Wednesday, March 24, 2010

View Askew

In large part, Kevin Smith has become something more of an idea than an actual person; In 1994, he released Clerks, a movie with a budget that Hollywood considers to be pocket change. And it was fucking fantastic. The movie wore its indie badge on its sleeve, was adored by critics, and became a cult classic. Even with the post-production budget multiplying the movie's budget almost tenfold, it still managed to gross almost 14 times its investment.

He became the force outside of the machine; the person who, for a lot of people, manifested the idea that you could work outside of the system and still be able to turn a profit while maintaining critical success by making movies for people who actually appreciate the art of film, rather than simply those who had $20 on them and needed to waste two hours of their life.

And then he released Cop Out and took a big steaming dump over everything he worked for.

Actually, it wouldn't be fair to say that it was simply the release of Cop Out that did him in. Despite massive critical acclaim, Smith never managed to earn over $30 million at the box office. After a while, that probably starts to get annoying. So he decided to do a studio movie. I'm not about to jump on the high horse and start calling him out for it. I mean at this point, the guy's been building up god will for about seventeen years. Hell, after this long, most people (including myself) were more than happy to give him a free pass.

Naturally, the movie sucked. It's not like people were standing at the sidelines, foaming at the mouth to see him fail. Simply put, it was a tired formula, stale jokes with stilted delivery, terrible acting (unless it begins with "30" and ends with "Rock", don't put Tracy Morgan in it) and overall, it was just a huge letdown. Some people were calling it the moment that Kevin Smith officially sold out, but it wasn't.

That would come later.

Here's the thing about Kevin Smith's anti-critic rant: it, along with Cop Out, managed to alienate everyone who had elevated him to his status. The film itself was a swift kick in the balls to those who looked to him as proof that you could beat the system, and his rant was his way of implying zero-accountability. He didn't make a bad movie, you're just too elitist to appreciate a dumb movie.

And here's where the bullshit detector starts to blip a little. There are plenty of brainless movies that were perfectly enjoyable. Hell, I even made a list out of it. The only thing is, they didn't just settle for being brainless. They evened it out by actually being funny. You didn't.

Now, as for the comments about critics...If anything, considering that they're getting a free-screening, not to mention various other free swag, they'd probably be more inclined to go easier on you. Bad reviews rarely, if ever, result in a huge loss in revenue. But good reviews can, and usually do, result in a sort of longevity. Think about it: Alvin and the Chipmunks made tons of money. Will people remember it through the ages? No. But a movie like Juno, which earned critical success, which lead to commercial success, will be remembered far longer.

But when it comes down to it, it's not a matter of Kevin Smith versus his critics. Rather, it's a matter of Kevin Smith versus his fans. Critics are meant to be objective in their subjectivity (if such a thing exists), in that they can't let personal opinion cloud their judgment. Their job is to deconstruct a movie from a purely artistic standpoint. In this sense, they're quite fickle: They can love one movie from a certain writer/director/actor, only to hate the next one, and vice-versa. It's a matter of being a professional. But fans don't have to be professional. They're just along for the ride.

Here's the thing: If I'm paying $20 to go see a movie (this is factoring in the absolute ass-raping that occurs while trying to get a Hefty Bag full of popcorn and five liters of Diet Pepsi), it had better be a goo fucking movie. If I'm not thoroughly entertained, you better goddamn believe someone is losing their head.

But that's what happened: he made a movie that appealed to the lowest common factor, and he pulled the "elitist" flag that so many use when trying to avoid personal responsibility. The absolute worst thing you can do is pretend there's nothing wrong when something is, and let's face it, there's something wrong with this picture. He made a crappy, and people called him out on it. You can pull out every excuse in the book you want, but getting mad at critics for calling something like it is is like taking a dump in the middle of someone's living room then getting angry when they ask you to stop.

But all in all, the worst part is that, as a symbol, Kevin Smith is no more. Hey, I'm looking forward to Red State as much as the next guy, but at this point, Kevin Smith has pretty much stomped out the idea that someone can operate outside of the standard while maintaining critical adoration and artistic credibility. But hey, he finally made $45 million, right? Hope it was all worth it.

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