I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Red State

tn_redstateRED STATE is ex-movie director Kevin Smith’s long-threatened version of a horror movie, supposedly his last movie except for an epic 2-part Seann William Scott hockey comedy based on a Warren Zevon song (!?). Promises promises.

I gotta tell you though, I kind of liked this movie. Never would’ve predicted that, but it’s true. It’s his best camerawork and direction and his least self-indulgent dialogue. It’s not just “good for Kevin Smith,” which in my opinion would also describe COP OUT and ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. If I saw it and didn’t know who made it I still would’ve thought it was pretty good (and never would’ve guessed it was Smith).

It starts out like a HOSTEL type movie. Three dumbass high school buddies hatch a plan to get laid. The plan involves going to a trailer to meet an old woman they found on the internet who wants to fuck all three of them at the same time. Of course it turns out to be a trap, they get drugged and imprisoned by loonies that are gonna torment them and kill them. (Has anybody ever benefited from thinking with their dick in a horror movie?)

But one odd way it differs from HOSTEL or FRONTIER(S) or other movies is that the succubus that lures them in is not porno material at all, she’s Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, made up as one of the aged working class mom types she plays now. I didn’t really buy that these kids would be so into that, and wondered if this was Smith getting goofy ideas about how things go down in “red states,” but I appreciate it anyway ’cause it breaks the mold of these type of movies.

mp_redstateThe bad guys, you’ve probly heard, are members of a fiery anti-gay church like Fred Phelps, the notorious homophobe supervillain from Topeka, Kansas. Rule of thumb: If you are the reason a law was created banning protests within 300 feet of a national cemetery within an hour before or after a funeral then you might be an asshole. Also if you picketed Mr. Rogers’ funeral because you thought he seemed fruity, that could also be an indicator.

You know what, I’m gonna have to say that in any situation really, if you picketed at a funeral, I believe that would have to make you an asshole, pretty much.

Anyway RED STATE’s preacher is worse than Phelps because he also kidnaps and murders people and has a bunch of guns and a compound like David Koresh. The pastor is played by Michael Parks, a great character actor who has been successfully revived in Tarantino-related movies as Earl McGraw and as Esteban in KILL BILL VOLUME 2. I also dug him in DEATH WISH 5. As much as I like Parks I was still surprised by the subtlety of his performance. He doesn’t play him like a maniac, he plays him like a pastor. He doesn’t even look wild-eyed or out-of-date. Look at that picture, he kind of looks like a thoughtful Howard Hesseman type. In fact, the church and the congregation too – they just look like normal people going to church. None of the usual redneck stereotypes or scary-religious-person-in-a-horror-movie cliches. They’re just a small family church with a despicable view of gays and, in fact, an abducted gay man kept casually under a sheet as the pastor delivers a long-ass sermon. You notice the sheet but keep forgetting it’s there, because they’re so casual about it.

Also the three kids are there, I guess because the whole foursome idea seemed kinda gay. But “I ain’t even gay!” one of the kids keeps screaming, in his defense. I guess you can forgive him, he’s in a life and death situation, he’s not necessarily gonna stand up for equality right then.

A series of mistakes and coincidences leads an ATF agent (John Goodman) to plant a SWAT team outside the compound as the kids are trying to escape. Goodman is really likable in the role, and the movie shifts around him so that he becomes the center. What started as a 2000s style “extreme horror” movie becomes more like a police procedural, with a good-hearted but seen-it-all agent staring at atrocity without flinching and then musing on the random series of circumstances that brought it all about. I think there is some Tarantino influence in the way that it leaps from this intense situation inside the compound to introducing this new character and a long scene of him at his home explaining everything he knows about the cult to some unseen person on the other side of the phone.

The title, especially considering that Smith was trying to make this movie several years ago, seems to imply some kind of political message about “this is what goes on in the conservative leaning states” or something like that. But I don’t think it really has a political message other than the basic one that only a fuckin nutbag hates gays. I’m not sure what “red state” this is supposed to take place in, but it’s worth noting that the teacher in the Awkward Exposition In a Classroom Discussion opening shows open disgust for the homophobes and the class seems to be down with her. So it doesn’t seem like Smith is trying to make any kind of generalizations about the people of this region, even though he easily could’ve made the kids call each other ‘fag’ to show the irony of them later being lumped in as gays because of their plan for group sex.

