Today, Kevin Smith announced that his DIY release strategy for “Red State” now includes a deal with Lionsgate to release the film on VOD in September. However, the announcement was packaged in a 4,000-word blog post that also took aim at veteran film critic Amy Taubin, whose Film Comment piece on “Red State” was less than kind:
I always considered film critic Amy Taubin a friend. I was pretty sure she considered me a friend as well, as she called me after the Village Voice let her go, asking if I could help her get a book deal. Over the years, Amy hasn’t always liked the films I made, but at least she never made up horse-shit in her reviews. However, in a Sundance 2011 piece she filed with Film Comment, she lost my respect by being as “careless and heavy-handed” at her job (in print) as she insisted I was at my job (in film) by suggesting nobody would’ve bought Red State. Fact of the matter was there were many outlets that still wanted Red State – even after we announced our theatrical self-distribution plan.
A little background: This isn’t your standard-issue director-critic sniping. Taubin was among Smith’s very earliest champions, and arguably is responsible for much of his early success. It was her Village Voice piece on the screening of Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” at the 1991 Independent Feature Film Market that inspired Smith to take “Clerks” to the market in 1993. That resulted in Taubin writing a glowing review of his debut feature. (Both the “Slacker” and “Clerks” articles are available with the recent “Clerks” Blu-ray issued for its 15th anniversary.)
In an interview earlier this year with L.A. Weekly film critic Karina Longworth, Smith recalled Taubin’s praise for “Clerks,” making the dramatic claim that “I will remember that piece on my death bed.”
With a history like that, for Smith to call Taubin “careless and heavy-handed” is more than a basic swipe at an anonymous commenter of the sort Smith regularly takes down via Twitter. This is Smith showing his soft side, revealing a sense of betrayal by one of the few remaining media voices he thought he could trust. Reached by indieWIRE via email for comment today, Taubin offered the following response:
I read Kevin’s rant very quickly. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but what he claims to be upset about, specifically with regard to me (he’s upset about a lot of things) was that I said he bought his own movie at that faked auction because he knew that no one else would offer to buy it for real money. He doesn’t want to get into the substance of my assessment of the movie – that he undermines what would seem like progressive gender politics with “compulsive teen-boy misogynist jokes.” The fact that this is an accepted Hollywood comedy strategy at the moment doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t call him on it. I’ve been a long time champion of Kevin’s work. I think he made two terrific, very personal, even game-changing films – “Clerks” and “Dogma” – which is more than most filmmakers do in their careers. And I’ve written very favorably about half a dozen others. But I think in recent years he’s shown that he isn’t very interested in being a movie director. He’s a gifted writer, but, as he has often observed, he’s not a natural when it comes to telling stories in moving pictures, and he seems resistant to doing the work that he’d have to do to become a better director. And that’s fine. I don’t regard directing movies as a higher calling. But when you put half-baked, cheap shots out in the world and call it a movie, you shouldn’t be surprised when someone who has valued your work in the past calls you on it. More to the point, Kevin understood that his work spoke to a “demographic” that has been under served by the movies: Working class guys who seldom see their counterparts – uncosmeticized and unromanticized – on the screen. And he also understood, long before most people did, that he could build an online community for this fan base – and earn a nice living doing it. That’s his genius. And he doesn’t need to keep making movies to hold that community together. Movies, I hate to say, are not the language in which the history of the 21st century will be written. So I think there is something prescient in his decision not to keep making movies forever.
So, there you have it. What do you think of this? Should Smith reconsider Taubin’s “Red State” indictment?