After nearly 20 years as a writer and director of popular, if not universally praised, movies like "Clerks," "Chasing Amy" and, most recently, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" and "Cop Out," it seems Kevin Smith finally has the Internet critical community united on the same side: against him.
In the battle between Mr. Smith and film bloggers over perceived shenanigans at the Sundance premiere of his latest film, the horror flick "Red State," Smith might not have fired the first salvo — "A liar," Hitflix's Drew McWeeney wrote of the director, with Badass Digest's Devin Faraci saying he is "full of sh--" — but now, Smith is digging in and firing back.
"People just tore me a new a--hole," Smith said in a live-stream interview with MTV News' Josh Horowitz on Tuesday (February 8). "All these bloggers. ... What is so wrong with being entertaining in your presentation? What gives people the right to be like, 'He's a liar!' Are you kidding me? People instead look for something to be mad about. They don't want to tell the story. No, the story they want to tell instead is like, 'He said he was gonna sell it and he didn't! What a jerk he is!' "
Leading up to the premiere, Smith seemed to indicate, on his Twitter and elsewhere, that distribution rights would be awarded during a live auction immediately following the first public screening of his film. Roughly midway through a 25-minute speech to the assembled audience, an auction did take place, ending abruptly after just one bid — from Smith himself. The auction, the speech and the premiere were all part of his plan to take the flick on a self-financed, cross-country tour leading up to a wide release in October, an old movie-distribution gambit known as four-walling.
To some in the entertainment journalism community, the entire ordeal was seen as, at best, a circus of self-promotion and, at worst, an outright lie, leaving many to write angry posts in response. But to Smith, those who are the most upset are the ones who have the least cause to be.
"Who would be pissed at [what I did]? Tell me who has the right to be mad at that? Distributors? Film fans? 'Cause none of those bloggers were ever gonna buy that movie, so what did they care who I sold it to?" Smith said. "And I told the truth, in my tweet. I said, 'If I get to Sundance, I intend to pick my distributor in the room, auction-style.' Auction-style — did I not do that? People feel threatened and scared by something that has nothing to do with them whatsoever."
While Smith might have alienated some critics, it's seemed to simultaneously galvanize his base — a veritable army of devoted fans who have already bought hundreds of tickets to his screenings/ live Q&As, the first of which (Carnegie Hall on March 5) has some seats for sale as high as $142 a pop. It's those fans who he was speaking to at Sundance, Smith argued, and it's those fans he's been speaking to all along.
"I'm not a mainstream filmmaker. You want a mainstream version of me? Judd Apatow can do it in his sleep — he's much better at it," he told MTV News. "But if you want what I do, [holding fingers together], this many people are interested in it, not the whole world. Rather than spend for people who aren't gonna come, let me just talk to these people and see what happens."
And for the Internet journalists who have turned on Smith, Middletown's favorite son still insists they're missing the forest through the trees. "I didn't lie. I stood up there and said that I'm gonna take my movie — I'm gonna take it out and try not to spend money doing it," he said. "The real story is, 'Oh my God, this dude's doing what Trent Reznor did in music. He's trying to take his movie to the people by himself, [with the aid of] social media networks.' "
But while they can ultimately argue over whether he's talented or a self-promoter, one thing they can't argue over, he said, is whether he's captivating.
"What's more entertaining than 'Guess what, mother----er, I'm buying the movie, bitches!' " Smith smiled. "At the very least, they can sit there and be like, 'As we've seen, he's imploded. He's clearly insane.'
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