It is shocking (SHOCKING) that Kevin Smith has somehow remained out of the running for the Worst Movie of All Time until now. I suppose the judges were too busy with The Hunt for the Biggest Jorts of All Time. Seriously, I know it is an ad hominem attack of sorts, and when you make an ad hominem attack you ad hominem attack u and me, but dude wears the biggest jorts I have ever seen. Exclusively. There is a sign on the door to Kevin Smith’s closet that says “Jorts Only Past This Point.” And he has a point. Nothing but giant jorts could accentuate his extensive collection of oversized hockey jerseys. What an adult! Mr. Cool Adult. I bet when he walks his child to school, the teachers have to take a second and remember which one is the dad. “You can tell that he’s the father because there is MORE jam spilled down his chest.”
Anyway, Chasing Amy, which I saw in the theater, is this week’s nominee, and SPOILER ALERT: it earns Kevin Smith the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award in BOOO!
Chasing Amy is about a young comic book artist (yeah, right) (Ben Affleck), who meets and falls for another young comic book artist (sure, fine) (Joey Lauren Adams). He thinks that things are going well, but then he discovers that she is a lesbian! Yuck! Gross! They continue to hang out, much to the frustration of Ben Affleck’s best friend and comic book business partner, Jason Lee, and eventually Ben Affleck falls in love with her. But she is still a lesbian. Oh well. But then Ben Affleck tells her that he loves her, and she stops being a lesbian. Oh, that was easy! I mean, she does get mad at him for a second–in the rain, obviously–OOF–but it’s hard to stay mad when you have so much sexual history to erase! So now they are in love! Aww. But then Jason Lee finds an old yearbook in which Ben Affleck’s girlfriend’s nickname is “fingercuffs” and it turns out this is because one time she had a total threeway with a couple of dudes. This makes Ben Affleck so upset, I guess because he’s never fucked two dudes at one time, and he is jealous? Anyway, Ben Affleck breaks up with Fingercuffs, but he loves her, and so he decides that the best way for them to get back together is to have a threesome with Jason Lee, because then he will have had a threesome, and Jason Lee will be gay, and Joey Lauren Adams has already proven that she loves threesomes. Weirdly, this doesn’t work out? Everyone gets all weird about this super smart flawless plan that is perfect. The movie ends with Ben Affleck having zero friends, girlfriends, or business partners whatsoever. In that sense, it is as happy an ending as one could have hoped for this piece of garbage.
Relax, Criterion Collection.
Kevin Smith, of course, has built his legacy on making movies for very little money. The problem is that this stops being impressive after one movie. I’m totally willing to accept that Clerks is an important film, however terrible it actually is, on the basis of offering an inspiring story to untalented people who want to make awful films of their own. “Can you imagine, having so little talent and so little money and just going for it?” Stop imagining. It already exists. It is called Clerks, and it’s the worst. Chasing Amy was Kevin Smith’s third film, so you would think that by this point he would have found someone who would at least know how to set up some lights properly. And maybe use the camera as a photographic tool, rather than the magic box what that before which them actors need to stand near.
The thing about low budgtet movies is that they certainly don’t cost any less to see in the theater. Maybe if Kevin Smith’s movies were only $0.50 a ticket, then we would be having a different conversation. One more along the lines of this:
“I was about to throw my 50 cents into the sewer drain, but I went to see Kevin Smith’s new movie instead. You know, as a goof.”
But how impressed am I really supposed to be with a terrible filmmaker’s awful film just because he only wasted millions of dollars on it and not TENS of millions of dollars? This impressed?
Then we get to the actual CONTENT of this movie, and that is where things really start to fall apart. For one thing, I am all for “artists” inserting some of their own idiosyncracies into their work (as evidenced by the fact that over time the density of the inside jokes on this blog has rendered it completely unreadable) but does everyone in the movie have to be a comic book enthusiast who also loves hockey? SPREAD SOME OF THOSE IDIOSYNCRACIES OUT. And while I know that you can never read too much into an author’s intentions in a fictional work, you can kind of read too much into the author’s intentions in this fictional work, because Ben Affleck is a handsome stand in for Kevin Smith NO DUH.
“He just happens to be a schlub from New Jersey who is super successful at something he doesn’t seem to actually know anything about who still works with his high school friends and lives in his hometown, with the same facial hair as me, who is also super into comic books and hockey the way that I am into comic books and hockey, and who is so handsome and charming that he can turn gay women straight, but he is definitely super fictional for sure and does not represent an impossibly idealistic version of who I wish I was. I’m an artist!”
I’m not sure that we even need to discuss the whole lesbian-going-straight thing, do we? Or do we? Just a little? Well, my only problem with this plotline is that it is unrealistic, infantile, insulting, mildly homophobic, and retarded. But otherwise it’s not a big deal. I mean, look, the movie actually does a perfectly reasonable job of showing non-stereotypical homosexuals living out complicated and fulfilling lives of which their sexuality is only one facet, which is not a thing to be ignored in a movie from 1997. But, ultimately, anything positive that might have come out of that is not only undone, but overwritten with the awfulness of depicting homosexuality as a flimsy tool of self-identification that can be easily and quickly shrugged off if the right melodramatic speech comes along in the middle of a thunderstorm.