If you wanted to you could read a sort of anti-government paranoia into it, the way the movie plays off what happened at Waco and then portrays the feds as intentional cold-blooded murderers with convenient cover stories. But I never felt like Smith really believed that shit. In fact he sort of does a disservice to those type of sentiments by painting such a far-fetched portrait of this type of agency. I’ve seen WACO: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, I know there are legitimate questions there, but the way these guys openly talk about it and are used to it as an unfortunate evil side of their job is not so believable.

I mean, I don’t know jack shit about real feds and cops, what they would say to each other and how an operation like this would go down. I’m sure there are plenty of cop movies that are just asinine to a real cop but seem fine to me. But a good writer of this kind of stuff makes the audience believe the characters and filmatists know what they’re talking about. This one skirts that line some of the time, but Goodman sells it pretty good.

Smith tries to go Aaron Sorkin at the end, with flowery conversations including one of those deals where somebody is asked a question and instead of answering it they tell some story from their life that’s supposed to cleverly answer the question through parable. But to be honest I didn’t understand what the story was supposed to mean. Could you rephrase that, John Goodman?

I feel like alot of this movie only almost works, but I guess I give it credit for trying. It’s kind of an odd hybrid of movie types, and it ends up feeling more like a weird “can you believe this happened?” type of anecdote more than a formula horror movie. And I like (SPOILER) that in the end nobody seems to give a shit what happened to the original protagonists, or even know they exist. And it happens so off-handedly that you almost don’t notice. It doesn’t run up and punch you in the shoulder and tell you proudly how fuuuuuuucked up it all is.

So it’s not bad, really. I’m impressed.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 1:23 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “Red State”

  1. What really bothered me, was the controversy about the film. Not from the Woodborough church or other religious nutcases, but from the film CRITICS, who suddenly declared Smith the most horrible monster on earth, because he decided to release the movie via road show.
    I got no idea what was up with that. Okay, it probably had also something to to with his idea to not officially screen the movie for critics (they had to buy a ticket for the premiere like everybody else) and his week long rant about critics are unnecessary, but why the hell was his pretty humble move, to pay with his own money for the release and probably making a huge financial loss with it, the breaking point for them?

    Also originally wanted Smith to have George Carlin in Michael Parks’ role. apparently the Woodborough church was so offended by that thought, that they printed T-Shirts, that said “George Carlin is burning in hell”. Of course Smith and Carlin’s daughter loved them and agreed that George would love them too.

  2. Have this on the Queue and can’t wait to check it out.

  3. Good morning, Vern.

    “Has anybody ever benefited from thinking with their dick in a horror movie?”

    Well, there was this movie from years ago called “Cast a Deadly Spell”, where a virgin sacrifice was needed to bring about the end of the world…which didn’t happen because the virgin had sex off-screen shortly before she was kidnapped for the ritual sacrifice.

    Best I got.

  4. I thought this was almost great. So close that it just ended up frustrating the fuck out of me. The tragedy of Kevin Smith to me is that he’s shown he could do it – there’s many examples of individual scenes and characters and little touches here and there that PROVE he’s got a great fucking movie in him, but he always pulls his punches. It pisses me off.

  5. By the way, Seann William Scott isn’t in HIT SOMEBODY, he left to go and do someone else’s hockey movie that sounds almost identical.

  6. I was pre-disposed to hate Red State, but was pleasantly surprised. I thought this was sort of Kevin Smith’s version of a Sam Fuller film – borderline irrational, over-the-top but weirdly effective. The only thing that bothers me about it is that the John Goodman character is presented as likable (it’s hard to not like John Goodman) but he is in fact actually pretty reprehensible. Even if he feels guilty about his actions and later on somewhat comes to his senses, I don’t think it excuses what he does in this movie.

