doesn’t it’s not likely to be something his filmmaking career ever recovers from.

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  19. 10 Directors Suffering From George Lucas Syndrome:
    http://whatculture.com/film/10-directors-suffering-from-george-lucas-syndrome.php/3

    Kevin Smith

    His Success: Kevin Smith’s career began with the 1994 indie hit Clerks, and he followed it up with a string of movies that formed his “Askewniverse”, ranging wildly in quality but each becoming a cult classic regardless of critical or commercial reception: Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks 2. Sure, Jersey Girl blew, but Smith’s next attempt at a more broad, mainstream comedy in Zack and Miri Make a Porno (starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) was a minor commercial success and went over well with critics.

    His Failures: Most of Smith’s flops have come when he’s tried to move away from the Askewniverse in recent years: he directed the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan buddy cop film Cop Out (the first script he hadn’t written himself), which turned a minor profit but was destroyed by critics. Then there’s Smith’s foray into serious action fare with Red State, which grossed roughly half its budget and received mixed reviews, and finally, there’s body horror film Tusk, which again grossed about half its budget and was given mixed notices by critics.

    In many way it’s Smith’s own fans which have helped turn him into a George Lucas-type figure, because they encourage him to take on these bizarre ventures when, in actuality, he’s best suited to just sticking to what he knows.

    How He Can Save His Career: Smith’s heart belongs to the Askewniverse, and after three bombs in a row, he clearly knows it, because he’s lining up Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2 for production soon. Though there’s every prospect that the magic could be gone (just as in Lucas’ prequel trilogy), it has a much better chance of succeeding than Smith’s recent left-field (if undeniably ambitious) recent efforts.

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    • 10 Directors That Should Never Have Complete Creative Control:
      http://whatculture.com/film/10-directors-that-should-never-have-complete-creative-control.php/3

      Kevin Smith

      Like Lucas, there’s no denying the bottomless well of talent possessed by Kevin Smith. Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy are masterpieces of writing and direction that perfectly encapsulate Smith’s storytelling style and winning knack for humor. However, in recent years, his filmic output hasn’t quite lived up to this standard.

      Projects like Tusk, Red State and Jay And Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie show promise, but they’re far removed from the confident, much-admired films that Smith produced earlier in his career. By this stage, perhaps Smith’s best ideas for scripts are behind him. There’s only so long that anyone can have complete creative control before things begin to stagnate.

      Kevin Smith is brilliant, but perhaps a writing partner is exactly what he needs right now. Someone to help blow the cobwebs off his working process and bring something fresh to the table. We all have off days, but Smith has had quite a few recently, and could really benefit from not having creative control.

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  20. 10 Polarizing Filmmakers Whom No One Can Agree On

    http://whatculture.com/film/10-polarising-filmmakers-whom-no-one-can-agree-on.php/2

    Kevin Smith

    Back in the 1990s, Kevin Smith was the filmmaker who nerds everywhere connected with; he was the guy who sold his comic book collection to make Clerks; he was the guy who loved Star Wars and Batman, and inspired a generation of filmmakers to pursue their dreams – including a young Edgar Wright. Nowadays, he’s the guy who made Cop Out, and the guy who suggested that all critics are just failed movie-makers who couldn’t realize their own dreams.

    To some people, he’s just not person he used to be; he’s become a defensive whiner who lashes out when he can’t get his own way. and that puts people off.
    The story behind the making of Clerks is inspirational. Without any help from studio backers, Smith worked solidly for over a fortnight, even going without sleep, to shoot the film. His actual workplace was the setting and his real-life friends were the cast and crew. Somehow, he made it work; Clerks became a cult classic, and Smith secured the admiration of a sizable fan-base in the process.

    Since then however, Smith has alienated the vast majority of his fans with duds like Jersey Girl, Tusk and the aforementioned Cop Out. There are some people who genuinely believe that Smith has forgotten how to make movies, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they may be right.

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  21. I Legitimately Hate 1995’s Mallrats

    https://znculturecast.wordpress.com/author/znculturecast/

    Posted by CultureCast-Z on August 29, 2016

    Mallrats is an awful movie with almost zero redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was a considerable box office flop that instantly made a ton of critics as well as the general public immediately reconsider writer/director Kevin Smith’s talent only two movies into his career. Mallrats is an unpleasant, amateur affair that’s about as stupid as Clerks, Smith’s first effort, is good. That is to say, Clerks is a quality piece of entertainment that holds up as a time capsule of the early to mid-90s (with some truly inventive and funny dialogue), while Mallrats is a garbage film perhaps best remembered for its clunky, forced dialogue about superhero penises Jason Lee’s breakout performance (the film’s lone highlight). I have not seen Mallrats in years, but I unfortunately remember it almost beat-by-beat (it is not a complicated movie). I hate that film so much that I really want to write about it and relish in my hatred.

    I remember Mallrats so well because I have actually seen it dozens of times, despite never really liking it all that much in the first place. In the late 90s, I rented this film multiple times from the rental store and watched it on a near loop with friends and siblings for months at a time. I spent the majority of the years 1999 and 2000 watching everything Kevin Smith and his cohorts had a hand in. I purchased Chasing Amy and Clerks and watched them dozens and dozens of times as well. Dogma had recently been in theaters, and I watched that one over and over again as well. To my 17 year old self, there was no one cooler than Kevin Smith. Except for Mallrats – I never truly liked Mallrats. I liked then (and still like now) Clerks and Chasing Amy, but I always thought Mallrats just didn’t fit in with those films.

