What I’m Thankful For: Kevin Smith

4:22:18 am

So I’m starting a new recurring element for November. It’s called What I’m Thankful For and it’s pretty self explanatory. First up, I decided to do Kevin Smith. I’ve been a fan of his since my freshman year in high school and just saw Zack and Miri so it seemed like a natural place to start.

It’s kind of funny because I almost wrote Kevin Smith off early on in my high school career. I remember going over to a girl named Erin Sullivan’s house and she tried putting on Clerks, but everyone was pretty grossed out by the snowball conversation and we turned it off (oh how young and prudish we were). Later, I was at someone else’s house (Chad Yates, I believe) and he put on Chasing Amy which got turned off pretty quickly for whatever reason (it’s not really a good party movie).

Now, I’m not sure when I actually started watching his movies, but whenever that was, I was hooked. I do remember seeing the Mallrats Magic Eye ads in the back of comics, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it. There was something about the way he had his characters talk that seemed to echo how I thought (though not necessarily how I talked). And the themes were completely original too me. Clerks showed me what the world can be like. Mallrats gave me a comedy that seemed to speak to my generation (or at least the one slightly above mine) and Chasing Amy broke my heart with it’s unorthodox love story and less than happy ending.

I want to say that I saw Dogma in the theater, but I really can’t remember. I do remember that I was freaking in love with it. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic grade school and high school, but it wasn’t the ultra-strict kind of thing that tend to spring to mind for a lot of people. I actually learned a great deal in those schools about everything from history to sex ed, which kind of blows my mind after talking to other people who went to Catholic schools. Anyway, Dogma basically started pointing out a lot of the kind of crazy things about organized religion around the same time the thoughts started kicking around in my own head so it was great timing.

Somewhere around here I discovered Kevin Smith’s Viewaskew site. I wasn’t really down with the whole message board thing but I really appreciated how open he was with his fans. Smith was one of the first director’s I discovered and really followed in my younger years (Tarantino was another) and I really appreciated how he interacted with people. He seemed like a new kind of director.

I do remember when I saw Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back though. It was the day before I went off to college and my buddy Eric Toth got screener tickets for Randy Lemle and myself, which was great because I had to go down on a Wednesday I believe and would have missed the normal Friday release. It was pretty great timing really as I was leaving my own weird cast of characters for a completely new one (just like Smith was supposedly leaving the View Askewniverse behind. Yes it’s a love letter to the fans, but being such a big fan I gladly accepted it.

Somewhere along the line I saw Jersey Girl on DVD and while it’s definitely not your average Smith flick, I thought it had a lot of heart and he got great performances out of Ben Affleck, George Carlin, Liv Tyler and everyone else. And, if nothing else it lead directly to the 10-years-later sequel to Clerks which I freaking loved in the theaters and watched again with Em back when we didn’t have cable and laughed like crazy. Again, the timing was right as I was feeling older, I’d moved away from home and I wasn’t really around my good close friends from either home or college. So, while my life didn’t reflect the events on screen (no donkey shows for me), I could definitely relate to the scariness of the next steps of life along with questioning what the heck I’m supposed to do with my life. And, of course, I like seeing these characters over and over, it’s the comic book fan in me.

When I started getting into podcasts a few years back Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast was one of the first ones I subscribed to and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s just two dudes talking and it’s great. I, of course, also have the Clerks cartoon on DVD even though I didn’t watch it when it was on. I do have all the DVDs (except Jersey Girl) and have actually watched Mallrats with commentary more times than without. I bought the first round of Clerks Inaction figures and the Jay and Bob figures. Oh, and I got super jealous when Rickey, my roommate at the time, got to go to Smith’s house to take notes during a big poker game with comic talent like Jim Lee and Geoff Johns for a feature in Wizard. I was able to contribute the headline of that feature though, “The Royal Flush Gang.” Hey, it’s something, I guess. The closest I ever personally got was interviewing Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson about their rad monster horror comic War of the Undead via E-mail.

So last Saturday I found myself in the theater with Em watching Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I dug the movie. I do have some problems with the plot (they SPOILER never finish the porno or go back and explain what’s up with the other characters), but I laughed hard and got to see some familiar faces (maybe a few too many Apatow familiars for my personal preference). Mostly I liked how Seth Rogen’s character so closely paralleled Smith himself when he was making Clerks. It’s not a necessary piece of information to fully enjoy the movie, but it was kind of cool knowing he was using his own experiences. I’ve got no problem with the porno thing, I guess it would be kind of hard to be a Smith fan by now and actually have a problem with it, but whatever.

I fully recognize that my relationship with Smith’s movies has been very “right place, right time.” I’ve got no idea if I’d be such a big fan if I was a few years older or younger, but hey, that’s how it works. I’m excited to see where he goes from here, especially with Red State, his in-progress horror movie (two great tastes that will hopefully taste great together). Until then, I’ll keep my ear to the Smodcast to see what historical and factual inaccuracies the boys can come up with next.

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