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July 7, 2011 1:35 AM   Subscribe

When Smith writes long soliloquies, he doesn't do so from an attempt to ironically portray how Holden conceives relationships with juvenile sentimentality, but because he lacks the ability to give you insight into each character without having them wrenchingly declare themselves and their universe to you. A better writer gives you the details and lets you discover a human being from them, but here, each word is very important, and each one has meaning, because this is communication through vivisection. You open up the animal, and every working part matters. -- Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy, Criterion Collection, reviewed
posted by crayz (88 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have a bad feeling about this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:43 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't quite tell if he means that seriously or not. I mean, the blog obviously has a generally mocking tone; snarky one-liners aside, though, this review seems to play it straight (no pun on the subject matter intended).

That said, I'd call Smith's soliloquies one of his strong points. Rather than the mark of a poor writer, I find that people really do try to "define" themselves and their world in long semi-coherent philosophical ramblings.

Well, they do at a point in their lives, anyway. I don't hang out in bookstore-slash-coffee-shops much these days, but I strongly suspect angsty 20-somethings still behave like angsty 20-somethings.
posted by pla at 1:49 AM on July 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


Smith's word choice comes across so artificially that Roget's Thesaurus should garner a co-writing credit on the film. This wouldn't be so problematic if only one character spoke this way, but his inability to differentiate voices means that every character speaks with the same stilted, pseudo-intellectual vocabulary. His rambling speeches leave no room for dialogue or for another person. This type of engagement-free engagement smacks of contrived, echo-chamber writing. It's almost as if Smith entered his own Malkovich doorway and didn't know it: every character is Kevin Smith.


nail on the head, right there.
posted by dubold at 1:50 AM on July 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


I have a bad feeling about this.

You know who else liked to make Star Wars references?










Kevin Smith, that's who.
posted by dubold at 1:51 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


That was kind of the point of the joke.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:54 AM on July 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Previously...

Although this is a spot-on description of Kevin Smith's films - and, to a certain extent, Tarantino's also...
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:01 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kevin Smith is basically a raging misogynist masquerading as "that guy" who goes around telling people how "down" he is with women and how well he "understands" them and how he's totally so much cooler than the frat boys with the ripped abs.

Which is to say, he's a delusional narcissist.
posted by bardic at 2:06 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can't help but agree - and Chasing Amy was one of the more watchable of his films. They are just so painful.
posted by mary8nne at 2:15 AM on July 7, 2011


I laughed once in all of his movies and it was when in Clerks the guy explained how many normal people were likely killed when the death star exploded - which is recalled being at the time very observant and a funny joke too. But overall, I have always just found his movies so boring and stupid. And I think I'm the target audience too - I love a good dick and fart joke! But smith's problem, at least if you can say it is a problem to fail to make movies I like, is he can't seem to understand what makes stories good beyond the most superficial, pseudo-intellectual name dropping. I mean Holden Caufield AND Rosentcratz & Gildenstern in the same movie? It almost reads like a recipe for making a Serious Movie.

I sort of believe he has something to prove and so mistakenly makes shit movies. Instead, I'd like to believe he has personal stories inside him *about that need to prove himself* that would likely blow my mind. I wish that were true and he was making them.

But them again, it's sort of arrogant and selfish of me to want people to tell stories I like only.
posted by scunning at 2:35 AM on July 7, 2011


Here's the first two paragraphs of the review:
Watching the Criterion logo fade into this waste of celluloid brings a single, artificial tear to my eye, much like when Jason Lee's character Banky poignantly asks Ben Affleck's Holden MacNeil, "Girl?" Criterion introduced Chasing Amy into its collection early on, in the laserdisc days, and I see its inclusion in the same light as Armageddon and The Rock: a movie that exemplifies its genre, even if it lacks individual merit in spades.

It would be hard to count the number of times Kevin Smith has justified his filmmaking by explaining in his Comic Book Guy voice that he just makes "dick-and-fart joke movies" and that taking them seriously misses the point. If only this were true. The problem with Smith's filmmaking, evident in Chasing Amy, is that he actually does think his movies are more than dick and fart jokes; he makes a point of forcing his juvenile ideas of morality, social commentary and intelligent dialogue into his already jumbled and mismanaged work. That he also utilizes an excessive amount of dick-and-fart filler to offset the pretentious emptiness of his dialogue and plot proves only that he has the faintest glimmer of awareness that his movies suck and, as such, need sufficient cushion to repel critical barbs.
This reads like The Simpson's Comic Book Guy and I don't see how my life would be improved or enlightened by reading more of this review.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:05 AM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


This reads like The Simpson's Comic Book Guy and I don't see how my life would be improved or enlightened by reading more of this review.

It might save you from actually watching "Chasing Amy", which cost me ~2 hours of my life that I'll never get back and tempted me to claw my own eyes and ears off. So there's that.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:14 AM on July 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Can we just CopyPasta all the comments from the previous Kevin Smith threads?
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 3:26 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look. There are movies by James Cameron, there are movies by Uwe Boll, there are movies by Judd Apatow, and there are movies by Kevin Smith. Each director has his own rules, his own form, his own mechanisms. Does everyone in a Kevin Smith movie sound like Kevin Smith? Absolutely. That's part of the rules for how Kevin Smith movies work.