    One particular difference is that Mallrats is Smith’s sole film from his early days not released by Miramax. Miramax very famously purchased and distributed Clerks in 1994 and then Chasing Amy (which had a budget of $250,000 amazingly) in early 1997. But Mallrats is immensely different from those two, as it was a Universal production backed by a budget of several million dollars (estimated to be seven million). It is shot and directed like a studio film from the 90s, and thus suffers in comparison with the other two, as they are far more “indie” looking. Mallrats is also different in that there is actually a very complicated story behind what appears (and is) to be a simple movie.

    The originally filmed opening took place in some sort Revolutionary War-era reenactment/governor’s ball, wherein Jeremy London (who spends the entire movie looking uncomfortable with his hands in his pockets and who was clearly not cast by Smith) accidentally shoots a musket (why was he carrying a loaded musket in a reenactment) at the governor. This sets up a chain of events wherein London’s girlfriend Brandi’s father loses his job. Brandi wants to cut ties with London (his name in the movie is T.S. but I’m just gonna call him London), so she breaks up with him, inspiring him to find solace in a shopping mall with best friend Jason Lee, who was also recently dumped by Shannon Doherty. The theatrical cut of the film excises most of this, up until the point where Brandi breaks up with London. Hence, the film takes almost 30 minutes to get to the mall setting. The film is already painful at 94 minutes. I can’t imagine watching a two-hour version of this movie.

    The edits, reshoots, rewrites, etc also lead to several continuity errors throughout the film, but these are only a few of the bizarre errors/things that make no sense present throughout Mallrats. Other than the dialogue that doesn’t fit in because the first 30 minutes of the film were redone, there are also moments of inaudible/barely audible dialogue that you can see in the captions but cannot actually hear. Moments like this include a the scene where fans wait to meet Stan Lee, where a child is trapped on an escalator, and where Brandi’s father Jared (Michael Rooker, who is usually money but is awful here) fires an underling. I have to imagine this was not done on purpose despite it being so prevalent throughout the film.

    I mentioned earlier that Jason Lee, playing lovely slacker Brodie Bruce, is the sole highlight of the film. He truly shines in this film and it’s easy to see why the ex-professional skateboarder went on to have a solid career in Hollywood. He’s charismatic, funny, and a naturally good actor. There are groan-worthy moments throughout Mallrats, but few involve him. He seems to be the only one who understands the kind of movie he’s in. Contrast this with co-star London, who seriously spends the entire fucking movie with his hands in his pockets. He looks uncomfortable with Smith’s (admittedly dumb) dialogue as well as with his co-stars. There’s very little chemistry between he and Brandi. I hate to pile on the notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty, but she’s just about as awful as London. It’s hard to believe she’d ever even be seen with Jason Lee’s character, let alone date him.

    I really like Clerks and Chasing Amy. I really like how they managed to be small-scale movies but still have really investing and emotional stakes. Clerks is about the daily grind of a man who has absolutely no direction in his life. He can’t make a decision about which girl he wants to date and he feels like life is slipping past him at age 22. There’s some pretty serious, heavy material in the depths of that film. Chasing Amy is about one man’s failure to keep the past in the past, which negatively impacts his relationship with the woman of his dreams as well as his relationship with his best friend and business partner. Ben Affleck’s Holden is too short sighted to look past things that happened in high school and move on to the next chapter in his life, not unlike Bryan O’Halloran’s Dante from Clerks. London and Lee aren’t deep enough as characters in Mallrats to get invested in.

    Clerks and Chasing Amy garnered critical acclaim and awards for being mature looks at life in the 90s for people in their 20s. No one else was really doing that. Mallrats has a character fly face-first into a ladies dressing room for no reason that to show off a pair of tits. Clerks sees its main character struggle to balance a job, a relationship with a woman he doesn’t have much in common with, and a previous toxic relationship with a high school girlfriend. Chasing Amy explores how fluid human sexuality truly is. Mallrats’ final act hinges on a sex tape that exposes a clothing store manager as a sexual deviant. Simply put, Clerks and Chasing Amy are smart and mature movies, whereas Mallrats is immature, obnoxious, repellant, and just plain dumb.

    I’ve spoken to a lot of people my age about Mallrats – many of them really like it. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions (just as I am). Though I suspect they view the film with a heavy dose of nostalgia, because I truly find it difficult to find merit of any kind in Mallrats outside of a charismatic Jason Lee performance. Roger Ebert once claimed to sit in on a panel with Kevin Smith where Smith claimed he’d be happy to make the kinds of movies studios want as long as the studios were paying. Ebert thought Smith was joking until Mallrats came out. The best I can say about Smith as that he hasn’t truly gone mercenary since. Zack and Miri was not a good movie, but it attempted to be heartfelt at least. Cop Out could have (and should have) worked, but was at least a fun misfire at worst. The movies he makes now (such as Tusk and Yoga Hosers) couldn’t be less commercial. I’ll commend him for making what he wants to make, but I still get to hate Mallrats. I’ll always hate Mallrats.

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