Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say “BLAARGH!“
This week: Kevin Smith
Sometimes the BLAARGH! bile can be a bit manufactured, a little put on. Sometimes the spirit might be there, just the words don’t flow like they should. This BLAARGH!, however, will likely stream from my pissy fingertips like a vulgar symphony of hate, and it’s directed (no pun intended…HA!) at a man whom much of The PoP!ulation would consider the King of the Geeks: part-time filmmaker, and full-time lazy fat-fuck, Kevin Smith.
Where did it all go wrong? Smith broke into the mainstream thanks to his super-indie, Clerks, and the aid of the Brothers Weinstein. His second flick, Mallrats, flopped at the box office with critics and ticket-buyers alike, but thrived on home video. Then came Chasing Amy, a critical darling in its own right, and Smith seemed to have his career back on track. Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back pleased the loyal fans of the View-Askewniverse, but the man’s movies just couldn’t seem to translate that cult-following into box-office cashish. Along came Jersey Girl, widely regarded as a forgettable, bargain-bin reject, thanks in part to the backlash surrounding co-stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s tabloid romance, but cherished by a small sect of Smith fans as the director’s first legit foray into “adult” filmmaking (and no, not the kind with ass-to-mouth). Smith, becoming more famous for his unapologetic shit-talking than his work behind the camera, took his show on the road, performing his An Evening with Kevin Smith one-man-show across the globe, which produced 3 DVDs. He was attached to some high-profile film projects, including the Tim Burton Superman flick, as well as the Green Hornet adaptiation, the former grinding to a halt, and the latter, was abandoned by Smith due to self-doubt. He participated in a handful of comic-book projects, some of which were plagued with schedule delays (most notably, his failure to end his Daredevil scripting run), and seemed to be popping up more and more in front of the camera than behind it, in flicks like Live Free or Die Hard, Southland Tales, and Catch and Release, which is deliciously ironic, considering his previous acting experience was limited to standing outside the Quick Stop, silently smoking a cigarette. All the while, Smith kept the Benjamins rolling in, not from multi-million-dollar movie deals, but from his hole-in-the-wall View-Askew merchandising ring, The Secret Stash, which previously boasted two storefront locations, as well as a successful online store.
When did I start to get a bad taste in my mouth from lapping up Kevin Smith’s salty, fragrant balls? Clerks 2 was where he began to lose his luster, as it seemed to be a formulaic rehash of his feature-film magnum opus, yet without the spirit and genuine edge of the original. Then, at the front end of An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder, the man known as Silent Bob broke my goddamn heart. One of the very first questions posed from the audience was care of a starry-eyed dwarf, taking the opportunity to pitch Smith his screenplay. Smith quickly shot the sausage-fingered-sprite down. I guess I can understand that Smith, or any director, actor, or writer, for that matter, can’t read the script of EVERY wannabe filmmaker, first of all, because of legal ramifications, and secondly, because there just isn’t enough time in the day. But Jesus-Titty-Fucking-Christ, Kevin Smith, READ THE MIDGET’S SCRIPT, for fuck sake! Go back to the dude’s dorm room, scroll through a few pages, steal some leftover pizza from his fridge, help him get something off of a high shelf, and get the fuck outta there. Smith didn’t even flinch when shutting the citizen of Munchkinland down. From then on, Kevin Smith stopped playing the hero in my fantasy, and instead, became the enemy.
My midget brother appears at about the 5:20 mark.
I take things a little personally, and yes, my favorite beverage is Haterade made with freshly-squozen sour grapes. I too, just like our diminutive friend, am a struggling screenwriter, just looking for that one break. Hours upon hours of stuffing envelopes with query letters to agencies and production companies, only to have them returned, unopened, marked “No unsolicited material”, when I followed the letter of the law in regards to submission, consistently chipped away at my resolve, but I pushed forward. In one sweep of queries, I included Kevin Smith on my must list, and obtained contact info for his assistant, Gail Stanley. I corresponded with Ms. Stanley via electronic-mail, questioning the best methods with which to get her boss to read my query letter, not EVEN my screenplay. Ms. Stanley replied courteously that Mr. Smith neither had the time or the energy to read for any outside projects. Sure, I was dejected, but I “got it”. When stuffing envelopes for that next wave of soon-to-be-rejected letters, I contacted Ms. Stanley again, basically saying, “Hey, I’m just going to go ahead and send this anyway, if he doesn’t read it, he doesn’t read it.” I was immediately cut off at the knees by Kevin Smith’s assistant, with a stern, “DO NOT SEND ANYTHING TO THIS ADDRESS. IT WILL NOT BE READ, AND PROMPTLY RETURNED.” OUCH!