During the famous swing set scene, Joey Lauren Adams crushes all of Ben Affleck’s (read: Kevin Smith’s) preconceived notions of sexuality with an argument about whether or not a girl who has never had sex with a man is or is not a “virgin.” Joey Lauren Adams argues that she broke her hymen on a fence post (?) and that you can still have penetration with a women, thereby convincing Ben Affleck that maybe he’s been wrong all along and a woman who has only had sex with a woman ISN’T a virgin. The whole thing is very Freshman Year Of College Cafeteria Discussion. The problem is that at no point does the lesbian argue that a straight man shouldn’t be allowed to determine the guidelines for adult human sexuality. Rather than try and play according to Ben Affleck’s rules and show him the error of his ways (that still resides firmly within his boring and condescending patriarchal definition) why not tell him to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Contrary to what this movie suggests, some of us, as adults, no longer struggle with a 13-year-old’s concept of how the world works.
Near the end of the movie, Ben Affleck accuses Jason Lee of being gay, and Jason Lee almost accepts it, but when the genius threesome doesn’t happen, he just as quickly abandons this thread of self-inquiry and goes back to his life of not being gay. Because in this movie, homosexuality is all just theoretical anyway. An idea to bat around like so many lazy Star Wars references.
For example: at one point in the movie, Jason Lee and Joey Lauren Adams trade multiple war stories and battle scars that they both have from performing cunillingus on their sexual partners. Really? Two characters in this movie suffered MULTIPLE oral sex injuries leaving them with permanent scars? Give me a fucking break. This, of course, is Kevin Smith’s trademark “comedic dialog.” You can always tell when it’s Kevin Smith’s trademark “comedic dialog” because it doesn’t sound anything like the way human being speak to each other, it’s annoying, everyone sounds like an asshole, and multiple characters share encyclopedic knowledge about whatever obscure topic Kevin Smith was clearly amused by for the 15 minutes he spent writing the script.
Stop banging those keys NOW, Dawg!
I suppose the argument that Kevin Smith might make in reply is that this is a comedy, and in comedies, humor comes from exaggeration. To which I would reply, WHAT HUMOR? This movie is completely devoid of jokes, unless you consider Jason Lee’s numerous euphemisms for “faggot” to be funny. (Incidentally, the point of a euphemism is to get away with saying something that would otherwise be deemed inappropriate, and since “rug muncher” is still completely miserable, even in the world of euphemistic creation, Kevin Smith is an abysmal failure.)
I remember seeing an interview with Kevin Smith when Chasing Amy was coming out in which he explained that his motivation for making the movie was when he found out that his then-girlfriend, Joey Lauren Adams, had been to Australia, and he was jealous that she had had an experience that he hadn’t*. This interview, apparently, was conducted on Kevin Smith’s 12th birthday. Because WHAT? In the world of adults, EVERYONE has had experiences that you haven’t had. That’s how it works. Most of us learn how to come to terms with this, and even enjoy the ways in which it makes the people around us unique and interesting and fully formed individuals. We don’t waste everyone’s time with a two-hour-long, mildly offensive, deeply unfunny exploration of our puerile insecurities. At the very least, if he did want to make this movie, he could have made it about A GIRL WHO WENT TO AUSTRALIA, instead of dragging an entire embattled subculture of which he is not a member down with him.
I also saw an interview with Kevin Smith one time where he explained that he didn’t watch classic movies because he didn’t need to, because he had seen new movies directed by people who had been influenced by classic movies. Something to the effect of “Joel Schumacher is my film school.” What a wonderful, creative person with a deep appreciation for the medium in which he is working. What an honor for everyone.
Obviously, the reason that Kevin Smith continues to work in Hollywood is that there is an audience for his work, and you cannot begrudge him that. It is not his fault that there are enough people with awful taste and disposable income who enjoy what he does. It’s not like Kevin Smith wrote himself a check for Cop Out. But while a willing and enthusiastic audience does legitimize someone from a financial perspective, it doesn’t legitimize them from a creative or intellectual perspective. Millions of people bought KFC’s Double Down today, that doesn’t mean it isn’t five-dollar heart attack, or that we won’t be eating them from the roofs of our homes as we watch the waves of 2012 come crashing in. Philip Morris is a multi-billion dollar corporation with a huge audience that supports what they do, which does not make them any less reprehensible if you ask me. Am I really comparing Kevin Smith movies to smoking cancerous cigarettes? Of course not, don’t be silly. But I’m not sure that’s much of an endorsement. “Kevin Smith movies: not quite as bad for you as smoking cigarettes.”
And so, in light of a body of work that is consistently unacceptable and uniquely unbearable to watch, we award Kevin Smith with the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award in BOOO! It has been a big year for Mr. Smith! (Get it? Fat.)