  7. I got a story about Mr. Rogers that I heard secondhand but I really hope is true. He lived on Nantucket, where I have a few friends. Seems that there was once this young guy who got himself into trouble with the law over drugs, etc. The problem with being a fugitive on an island is you don’t have too many escape options. There’s one boat that leaves every day, and if the cops got your picture you don’t have much chance of getting on it. So he’s just sticking to the back roads, hiding out, laying low, basically just biding time until he gets picked up and sent to jail. He’s walking on the side of the road when guess who rolls up? Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers can see that the kid is all messed up on something. Mr. Rogers had a coke problem himself at one point so he’s not judging. He offers the kid a lift. The kid tells him his story. Mr. Rogers lets the kid hide out at his house until the heat dies down and he can catch the ferry to the mainland without getting busted. Mr. Rogers saves the day.

    I have no way of knowing if this story is true. But like TEAM AMERICA taught me, if you feel it, it’s real. And I’m feeling this.

  8. I didn’t know the Westboros picketed Mr. Rogers’ funeral. Yikes.
    I am glad that Smith chose to have religious crazies as characters in his movie. I think there should be more of that. It’s interesting to me to think about how and why religion makes that shift from being judgmental to being violent every so often.

  9. I know that Seann William Scott did the Canadian hooky film Goon with Liev Schreiber, but wasn’t that filmed like last year, or this winter.

  10. I’m really glad that Kevin Smith has decided to move on from being Kevin “I’m from Jersey” Smith and finally explore other avenues. I can’t help thinking, though, that in doing so he is now in danger of becoming one of those filmmakers who so obviously tries to be like other filmmakers that he ends up looking like a wannabe (kinda like Troy Duffy).

    I haven’t seen Red State yet, but just reading some of the reviews I kinda see not only the Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin influence, but also a No Country For Old Men effort when looking at the Goodman character. The fact that he’s cast Michael Parks (a Tarantino regular) and John Goodman (a Coen regular) makes it even more blatant. He did the same thing with Zack and Miri when he cast a whole bunch of Apatow regulars.

    I know, all artists steal. Some of the best filmmakers in the world blatantly take from other filmmakers, but the really good ones (I’m thinking of directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Danny Boyle) know that you can’t just take. You also have to bring something to the table. You have to contribute. You have to make it your own.

    I doubt that Smith will ever reach those heights, but it’s damn nice to know that he’s trying.

  11. CJ – If there is a specific reason that many critics turned on Smith around that time I’d guess it’s because many of them gave him a free ride since the ’90s for seeming like a cool guy, then when they had to admit they didn’t like Cop Out he used all his interviews to talk about how useless they were and how he didn’t even want to allow them to see his shitty movies and how it wasn’t his fault because it wasn’t really supposed to be that good so what did you expect. Also it didn’t help that he did the whole dog and pony show pretending he was planning to sell it to a distributor to get attention for him making a big speech about how he was gonna distribute it. Also probly doesn’t help that most critics hate the “torture porn” subgenre that this is related to.

    There are plenty of reasons to hate him. It would be easier to like this movie if you didn’t know who made it. But I thought it was pretty good.

  12. “The bad guys, you’ve probly heard, are members of a fiery anti-gay church”
    Which begs the question why didn’t Smith make the protagonists who get kidnapped GAY men, instead of unlikeable fratboy types? It would have been original, more relevant to the message and not really something I’d see him having a problem doing, given his history.

  13. Knox, I don’t really see what’s so bad about casting other people. If Zack & Miri would have been played by Jason Lee and Joey Lauren Adams, people would have complained about him, still casting the same people. For RED STATE he even got some seriously great actors, maybe the best since he managed to get Alan Rickman for DOGMA and now it’s a bad thing, because they are regulars of other directors? That’s like critizising Christopher Nolan for casting Leo DiCaprio in INCEPTION, because he’s now in every Scorcese movie and Nolan has his own share of regulars anyway.