So it got me thinking…was Kevin Smith REALLY so busy? Could he truly not take the time out to read the midget’s script? Could he not find 2 minutes in his day to read a 4-paragraph query letter, and scribble a few encouraging (yet rejecting) lines on the page, and send it back in the provided self-addressed, stamped envelope? As a former fan of Smith’s sporadically updated blog, My Boring Ass Life, my response to both of those questions is: FUCK NO! What else has that guy got going on? Not a goddamn thing. Seriously….he releases a film once every 3 years or so (if that), he sits back and collects checks from The Secret Stash, he records one podcast a week, and he gets to play Hollywood actor whenever he cares to. The guy caught his break thanks to his ability to make characters sound like real people, and his style-less directing style, but someone had to give him his shot. Clerks didn’t exist in a vacuum. Were it not for Miramax, no one would have seen Clerks or gave a shit about who Jim and Silent Bill were, let alone buy posters and t-shirts with their images plastered all-over. The midget/script controversy was disappointing, as was my subsequent shunning from the front gates of Smith’s Land of Oz. My hero, my career archetype, had indirectly shit in my cereal, and since then, I’ve had a vendetta against the man, which at times, is reactionary, and others, completely justified.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno was Kevin Smith’s shot to get back in my good graces. It seemed like a winning combination; Smith, Seth Rogen, and porno. To be perfectly honest, the flick didn’t do a damn thing for me. Maybe I went in with a shitty attitude, or maybe the guy hasn’t matured as a filmmaker in some 15 years. While Smith can be credited with boosting the careers of Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Jason Lee, he’s lucky he didn’t completely ruin Seth Rogen’s. Rogen was riding high off a string of hits, including Knocked Up, Superbad and Pineapple Express, almost guaranteeing that a Smith flick would actually make some money for once. It seems the movie-going public’s love for Seth Rogen was trumped by their fear of a movie with Porno in the title, and their complete indifference to one Kevin Smith. Rogen’s agent must’ve shit a brick.
Which brings us to Cop Out (previously titled A Couple of Dicks), the Kevin Smith directed (but not written) buddy-cop flick starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, opening in wide release today. It’s funny, because one of the excuses I was given in regards to Smith not reading anyone else’s work was the simple fact that he writes his own material…except for Cop-Out, I guess. And the pilot for Reaper. I have to say, while skeptics will undoubtedly paint me as biased and anti-Kevin Smith, this movie looks like warmed over dog-shit in a waffle cone. No sprinkles. Who knows, the mindless, joyless trailers might entice Joe and Jane Moviegoer, and Smith might have a legit hit in his fleshy palms. Then again, his reverse-Midas touch might just send Bruce Willis into early retirement and Tracy Morgan into rehab for “exhaustion”.
The best part about Cop Out? It’s not garnering media attention for quality or lack thereof: it’s a mere byline thanks to director Kevin Smith’s one-man-campaign against Southwest Airlines for forcing him to eat cheesesteaks his entire life. On February 13th, Smith had purchased 2 tickets (as is Southwest’s policy for larger passengers) for a late flight, but jumped at the chance to get home a little earlier by flying stand-by. On the earlier, stand-by flight, the airliner was at capacity, and Smith, with only one seat instead of two, was booted by the Captain and forced to disembark because he was considered a safety risk to other passengers due to his wide, fat ass. Smith, for the next 3 days, proceeded to unleash his heavy-breathed fury unto Southwest via Twitter like some 14-year-old-fucking-girl. I couldn’t help but think that this is how he, and subsequently, Cop Out, was getting press, not for his filmmaking, but for being Mr. Fatty-Consumer Affairs? If only Smith would pour the kind of passion and energy he reserves for his Twitter feed into his storytelling and filmmaking ventures. Or even his diet and exercise regimen.
I understand I’m a hypocritical, stone-throwing, glass house-living baby about this whole situation. I understand the irony of me bitching about Kevin Smith bitching. I will freely admit to being a lazy-fat-ass myself, and would need two seats on a Southwest flight, easily. And I fully expect to be torn a brand-new anus by those Smith-fans that haven’t seen the Emperor’s new clothes as of yet, as well as quite possibly sparking a flame war with the trenchcoat wearing motherfucker, himself. Sooner or later, if he doesn’t shape up, both figuratively and literally, people are going to stop giving him money to make movies. And then people are going to stop buying his merchandise. And then, maybe, just maybe, he’ll have a hard time getting the midget to read HIS script.
Agree? Disagree? Pie? Leave comments, or email me at email@example.com!
And keep an eye out for a point-counterpoint in our next installment of Fanboy Thunderdome as Jason Knize and Lee Rodriguez go toe-to-toe on the matter of Mr. Smith. Epic much?
UPDATE! FBTD is live!