An Open Letter to Kevin Smith

Dear Kevin,

The art of film needs you right now. Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (hereinafter Jay and Silent Bob) are by far your best films.  They have the most well-expressed satire, which shows your greatest strength—satirical storytelling.  These two films are also your most influential and/or timeless.  Clerks, a satire about slackers who are happy being miserable and doing nothing but talking about girls and pop culture, inspired several movies such as Cant Hardly Wait and American Pie.  But it is Jay and Silent Bob that I believe is your most timeless film.  It makes fun of how cynical the Internet has made moviegoers, and how Hollywood is sequel crazy.  In short, it is more relevant now than what it was in 2001.  That said, I would like to see at least one more story from you that bashes Hollywood’s dopiness and smothering of art.  In order for you to do that, of course, you would need to return to two things: 1) satirical writing, and 2) not endorsing Hollywood’s lack of creativity.

ksmith-1

C’mon, what pisses you off?

I have the inkling that, even after all of these years, you still have a lot to say about what is wrong with various aspects of media.  I base my inkling off of all your real-life stories that you told at your concerts and convention appearances.  Your audiences were laughing all the way through stories such as your attempts to write a serious outline for a Superman movie, and your frustrations with directing a major studio movie.  Personally, I found it intriguing that you were the small-town guy who reported to all of his fans the ridiculousness of Hollywood.  Your verbal storytelling ability has been integral to your current status as the voice of our now nerd-centric culture.

It is you who can convince the “nerds” that they must demand higher quality American mainstream cinema.  Hollywood is only crappy because we let it be that way. By paying to see the umpteenth derivative work, and largely ignoring the non-derivative ones, we enable Hollywood to continue making the same thing over and over.  Case in point: thought-provoking, AI-centered, suspense/sci-fi film Ex Machina made $25 million here in the U.S., while generic, light-on-story/heavy-on-CG-action Avengers 2 made $458 million in the US.  I long for the day when, once again, movies like The Matrix and Cast Away are the films that people pay to see, because they want to see a good movie, not a dumb one that they “can just shut their brains off for two hours and not think while watching.”

As it is, I have not seen any hilarious, biting satire from you in about ten years.  Instead, there have been films such as Red State, an action thriller that glumly, not comedically, satirizes radical Christians; and Tusk, a horror film, in which the hook is gross-out shock value.  Further, I see that your next two movies will be of the same ilk as Tusk— “fun” horror movies.  These films do not represent your best work.  The same goes for the upcoming Mallrats 2 and Clerks 3.

Jay and Silent Bob bashes Hollywood for, among several things, constantly producing unoriginal films (“Scream 4”, “Good Will Hunting 2”).  Yet, here you are now, not only making more sequels, but also embracing the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII.  Now, I know that The Empire Strikes Back is your favorite movie, and that you are a die-hard fan of the franchise.  But aren’t you concerned that VII reeks of nostalgia?  Doesn’t it bother you that most of the original cast is back, Luke looks like Obi-Wan, or that the main villain models himself after Darth Vader?  These are questions that I wish you would be asking your audience, because you are the voice of a generation who is apparently okay with seeing zero new, original movies.

What is ironic is that lately you have been endorsing such products whilst being more independent as a filmmaker than ever.  Films like Star Wars: The Forced Awakening and Batman v Superman: Dawn of More Pointless Superhero Films are the very films that represent the fact that Hollywood is more money-hungry than ever, hence the constant production of movies with built-in fan bases.  These films also represent how overly nostalgic our generation is, and how they (the films and consumers) say to hell with the potential tainting of future generations’ views of the originals.  We need a voice like yours to call attention to such questions.  Hollywood suffocates art by influencing the general public to believe that soulless drivel is good.

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“It had the best opening weekend of all time.  Obviously the best movie of all time.”

As a filmmaker who is trying to create his own art, and who struggles to find non-Hollywood money to do each project, it would be logical for you to express concern about Hollywood’s problem to your fans.  Combined, VII and BVS cost about $400 million to make; that money could theoretically fund at least 40 Kevin Smith movies.  In other words, why support the system that wouldn’t even give you a million dollars to make Red State?  Now, I understand that Hollywood’s stinginess towards you was actually a blessing in disguise, because it allows you to embrace your true independent filmmaking spirit.  But take the blessing and run, man!

It crushes me whenever there is a news story such as “Kevin Smith Endorses New, Unoriginal Film”, or when you release an endorsing podcast of such films.  And when you talk about films like Jurassic World, you don’t praise it for its script, you praise it for being dumb fun.  The popular movies should be more than that.  Alas, “dumb fun” is increasingly becoming an acceptable trait of what are supposed to be serious films.  After being given amazingly well-made summer films such as Forrest Gump, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park, I am frustrated that our current generation settles for inherently inferior films.  For this reason, I suggest that you at least discuss more original films that not only take themselves seriously, but also are currently underrated, like Nightcrawler, Ex Machina, and Maggie.  It only seems logical that an independent filmmaker would at least give attention to such non-mainstream films as those.

Lastly, I am wondering why you are following the trend of making sequels.  You broke into the industry by trendsetting.  You made it cool for characters to sit around and discuss pop culture in ridiculous contexts, and have explicitly sexual conversations.  Were it not for you, there would have been no Judd Apatow (albeit for like 5 minutes) or Seth Rogen.  Even in the last few years, you set the trend of promoting your own films via screening tours, complete with your appearances and Q&As.  Trendsetting is what you do.  And what most filmmakers are not doing is calling out Hollywood.  I believe that such largely unmined territory is yours.

On the surface, it may seem that you have returned to your roots with the satirical thriller Red State, because it was low-budget and independent.  But the roots run deeper than budgets and independence; they lie within all those days that you wrote for hours on end every day after school, what made Clerks your career starter, and what made you the voice of our generation.

Sincerely,

Richie Watkins

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