You don't have to like it, any more than you have to like the supremely self-important style of this particular review. But it's definitely it's own thing, and honestly, it is its own thing beyond dick-and-fart-jokes.

I think what's most interesting here is what the reviewer is complaining about: That Kevin Smith is doing the deep analysis, the extended soliloquies, when he likes extracting those himself. Well, you know, more power to the guy. He can go watch other movies.

If Kevin Smith wants to write the full fledged all cards on the table could never happen in real life declaration of absolute love, and drop it directly into one of his films as utter wish fulfillment, well? Is that really something awful? Must the sentiment be constrained to, I dunno, a walk in the park as the camera pans over some rose in bloom?
posted by effugas at 3:31 AM on July 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


xtra! xtra! read all about it!
Kevin Smith not a great writer!
posted by brevator at 3:33 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, so I read the whole review and think it was poorly written with almost no understanding of the film or Smith, all while endlessly nitpicking unimportant details. Seriously what is the purpose of lines like "Ostensibly, Chasing Amy tells the story of Ben Affleck's giant face..." other than to be a sly wink and nod to his people who don't like Affleck? But what really kills the review is this bit:
We're supposed to believe that, although Ben Affleck is totally cool with dating an ex-lesbian who casually mentions fisting on a park swing, he can't repress his puerile, hockey-fueled rage at her having engaged in a threesome in high school. This staged shock at what is supposedly a torrid sexual history should remind viewers of the equally inexplicable scene in Clerks where Dante freaks out because his girlfriend who can't act has sucked a ton of dicks.
Both movies highlight that male characters were idiotic and immature for letting those things get in the way of the relationship. There's an entire scene of Holden whining about Amy being used by the guys in the threesome and she angrily replies "No, I was using them" and Holden clearly can't wrap his mind around it. In Clerks, Dante's inability to get over Veronica's sucking of 37 cocks is explicitly pointed out as silly, immature and completely missing the point of how much she cares about him by Randal ("I wish I had a girl who would bring me lunch at work" or some such).

These are action scenes from the movies, which the review ignores. This isn't a review, it's a dishonest assault germinated from an immature seed of blind hate. Smith is far from perfect and there's plenty of valid criticism that can be done about his movies (I'd say he's a fine writer, but completely terrible director). But this ain't it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:37 AM on July 7, 2011 [36 favorites]


I'm amazed that the guy wrote "pretentious and arrogant" and failed to see that it described his own review.

I think the problem with "Chasing Amy" was that Affleck's character was supposed to be a kind of loveable asshole, and they left out the loveable.
posted by zompist at 3:42 AM on July 7, 2011


I think the problem with "Chasing Amy" was that Affleck's character was supposed to be a kind of loveable asshole, and they left out the loveable.

I think the problem with that interpretation is that -- while it seemed to me when I saw it in 1997 that we were supposed to look at Holden from some distance -- I'm now pretty sure that we're supposed to be 100% on the same page as Holden, because it seems increasingly obvious that he's a glamorized version of Smith. This is kinda where creating a cult of personality ends up being a problem for a filmmaker; you see the person, and can't unsee the person when watching their movie. When (a) it's 1997, which was about a different a time from now as I can imagine, and (b) you don't really know anything about the film's writer/director, you may view the whole thing a lot more charitably, especially if you're the same age as the protagonists.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:01 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was 16 when this movie came out. I had quite a few bisexual female friends for whom this movie was really important. There weren't a lot of movies out there which had sympathetic bisexual characters. I saw it at the time and enjoyed it. I don't know how it'll hold up to rewatching, but I'll always have a soft spot for it because of how much it meant to my friends. When you're young and wrestling with your sexuality, you seek representations in pop culture and for bisexuals, there just isn't much out there and what does exist is mindbogglingly awful. So good on Kevin Smith for giving my friends a character they could identify with when they were teenagers.
posted by Kattullus at 4:16 AM on July 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


This review strikes me the same way as people who appear in music threads here on the Blue to tell everyone why they hate the band which is the topic of the FPP.

Seems like sometimes it's just best not to bother.

The reviewer may have some real criticism of Smith and his movies which would be worth listening to, but he's so obviously coming at this from a position of dislike from moment one that there's no way to pick the snark away to leave any real thought to examine.

But I guess MetaFilter hasn't had a quality Kevin Smith hate-on for a while, so maybe this is a public service post.
posted by hippybear at 4:21 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kevin Smith is still relevant?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:25 AM on July 7, 2011


Yeah the characters in his movies are somewhat didactic. But so what? They're funny enjoyable films. And yeah the male characters flipping out are intended as a critique of jealousy
posted by delmoi at 4:25 AM on July 7, 2011


We can all agree that Mallrats was terrible right?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:28 AM on July 7, 2011


I think the problem with "Chasing Amy" was that Affleck's character was supposed to be a kind of loveable asshole, and they left out the loveable.