    Vern: This is exactly what confuses me. I don’t have a problem with critics being insulted after he spent too much time with telling them that they suck and should get a real job, but it was the reveal of his self-distribution plan, that caused them to snap. Why? They wouldn’t have the money to buy the rights anyway, but if I remember right, even Drew McWeeny, who is one of the more balanced web critics out there, spent more time on telling the world how much he hated that simple, inoffensive publicity stunt and what an awful person Smith is, than explaining why he didn’t like the movie. (And “didn’t like” is very nice.) The critics could have just said something like “Smith now made the worst movie of his career” (which some critics did say in all fairness [even though they are saying this about all his movies since STRIKE BACK]), but no, they were after him personally, pissed off for trying something new, that would only hurt his own purse if it would fail. It was like all critics got together in a room before the premiere and agreed “Doesn’t matter what he says afterwards, we grill him for that.”

  14. CJ, it was meant more as an observation than a criticism. I was actually referring more to Smith’s attempts at filmmaking, and stating that his casting choices seem to support my theory on it.

    But yeah, all I was really trying to say was that his influences seem pretty clear to me (although, like I said, I haven’t even seen Red State yet).

  15. I don’t really like Red State, but I’m glad it exists. I like the idea behind it and I think there’s a really good film in there somewhere, moving from “story about kids being kidnapped” to “SWAT team attacking house” was fun but I really felt like the film was just too short to make it work. I’d have loved to spend a bit more time with the family, rather than just that one service.

    I thought the 2nd half of the film just didn’t work as well it should, it’s not particularly well shot action and Goodman spends way too much time talking to someone we can’t hear on the phone. I guess maybe Smith wanted to imply some kind of:

    “ooh, evil government giving evil orders from afar, they are distanced from the events as demonstrated by us never hearing their side of the call etc”

    But man…watching one side of a phone call is reeeally un-cinematic.

    I think it’s a film that, whilst influenced by QT, is still definitely Smith’s work. Which is the good thing and the bad thing: I don’t think anyone else could have made it, but I don’t think Smith could have made a better version if it. To use a school grading metaphor: he’s a C student who made something unique and special to him, but it’s still only a C+ at best.

  16. Stu is right, this is something I neglected to get into in the review. It’s pretty weird that the gay victim of the gay bashers is barely a character. It would make more sense to have the protagonists, or at least one of them, be gay. Maybe he was trying to point out that hypocrisy I mentioned of dudes who are afraid of “gay” stuff but might be into some sort of gang bang scenario and therefore be considered gay by the more serious bigots. But I didn’t notice any indication that these particular kids were supposed to be homophobic, so if that was the intention it doesn’t really come across.

  17. Maybe he’s trying to say that these kinds of people are a danger to everyone, not just gays. To them, we’re all filthy degenerates who must be purged. Having not seen the movie yet, though, I can’t really say.

  18. “Maybe he’s trying to say that these kinds of people are a danger to everyone, not just gays. To them, we’re all filthy degenerates who must be purged.”
    Wouldn’t that be like doing a Blaxploitation movie with a white main character, because corrupt cops, pimps and drug pushers are a danger to the community at large, not just African Americans?

  19. So this should be a gay-exploitation film? Perhaps they should make the John Goodman character gay, the gay-avenger.

  20. I can’t remember Parks’s line but after the kid says, “We’re not even gay!” Parks comes back with, “That might just be worse.” and touches a little more on it before moving on.

    I think the character’s thought process might be that gay people can’t help being gay anymore than a pitbull can help being a pitbull yet they need to be put down just the same. Since the kid isn’t gay, I’m assuming in Parks’s eyes, he should have known better and since he actively went against God’s wishes that makes him worse.

    …Wait, that can’t be right, because that would mean that Parks believes that gay people are born that way. Or maybe, like a pitbull, once they “turn” they can’t come back.

    Eitherway, I love the movie and I LOVE the ending…

    *SPOILER ALERT*

    Shut the fuck up!
    Cut to Black
    The End

  21. I didn’t much care for this. It was a bit aimless, and misguided in its attempts to both shock and make a point. The Feds were cartoonish in their villainy, and the film just stops at times to deliver some meandering monologue (or monologue disguised as dialogue like that endless phone call). And sometimes it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a gripping hostage drama, a horror film, a message film or a Kevin Smith talkie.

    But like said, the cast was good. Goodman and Parks elevated it.

