I actually have no idea why it’s taken me so long to think of writing this post but apparently after watching Kevin Smith’s trailer for his new flick, Tusk (trailer above), the idea sparked in my head. It’s weird that the idea to write this took so long considering Kevin Smith is someone’s voice I almost hear daily, I don’t really consider myself an “avid” listener of his podcasts but I do listen to them here and there and I pretty much have listened to nearly every episode of his podcast with Ralph Garman, Hollywood Babble-On. But the real reason I’m writing this is that Kevin Smith is probably one the artist who has inspired me most through the years through his movies, the way he made it in the “business,” the way he built a podcast empire, and eventually gave a big fuck you to the system with films like Red State and its distribution methods. Anyhow, let’s stop rambling and prefacing this post and actually get on with the damn post…
I first watched the movie Clerks quite some time ago and I would say fairly early into my humble beginnings as a “movie buff,” probably around the age of 14 or 15 or something like that. And I can confidently say that it changed my opinions on movies forever. You watch it and begin to realize you are watching a black and white movie made in 1994 with an extremely low budget and mostly made among a bunch of friends about two guys who work a convenient store and is filled with plenty of hilarious jokes but at the same time manages to have a surprising amount of heart. Obviously the first thing that struck me was the low budget. You watch Hollywood film after Hollywood film (and even many (debatably) “indie” films made with budgets in the millions) and you begin to see that world as entirely impenetrable. Nobody can “really” make a movie because you don’t have the money for it. Hollywood comes across as an entirely different world where only the privileged make it (which is at least somewhat true). And every since I was 14 years old, I’ve wanted to make movies and Clerks is the first movie that made me go “I can fucking do this, man.” The only inspiration beforehand was James Rolfe aka “The Angry Video Game Nerd” and his documentary Cinemassacre 200 (posted below this paragraph…though I recommend watching it after reading this post since it is over 20 minutes long) that influenced me highly…otherwise, I didn’t have much else. It seemed like an impossible thing to do. There was no way some kid like me could ever have a chance in this impenetrable world of movies but Clerks made that seem possible.
Clerks has forever solidified itself in my top 20 films of all time list ever since I’ve seen it not only because of the story of how it made it into Sundance and jumpstarted Kevin Smith’s career and how they made it all work with such a low budget but also because of the sense of humor and heart. The humor is of the somewhat lowbrow variety in many instances but it still remains tasteful because of the awareness the movie has but also the heart. This isn’t just a movie with two guys making dick jokes (and a fat guy who is silent and a crazy motherfucker named Jay who sell drugs), it’s honest in a delightful way. Silent Bob’s speech at the end carries a lot of fucking weight. Kevin Smith has said that he sought out to make a movie about nothing but really ended up writing the script about something. Is that not fucking badass or what? Clerks is a movie that hugely influenced me as a writer, many of my screenplays (both short and feature length) are comedies (as that is the genre I prefer most) and Clerks will always remain a centerpiece of influence with not just writing a movie with dumb jokes in it but also capturing something important in there. You can’t just set out to make a film with just dumb jokes (at least in my opinion), it needs to say something real and honest and genuine (and not something fake and bullshit and stupid) and truly come from yourself and what you think about something (don’t be afraid to hold back I suppose) and just fucking say it, man. Make it happen. Too many artists thrive on clichés and things they know from other art but instead you’ve gotta reinvent the wheel and I think a movie like Clerks shows that.
Mallrats is another Kevin Smith flick I absolutely love and I hate that it didn’t do very well at the box office when it came out. It just follows two dudes walking around a mall for most of the film (which makes it sound like it is exactly like Clerks but I swear it isn’t) but at the same time it still has some heart and honesty found within it (and one hell of a cameo by Stan Lee and the usage of Suzanne by Weezer in the end credits). It’s a really underappreciated movie in so many ways as it really is a defining piece of 90s culture in a lot of ways (okay, this is coming from someone who barely even grew up in the 90s as I was born in 1996 but fuck it) and it’s just so fucking enjoyable to watch, very much a feel good movie in many ways.
Chasing Amy is certainly one of Kevin’s more serious works but in a very, very good way. It deals with sexuality in a way very much different than most films were back then and displayed gay culture much better than many films were then too. It’s a movie that deserves to be looked at with a more critical eye and analysis and really sees growth in Smith as a director/writer in terms of dealing with more serious ideas.
Dogma goes for more straight-up satire in terms of religion but in a very tasteful way. It pokes fun at a lot of the absolutely stupid, ridiculous, awful shit in religion but doesn’t completely denounce religion either; it celebrates and makes fun of it all at once. It’s just absolutely fun to watch.
I could just go movie by movie. (Here let’s just round this up real quick: Jay and Silent Bob: Strike Back is fun as fuck, self-aware, and filled with plenty of fun parody. Jersey Girl…okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve never actually seen it…but I still plan to. Clerks II: I love it, some people fucking hate it, I think it’s one of the best comedy sequels ever made. Zack and Miri Make a Porno: How the fuck did you manage to make a movie about making porn filled with plenty of heart and honesty? Cop Out…okay, I haven’t seen this one either. Did I sorta deliberately avoid the movies considered the worst out of his filmography? Yeah, I guess but I still plan to watch them to give them a fair shot. Red State: A return to religious satire in a fucking awesome mash-up of comedy, satire, horror, and action.) I think the real reason I wrote this post is that Kevin Smith gives me fucking hope. Beyond the fact that the guy is making the type of films I wanna make (comedies filled with some actual heart and honesty), the dude is FILLED with optimism, just take a look at this clip down below:
How fucking great is that message? It’s pure and honest and real in every damn way. I am headed to college in a little over a month (August 27th to be precise) to major in Film/Video Production (or as my school (Columbia College Chicago) calls it, “Cinema Art+Science,” to make it sound fancy or whatever) and I am very much excited to do so. Making movies is a dream of mine but it goes beyond that. I don’t wanna make the movies everyone else wants to make. I don’t want to make the artsy flicks that many fucking film students love to make. Sure I might love some Michel Gondry or Stanley Kubrick or Federico Felini but I’ll take Kevin Smith or John Hughes or a film by Monty Python over them any day of the week because those movies REALLY mean something to me. I want to make movies that are stupid and comical in (what I think) is a great way. I want to make them with real and honest and (probably) pretty direct messages but I want to make people laugh as well and I want to surround myself with people who have the same passion for movies like that and will by willing to say “why not” instead of “why.” I would’ve already started to (though I’ve written plenty of shit) if I could find people who had the same passions…but I can’t wait to find people who do and I can’t help but think Kevin Smith is part of the reason I’m doing what I wanna do. And for that, I thank him endlessly. Keep doing the shit you do Kevin, because you made me realize that it is worth taking the shot.
Author of this post (and every post thus far and maybe forever more):
Jesse Jordon is an aspiring comedic writer/filmmaker/performer/pieceofshit who writes this garbage on these blogs to (hopefully) make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 1st person and 3rd person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) Follow him on Twitter @WhyShitSoCrazy for bad, witty tweets.