No, that was the point. He was interesting, but he was vain, stupid and selfish. The movie was from his point of view, but he was the central character in a tragedy, mostly of his own making. He was supposed to be somewhat charismatic, true, but the movie was about the anguish he leaves in his wake.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it landed in the middle of Mall Rats and Dogma - it's Smith's career. It's hard to reconcile two really, really, really good movies with a lot of mediocre or outright bad ones - but you can't take away that he made two genius movies. Doesn't stop the reviewer in the linked article from trying, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:33 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kevin Smith has essentially retired as a director, so hopefully this guy will be able to get some sleep at night.
posted by Optamystic at 4:35 AM on July 7, 2011


Dogma was pretty funny. George Carlin was great in it.
posted by ovvl at 4:40 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


...The more I think about it, maybe this would be a better-enduring movie with more of Smith in it? I think Holden seems less sympathetic than he might because his insecurities seem so irrational, and therefore assholy; but if Smith had played the role himself -- work with me here, pretend he's a better actor -- I think this hyper-verbal, charming but awkward guy getting some success and then reeling in an impossible dream girl and then self-sabotaging the whole thing would play hugely differently. I think we'd like him a lot more if he weren't some six-foot Adonis of a man whose purported lack of confidence and sexual experience (!) didn't read as almost willfully perverse, like casting Megan Fox as the awkward nerdy girl or Jonah Hill as Jason Bourne or something.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:43 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I much prefer this article on Chasing Amy from The Criterion Contraption, which is reviewing each of the Criterion Collection DVDs in numerical order by CC's spine numbers. It's a better approach to the Criterion films and a better discussion of this film in that context.
posted by crossoverman at 4:52 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


The one thing I liked about 'Dogma' was kind of spoilery. It involved Bud Cort.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:01 AM on July 7, 2011


Everything that you all are saying about Smith's films could very easily be applied to your own posts: wordy, preachy and self-important.
posted by oddman at 5:08 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really like Kevin Smith. I am aware that there are people who really dislike Kevin Smith. It's weird to me how much time and energy they invest in hating someone so niche. It's as if I was constantly looking for opportunities to slam the current Poet Laureate (whomever that might be).

For what it's worth, I recognize that Kevin Smith is not a particularly naturalistic filmmaker, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying his movies. In fact, I think he's now found his ideal medium in podcasting, which didn't exist when he made Clerks. I think he's a genius raconteur, a fountain of hilariously silly and profane ideas. He's a brilliant talker.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:13 AM on July 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am not a Kevin Smith fan, but this article has backlash written all over it. It is not a response to the film itself but a response to a real or imagined response to the film. Movies are often dumb. Usually dumb. So are people. People say things that they think sound impressive without thinking in the moment about what makes things sound impressive.

Here is what you get in a Kevin Smith movie: You get a pretty basic melodrama where most of the characters are kind of smart-aleck losers. You get some comedic theorizing and pop culture deconstruction, that works pretty well as humor. You get some crass jokes that work pretty well as crass jokes. Sometimes. There are things that I really don't like about Smith like how you can sort of see the pride he takes in being 'outrageous' and how he tries to shoehorn the particular into the universal. He is at his best when he takes himself his least seriously.
posted by I Foody at 5:15 AM on July 7, 2011


I think I know how to resolve the animosity in this thread: We all need to have sex together.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:22 AM on July 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


I didn't have much respect for Criterion after they decided Michael Mann's meteor mess was suitable to join their catalogue. If they seriously put out "Chasing Amy", I will download their (other) films out of sheer spite, and share them with friends, while simultaneously badmouthing what a farce the once-proud company has become.

I dated a bi-sexual girl (my first serious girlfriend, in fact) and this putrid piece of CRAP made me so mad when I saw it, I don't think I've quite calmed down all these years later. Everything, absolutely everything, was wrong and gross and -- GAH, I don't think I can even think about it anymore, it makes me want to gag.

Kevin Smith is THE WORST.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:22 AM on July 7, 2011


Michael Mann?
posted by shakespeherian at 5:27 AM on July 7, 2011


I have nothing to say except I would love to watch a meteor film by Michael Mann—set in LA.
posted by chunking express at 5:36 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Huh. It's kind of odd to wake up and find yourself occupying the outcast position here, but it happens occasionally. I like most of Smith's movies, and happen to like Chasing Amy more than a lot of other films, period. Then again, I'm kind of a sucker for films where you know exactly what the character is going to do, and you find yourself involved enough to hope that the won't, leaving you kind of crushed that they went ahead and did it. I found myself involved enough in Affleck's character, and the cast as a whole, that knowing he was dumb enough to think proposing a threesome would be a good idea, I still found myself holding out the hope that maybe he wasn't that dumb. Watching him manage to kill a romantic relationship and a strong friendship in the space of five minutes was pretty gut-wrenching, for me at least.

Plus, I like me some fart jokes, when done right. The comparison of injuries sustained during sex pushes several of my funny buttons.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:44 AM on July 7, 2011


We can all agree that Mallrats was terrible right?