    I do wish Smith would have had the balls to go with the original ending, though, instead of chickening out and going with the debriefing that was way too much Smith wanting to be the Coens. At least with the original ending, the absurdity of it all would have been a nice cherry on top of already kind of bizarre and schizophrenic film.

  22. “Has anybody ever benefited from thinking with their dick in a horror movie?”

    In the Jim Carrey movie Once Bitten, Lauren Hutton needs the blood of a virgin to keep her youth so she chooses Jim Carrey. He’s a virgin because his girlfriend refuses to have sex with him. At the end (Spoiler) his girlfriend has sex with him in a coffin which saves his life. So technically, his dick saved his life. I dont’ know if this counts as a horror movie though.

  23. ThomasCrown, that was the first example that came to my mind. You got to it before I did.

    There’s also Cherry Falls, where being the virgin supposedly made people a target, but in the end I think that didn’t matter to the killer as much as the killer meant it to.

    In Satan’s Cheerleaders, a Satanic cult doesn’t finish their ritual because the one virgin among the traveling high school group is raped by a henchman. But the cheerleaders become the new cult with supernatural powers, so it’s all good.

  24. That last part was sarcastic. It’s never good that someone gets raped, even if it’s only a movie.

    And I just wanted to add that I never got the Kevin Smith hate until his whole rant against critics and his excuses for Cop Out being crap. I’ve always thought of him as a flawed director whose movies really entertain me. I prefer the early films, but I loved Zack and Miri Make a Porno and thought it was unfairly judged. The dance scene in Clerks 2 makes the hubby smile, but I think that’s because of the jiggling Rosario Dawson boobs.

  25. I liked this movie a lot, and I totally felt it came from the same voice that wrote Dogma. However, Vern, the high school kids DO make gay jokes at each other to show how mild homophobia passes in young male society, and then they get into REAL danger with homophobic killers. It’s in there.

    I was at Smith’s Sundance show. When I heard his self-distribution plan, I thought it was a wonderful, positive thing for the film industry. Imagine if there were an alternative system, not a replacement, but something also. Imagine if films became year-long events again and you had to wait for them to come to their town. And if it worked, that could only benefit artistic filmmakers. And I’m one of the industry critics Smith supposedly told to F off.

    I had thought it was a bit lame that he was spending so much time talking about how much press he was no longer going to do, but it all made sense as buildup to a really significant industry play. Plus, he hasn’t actually stopped talking to press at all. He pulled out of the standard junket system, but he’s still talkin’. So some journalists totally took it personally, which maybe speaks to some attachment they had to him which was so tenuous it fell apart when he tried something different, and his language has always been harsh F this and F that but totally in a lovable comic kind of way.

  26. I liked CopOut. A lot. Don’t know why I thought I should mention it but I did.

  27. The first time I watched Clerks I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was in a world full of love for Smith. When I watched the rest of his slacker movies I felt like a man alone. Now the world has turned on him because he told the press they’re rubbish? Not because everyone realises his films are pretty bad?

  28. The dance scene in Clerks 2 sums up SMith perfectly…he’s TRYING to make something good and different and interesting, but the weird staging and bad amateurish shooting and everyone seems off key and the forced whimsy just make it another lame attempt. I kind of cringe when I see that scene, I feel bad for the actors.

  29. I always thought the dance scene was a pretty good parody of an akward Bollywood musical moment. Weird staging, especially. (Although even in a bad Bollywood flick, it’s not often that dancers off as far as choreography goes.)

  30. I worked on a musical about Wal-Mart once. The end of the show was supposed to build to a big singing-fight at the town hall as the plucky citizens prevented Wal-Mart from building on a marsh and destroying wildlife (it was a really terrible show). Now when it came time to actually show the singing fight the number was especially awful and never came together. The play ended with a dude coming out on stage, saying “hey, what a climax, you should have been there” and halfheartedly dancing away.

    The end of RED STATE reminded me of that. Had me right up until then. The final final scene made up for it a little, but not a lot. You just can’t pull that kind of thing off without J.K. Simmons.

