Friday, March 26, 2010

Kevin Smith Attacks His Critics

Kevin Smith is mad at film critics in general, and specifically, people like me because they didn't like his latest movie Cop Out.

And here is the thing, Smith compared that criticism to... well, I will just share his tag on it: #YesIcomparedMyFlickToARetardedKid. He said it was as if the critics were making fun of a mentally handicapped child. He also said that with a name like Cop Out, the critics shouldn't have expected high quality entertainment. "Watching them beat the shit out of it was sad. Like, it's called #CopOut ; that sound like a very ambitious title to you?"

I don't know about you, but somehow that indicates to me that his heart wasn't in that movie to begin with. Like he isn't really happy about the movie or doesn't think highly of it. And that is okay. But you can't then get bent out of shape when people call you out for being involved in a substandard product.

He has also admitted in the past that he isn't the greatest filmmaker out there. He's said it on stage and in interviews, one of which I will quote now. When asked by the BBC why he became a director, he stated:
Because I wasn't much good at anything else, and oddly enough I'm not very good at this - but nobody seems to notice, so I get away with it. I'm not really a strong visual stylist and that's kind of called for in the job description, because it is all about putting visuals together, and I'm not really I interested in that. I'm more interested in character, story, and dialogue, so to that degree I could have done radio shows, but radio is not nearly as popular in my country as it is here.

But one of those other little bits that has come up from his Evening DVD's is that his budgets are small, so the studios are taking much smaller risks bankrolling his work, so his career is relatively safe no matter the financial outcome.

See, the problem I am seeing with Smith's rant (and yes, it is a rant), is he is lumping bloggers into the same boat as professional critics. So he hates people critiquing his work from both an educated and amateur point of view. He wants the reviewing process to be democratized, because all the established critics are too authoritarian, but the online culture of wanting to see people fail is a result of that.

I'd rather pick 500 randoms from / Twitter feed & let THEM see it for free in advance, then post THEIR opinions, good AND bad. Same difference. Why's their opinion more valid?

Hmmm. Picking 500 people from your feed to watch your next movie as your reviewers vs. professional critics. Yeah, that is exactly the same thing.

Would anyone else like to stack the deck like that if they were in that position? You know... just grab 500 people who follow your every move on Twitter and have them judge your work.

But let's say for the sake of argument that Smith meant just 500 people from Twitter in general. If he thought his reviews were bad before.... wow, I'm an asshole, and I write on the internet, and even I can see the disaster that could befall that (well, after you factor out all the people who are so honored that they were asked to go to that screening that they would be superpositive about what they saw no matter what).

It is like Kevin Smith forgot the whole basis of one of his movies was having his two most famous characters getting upset because people on the internet would insult them because of a movie-within-the-movie that was based on their likenesses. If he just picked 500 random people on Twitter to review his movies, that's what would happen.

See, the difference between me here and a professional critic is, I am not accountable. I can say whatever I want with little to no consequences. I am allowed to have vendettas and grand hatreds and orgiastic loves with things and act them out daily if I choose, and no one is going to reign me in, or edit me down or whatever. I don't even have to worry about peer approval.

Professional critics have to worry about all those things. But I think that somehow, Kevin Smith has it in his mind that the critics have it in for him, and always have when that is overwhelmingly not the case. He got really dinged this one time (I mean, even Jersey Girl got 41% on Rotten Tomatoes), and he is acting like a tubby bitch (in Smith's own parlance). Cop Out's 19% rating at that same site is really Smith's first real widespread lambasting by critics as a body.

Then again, he has never appreciated criticism. Allow me to quote from that aforementioned BBC interview again.

You know, unfortunately I tend to believe the bad reviews more than the good reviews. I should probably regard them both the same, which is... Whatever. It's one person's opinion. The problem with most reviews is that they're written in this authoritative voice that never states that it's an opinion. You're supposed to take for granted that it's an opinion, but they're always written as fact, or as mass opinion. I find that really irksome.

I know it might be taking up too much space to have them write "in my opinion" after every sentence, but you might want to throw it in there somewhere, because they come across as if they're speaking for the whole public. And they're really, really not. It's subjective, you know? For every guy who doesn't like the movie, I have another guy who does like the movie. Unfortunately the guy who does like the movie doesn't write for the newspaper.

Personally, I don't think any of this would have come up if Cop Out would have made more money at the box office. Do any of you think that Kevin Smith would have had this twitter-fit if the movie made 100 million dollars or more at the box office? I think he would have looked at those reviews and laughed his ass off.

As a comparison, here is how Quentin Tarantino framed his own problems with critics:

I know more about film than most of the people writing about me. Not only that, I’m a better writer than most of the people writing about me. And I can write film criticism better than most of the people writing about me too.

Now that is how you make a statement about the people reviewing your films... not crying out that they are somehow being mean to you because they are either too elitist or just internet trolls.

And when people tell you to stop complaining and just make a better movie... they mean it.

I wear my bad reviews with honor. He should too.


William Keckler said...

I have sort of admired his laziness at times.

He's right about not being a visual stylist, but I don't think he's all that strong on character or story either, really.

I think dialogue is his real gift.

He does that funny, stichomythic thing rather well at times.

When stichomythia is done well (whether it's Shakespeare or David Mamet or Kevin Smith) it's like slapstick in words.

And some of his characters have near classic jousts in that arena of language (the semantics of blowjobs not equalling sex in Clerks being a classic Clintonian example).

Cop Out sounds like one to miss.

He's had quite a few of those lately.

For a moment, he had a real handle on what the latest lost generation did to get some twisted fun out of an all-too-often boring existence.

I think it all came out of a New Jersey state of mind. I like to visit the state, but every time I do all I hear is young people saying they can't wait to if somehow ten feet over the state line life becomes magical.

The playwright David Ives does something similar in one of his plays where Philadelphia becomes a stand in for a Beckettian nowheresville.

That early period of off-the-cuff filmmaking and funny despair was a good moment for him and his posse, and I think they'll be remembered for that.

Even if he does become a bitchier tubby or tubbier bitch or Teletubby or whatever.

I think the French dig him, so maybe he'll end up the next Jerry Lewis or something.

Enjoyed your "calling out" though.

Megan said...

"He'll end up the next Jerry Lewis or something."

That pretty much says it all right there. Bravo, Bill!

William Keckler said...


MC said...

See, for the French to love Kevin Smith, there would have to be some sophistication to his buffoonery.

Lee Sargent said...

I really liked the Tarantino quote because I honestly believe he is one of the most qualified film makers who can say that.

Some of the comic books I've read by Smith don't exactly back up his character/dialogue claims though but then they may have been aimed at a different demographic.

One of his 'gifts' (I guess we call it that) is his pop culture referencing.

His public speaking events are also brilliant as well as in general his podcast.

I've enjoyed several of his movies a lot and frankly he's films are a damn sight better than mine.

MC said...

He just seems like he is being a little paranoid about critics going after a movie which he is admitting isn't super great and that he didn't have the same kind of freedom on.

He tried something different and took some lumps for it, but he should accept it and move on... not act like some prima donna that has been slighted by everyone because they didn't like his most recent stab at things.