I really like Mallrats - not as much as I like Chasing Amy, though. It isn't just a film with a positive depiction of bisexuality, but also a film about comic books. Good tracing is very important.

what's with this idea that Smith is misogynist? His films have better female characters and are more female-positive than 99% of American films.
posted by jb at 6:03 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mallrats isn't in any way a good film. It's basically Clerks with more budget and less everything else, though despite that I still find it sort of watchable. Chasing Amy's an overrated mess though. The Hooper X/black people in Star Wars scene aside, it's little more than a dragged out non-com focusing on one man's attempt to heroically overthink the fact that his girlfriend has a sexual past.
posted by permafrost at 6:38 AM on July 7, 2011


I'm now pretty sure that we're supposed to be 100% on the same page as Holden
I always thought that we weren't supposed to be on the same page as the immature self-absorbed Holden, despite him being a sentimental protagonist, and in fact I thought that this dichotomy was probably the main reason he was named Holden in the first place.
posted by roystgnr at 6:44 AM on July 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Affleck was the bomb in Mallrats. That, Boiler Room, and parts of Dogma convince me that he's wasted as the nice guy lead, he really needs to be the asshole villain.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:47 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's why Kevin Smith movies work for that narrow demographic, and it is what this review, for all it piercing insight misses. The dick-and-fart jokes are not the filler between Smith's clumsy attempts at something meaningful (more about this in a bit). The meaningful stuff is the filler.

Smith constructs his movies in such a way as to feel like you are hanging out with the characters. The characters are nerds, but not nerds like Anthony Michael Hall in Breakfast Club, who are actually really smart and who we feel are destined for greater things. Smith's nerds are more "geeks," guys who are "losers", who don't have an analogue in the cast of the Breakfast Club save for maybe Ally Sheedy (who is also the character in that film we come to know the least about.).

The basis of this approach are these isolatable vignettes like the Death Star one, which make you feel like you are sitting in on the kinds of casual, meaningless conversations that define twenty-something male friendships, which invariably revolve around music, movies, and "remember when". The goal is to make you walk out of the theater thinking that you hung out with friends, not to feel like you had a profound learning experience. If these characters aren't the kinds of people you'd be friends with, then these movies aren't for you. But there are enough people in the world who are like that that there's an audience for them.

The reviewer also fails to realize that Chasing Amy actually taps into something real that a lot of socially introverted white guys from a conservative or Catholic upbringing feel when they date a more experienced girl--inadequacy plus a visceral, almost inexplicable revulsion stemming from a long-dormant but deeply seated notion that women are beings of purity and innocence and any deviation therefrom renders them a slut. For Smith, this is a uniquely Gen-X problem. Raised to classify girls as good and bad, but also raised to be opened-minded enough to discover that that is wrong. But how do you shake off your upbringing?

When Holden and Dante react with precisely that revulsion at discovering their girlfriends sordid pasts, it was nearly exactly how a friend of mine reacted in the same situation. These guys are programmed from childhood to classify girls as good or bad based solely on the amount of sexual experience, and when they find themselves attracted to the bad girl, they know that her past doesn't matter, but they feel the opposite. And they have a psychic freak-out, like Holden and Dante. I think Smith himself is probably like this, and I don't know that he worked through it all when he wrote Chasing Amy, and that's why we don't see how Holden grows beyond his hangups--because at the time, smith hadn't either.

So I think these two things explain the root of Smith's core audience. But the reviewer is also right about everything he says. If you aren't a guy like Holden or don't know one, then you can't conceive of anyone being like that, and the characters come off as nutty and broken.

But Smith matters precisely because he has decided to make his movies for this tiny demographic sliver. These films are narrowcasting--tiny films for tiny audiences. I find myself nodding in agreement with the reviewer about the films, but also wondering who would speak for this tiny audience if Smith didn't?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:51 AM on July 7, 2011 [37 favorites]


I think I know how to resolve the animosity in this thread: We all need to have sex together.

The Vicky Cristina Barcelona thread is thataway, hombre.
posted by griphus at 6:51 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I couldn't agree more... precious and overwritten dialogue where every character sounds like the screenwriter has no artistic merit. I'm so glad this reviewer took the time to eviscerate Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Social Network.

wait, Kevin who?
posted by Riki tiki at 6:58 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember watching Susan Seidelman's 'Smithereens' right after watching 'Chasing Amy' and thinking she (Susan) got it right. Smith eliminates any small talk which makes the dialog stilted and overly important.
posted by judson at 7:00 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Vicky Cristina Barcelona thread is thataway, hombre.

Now I'm imagining Chasing Amy with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:01 AM on July 7, 2011


I actually just watched Chasing Amy again this past weekend (it was free on Netflix and I was bored and it was one of the first movies to make me think about feminism when I was in middle school). I even spent awhile after watching it looking up feminist critiques of it because it made me sortof mad. I think that this reviewer is right in a lot of ways about the movie, Holden is totally unbearable, and the plot was basically contrived around a straight guy's wet dream about lesbians (KS nods to it in the line about a "good dicking" but that doesn't really make it okay).