  31. I think Knox Harrington is right to reference No Country for Old Men. This is like if No Country for Old Men was retarded. Vern said, “But to be honest I didn’t understand what the story was supposed to mean.” Probably because it seems one of Smith’s goals was to accentuate, through narrative structure, the senselessness of the film’s violence, and maybe violence in general. But, unlike other movies with this theme, I don’t believe Smith’s film itself makes sense or has sense.

    It’s sad that the expectation for horror films is for them to be stupid and illogical – first of all because why does a genre with low level average quality flourish, and second of all because when a film like Red State raises itself slightly above this abysmal standard it seems like it might be a good film. But I don’t think this was a good film, and nothing in Vern’s review changes my mind.

    Like, the major compliment Vern gives the film is that it isn’t as crappy as most horror films that are crappy. Big fucking deal. This Kevin Smith film isn’t as crappy as most Kevin Smith films that are crappy. Big fucking deal.

  32. Ronald – I don’t think I said it wasn’t as crappy as most horror films. I just said it was different. I like that it’s different. There are some crappy horror films that I like better, though, like Silent Night Deadly Night 2 to name one example.

  33. GARBAGE DAY!!

  34. WHAT? NO!

    anyway I’ve been mostly avoiding this talkback to avoid spoilers because I would like to see this, but I guess I should just throw in my two cents

    I think Kevin Smith is just a nerd exactly like us with only a little bit of talent, who at the end of the day got really, really lucky because he happened to make a movie that directly referenced nerd culture before any other movie in history had really done that and he’s been coasting off that his entire career

    but I think he shows that at the end of the day just being a nerd simply isn’t enough, Kevin Smith kinda makes me think of all those movie suggestions that talkbackers would post on AICN, most of them being ideas for sequels or remakes or how to do a movie based on whatever and most of them were just as dumb as the movies they hated

    I don’t hate Kevin Smith, he seems like a cool, funny guy etc, but every movie of his I’ve seen (and to be fair I’ve only seen a few) has some funny or clever dialogue, but the actual filmatism always seems bare bones, Dogma is a great example of this (and it’s probably his best movie)

  35. I don’t know, Griff. CLERKS wasn’t really a nerd culture film. Yeah, there was this longer segment about the construction workers on Death Star 2.0, but he didn’t went full nerd until MALLRATS, with the Stan Lee cameo and extended references to other nerdy stuff. But that was a commercial and critical desaster. And even CHASING AMY, which was about comic book artists, was more a quirky love story than a nerd movie.

    To be honest I got no idea why I always end up defending Smith on here, like he would do some really mind blowing stuff or shit like that. Not even I am such a fan of him! But maybe it’s because too many people give him too little credit for anything and/or confuse his off screen persona with his movies (not that there isn’t a connection between those two). The thing is that if you really sit down and watch all his movies in a row (not necessarily on the same day), you will find that despite all the trademarks and in-jokes, that you will find in each one of them, they are all pretty different from each other. You don’t have to like the movies but even the two CLERKS ones aren’t really the same. He is not pulling a Danny Boyle and makes something completely different with every new one, but didn’t spent the last 17 years with making the same movie over and over either.
    I know, it can be difficult to look over all the similarities in a director’s body of work sometimes, but hey, the Coen Bros make also only movies about simple plans, that go awfully wrong*.

    PLUS: I can not recommend JERSEY GIRL enough. Especially because of George Carlin’s brillant performance.

    *I know they don’t and definitely don’t wanna say that Smith and the Coens are on the same level of filmmaking.

  36. Yeah, Jersey Girl is really nice.

    I really don’t know how to feel about Smith anymore. I’ve seen all of his movies (except his latest) and I’ve enjoyed most of them, even though I don’t necessarily think he’s a good filmmaker. I think the reason I keep going back to his movies is because his personality is so clearly visible in all of his work.

    There’s definitely a different standard at play when I watch his movies, though. Kinda like watching your buddy’s indie movie. There’s a lot of stuff you’d never let other filmmakers get away with, but because it’s your bud’s movie, you kinda just let it slide. “Nice one, mate. I liked that bit where the Star Wars geek made fun of the Lord of the Ring nerds.”

    I guess it says a lot that I enjoy watching his Evening with Kevin Smith DVD’s more than his movies. Maybe he should go into stand-up.

