Why do so many people seem to not like kevin smith movies?
Because he’s a crappy filmmaker who was in the right place at the right time – his style of filmmaking became popular in the 90s and he just happened to make his first movie when this wave came. But his films are uninteresting, uncinematic ramblings that seem more and more dated as time goes on. Some of his dialogue is like fingernails on a chalkboard it’s so bad. I don’t know how anyone can stand it.
I love Kevin Smith movies. I think that they appeal, of course, to a specific audience, no doubt, but that’s to be expected from every filmaker. I’m sure someone could point out how a filmmaker like David Lynch might not be as good as everyone says he is, or someone like that. I think Kevin Smith makes movies that do no more than he expects them to, and that’s fine. I think that Criterion was right in choosing to put Chasing Amy in their collection; it’s one of his best films.
Frankly, though, when you say that he is uncinematic, that doesn’t really mean anything. Many people accused Bergman of being uncinematic, seeing his (especially early) films as things that could be done on stage, and that, in any sense, might as well not be put on film. Is there anything wrong with something that is not technically “cinematic?” I don’t think so. I didn’t find Before Sunset especially cinematic, but I thought it was an excellent film.
When I say uncinematic, I’m talking specifically about making a film of peopling hanging around a 7-11 talking. That’s not cinematic. Cinema is a visual medium. Clerks is essentially a play (and not a very thought provoking one at that). I’m not saying dialogue is uncinematic, I’m saying he doesn’t use the medium other than to record his pontifications about Star Wars and comic books. To me, that’s not filmmaking. It’s masturbating.
I disagree. Essentially, what makes a film? Images put on a screen in movement. That’s it. You could have something completely bogus, or something completely avant garde, that has no characters, and which has no plot, but it is still a movie.
And what’s the problem with watching people participate in their lives? Even if Clerks has less of a plot, it still has a conflict, with rising action, and falling action. It does essentially have a three-act structure, but more in the way of the French New Wave, in that not everything leads up to the end; it’s not all about story-telling, but getting to know these characters, inside and out. That’s absolutely fascinating to me. By the time the film ends, I feel as though I have witnessed something that I can perhaps, 1) relate to, and 2) that I was able to just sit down and enjoy myself. Also, I find what they say to be intriguing, even some of the stuff that is a bit raunchy, simply because they tend to bring up good points, or show flaws in personality and character.
Fredo: Do you think that “My Dinner with Andrew” or “Interview” is uncinematic?
I’m not going to say that Smith is uncinematic, that is (to me) somewhat of a ridiculous argument, but I will say he’s one of the most immature filmmakers I’ve ever seen. His characters and stories have never progressed past puberty. His work isn’t even funny, which would be the least I expect from him.
My Dinner with Andre is a play. I haven’t seen the film so I can’t comment on that.
Interview is a great film, as is Sleuth (both of them), and as are a lot of plays that have been adapted to films. What is great about Interview is that Buscemi understand the medium and uses it to his advantage to make something compelling. Like I said before, dialogue is not uncinematic. But the way Kevin Smith uses it is in the most pedestrian, uncreative way. Clerks could have been made a play and it would be nearly identical to what the film is. That is what I’m talking about when I say he’s not taking advantage of the medium that he’s working in – he’s just using it as a way to get people to hear what he’s essentially just writing. And for me, I’m not really interested in that when I sit down and watch a film.
I’m just sort of shocked that I’m the only one here who thinks Kevin Smith is an awful filmmaker.
Oh well. That’s fine if you find it uninteresting. I just think that he deserves at least a little credit for something like Chasing Amy, which had a real backbone to it, on these boards.
I can’t speak for other people but I don’t like Smith because his comedies don’t make me laugh and his dramas don’t move me.
I just wanted to say that the ending shot to Clerks 2 was one of the more “visually” memorable moments of recent film I can think. I wouldnt say hes great but Kevin Smith definitely has his merits.
I finally got around to seeing Clerks about a month ago. It was very meh. I laughed every once in awhile, but it was nothing special. I have no desire to see anything else by him.
Oh, Drew, don’t do that. I think it’s best to study the filmmaker as a whole. One film does not a filmmaker make. Especially when considering the fact that it was his first movie. Not everyone has as great a breakout film as Orson Welles.