That said, I liked Alyssa's character and I appreciated that she existed - however trite and overblown it was. It's probably true that the film hasn't aged well, but I think her speech about her past - the part where Holden told her that she was being used and she replied that she was using them - is small but welcome point about the attitudes of many mainstream straight men about promiscuous experiences of women. And she left him in the end, and she was right. So, at least there was that. In my mind, Holden wasn't the protagonist -- Alyssa was, or should have been.
posted by lunit at 7:15 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


The trick to casting Ben Afleck is to cast him where you would have cast Michael Douglas 20 years ago.
posted by I Foody at 7:20 AM on July 7, 2011


The trick to casting Ben Affleck is to cast Casey Affleck.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:25 AM on July 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


The trick to casting Ben Afleck is to cast him where you would have cast Michael Douglas 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work in reverse:

...and starring Ben Affleck in Fatal Attraction.

...and starring Ben Affleck in Wall Street.

...and starring Ben Affleck in The War of the Roses.

...and starring Ben Affleck in Basic Instinct.

...and starring Ben Affleck in Falling Down.
posted by griphus at 7:33 AM on July 7, 2011


I've always had a soft spot for Kevin Smith films, they remind me of my (relatively) carefree teens and early 20's. Although I never particularly enjoyed Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and haven't seen any of his films since then, the rest of his movies lent enough quotable lines to keep me and my friends busy for quite a few years. In fact, we still get a chuckle if one of us sees a sailboat and says "It's a schooner!" Clerks, Chasing Amy, Mallrats and Dogma are all films that I don't seem to ever get sick of, but maybe it's because of the fond memories they bring back more than the movies themselves. Also, I just find them fun to watch.

Oh wait - I stand corrected. I actually saw/enjoyed Zack and Miri Make a Porno too.
posted by antifuse at 7:40 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kevin Smith has essentially retired as a director, so hopefully this guy will be able to get some sleep at night.

Is this since Red State? Because I don't think that movie's even been released yet.

Not sure how I feel about Chasing Amy. I haven't seen it in years. The first Evening with Kevin Smith is always good for a few laughs though, even now. The anecdote about Superman is pretty damn funny.
posted by dave78981 at 7:53 AM on July 7, 2011


Since none of you asked, here is what I think.

1. Kevin Smith films please some people.

2. I am generally not one of them; however, I can't in fairness say that the pain his movies have caused me eclipses the pleasure they have given others, so I am at peace with the fact that they were made.

3. The fact that some people not only attend his movies, but celebrate them, does not make me rethink tenet #2.

4. When people bash his movies, largely because others celebrate them, I tend to agree with their criticisms while questioning their motives. I also think they have to be careful not to be worse at movie criticism than Kevin Smith is at making movies, and particularly careful not to replicate his failings, like prolixity and a peculiarly juvenile pomposity.

5. This dude violated tenet #4. I toot at him and point at my genitals.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everything that you all are saying about Smith's films could very easily be applied to your own posts: wordy, preachy and self-important.

Awwwwww.
posted by Gator at 7:56 AM on July 7, 2011


I actually just watched Chasing Amy again this past weekend (it was free on Netflix and I was bored and it was one of the first movies to make me think about feminism when I was in middle school).

It's been said that the golden age of science fiction is 14. Similarly, I think what you describe there is the sweet spot for finding Kevin Smith insightful and relevant to your life.

Consider Dogma, which is the movie every single smart, alienated teenager in the western world would make if they managed to get a major movie deal just as they're realizing the adult world is in fact full of hypocrisy, venality, and unfairness and are overflowing with indignation and disgust because they they are still uncorrupted, and therefore think they are uncorruptible and better than their stupid parents with their lame authority figures. Watching the film as an adult was painful.

I think that's more or less what the linked article is saying about Smith - that he's some kind of arrested juvenile who can't process real complexity, assigns his simple and unworkable values to the world and smugly assumes the world is stupid when it doesn't match up to them. (I might suggest this makes him kind of the poster boy for that oft-posted-to-MeFi generation of males who grow older without ever really growing up.)
posted by Naberius at 7:59 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


How was Red State?
posted by Eideteker at 8:00 AM on July 7, 2011


I actually saw/enjoyed Zack and Miri Make a Porno too.

It's easy to forget that he was involved, because that movie was marketed entirely without reference to Kevin Smith (as was Cop Out). At the time it seemed pretty weird to me considering that his previous work relies pretty heavily on the Kevin Smith Brand, but I think that shows that the reviewer here should be relieved, because Kevin Smith has lost. He made some movies and built up a following, but now a lot of people are sick of his schtick and he basically can't get a Kevin Smith movie made at this point (which I imagine what his retirement is really all about). I imagine he'll keep doing stuff his fans will enjoy in some venue or other, but his time as a semi-popular movie director and geek figurehead is over.
posted by Copronymus at 8:12 AM on July 7, 2011


When I saw Clerks at 15, it was a revelation. It was like my own mind was on that VHS tape.

Then I saw Mallrats, and it wasn't terrible, but there was something really off about it. It was like Beverly Hills: 90210 with dick jokes. Like some 35-year-old's conception of teenagers, played by 35-year-old actors. And, also, Shannen Doherty was there.

And then, a few years later, I saw Jersey Girl on a plane, and spent the entire time desperately willing myself against opening the emergency exit.




