MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Kevin Smith vs. Film Critics

By now you’ve probably heard about this whole  Eric D. Snider, who Tweeted back thusly: “I don’t care what @thatkevinsmith thinks about movie reviews unless he paid to read them.”

Let’s be clear here: attending free screenings is a privilege, not a First Amendment right, but it is a privilege that, generally speaking, benefits the studios as well as the critics. If they really have a stinker, they don’t screen for critics, period. If they think they have a shot at some positive marks from the critical community, or just want the publicity that even bad reviews bring for a critic-proof movie like Transformers (or one whose director has a loyal fanbase, like, say a Kevin Smith movie) they screen their film and critics are invited to see their films early. But yes, seeing films early, and for free, is a privilege, however struggling and underpaid most critics actually are.

Earlier this month we had the big brouhaha over film critic Armond White getting his shorts in a twist over being uninvited from a screening of Noah Baumbach‘s new film, Greenberg. I defended Baumbach’s right to ban Armond White from a screening of his film; first of all, it’s not a First Amendment issue, and second, White has a history of personal attacks on Baumbach. It’s Baumbach’s film, and if he doesn’t want to let a guy who’s shown repeatedly that his feelings about the filmmaker (and his mother) are clearly personal, that’s his right. And if Smith wants to stab himself in the gut by following through on his TwitterTantrum ™, that’s certainly his right, too.

However, Smith’s logic — that there’s somehow more value in a review if the reviewer paid to see it —  is inherently, well, stupid. Particularly when he says things like, “Not just any shlub off Twitter can do it!” I say “Yes, they can.” and “I’ve got longevity on my side now. I’ve been doing this since 93: so 17 years. I’m a veteran of the film biz. And as a veteran – not just some spectator with an opinion – I think I know what’s better for me & my career than total strangers whose Google-able history proves they’ve NEVER had my best interests at heart.”

Geez, Kevin. Generalize much?

I might as well make the argument that, rather than watch or review one of Smith’s films — heck, the work of anyone who’s a “professional filmmaker” —  I’d be just as well off picking 500 random douchebags from Twitter to shoot a movie with their Flipcams and review those instead. After all, doesn’t the ability to aim a Flipcam and push that “on” button make someone as qualified to make a movie as Smith with his 17 vaulted years of experience in the craft? No? Heck, screw Kevin Smith, even Scorsese, let’s get that guy with the YouTube video of his sock puppets up there on the big screen!

By Smith’s own argument, his years of experience at his job make him an expert in his field, but the experience of folks who have worked years as film critics means jack-all, because anyone with access to the internet can Twitter an opinion about a film. Utter bullshit, Kevin. Does the presence of a million dweebs who put up random YouTube videos invalidate your profession?

See, this is the problem inherent with Twitter. People get on there and start babbling, and either what you have is what we saw out of SXSW, with countless meaningless posts about eating BBQ and waiting in lines and who’s standing next to whom at parties, or you get people getting into verbal fisticuffs with all their Tweet-peeps and Tweet-enemies like some onlineWest Side Story knock-off. It’s ridiculous. Now Smith has put this out there, and what is he going to do? Back down and say, “Hey guys, whoops, sorry! I got a little worked up and carried away there and pissed off a bunch of folks who have actually been really supportive of my career, and I’m taking back the whole ‘not going to screen for critics anymore’ nonsense?” Not likely. Smith, historically, is not one to be the bigger man in his online battles.

I, like most of my friends in the critical community, actually like Smith, in spite of his penchant for wearing shorts around Sundance and mouthing off. He’s generally entertaining, and he writes good scripts, even if he doesn’t always direct them well. I’ve liked most of his films — yes, even Mall Rats. But when a grown man throws a temper tantrum online like some recalcitrant 14-year-old ranting on Twitter about his mom telling him his room is messy and he needs to clean it already, that is just sad. Seriously, Kevin, grow up or grow some balls and learn to take a little criticism, even when you make a film that’s just supposed to be “fun.” Fun does not equal crap, however many stoner fanboys might think it does. You’re not above critique.

– by Kim Voynar

March 25, 2010

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon