Why Kevin Smith Hates Film Critics.

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Why Kevin Smith Hates Film Critics.
I had something entirely different planned for this particular ScreenAnarchy-o-Meter - a piece about former pro athletes turned actor - but given writer-director Kevin Smith's protracted Twitter-rant about film critics yesterday and the fact that he is just wrapping up another very lengthy rant on the same topic right now on live radio here in Toronto the plan has changed. Today I give you Kevin Smith and why he hates film critics.

And let me start by saying this. While I haven't liked all of Smith's movies I've always kind of loved his public persona, his 'one of the guys' approach to the public, and his genuine enthusiasm for all things geeky. Plus he's got a vocal soft spot for Canada, which is a definite plus in my books as well. All of which makes the anger behind his current ranting a bit of a perplexing surprise to me as it generally seems out of character.

Here are the salient points, as I see / hear them.

1. Inaccuracy. Both fair and simple enough, and well within his rights to call people out on provided that what he is talking about is limited to actual, factual inaccuracy. Writers need to do their research and make sure that what they're saying is true. And when mistakes happen - which they do - steps need to be taken as soon as possible to correct things before misinformation spreads.

2. He doesn't like that critics get to see movies for free. This, bluntly, is just strange. And despite being strange, this particular point is occupying a LOT of his radio air time. Smith pitches this argument basically as a 'common man versus the privileged elite' sort of issue and while I get that he'd rather sell tickets than give them away and would rather pack as many 'average' people into the screenings as possible, if he honestly believes what he is saying here then Smith is shockingly ignorant of how press screenings work and the role press plays in marketing. If you want the word of mouth that will draw people to your screenings then the critics need to see the movies and they need to see them first. This is just basic mechanics of PR. And you don't charge people a fee to do their jobs or, rather, to do your marketing for you, which is what critics are asked to do on behalf of the studios and distributors who are releasing the films. This, honestly, feels far more like a smokescreen argument to get people on his side when critics say bad things about his films. Which leads to ...

3. Critics sometimes say bad things about his films. He's said openly that he likes it when critics say GOOD things about his films but Smith just doesn't seem to take negative commentary well. But this is just life, you don't get to take only the praise while crusading against negative feedback. There's a reason why Smith is delivering these particular rants after Cop Out and not after Chasing Amy. And from where I'm sitting that reason has more to do with Smith than with whether or not the critics are doing their jobs well.

It may very well be the case that Smith is one of those directors who legitimately makes his movies purely for the fans and not for critics. There's no issue with that at all. Look at a guy like Roger Corman. His stuff was never intended for critical consumption and he built a large, beloved and now hugely respected body of work using that approach. But if that's the case and Smith really doesn't care about the critics, well then he should stop caring about the critics. If they don't matter then just ignore them. But this sort of public moaning about unfair treatment just doesn't play well and takes Smith way, way away from the strong points of his public image. Particularly when the 'the press is unfair and unprofessional' complaints are delivered side to side with a story bragging about calling Toronto Star critic Peter Howell at his home to tell him off over a review of Dogma. Because, you know, calling a guy in his home, outside of working hours, to bitch at him for doing his job, is fair and professional.

But enough of my talk. If the radio station Smith was on follow their normal pattern the complete radio interview could be online any time between the next fifteen minutes and tomorrow morning. You'll be able to find it here when it is. Give it a listen when it is and weigh in on Smith VS Film Critic.
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CashBaileyNovember 2, 2010 7:11 PM

I'm a HUGE Kevin SMith fan, but he just doesn't like when critics call him out when his movies suck. Like with ZACK AND MIRI and the staggeringly boring, unfunny pile of crap that was COP OUT.

I'm hoping RED STATE is awesome because he's coming off the two worst movies he has ever made.

jeff3667November 3, 2010 2:21 AM

To me, Kevin is a lot like John Waters. I like listening to him talk more than I like his movies.

brettlv5506November 3, 2010 2:58 AM

Mallrats is one of my all time favorite comedies. It was a formative experience of my teen years. I must have watched it hundreds of times. Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma were all respectable and entertaining too. Aside from those films, all his products have been crap. He really lost his direction. Maybe he can find it again with Red State, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Agent WaxNovember 3, 2010 5:55 AM

Seems to me he's just whining now because his last couple of films tanked and were poorly reviewed. Smith, I like your movies as well as your comics. Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma were awesome. You had a bad couple of years. Who hasn't? You might want to stop now before digging yourself a deeper hole.

fetch foxNovember 3, 2010 8:46 AM

I like his older movies, but, like you Todd, my love for him is in his public persona. I've listened to his podcast for some years, so I've heard allot of this before. I don't agree with him, but the podcast is generally about (funny) bullshit so you don't get much of this.

arturoNovember 3, 2010 9:29 AM

Well Mr Smith, stop making crap like Cop Out and then mabey you will get better reviews...

Bob ViolenceNovember 3, 2010 10:23 AM

He doesn't like that critics get to see movies for free.

C'mon Todd, we all know people are pickier about stuff when they get it for free, that's just common sense.

Todd BrownNovember 3, 2010 12:10 PM

I hope that's sarcasm 'cause I'm much more demanding of stuff I pay for.

Sean "The Butcher" SmithsonNovember 3, 2010 1:25 PM

I like some of Smith's filmography (the older stuff) but his new work is whack, and jumping into the horror genre?

Ugh. REALLY Kevin?

I think he may have overstayed his welcome as a filmmaker at this point.

mrhibbertNovember 3, 2010 2:15 PM

Guy who consistently makes bad films moans about film critics. Film critics are there for a reason.

Bob ViolenceNovember 3, 2010 7:19 PM

(applies palm to forehead)

JustinPDNovember 3, 2010 10:49 PM

Smith has recently stated on one of his podcasts that he's getting to the point that he doesn't even want to make movies anymore - he's been there and done that - and he gets more enjoyment out of just talking to an audience.

ZOMBOID79November 4, 2010 4:08 AM

Here's an idea-Develop as a film maker-Get better. He's the ultimate slacker film maker 'cause unless he's got a lot on the line (Clerks) or something to say (Chasing Amy) he can't come up with much. Who knows maybe he's spread to thin..he probably bleeds creativity everytime he writes a book,does a show..He should sit down and shut up for awhile and let something fester..that or go back to film school

scovilleNovember 6, 2010 12:58 AM

Exactly. He's incredibly entertaining, but I've never liked his movies.

GarthNovember 7, 2010 11:41 AM

That's interesting because, while I am curious to see Red State, at this point the main reason I want him to continue making movies is so that he doesn't run out of stories to tell for his speaking engagements.

NukeNovember 7, 2010 10:52 PM

There are very few filmmakers that can get away with continually making shitty movies that audiences keep paying to see. If you make enough bad movies in a row, your movie going audience will disappear. In the case of Kevin Smith, he never had a mass audience to begin with. Film makers with small cult-like fan-bases need to rely heavily on critical praise and word of mouth. If Smith no longer has either of those, then he's dead in the water. I've never been a Kevin Smith fan. I can't say I've ever liked one of his movies. They all seem like amateurish student films to me. This has gotten me into some heated arguments with co-workers who disagree. Having said that, Red State sounds interesting to me. I will see it. Just as I've seen all his other movies. I just can't help thinking that I wish some other, more talented filmmaker was behind it.

Ard VijnNovember 8, 2010 6:14 AM

Believe it or not, there is this thing called "cognitive dissonance", the vague uneasy feeling that you've put your eggs in the wrong basket, which causes exactly what Bob Violence describes (without any sarcasm).

We Dutch, mean as we are, are maybe a bit more prone to it than other people. It causes us to read more adverts about something AFTER we bought it than BEFORE we bought it, just to reassure ourselves we did the right thing.
It also means that if you paid for a movie, you're more inclined to like it (ESPECIALLY when other people are present) otherwise you feel silly for having misspent your money.

ChevalierAguilaNovember 12, 2010 2:01 AM

Smith is a hack, an awful director in every way, shape and form. Aside from that he has his head so far up his ass there's just no human power strong enough to pull it out. His reactions towards criticisms are childish at best, stupid and insane at worst. Just watch the deleted scene in Chasing Amy where Affleck and Lee attack some nerds in a comic book store, i think there's a similar scene in another one of his movies where he and that junkie he carries along with him beat little kids that posted bad comments of him on the internet.

Bottom line: self-absorbed douche with delusions of being a great director.

Kurt HalfyardNovember 13, 2010 7:22 PM

The real question is how much as Kevin Smith's fan base been increasing or decreasing over the years. I cannot imagine that Zack and Miri or Cop Out did wonders for reflushing the ranks. On the other hand, his speaking engagements and Smodcast probably do a lot, albeit, in the latter case, it is getting that product for free.

I hope Red State is interesting and fresh and something to see. I have no issue with his reaction to critics, but I also think informed filmgoers do like to read film critics, even if they don't agree with said critic. And as history with Dario Argento, Sam Raimi, Walter Hill, John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon, heck, even the Coen Brothers and others have taught, if goofy genre trash is not talked about, it probably has little chance of bubbling to the top and get a little respect because there is a conversation going on. Even in the day and age of social media, a good articulate critic panning or praising a movie probably holds a bit more currency than the AICN/SlashFilm/FirstShowing crowd.

PiersDNovember 14, 2010 5:51 PM

My fear for Kevin Smith is he doesn't learn to take what critics say in stride and continue his rants of how he hate's them he will become a little like Lenny Bruce and that will become his act. Just ranting on how hates film critics. Even though Lenny Bruce was talking about how the Government was persecuting him on the content of his act, he stopped telling jokes and just ranted, reading the transcripts of his trials, and his audience disappeared.
That could very well happen to Smith if he is not careful.
While people are willing to follow it on 'Twatter' they won't pay for it.