The only reason I have not seen Chasing Amy is Ben Affleck's goatee.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:17 AM on July 7, 2011


It's easy to forget that he was involved, because that movie was marketed entirely without reference to Kevin Smith (as was Cop Out). ... Kevin Smith has lost. He made some movies and built up a following, but now a lot of people are sick of his schtick and he basically can't get a Kevin Smith movie made at this point

I dunno - Zack and Miri was very much a "Kevin Smith movie" in that it was a movie that he wanted to make. He wrote it, directed it, hand picked the cast. He talked about it quite a bit on his blog, how much he loved that project. Cop Out, on the other hand, definitely a diversion from "Kevin Smith, film maker" to "Kevin Smith, director". But again, he wrote and directed Red State, and the upcoming "Hit Somebody", so I'm not so sure he's exactly retired yet, has he?
posted by antifuse at 8:25 AM on July 7, 2011



It's funny - I just came to this thread from the one about Spielberg, and it occurs to me that Metafilter hates everything.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:32 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the Askiewniverse, women are welcome to be whores in bed and in their lovers' imaginations, just as long as it's reasonably possible to believe they have never been so with men preceding the protagonists.

Isn't this something that most people do, to some extent or another? We all know that, with rare exception, our lovers have been with other people before they were with us, but we sort of pretend like they weren't because it allows us to feel "special" and not let stupid, irrational things like jealousy over the past get in the way of the present relationship.

While I find myself agreeing with much of the article, I fail to see how writing characters as described above makes Smith a raging misogynist.
posted by asnider at 8:56 AM on July 7, 2011


It's funny - I just came to this thread from the one about Spielberg, and it occurs to me that Metafilter hates everything.

Perhaps the part of MetaFilter that is interested in such things simply shares the same dislike for the work of both men with the Film Criticism/Theory/Studies community at large. The opinions that Kevin Smith is a lousy filmmaker and Steven Spielberg is a paint-by-numbers hack are not the least bit controversial, and certainly not unique to MetaFilter.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's funny - I just came to this thread from the one about Spielberg, and it occurs to me that Metafilter hates everything.

No, no. Metafilter loves Lady Gaga.
posted by Naberius at 9:15 AM on July 7, 2011


There's something about Kevin Smith that brings out a bizarre kind of vitriol. effugas hit the nail on the head; these are artistic choices. You can argue about whether they're effective choices, but people always turn them into failings of Kevin Smith's character or something.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:15 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


We all know that, with rare exception, our lovers have been with other people before they were with us, but we sort of pretend like they weren't because it allows us to feel "special" and not let stupid, irrational things like jealousy over the past get in the way of the present relationship.

Not everyone does this. FWIW, I've only dated one person who did, and it was a big problem in the relationship.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:19 AM on July 7, 2011


Not everyone does this. FWIW, I've only dated one person who did, and it was a big problem in the relationship.

I don't mean that we're literally in denial about it. People -- or maybe just me -- just kind of ignore their partner's sexual past. Has my girlfriend slept with other guys in the past? Sure. Does this bother me? Well, no, not really.

But if I start actively thinking about it then, yes, I feel a bit jealous and uncomfortable. I recognize that this is completely irrational and so I don't go out of my way to focus on the things that make me feel this way. Of course, I also recognize that these are irrational feelings and so I don't let them affect the relationship on the rare occasion that they come up.

Maybe my experience isn't as universal as I assume it is, or maybe I'm just not explaining myself clearly, but what I'm talking about shouldn't cause problems in the relationship, so I'm assuming that you and I aren't quite talking about the same thing.
posted by asnider at 9:29 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno - Zack and Miri was very much a "Kevin Smith movie" in that it was a movie that he wanted to make. He wrote it, directed it, hand picked the cast. He talked about it quite a bit on his blog, how much he loved that project. Cop Out, on the other hand, definitely a diversion from "Kevin Smith, film maker" to "Kevin Smith, director". But again, he wrote and directed Red State, and the upcoming "Hit Somebody", so I'm not so sure he's exactly retired yet, has he?

If you already following what Kevin Smith does, yeah, it was pretty obvious, and I'm sure it was his movie from an artistic perspective. What I'm talking about is how the movie was marketed. Most of his previous movies had his name all over them. They were Kevin Smith Movies first, and Ben Affleck or whoever movies second. Even Jersey Girl was largely marketed as a Kevin Smith Movie. I saw a whole bunch of ads for Zack and Miri, and I can't remember a single one that even mentioned his name at all, not even in a "From the Director who brought you Clerks" way. It was presented entirely as a Seth Rogen comedy, which never happened 10 years earlier, even when he was working with people approximately as popular as Seth Rogen. It wasn't exactly a secret that Smith was involved, but it sure seemed to me like the studio didn't think they'd get much mileage from associating it with Smith's brand, so they didn't push it.

As for the retirement, he's claimed that Hit Somebody will be his last movie, or at least that's what Wikipedia says he's claimed. I'm guessing it will last about as long as Jay-Z's retirement, but that's perhaps unfair speculation.
posted by Copronymus at 9:32 AM on July 7, 2011


The opinions that Kevin Smith is a lousy filmmaker and Steven Spielberg is a paint-by-numbers hack are not the least bit controversial, and certainly not unique to MetaFilter.

Maybe. I think it's more that Metafilter is full of a certain superciliousness and an eagerness to prove how deeply held the hate is.

