Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jerks, Too

Clerks II is upon us. I don't expect to like it, but I do intend to see it. One of two things will happen: It will either justify the waning of my respect for Kevin Smith, or it will prove me wrong and redeem him. Either one of these would make me happy. But watching the trailers is like glimpsing a TV show that's run several seasons too long; every line feels stale and obligatory. By now we all know that Kevin Smith has only so many tools in his arsenal:

1. Vulgarity
2. Pop culture references
3. Big words and long sentences
4. In-jokes

Smith has always been at his best when combining two or more of these tools. Vulgarity or pop culture references are funny when big words make them sound smart (although even this is now formulaic). Subtract the big words and it just lays there--see Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, which sustains itself by throwing in #4 like it's MSG in Chinese food. Sure, it satisfies the fans while they're watching it, but in retrospect there's nothing there.

Incidentally, Smith's vulgarity has been growing less clever with time. Despite Chasing Amy frequent allusions to "dick and fart jokes," Smith stuck to dick jokes himself, and never sunk to farts until Jay and Silent Bob. On second thought, there were the shit jokes in Mallrats and Dogma, and they were those movies' low points.

Over a decade later, why make a Clerks II? Besides the fact that the failure of Jersey Girl apparently killed all of Smith's ambition to grow as a storyteller. So Randal can talk about going ass-to-mouth? So we can trade Star Wars debates for Lord of the Rings debates? This isn't new; it's the same shit with different words. The fact that the characters are discussing Lord of the Rings is not funny in and of itself. Nor is the fact that Smith has been keeping up with the latest trends in pornography. Granted, all I have to go on so far are trailers, but Smith now seems to believe he can make us laugh just be reminding us of his tools rather than using them. Pop culture! Graphic sex acts! Here's what you wanted from me, kids, so enjoy it!

Meh. I am wasting time covering old ground, and it's not worth discussing further until I see the movie. I started this post because I wanted to talk about this bullshit feud between Kevin Smith and Joel Siegel.

Apparently Joel Siegel walked out of a screening of Clerks II, and in doing so made a big noisy deal about how it was the first movie he'd walked out of in thirty years. Based on Siegel's ubiquitous quote whore blurbs, I don't doubt it.

But while Kevin Smith acts self-deprecating, he's actually a hypersensitive, easily wounded narcissist, so he has made a fuss about how Siegel's disruptive behavior was terribly unprofessional.

Okay, so far so good. It was rather unprofessional, and Smith's blog makes all the sensible concessions: That a pan from Siegel is practically a badge of honor, and that it is of course gratifying to him (Smith) that the film was offensive enough to drive out a critic (after all, where's the fun in getting laughs with cheap shock value unless you can imagine someone less cool than you being offended by it?). The harping on Siegel's headline puns is more misguided, since critics usually don't write their own headlines.

But then there is this appallingly obnoxious clip from Smith's appearance on the Opie and Anthony Show, in which the hosts call up Siegel and berate him for a ridiculously long time. Smith, who sounds more animated and emotional than I've ever heard him, goes on again and again about how unprofessional Siegel's behavior was. He also talks in circles about how it doesn't bother him that Siegel walked out but you can't judge a movie without seeing the whole thing. From what I can piece together, if Siegel had stayed, he would have seen that, rather than Randal arranging a sex act between a woman and a donkey, as discussed in the scene that prompted the walkout, Randal ultimately arranges a sex act between a man and a donkey. Presumably, had Siegel stuck around, this would have redeemed the film.

I'm off track again. My point is, listen to this radio clip, if you can stand it. Siegel was disruptive and unprofessional, but during the course of this phone call, Kevin Smith is unrelentingly petty and ridiculous.

Congratulations, Kevin, now you're the asshole.

So he dissed your movie at the screening. Big deal. Get over it. You are a professional filmmaker. Why are you still starting flamewars on Internet message boards and fantasizing in Jay & Silent Bob about assaulting Internet trolls? You are living the dream. Your all-purpose retort for everything should be "So what? I make movies and you don't." Instead you read every review, taking grave personal offense to every pan and taking note of critics to blacklist.

You made a purposely offensive movie that provoked an extreme reaction. As you yourself admit, if at least some people don't react this way, your supposedly shocking humor is pointless.

Today IMDb offers this blurb:

Kevin Smith Stings Back

Director Kevin Smith, who once said that being named by Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein to write and direct The Green Hornet was like a "dream come true," now says he wants no part of the assignment. Interviewed by the website superherohype.com, Smith, who is promoting his upcoming Clerks II, said, "It was between [Hornet] and Clerks II and I drove toward Clerks II in such a big, bad way and almost had to fight Harvey Weinstein to do Clerks II as opposed to a The Green Hornet movie, cuz he's like, 'it's time for you to grow and stretch as a filmmaker' and I'm like, 'doesn't anybody get it after twelve years? I'm not that talented. This is what I do [well].' This is why I got into film, to tell stories like that. I love watching comic book movies. I'd love to watch a The Green Hornet movie, but would not want to be the guy at the helm of that movie. ... I make one of those movies and I lose the right to make fun of other people for making those movies. I learned that the hard way making Jersey Girl I can't make fun of Raising Helen anymore. If I raise one finger to Raising Helen, people are like, 'Dude, you made Jersey Girl'." Jersey Girl, which starred Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, cost $35 million to produce and wound up making only $25 million at the domestic box office.


The moral of the story is that only Kevin Smith is allowed to call Kevin Smith untalented. It makes him humble. If you say it, it just makes you wrong.

1 comment:

lydia said...

I want to see My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Or at least, I want a Kenny review of it.

Help a girl out, Kenny.