Kevin Smith: As under appreciated a filmmaker as the industry has

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For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to do something a little bit different than usual. Rather than simply look at someone who’s got a film coming out this week, I wanted to highlight someone who I feel is one of the most under appreciated filmmakers in the business. It’s Kevin Smith, a writer/director/editor/actor/podcaster who’s managed to forge one of the more unique careers that Hollywood has ever seen. Some may take issue with him being an A-lister or a star (or even under appreciated), and Smith would likely be the first to say so as well, but he sells himself short. Even beyond his work, he’s looked at as an expert on comic book cinema. For example, when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, what other filmmaker was literally sought out by the press for comment? His mere set visit to Star Wars: Episode VII is considered an event worth writing about. That’s rare folks. He’s never been someone the Academy looks to for nominations (though I’ve heard rumors that he was in the number six spot for Chasing Amy in Best Original Screenplay) and that’s a shame. A few years back, they didn’t even pretend to consider some of the performances he got out of John Goodman and Michael Parks in Red State, and that was their loss. Don’t even get me started on the Joey Lauren Adams snub either for Chasing Amy. Point is, no matter how you slice it, he’s under appreciated and underrated in Hollywood. As such, I feel he’s more than deserving of me giving him some appreciation in this piece today.

Smith has been a trailblazer in this business. From his independent film beginnings with Clerks to his embracement of the world of podcasting, he’s ahead of the curve. He was ahead of his time in selling himself as part of the movie experience, doing Q and A sessions before or after screenings of Clerks, sessions that became so popular he still sells out venues to this very day, two decades later. He helped launch the career of Affleck, Jason Lee, and others. Smith’s impact on Hollywood has been rather wide ranging, frankly.

If you take a closer look at his work than most do these days, he’s shown an ability to handle multiple genres and themes, more so than many realize. The aforementioned Chasing Amy melded LGBT issues into a raunchy romantic comedy. Dogma fused comedic sensibilities with serious Catholic church issues. Red State was a biting satire of both government and religious fundamentalism. Smith’s work has much more to it than meets the eye. Now, with a release coming later this year of Tusk, he’s shot one of, if not the first, movies based on a podcast. He’s blazing a whole new trail as we speak. Moreover, he’s shown better taste than many realize. He turned down opportunities early in his career to make a Green Hornet adaptation, which judging by how that one turned out, wasn’t a bad decision at all. He knows his strengths and plays to them, something more filmmakers should be aware of. There’s nothing wrong with branching out, but not everyone can make every single type of movie, plain and simple.

I could go on and on about how a seemingly ordinary romantic comedy like Zack and Miri Make a Porno is actually a love letter to independent filmmaking or how Jersey Girl is one of the smarter father/daughter movies out there, but you get the gist by now I’m sure. Smith adds something extra to his work that not everyone takes the time to notice. It’s there though, and worthy of some commendation.

Overall, Smith is a unique talent that may never truly get the appreciation that he deserves. Honestly, maybe he never will, but that shouldn’t take away from what he’s done. Now that he’s in a new creative period that sees him adapting podcasts, anything is possible from him going forward. Whatever he does will have my attention, from Clerks 3 to his upcoming hockey miniseries Hit Somebody to whatever else speakers his interest. Smith might not be appreciated by the masses, but he’s sure appreciated by me.

Stay tuned for another look at an A-lister or under appreciated artist next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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