It’s like a bad Penny Arcade comic (how you tell the bad ones from the good ones, I don’t know…) – Kevin Smith will be a guest critic on Ebert and Roeper while Roger Ebert recovers from complications in surgery. I’m not taken aback by this because I think Smith would be a bad critic – he certainly can’t be any worse than Roeper. And I’m not taken aback because I think his status as a filmmaker (a good or bad one) would be a conflict of interest. I’m taken aback because it’s a shockingly hypocritical thing to do. You see, Kevin Smith is essentially a big giant baby who can’t take criticism, and now he wants to dish it out.
Kevin Smith told the Chicago Tribune that he reads everything written about him. He’s probably even reading this. I can get that – I’m known to do a Google search for my name. What I don’t get is the other thing he told the Tribune – he still laminates every review of his films. Even the online ones. He prints those out at home before laminating them. Smith can, off the top of his head, quote bad reviews from years ago. This is a man who does not take criticism lightly.
But you knew that if you saw the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which has the most blatant and weird example of a filmmaker taking on the critics until M Night surpassed it with his Balaban killing in Lady in the Water: the titular heroes take their new Hollywood money and fly around the country to beat the shit out of internet message board critics. This isn’t that far-fetched; Smith is known to log onto Aint It Cool News and engage in lengthy flame wars with the cro-magnon TalkBackers. Now, to be fair, I’ve been known to tussle on our own CHUD message boards in the past, but I try to not get into flame wars based on criticisms of me.
Smith’s latest battle with the critics was a very public one – he took Joel Siegel to task for noisily stomping out of a screening of Clerks II. Yes, no one likes Siegel, and yes, his behavior sucked, but this whole thing reeked of a publicity stunt meeting a raging ego. There are ways of dealing with a critic who behaves like that, and public humiliation isn’t one of them – it wasn’t a public screening, after all. I have seen plenty of shitty behavior from critics in screenings, including constant talking and walking out of movies well before they finish. If I made a federal case out of each of these I would have a new full time job. Of course I didn’t have a new movie I was desperately and transparently trying to flog.
But that’s a smokescreen for the real story – Kevin Smith bans critics he doesn’t like from screenings of his movies. Ask Scott Foundas of LA Weekly, who had to get John Pierson to mediate so he could see Clerks II (and the resulting positive review comes across feeling like an attempt not to get rebanned). Ask David Poland, who made an unkind comment about Smith’s calves in a review and was banned from Clerks II. It’s sort of mind-boggling.
What would be great would be if whatever film was up for review the week Smith was reviewing banned him from seeing it. Being a huge fucking baby can – and should – go both ways. I would like to see Smith sitting on national TV explaining to Roeper that he wasn’t allowed into the screening so he has nothing to say. Or maybe the director of whatever film Smith reviews can come to set and try to shout him down, or challenge him to a fight. It’s just baffling that a man so congenitally incapable of taking any criticism without feeling it like a knife in the gut would put himself in the position where he would be officially passing judgment on the work of others. Is it that the oeuvre of Kevin Smith is off-limits to all critique? Maybe he and Uwe Boll, who wants to box his critics, should get together, buy each other a beer and then cry into them. You’re making art, and you’re putting it out there for everyone to see. People will comment and people will critique. If you’re unable to deal with that, don’t put your art out there – in some cases you may well be doing everyone a favor.