Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Kevin Smith is retiring from filmmaking
Kevin Smith's new book Tough Sh*t explains why he's retiring from filmmaking. He also talks about it in this npr interview. Turns out, he just really enjoys bullshitting on his podcast and doing Q&A's instead of making films. It makes sense. His podcasts are highly successful and judging by his twitter, he loves to talk. He loves to hear himself talk. After all, the strength of his movies come from the dialogue, now he's just speaking the dialogue himself.
He was never the flashiest director and his ambitions were never really high, but Smith was onto something in the '90s. Mallrats was a failure at the time, but watching it now, there's a lot to like about it. Clerks is an indie classic and Chasing Amy is often brilliant (and in the upper half of my top 100 films of the '90s). I always look at Chasing Amy as the film that best shows how good Kevin Smith could be. After that, he made Dogma which is often funny and has a lot of good moments, but after that he was never quite the same.
I think part of the reason for his retiring is from the failures he's had when he has tried to branch out. Quite frankly, when he's made films outside of the Askewniverse, they've either flopped critically, financially, or both. He was never one who wanted to branch out anyway and you can see that with his decision to retire. He has nowhere else to go. He's tried making more mature films (Jersey Girl) and they didn't work out. He's tried to make comedies without using familiar characters (Zack and Miri) and it didn't quite work out, despite using Seth Rogen who was at the height of his box office draw. Then he made a film he didn't write himself (Cop Out) and it was critically derided. I think he really took offense to the criticisms he got. First, he felt entitled about it, saying he would shut the critics out and just make films for his fans. But the whole strategy to Red State, when it came out, just seemed odd, as if Kevin Smith was starting to lose it, mentally. It apparently made money back for him, but would it have made more money if he just released it through a regular distributor? Maybe. Does he care? Probably not.
It's sad though. It's sad to think that these mishaps may have caused Kevin Smith to bow out at the age of 41. Obviously, he'll be around still with his podcast and tv show on AMC, but it's a shame we won't see filmmaker Kevin Smith as he gets older and wiser with age. I think another thing is that he was so close to his fanbase that I think there was a part of him that didn't want to let them down. When you compare him to someone like Tarantino or any other filmmaker, they don't give a shit about their fanbase. They just want to make an awesome film that they like and generally the fans will follow. I think Smith stuck too closely to what his fans wanted and when he saw that critics weren't giving him the same love, he felt betrayed. So he probably figured, well, if they really love me, they'll just listen to my podcasts. Which they will.
You have to wonder though, if things would be different if Jersey Girl was critically raved. If Cop Out was a box office smash and critics were at least lukewarm about it. If Zack and Miri was as big of a hit as Knocked Up, or at least, Pineapple Express. Would Kevin Smith still feel like retiring? I don't think so. That's what is sad about it. This is a case of someone trying things out in his professional career and it not panning out so he's going to do what he's most comfortable doing: talking, shooting the shit... in front of an audience.
I wish I could say I'm gonna miss the filmmaker Kevin Smith, but honestly, I've gained nothing out of the films he's made over the last ten years. Some laughs here and there, but not much else. I love hearing him talk but not too much to subscribe to his podcast. Personally I think he has enough of an audience to continue making independent films and he has the resources to get his films shown at places like Sundance, and... and... ah forget it. We can speculate all we want, but what's done is done. And who knows, maybe he'll feel differently about retiring in a few years. Will anyone else care though? That I don't know.
How will Kevin Smith go down in film history? I sometimes wonder if Chasing Amy was the best he could ever do or if he had something better in him. After 15 years, it's hard not to think that it's probably the former. As he enters what is more-or-less the second half of his life, I wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do.