Twenty-two years ago, the greatest movie about pop-culture fueled, directionless, twenty-something year olds, living a mundane life and working at a gas station in small town New Jersey, was released. Clerks was a movie that spoke to the disenfranchised youth of the nineties, well received critically, the film was the beginning of the Kevin Smith brand.
Over the following twenty years, Smith would release several movies to varying levels of critical success. Mallrats was panned. Chasing Amy was loved. Dogma was the center of a lot of controversy, but often praised for its honest and heartfelt satire of religious institutions. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was a miss, but that’s to be expected, seeing as it was a giant in-joke. Of all his earlier films, the only one that was eviscerated entirely, was Mallrats. Jersey Girl would be his second run in with the wrong side of critical opinion, his first attempt at a more conventional romantic comedy was met with many jeers from critics and fans alike. After the failure of Jersey Girl, it was right back to the safety of the Askewniverse with Clerks II. Clerks II wasn’t met with a huge amount praise, but was well received enough.
Next came Zack and Miri Make a Porno, also well received, but unfortunately, a flop at the box office. Cop Out would be his only major studio release, and lets face it, that was a bad movie, just awful. I won’t blame him though, as the movie wasn’t horribly directed.
From all of these experiences came the SmodCast movies, which have been mostly terribly received. With Red State, Tusk and now Yoga Hosers, Smith has basically thrown off any concern about the critical reception of his films.
This is where we really find the brilliance that is Kevin Smith. Through all the years of ups and downs with critics Smith was building relationships. Relationships with the friends that he started his career with, friends that he met through his many projects, and a bizarre closeness with his hardcore fans. Through his speaking engagements and his many podcasts, Smith’s self deprecating and brutal honesty about himself, the industry, and of course all things nerd culture, people who have never met the man feel as if they know him and have a sort of distant closeness.
Through speaking engagements and his many podcasts, such as SmodCast, Hollywood Babble-On, Fatman on Batman, and many many others, Kevin Smith has built an empire. Not an empire of money and fame, necessarily, but an empire of loyal friends and fans. The kind of empire that will never truly crumble, no matter if the film work goes away or the money runs out, because he has built more bridges than any man could ever burn in a lifetime.
The king of no filter is a story teller at heart, and will use any and every medium that he possibly can to tell his stories.
There is a subtle brilliance to the way he has attacked his career as of late. Instead of becoming “serious” and “maturing” with his films, he’s regressed and become increasingly immature. That in no way is a negative, there is an honesty and intelligence in taking this approach. He’s being truer to the reason he says he got into the business to begin with, which is to make movies that he wants to watch, things that no one else would ever make.Tusk and Yoga Hosers were completely destroyed by critics, but they miss the purity and heart of these movies. Tusk was a movie born from a podcast, two guys sat around making up and outlandish story based around a news article. Then he did something incredible. He gave his audience control of his career, which is something I’ve never seen a writer/director do. He put it in our hands. We decided whether or not Tusk was made and we were given the opportunity to tell a filmmaker what we wanted through the Twitter hashtag #walrusyes, and he listened.
What we got, was an incredibly unconventional horror/comedy. It was sick, twisted, and funny. The movie has great performances all around, and you can tell that it was being made by a person truly enjoying what he does. He wasn’t making a movie for the box office or critical acclaim, he was making it for himself and a select group that was in on the joke. He was making it for his friends. What resulted was one of the most cringe worthy and insane horror movies I’ve ever seen,I honestly rank it among my favorites in the genre.
Yoga Hosers was born in much the same way, through a news story talked about on a podcast. The movie is funny, it mixes so many of the best things from his podcasts. Again, it’s made for people in on the joke. Right now, we are seeing Kevin Smith at the best he has ever been. Full of joy, hope, and love, which is evident in every frame. You see the love that he has for his family, friends, and fans in every scene composed. There is a happiness to the films. He has become the poster boy for following your heart, your dreams, inspiring many people like me to just go for something we love.
That’s why I’m writing this now. Because I just want to do something I love and have fun with. He inspires us to be better for the sake of ourselves and those we love and inspires us to take someone telling us no as inspiration to forge the path for ourselves.
Kevin Smith is brilliant for the simple fact that he’s creating his own market and forging his own path.