  37. CJ Holden – I have not actually seen Clerks and yes I pretty much was confusing his movies with his persona, but that’s the point, he was the first filmmaker that really made being a comic book/Star Wars nerd a huge part of his persona and sold himself as being “one of us” and that’s what he’s been coasting off

    I mean contrast that to someone like Spielberg (ok, I know that’s an extreme contrast), who we can safely assume is a big nerd himself, but he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve, he’s a filmmaker first, Kevin Smith is a nerd who also happens to be a filmmaker, you know what I mean?

    but all that said I still find Kevin Smith to be a fascinating guy and I’m gunning for him to knock one out of the park one day too, one thing I find the most fascinating about him is his Religion, supposedly he’s a Catholic and yet his movies are filled with cussing (and in the case of Zack and Miri, nudity) and as an on again off again Christian who wants to be a filmmaker myself, I can’t help but wonder, how do you reconcile that? I’d love to interview him myself

    so Smith tackling Religion again in Red State of course intrigues me, I’m wondering if he really captures how creepy religion can sometimes be

  38. I don’t like Kevin Smith as a person; too much passive aggression buried underneath that easy-going persona; and a lot of his public behavior reminds me of that scene in The Simpsons where Homer decides to “tell it like it is”, until Marge gets sick of it and calls him on his own short-comings and he feels hurt and offended. As for the movies; I think Clerks is a comedy classic and the rest of his output has been over-all pretty good, if maybe a little problematic – his real weakness as a film-maker, to me, isn’t the technical shit, but that he seems to have internalized the tropes he saw on television as a kid and thinks they apply to real life (that’s the real problem with Jersey Girl: that weird mixture of honesty and sophistry). Also, I’m not entirely comfortable with the way the characters in his movies often completely and totally retreat from life, usually for some supposedly moral reason, but really I suspect so they can live out the fantasy of surfing the net and watching TV all day.

  39. My Kevin Smith rundownL

    I was a young man in the mid 1990’s and can number myself among those for whom Clerks was an early introduction into meta/nerd culture. I still like that one the best, it was the only movie in which it didn’t feel like he was out to prove something. Not all of it works but it’s unassuming enough that it works as a whole, and in many aspects it’s an enormously comforting movie: the DIY feel to it and the fantasy of working these dead-end jobs in such an irresponsible, vengeful manner congeal into something pretty special.

    Mallrats has the whole story to it that it was panned by critics, failed in theaters, but became a cult classic eventually, enabling Smith to presumably form the worldview he has. But that movie really sucked. It’s like a John Hughes deleted scenes reel or something. Even so it obviously made Smith feel justified in sucking and explains a lot in his later career.

    Chasing Amy is where things get REALLY bad. It’s obviously a lot more ambitious and “mature” than the first two, but with greater power comes greater responsibility and Chasing Amy is an UNBELIEVABLY offensive movie. I saw one of the DVD’s where Smith talks to a college, and one student, a lesbian woman, questioned him about “doesn’t this movie say that deep down every lesbian just needs some dick to set her back on the right path?” Smith’s response is basically to get defensive and ridicule her. But yeah, it’s the sort of film that believes itself to be unbelievably edgy, real, and honest, just begging you to “OMG” at its frank discussions of vaginal fisting etc., when it’s really just Smith sharing his own embarrassing sexual hangups with us and expecting us to agree with them. Still, Jason Lee turns in the best performance in a Kevin Smith movie here, and the gimmick where Silent Bob speaks is far better applied here than elsewhere.

    I got really excited about Dogma because it involved epic supernatural elements (sort of inconceivable if you had been following his career so far) and provoked lots of unrest in the religious community. The trailer had a scene with Jay firing an uzi, etc. Actually, right before Dogma came out was probably the coolest Kevin Smith ever was or would be. But I would wager that if you go back and watch Dogma today it would be horribly dated, 90% of the jokes would fall flat on their face, and anything dealing with plot exposition would be mind-numbingly tedious.