In Spielberg's case I think it's unwarranted - Quinn's soliloquy on the Indianapolis alone is a masterfeat of filmmaking. You're favorite frenchword director will live 10 lifetimes before he ever shoots a scene that powerful.

In Kevin Smith's case, he brought filmmaking back down to the little people. So often in movies a lack of wealth is demonstrated by having to choose a lower end Mercedes. Clerks was downright creepy in that he could have been filming me and my friends and our torrid lower-middle class existence. It felt gritty and real and it connected with us.

But I've got an engineering degree - what do I know about art ?

So yeah, I get your point. Neither director has spent enough time ass-kissing supercool auteur tastemakers. Art is less about making visceral connections with the audience, however thats defined and more about giving art school art major art fucks something arty to talk about - and both directors have failed at that task.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:38 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's been said that the golden age of science fiction is 14. Similarly, I think what you describe there is the sweet spot for finding Kevin Smith insightful and relevant to your life.

I never saw a Kevin Smith film until I was in my 20s, and then I saw all of them within a few years. I really liked Chasing Amy because it was thoughtful and intelligent and about people I could relate to having relationship problems. I liked Dogma because it was the best religious film since Life of Brian, I liked Mallrats because it wasn't 90210 and I want to be Jason Lee when I grow up, and I liked Jay and Silent Bob strike back because it was silly and funny and still smarter than it needed to be.

Funny enough, I didn't really like Clerks because I couldn't relate to it. I spent my 20s in university and graduate school. But I only recently saw Clerks 2, and it hit me so hard - there was my life, on screen. That's just what it feels like to be 33 and have your life be going nowhere. It's now my absolute favorite - and no fourteen-year-old is really going to get it.
posted by jb at 9:44 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and Jersey Girl is sweet and funny and just fine. I also saw it on a plane, and was pleasantly surprised. It pretends to be a bit of romance comedy, but really it's about the love between parents and children.
posted by jb at 9:45 AM on July 7, 2011


But I've got an engineering degree - what do I know about art ?

So yeah, I get your point. Neither director has spent enough time ass-kissing supercool auteur tastemakers. Art is less about making visceral connections with the audience, however thats defined and more about giving art school art major art fucks something arty to talk about - and both directors have failed at that task.


Guess where you should've stopped.

I suppose I could respond in kind by explaining, in reductive and insulting terms, why physics is for saps. But I won't.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:10 AM on July 7, 2011


Everything that you all are saying about Smith's films could very easily be applied to your own posts: wordy, preachy and self-important.

Oh, come on. Does this apply to anything negative said about movies in general, or just Kevin Smith's?

I never watched Chasing Amy but I've seen a lot of his other movies. I find a lot of his dialog to be contrived to the point of being off-putting. The on-screen conversations often have that Dawson's Creek quality where the characters seem a bit smug and too clever. The end product comes off as actors reciting lines rather than 2 people joking and talking to each other.

I've listened to his SMODcast a few times, and it was interesting to compare his conversations with his friends to the conversations between his characters. In the podcast they're making stupid dirty jokes and laughing, and initially it's pretty funny and sounds like something you and your old friends might have said when you were 18 and living in the suburbs. But then Smith and whats-his-name re-tell the same joke again and again until it no longer has that natural quality that made me laugh in the first place--you can almost hear them trying to figure out how that gag might work in a script. In Smith's movies, the conversations would be funnier and more natural if he went with the stupider, simpler jokes that they made the first time. But instead you get these jarring overwrought setups leading to dirty jokes that in reality would never have come out that way in real conversation and are less funny as a result.

I grew up in the suburbs and was bored and lacking direction as a young adult not unlike Smith's characters in Clerks and Mallrats and Jay & Silent Bob etc. Smith definitely knows something about it and gets close to pulling it off sometimes, but his execution isn't great. The movies are still sometimes entertaining and good for a few laughs, but I certainly wouldn't credit them with much more than that.
posted by Hoopo at 10:26 AM on July 7, 2011


I am not a Kevin Smith fan, but this article has backlash written all over it. It is not a response to the film itself but a response to a real or imagined response to the film.

I loved the article, and I agree with this sentiment. As a movie snob who's spent years and years on forums, I'm pretty much exhausted even trying to argue against the alleged merits of Smith's films. A lot of film forums are pseudo-oppressive echo chambers. I've been fascinated over the years finding out what the unwritten rules are in different places. Sometimes you get shouted down anytime you criticize a film that hasn't been released yet. Sometimes you can't disagree with the writers on the main site. Most universally, you get shouted down when you criticize a new film that caters to teenage boys. If you say such a film is sexist, you'll be surrounded by torches in no time. Smith's films had the benefit of those defenses for a long time. That article said a lot of things that I wish I had said.
posted by heatvision at 10:36 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


jb: "But I only recently saw Clerks 2, and it hit me so hard - there was my life, on screen. That's just what it feels like to be 33 and have your life be going nowhere. It's now my absolute favorite - and no fourteen-year-old is really going to get it."

