Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Things People Assume I Like But I Really Don't Pt. 3

That's right. I don't like Kevin Smith. I'm not saying I virally hate Kevin Smith like I virally hate Dave Matthews Band...I just don't like him...and it isn't for lack of trying on my part. At one time I owned all the movies. I read some of the comics he wrote for. I even went and saw Kevin Smith live when he came to Springfield. And some of it I even liked. I laughed when Jay would make some grotesque sexual innuendo. I found his comic book writing style interesting. I even thought he spun a good yarn when I saw him live. But as much as I laughed I always came away from each Kevin Smith experience questioning myself. "Is this really that good?" I would wonder. "Is Dogma really as clever as I think it is?" I'd ask myself again. "Is Kevin Smith a genius?" I never gave these questions too much thought. I just went about my life thinking that Kevin Smith must be a genius or else everyone would hate him. Then two things would happen and all that would change.

One Sunday at Dungeons and Dragons, a conversation was hatched. We were discussing the recently released Clerks II (which I didn't care for). Two of my friends, who hated Kevin Smith anyway, were ragging about the film, saying it was the same Kevin Smith bullshit all his movies hang their hat on - dick jokes, fart jokes, and Jay and Silent Bob. Another friend, who was a Smith fanatic, loved the film and said the dick jokes, fart jokes, and Jay and Silent Bob were exactly the reasons why it and Smith were great. I listened to the argument unfold and at the end I had to side with my friends who hated Kevin Smith because I believe they were dead on with the Kevin Smith Movie Formula, that ultimately they rely on dick jokes, fart jokes, and Jay and Silent Bob.

Don't get me wrong. I like a good dick joke, and I love a good fart joke, but I don't necessarily think they make for strong comedy. Groucho Marx gave an interview on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971 and in it he talks about the use of vulgarity in Hollywood. Basically, Groucho says that anyone can go on stage and say something dirty and get a laugh, and that it takes a true comedian to get a laugh with a clean joke. Here's the interview:

I actually agree with this. I think there are a lot of great comedians who use vulgarity in their acts, but at the end of the day I don't think they're as strong from a comedic standpoint as Bill Cosby, or Steve Martin, or Red Skelton, or Justin Wilson, or Jack Benny (the list goes on). For me, Kevin Smith's use of vulgarity is good for a laugh, but it's a cheap laugh, and I can't call him a genius for that. As for Jay and Silent Bob...I see them as a crutch. Kevin Smith has said on many occasions that he would like to start making films without this duo, and in fact tried once with Jersey Girl which was a flop. So how did Smith follow-up his flop? Another movie with Jay and Silent Bob is how. I'm not against using gimmicks to make money. If you have a product that makes money and you want to exploit that product to make money then go for it! I would probably do the same if I had a gimmick that people were into. However, again, I can't call doing that genius because to me it goes back to that "too easy thing." It's too easy for Smith to throw Jay and Silent Bob into a film and give them a huge array of dick jokes and fart jokes. He knows their presence is going to bring people out to the theater and sell tickets. This is not genius...it's just savvy business sense.

So is Kevin Smith a genius? Is he one of the best directors in Hollywood? Well, I don't think so, but if you talk to any Kevin Smith fanatic, and ask them to name off the best directors in Hollywood, Kevin Smith's name will almost always come up next to names like Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Kubrick, and others, and they get so mad if you disagree with their assessment. Ultimately, what I think wins the argument is Smith's own assessment of himself. He has admitted time and time again that he is just making movies about dick and fart jokes and that being compared with the best directors in Hollywood is probably a hasty judgment. Anyway, that about does it for my latest installment of Things People Assume I Like But I Really Don't. Now bring on the hate!

1 comment:

Jmann8907 said...

I guess you could call me a Kevin Smith fanatic... I'm going to see him in Kansas City Monday night. I understand his style of comedy is not for everyone, and that's fine no worries there. My gripe is that he gets stereotyped into that category where people think every one of his movies is all about dick and fart jokes. While you can consider Mallrats, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back to be those kind of films, Clerks, Clerks II, and Chasing Amy(my personal favorite out of the bunch) had more things to say besides the obvious jokes. I agree that Jay and Silent Bob were definitely a crutch, but those three films I listed didn't rely on them to carry the film, and in the case of Chasing Amy, only had them in one scene.

I think another reason why he appeals to a lot of people, and what separates his films from your common "dick and fart" joke movie is the way he writes his dialogue. That's the thing I like most about his films, is the writing... while the slapstick isn't that engaging, the dialogue between the characters makes it feel real, like you're actually listening in on two people talking. While that may not be interesting for most people, and also why trying to get your average movie watcher into Clerks is not very easy, to me that's what I care most about in movies is character development and dialogue. I actually think Jay and Silent Bob Strike back is his worst film because of it relying more on slapstick humor.

I do agree with your arguments about how it's harder to pull off a clean joke than a dirty joke. Actually I agree with a lot of your points... but I also want to clear up that the dick and fart jokes/Jay and Silent Bob wern't what I found great about Clerks II. While I won't go as far to say it was one of the greatest movies I've ever seen, I will say it has one of my favorite scenes of all time and that was the jail scene. The argument between Randall and Dante was again, a very human argument, one you would see between two people, and felt less like a "movie" argument. Randall's points he made about how Dante is doing what everyone else expects him to do instead of what makes sense for him was something I could relate to because I too have pressures like that all the time.

The scene at the end of Clerks where Randall calls at Dante on his constant whining about how "I'm not even supposed to be here today" and telling him that he had a choice and could do anything else he wanted to but he does what he does of his own volition.

In Chasing Amy, Holden feeling inadequate based on Alyssa's sexual history and being upset, repulsed and fearful of it. Those are the kinds of things I like about Kevin Smith films and the main things I take with me after viewing them as opposed to the jokes he made in the film as well.

I'm very tired and this probably came out as a jumbled mess, but I hope that you don't take out of this that I'm saying you're wrong, I just thought you would like to hear another side of the argument.

P.S. Oh and thought I'd add... he's done with the Jay and Silent Bob Movies for good. He's making Red State(a horror film loosely based on the Phelps family) and a hockey film (loosely based on the life of Wayne Gretzky), and then he's retiring from film.

Loved the article btw, and like I said, I agree with a lot of the points you made! :)