    I really think that he needed that impromptu feel to make his movies work. Let’s face it, a special-effects-laden set piece like Mark Hamill’s cameo in Strike Back is probably a lot more tedious to shoot than sitting in the back of a car filming two friends of yours saying whatever you made them say. You really feel that tedium in everything he made Dogma and forward in my opinion. Once they start trying to resemble real, professional movies, all the magic is totally gone and you really feel like Smith is just punching a time card, meeting a deadline.

    It’s weird, Jon Favreau sort of had a Kevin Smithy start with Swingers and then similarly started making “real” movies too, but Favreau actually seems to like making them. They still suck, though.

  40. Obviously I’m getting to this conversation way too late, but I finally saw this movie last night and found that the thing I like most about it is that it is NOT a film about liberal paranoia about middle America. It’s actually a film which deliberately depicts wild exaggerations of both the left and the right as they see each other — the right as murderous psycho zealots, and the left as amoral elitist authoritarians.

    Yes, the FBI’s actions seem absurd to me, but then of course they’re hardly more absurd than the Five-Point Church’s actions, it’s just that I’m more comfortable with one stereotype than the other. That’s what the parable at the end means — we’re at each others’ throats “like we don’t know each other” in Goodman’s words. We buy into the idea that the other side is made up of monsters, but of course we’re all just people trying to do the right thing.

    So even though the film doesn’t exactly seem realistic and kind of bummed me out by switching to a police procedural halfway through, I was pretty blown away by its ambition and its genuine success in exposing the hypocrisy of my own thinking.

  41. Yeah I surprisingly liked this one too – Parks and Leo were great, interesting villains, and I like how Smith uses how instantly likable John Goodman is, and then turns it on its head. I agree it could have been more interesting if the teen “protagonists” were actually gay, but I think Smith purposely chose homophobic douchebags because he didn’t want to have any likable characters at all. Oh and the acting by the two feds at the end is terrible – their weird jokes and Smith-ian dialogue seems like it’s from a different movie.

    Speaking of which, I’ve hated Kyle Gallner’s “acting” since Veronica Mars. He literally plays the same brooding, posing guy over and over again (I actually feel the same way about Michael Pitt). The scenes of him in the high school at the beginning are terrible, but by the end I really wanted him to live and hated what happened to him, so I’d have to say Smith pulled out some movie magic here.

  42. Just seen this and quite liked it on the whole, but it was heavily flawed and a couple of things particularly stood out to me; why have Goodman’s character specifically mention Phelps and the Westboro Church when the Five Points Church were very obviously inspired by them? Yeah, they’re a more extreme version, but this is a (somewhat) allegorical horror movie rather than a documentary after all. I felt that scene went against the point of the movie somewhat: was it a legal thing? And the ending is definitely a pretty big cop-out (no pun intended), even given the funding limitations; it wouldn’t have been so bad if Smith had completely written out the [SPOILER] “trumpets”, rather than starting down the road of a truly balsy ending and turning away from it. But on the whole it’s definitely a pretty successful change of direction for Smith.

  43. Saw this, really didn’t like it all that much. I respect the effort Smith made, but the hateful characterization of every single character became monotonous really quickly. The jumping from protagonist to protagonist seems like a ballsy, interesting thing to do on paper, but what it really does is create a situation where you don’t have a rooting interest in any of the half dozen of main characters who are on screen. For God’s sake, the only vaguely redeemable character in the film doesn’t speak until almost an hour into the film. It seems less like a conscious choice, and more Smith trying to be “dark” and “fucked up” because that’s what he thinks horror movies are supposed to be, not unlike our own beloved Roderick T. Zombie. It’s a cynical pose.

  44. grimgrinningchris

    July 25th, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Only posting here since PacmanFever is a regular post-er, so may actually see this.

    In regards to the actual mentioning of Westboro vs the fictionalized depiction of them in the film.

    I think its pretty much the same as BOOGIE NIGHTS mentioning John Holmes by name while Dirk Diggler is very obviously a fictionalized stand in for him.

    By admitting outright that the real thing exists in the movie’s presented reality, side by side with the fictionalized version, I think both Anderson and Smith attempt to underline the similarities while also check marking the differences. What the ultimate purpose of that is is definitely up for debate, but its surely very intentional on both counts.

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