Yeah. All of the stuff with the donkey, etc., is a misdirection. That's a movie about realizing the adulthood you've kept imagining happening to you in the future isn't happening. I get choked up just thinking about the climactic scene.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:30 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have this immense love for reviews where the reviewer hates the film they have to watch with the fiery passion of a thousand suns and is so enraged they don't bother to hide it. So I found this quite fun to read. Chasing Amy, on the other hand, was for me a chore to watch.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: Quinn's soliloquy on the Indianapolis alone is a masterfeat of filmmaking. You're favorite frenchword director will live 10 lifetimes before he ever shoots a scene that powerful.

I liked Jaws too, but I can't help wondering how many frenchword director's films you've actually seen.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:42 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The male leads are meant to be "sympathetic" in that the audience is expected to relate to them, but yeah, the movies preach to those dudes to not be so freakin' clueless and self-absorbed. Yes, it is an elder statesman of this tribe preaching to his brethren. That's okay.

So, I was in my early 20s, two years out of college, when Chasing Amy came out, and good grief, was it wonderful to see someone else play out some of these familiar arguments for a change. Sure, I had bisexual role models outside of mainstream films, but even in queer cinema, pickings are slim for bisexual women, and the travails of dating sheltered straight guys isn't exactly a hot topic.

Smith's films don't necessarily hold up that well, I suppose, but I have a big Gen-X soft spot for his 90s work.
posted by desuetude at 1:10 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have this immense love for reviews where the reviewer hates the film they have to watch with the fiery passion of a thousand suns and is so enraged they don't bother to hide it.

I also love this type of review. Weirdly, though, I always really want to watch the film after reading such overtly negative reviews (unless I've already seen it). It's like I need to see with my own eyes just how truly awful it is.
posted by asnider at 2:57 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Chasing Amy the first time I saw it, and I enjoyed this blog the first time I posted it. Every time I rewatch Chasing Amy I like it less.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:10 PM on July 7, 2011


TL;DR: Literary wonk wanabe deconstructs a light comedy to impress his friends and practice some big words.
posted by sammyo at 6:53 PM on July 7, 2011


The rest of the blog is genius.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:59 PM on July 7, 2011


It's funny - I just came to this thread from the one about Spielberg, and it occurs to me that Metafilter hates everything.

You just figured this out? MeFi loves feeling superior to everyone and everything.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:08 PM on July 7, 2011


I'm not going to defend Kevin Smith, in general, or Chasing Amy in particular (which I feel is his weakest work, at least in the period when he had any relevance.) But the writer is wrong about the blowjob-happy girlfriend being a "villain" in any way. Caitlyn Brie is a villain, sure, and problematically handled, but the Dante's arc is one of realizing that he loves his girlfriend and is being stupidly jealous about her history.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:27 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter is full of people who are too cool for school. MetaFilter hated Arcade Fire before they even formed a band.
posted by chunking express at 8:39 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Huh. It's kind of odd to wake up and find yourself occupying the outcast position here, but it happens occasionally

The outcast position of defending a filmmaker that literally 90% of the posters in this thread are falling all over themselves to defend?

This reads like The Simpson's Comic Book Guy and I don't see how my life would be improved or enlightened by reading more of this review.

Just noting that this very sentence (admittedly, most) is vastly improved when read in The Simpson's Comic Book Guy voice. Seriously, try it.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:44 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Consider me part of the crowd who thinks Kevin Smith's movies can resonate quite strongly depending on your life circumstances.

I first saw Chasing Amy when I came out as bisexual at 16 and was dealing with jackasses exactly like Holden - privileged fuckwads who gave entirely too much of a damn about my past sexual history and tried to paint me as either a victim or a slut because of it - and Alyssa's friends. I identified a hell of a lot with Alyssa and, to me, she was the primary character of that movie. I felt a bit sad when Holden's life fell apart but I felt so vindicated when she refused to take him back. As another commenter pointed out, movies about gays and lesbians are few and far between... and terrible. Let alone movies about bisexual people! Say what you will about it being a terrible movie, it's better than others in its category.

In contrast, Clerks and Dogma are entirely meaningless to me. I find them really boring. Same with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Clerks II is better because I can relate (a little) to the feeling of turning around and seeing you have accomplished nothing you expected to have accomplished.
posted by buteo at 9:53 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter is full of people who are too cool for school. MetaFilter hated Arcade Fire before they even formed a band.

My mom's neighbour is the drummer from Arcade Fire's mother. Guy gets no love. Seriously, do you even know his name? Give the drummer some, people!
posted by Hoopo at 12:37 AM on July 8, 2011


I liked "Chasing Amy".

While he's right to say he didn't like it if he didn't like it, I'm right, too.

He, like every other self-important film reviewer, is wrong when he lays out a review that reads like "this is the way it is for everyone". No one sees art in a vacuum. As was said many times upthread, we view these films through the prism of our own experiences, just as Smith made them using his own experiences.
posted by inturnaround at 5:40 AM on July 8, 2011


I also love this type of review. Weirdly, though, I always really want to watch the film after reading such overtly negative reviews (unless I've already seen it). It's like I need to see with my own eyes just how truly awful it is.

As I love really bad movies I think of these reviews as goldmines. I am always disappointed when it doesn't seem nearly so bad as the reviewer painted it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2011


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