LIke Tarantino, Smith has a gift for dialogue, but it’s hit or miss, and, like Tarantino, he’s been REALLY missing in his last two or three efforts. Chasing Amy, I think, is a perfect example of how some can’t stand Smith’s films. Joey Lauren Adams ruined that film with her obnoxious/shrilly overacting, and overall, the acting was just terrible. Don’t know why it’s considered one of his best. I’m even more surprised it got a Criterion release, when Clerks was BY FAR more deserving. Hell, Clerks 2 was more deserving. Jay doing that Jame Gumb Silence of the Lambs dance was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.
Someone said “nails on a chalkboard”; that actress in Chasing Amy fits the bill here (it’s like she strayed in from that scene in Broadway Danny Rose).
Chasing Amy is one of my most favourite films. Smith, when he is inspired, creates remarkable characters with relationships far more substantial than what is usually in comedy. Dogma also stands out as an ambitious and often hilarious look at the difference between church and faith. His films are often very funny, and sometimes, beneath the surface, as honest as anything being made today.
Zachary, I guess what I was saying is due to Clerks I haven’t run out so see more by him, not that I’m fully against seeing anything else by him. What do you suggest?
Well, although the film is rather contrived, I love Jersey Girl. Clerks 2 is hilarious, as well as Dogma. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Zak and Miri Make a Porno, though. Now, I do absolutely love Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but there is so much in that movie that are blatant in jokes from his other movies, that it’d kind of be hard to get through without misunderstanding a lot of things.
Now, to be fair, I saw Jay and Bob first, even though I shouldn’t have. I laughed my arse off. I will also say, though, that, especially that film, is a lot of incredibly stupid humor; BUT, Gus van Sant is in it, and so is Wes Craven. There is some great material with the whole movie-making process toward the end. It’s just a lot of fun.
Neil the Cooler Dude – You’re referring to Joey Lauren Adams. There’s a reason you don’t see her in films anymore. She was DEPLORABLE!
Luc Moullet said in Cannes that he was a fan of Smith. They both share a certain low-key, amateurish sensibility, that much is sure. Though I don’t know whose is intentional and whose is all he’s got…
I’m with you Fredo for the most part. I will only disagree with you about his movies being uncinematic. All movies are cinematic whether it’s a Kevin Smith rag or the latest Saw movie. Smith’s movies (I’ve only seen 2) are just plain bad. I can’t imagine how people could like them, but then again, look at most movies today. There’s a lot of garbage out there and his are no better and no worse.
He’s been writing the same character since day one. Boring.
@Chris – “He’s been writing the same character since day one.”
Exactly, which is why I find it hilarous that people think people like Smith write good dialogue. Good dialogue is not dialogue that sounds the same coming from every character you create, which is in essence you the writer. Juno is another example where everyone sounds the same and no difference between the characters (because they all sound like Diablo Cody) – it’s maddening to me as a writer that people think this way and all I see it doing is encouraging bad dialogue and bad writing in films.
Watch Chinatown. That’s a movie with good dialogue.
My Dinner with Andre is not a play. It is cinematic. The images are created in the mind of the viewer, like a novel.
Fredo, I get the uncinematic thing, his images are very flat and he has no clue about framing. I agree with some others who say it still qualifies as cinema because it is pictures that move. The point is that, uncinematic + horrible dialogue + nothing to say (with the possible exceptions of Chasing Amy and Dogma) = Bad filmmaker.
He appeals in the same way a recent president appealed, people watch his films and like them because they feel “I could do that, I couldv’e written that too.” For me, with presidents and filmmakers, I’d rather see someone do something I can’t do.
He makes crap.
Kevin Smith seems somehow disrespectful of the medium. He doesn’t seem to care how a shot is framed. There’s no thought of composition or pacing. It seems like the camera is just plonked down and the characters talk in its vicinity.
His movies used to be clever and fun but he’s become increasingly irrelevant with each new movie. I watched Zack and Miri Make a Porno the other day and there was not a single redeeming thing about it.
I thought Chasing Amy was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen. It gives me pause, however, — if only a microsecond’s worth — to note that Chasing Amy has an astounding 91% Top Critic rating at Rotten Tomatoes (that’s 20 “fresh”, 2 “rotten”).