There are bad directors in this world. And then there is Kevin Smith, who, despite having, in some sense of the word, directed numerous movies, I have always hesitated to call a “director.” Why? Because his movies are not cinematic. At all. Beyond the physical reality of pointing a camera at people talking, “editing” those scenes together, and projecting them for an audience, there is nothing about his movies that resemble movies, or suggest in any way that Smith cares about, thinks about, or even likes movies.
People call Ed Wood Jr. the “worst director ever,” despite the fact that they’re still watching his indie, low-budget train-wrecks sixty years later, but no matter how bad his movies are—and they are bad—uniquely, wonderfully, watchably bad—they are made by a man who is deeply in love with movies, a man who wanted nothing more in life than to direct his own masterpieces.
The same could be said, to one degree or another, of every director who’s ever made more than one movie. They love movies. They might be terrible at directing them, but there’s nothing they’d rather do.
Kevin Smith would rather be doing anything other than directing movies. He’d rather write comic books. Or produce podcasts. He’d rather do whatever gives him an audience, which audience allows him to keep doing whatever he wants to do. So long as he never has to go anywhere or do anything wearing anything other than a hockey jersey, the man is happy. As he puts it himself, asked if podcasting is his strong suit: “That and social media—Twitter, especially—allows me to shine my best…If podcasts were movies, I’d be up there with Spielberg, dude.”
Yes. And if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump it’s ass a-hoppin’.
There are no good shots in Kevin Smith movies. There is no sense to where the camera goes, ever. His movies are edited with, I am certain, a loosely wielded meat cleaver. In terms of storytelling, there isn’t any, outside of people talking. He does not tell his stories with images. There is no visual information in his movies. Nothing that anyone likes in any Kevin Smith movie wouldn’t be exactly as effective heard on the radio.
One of Smith’s favorite topics is his hatred of movie criticism. He hates movie critics because they tend to point out how terrible his movies are. It wasn’t always so. The only reason anyone knew Clerks existed is because of a number of well known critics championing it. Smith didn’t mind critics when they handed him a career he didn’t care about. But that was then. Now we get Cop Out and Tusk, and for some reason the people who love movies aren’t amused.
On the one hand, Smith will often point out that he’s not a filmmaker, never was, never knew how to tell a story visually, never cared, and wishes he could make the same money podcasting as he does making movies. On the other, he keeps making movies and acting affronted when people critique them as movies. He says he made Zack And Miri Make A Porno because:
Judd Apatow had started making movies like my movies, but his movies were very successful, so he proved this genre could do more than $30 million in box office, and here I was, the guy who quasi-created that genre, with this guy Seth Rogen, and I had an instant recipe for success. It winds up doing the exact same business all my movies do.
A genre he “quasi-created”? What genre is that, exactly? R-rated comedies? I’m pretty sure we had those before Kevin Smith came along. Apatow might not be a genius movie-maker, but unlike Smith—he’s a movie-maker. Who’s funny. So Smith tried to ape an Apatow movie, and failed.
Smith sounds happy about his newest movie, Tusk, comparing it to An American Werewolf In London (oh boy), and saying it features “Kubrickian symmetry” in its shooting style. Well. I’d comment, but I haven’t seen it. Word is there’s a fine performance from Michael Parks and a battle for worst performance ever between Johnny Depp and Justin Long. I’m mildly intrigued, but then I remember all of the other Kevin Smith movies I’ve made the mistake of seeing, and think, why bother? What would I get out of it?
What does Kevin Smith have to say? What do his movies have to offer? Some light social commentary, I guess? Some jokes? He says he makes his movies with heart. So he must love something. I just don’t think it’s movies.