Why Kevin Smith Hates Film Critics.

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
I had something entirely different planned for this particular Twitch-o-Meter - a piece about former pro athletes turned actor - but given writer-director Kevin Smith's protracted Twitter-rant about film critics yesterday and the fact that he is just wrapping up another very lengthy rant on the same topic right now on live radio here in Toronto the plan has changed. Today I give you Kevin Smith and why he hates film critics.

And let me start by saying this. While I haven't liked all of Smith's movies I've always kind of loved his public persona, his 'one of the guys' approach to the public, and his genuine enthusiasm for all things geeky. Plus he's got a vocal soft spot for Canada, which is a definite plus in my books as well. All of which makes the anger behind his current ranting a bit of a perplexing surprise to me as it generally seems out of character.

Here are the salient points, as I see / hear them.

1. Inaccuracy. Both fair and simple enough, and well within his rights to call people out on provided that what he is talking about is limited to actual, factual inaccuracy. Writers need to do their research and make sure that what they're saying is true. And when mistakes happen - which they do - steps need to be taken as soon as possible to correct things before misinformation spreads.

2. He doesn't like that critics get to see movies for free. This, bluntly, is just strange. And despite being strange, this particular point is occupying a LOT of his radio air time. Smith pitches this argument basically as a 'common man versus the privileged elite' sort of issue and while I get that he'd rather sell tickets than give them away and would rather pack as many 'average' people into the screenings as possible, if he honestly believes what he is saying here then Smith is shockingly ignorant of how press screenings work and the role press plays in marketing. If you want the word of mouth that will draw people to your screenings then the critics need to see the movies and they need to see them first. This is just basic mechanics of PR. And you don't charge people a fee to do their jobs or, rather, to do your marketing for you, which is what critics are asked to do on behalf of the studios and distributors who are releasing the films. This, honestly, feels far more like a smokescreen argument to get people on his side when critics say bad things about his films. Which leads to ...

3. Critics sometimes say bad things about his films. He's said openly that he likes it when critics say GOOD things about his films but Smith just doesn't seem to take negative commentary well. But this is just life, you don't get to take only the praise while crusading against negative feedback. There's a reason why Smith is delivering these particular rants after Cop Out and not after Chasing Amy. And from where I'm sitting that reason has more to do with Smith than with whether or not the critics are doing their jobs well.

It may very well be the case that Smith is one of those directors who legitimately makes his movies purely for the fans and not for critics. There's no issue with that at all. Look at a guy like Roger Corman. His stuff was never intended for critical consumption and he built a large, beloved and now hugely respected body of work using that approach. But if that's the case and Smith really doesn't care about the critics, well then he should stop caring about the critics. If they don't matter then just ignore them. But this sort of public moaning about unfair treatment just doesn't play well and takes Smith way, way away from the strong points of his public image. Particularly when the 'the press is unfair and unprofessional' complaints are delivered side to side with a story bragging about calling Toronto Star critic Peter Howell at his home to tell him off over a review of Dogma. Because, you know, calling a guy in his home, outside of working hours, to bitch at him for doing his job, is fair and professional.

But enough of my talk. If the radio station Smith was on follow their normal pattern the complete radio interview could be online any time between the next fifteen minutes and tomorrow morning. You'll be able to find it here when it is. Give it a listen when it is and weigh in on Smith VS Film Critic.
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