Over the past 17 years, Kevin Smith brought gross and disgusting conversation to film and created intimately personal stories about the rigors of being a convenience store clerk and a mythical adventure about a distant descendant of Jesus.
With potty humor, foul language, and Randal Graves's one-liners, Smith built an empire under the flag of the slacker. His 1994 film Clerks burst open the floodgates of what was appropriate to say in a comedy. Fast forward to the present, and Smith is running the gamut of indie darling to critic's nightmare.
This Sunday, Miami's arthouse cinemas will screen Smith's latest film, Red State, in a special event that includes a Q&A session with Smith and Red State actor Ralph Garman.
Red State is Smith's first horror film (not including Jersey Girl). Three friends respond to an older woman's Craigslist ad, because she is down for just about anything. After downing a few spiked beers, the guys awaken in cages within a psychotic and dangerous cult. Over the course of the film, the boys try to escape with their lives, while the situation eventually disintegrates into a WACO-like standoff.
also Smith's big middle finger to the major film industry. In a
manifesto, called The Red Statement, Smith declares:
We believe the state of film marketing has become ridiculously expensive
and exclusionary to the average filmmaker longing simply to tell their
story. When the costs of marketing and releasing a movie are four times
that film's budget, it's apparent the traditional distribution mechanism
is woefully out of touch with not only the current global economy, but
also the age of social media.
Therefore, The Harvey Boys will not spend a dime on old world media
buys (such as TV/Print/Outdoor) as we self-distribute our film, Red
State, in an admittedly unconventional, yet extremely cost effective,
word of mouth/viral campaign.
Red State represents a fundamental shift in the idea of releasing and
distributing a film for a major Hollywood filmmaker. Of course, this
wouldn't be the first time Smith broke industry norms.
In the early '90s, the comedies were inundated with character-based,
slap stick comedy. When Clerks was released in 1994, the year's biggest
comedies included Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber. The juxtaposition of Jim Carrey's talking
ass and Dante Hick's yelling after his girlfriend not to suck too much
dick on the way to her car shows Smith's genius and timeliness.
Since then, Smith has experienced his ups and downs, such as critical
favorite Chasing Amy and low point Jersey Girl. But it was Smith's two
most recent films, Zach and Miri Make a Porno and Cop Out, which
drastically changed the course of his career.
Zach and Miri was supposed to be Smith's second breaking out party.
Smith assumed he could plug into the success of director Judd Apatow,
who, as Smith said in a 2011 interview," ... took what I did and made it
very, very profitable." Unfortunately, when Zach and Miri made it to
theaters, movie goers' enthusiasm didn't match expectations, and the
opening night gross was a paltry $2.3 million.
After Zach and Miri, Smith agreed to direct, but not write (a Smith
first), action buddy cop comedy Cop Out. Originally, the film starred
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, but after negotiations fell apart,
Warner Bros. brought in Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. Ferrell and
Wahlberg then took the concept to Columbia Pictures, and guess what
happened next? Cop Out went on to gross $55 million, while The Other Guys
grossed $170 million.
It's not surprising that earlier this year Smith announced that he will
be retiring from directing after completing his next film, Hit Somebody.
Most remarkably, through all the trials and tribulations of Smith's
directorial career, his cult of personality grew by leaps and bounds.
Smith is known to regularly respond to fans on message boards, tour and
speak at comic cons around the country, hold his own speaking
engagements, and release recordings of Q&A sessions.
Then there's Smodcast, a podcast that at first starred Smith and
long-time friend/producer Scott Mosier, and has remarkably grown into an
entire online radio network, the Smodcast Internet Radio (SIR) Network.
Couple Smodcast with Smith's twitter and blogging addiction, and he is
the most accessible personality in Hollywood.
That is the core of this special Sunday screening of Red State. The
meandering trail of a director who lost his way, only to make it back
home. Smith grew over the years as a filmmaker, but it's always been
"the real" that defined his career. Early on Smith's reality was that of
a 20-something convenience store clerk slacker, but now he's a famous
Hollywood director who has been ostracized from every major circle of
Hollywood's inner sanctum.
As the Miami Beach Cinematheque's Dana Keith told us, "It is
nice to see [Kevin Smith] going back to his Clerks roots, in a way.
There comes a time in a career when one looks back after putting up with
a lot from Hollywood. It would be nice if more directors did the same,
for the sake of the art instead of the money."
No matter what anyone may think about the film itself, hopefully it's
most important impact will be in helping to shift the business of
filmmaking, just as Clerks made an impact in the culture of comedic
cinema. Smith is setting the example of the modern filmmaker. Famous
Hollywood personalities shouldn't sit in the saddle of their high horse,
but bring themselves, and their art, right into the hands of the fans.
This is filmmaking for the 21st century, and Smith, yet again, is the
The Miami Beach Cinematheque (1130 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) will
screening Red State on Sunday at 7 p.m. with a Skype Q&A with Smith
afterwards. Tickets cost $20, which includes a first drink at an afterparty at Vinyl & Kai.
UM's Bill Cosford Theater (1111 Memorial Dr., Coral Gables) will also
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screen Red State at 10pm on Sunday followed by a Skype Q&A with
Smith. Ticket cost $20 general admission and $18 for seniors and all students. Visit cosfordcinema.com.