Kevin Smith and the Ultimate Art Form: A Rant

This is not really an article about Kevin Smith. Be thankful for that. Were I writing about Kevin (I would refer to him as Mr. Smith, but he has stated he prefers Kevin or Kev), we’d be here all day and I’d be the only one even remotely interested in what I had to say.

However, Kevin does play a significant role as the pseudo catalyst for my writing this.

A few years back, Kevin was writing a blog on the View Askew message board about his relationship with Jason Mewes. This was months prior to Clerks II being released, so that puts it around 2006. I didn’t have internet at the time. It was called “Me and My Shadow”.

This honest narrative was as compelling as any novel. Not only was it every bit as funny as his films, it was more devastating as well. Every emotional punch got me right in the gut. He was exorcising some serious demons between himself and his beloved Mewes, and we were all enraptured.

As is to be expected, several folks commented that Kevin just HAD to turn this into a film. It was his most personal and heartfelt work to date. It would finally get him the recognition he deserved (as if he wasn’t perfectly happy with what he was already getting.). I believe (I have no way of proving this. Just roll with me) I may have been the first poster to say, “Why doesn’t he turn it into a novel?”

Obviously Kevin writes more than just films. He’s also a great comic book writer. His runs on Daredevil and Green Arrow brought new life (literally in Ollie’s case) into characters that very badly needed it. So film wasn’t the only art form in which he excelled. And this series of posts proved he could write prose equally as well as his scripts.

My comment was mostly ignored by the other posters. Nobody actually reads what other people have to say on message boards, so I wasn’t surprised. Then there was this one guy. He was insulted that I would suggest such a thing.

In his eyes, Kevin would be downgrading his art by writing a novel. Why should he lower himself to such an inferior form? How dare I suggest that something so crude as prose (a term which I hate – any structured language in written form is prose) would be adequate enough for Master Smith.

I’m paraphrasing – barely. This guy was dead serious.

Today I’m reading his book “Tough Sh*t: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good”. In it he talks candidly about all the struggles (or tough sh*t) he’s endured throughout his life and career. To be honest, there’s nothing really here that I didn’t already know. Not only have I been obsessively following the dude’s career since 1998, but I’d watched all the commentaries and other live DVDs more times than he’s watched Star Wars. I’m not positive, but I’m guessing that’s a lot.

Yet I am still engrossed by this book. He has such a casual and relatable style to everything he does. You can’t help but get drawn into it. Every time you watch one of his films, listen to a podcast, or see   Q & A, he makes you feel welcome, like a friend. And when your friend is as entertaining and insightful as Kev, you don’t mind hearing them over and over.

That brought me back to the comment I made on the View Askew board back in ’06. Why doesn’t Kev right a novel? There is no doubt in my mind that he could do it. Hell, this memoir is essentially a novel. In the book he does mention that he no longer wished to be a filmmaker. Now he wants to be an artist. Meaning that he wishes to follow any creative whim he may have. Which could, I’m guessing, include a novel.

This line of thinking brought me the that stranger’s comment. Is film considered the ultimate art form? By some people, I’m sure it is. If you were to ask me a little more than ten years ago, I probably would have said it was. Why is that?

Over the last decade I’ve grown to appreciate all art on its own merits. At the end of the day, it’s all different, yet still the same.

Another thing Kevin brings up in the book is self expression. He attacks critics who get paid to spew bile all over news papers and the internet about how he has failed at expressing himself. How presumptuous can someone be? As if these people somehow know Kevin better than he knows himself.

Somehow they’ve spent so much time in cinemas, being exposed to FICTITIOUS ENTERTAINMENT, that they now possess the key of insight to every filmmaker’s soul.

Art is about self expression. Painters paint to express what’s inside of them. Actors act for the same reason. As do musicians, poets, dancers, novelists, screenwriters, and filmmakers. They are all united by that one driving force. This doesn’t mean that they are all the same. I’m a writer. I can’t paint to save my, or your, life. Nor can I read a piece of music. But I can sit down at a keyboard with an image or a message in my head and express it through the written word. It is very different than any other kind of art, but still the same.

Still, I notice more and more people standing up and championing film as the world’s perfect art form. I don’t know (mostly because I don’t care enough to look it up) how many movie review bloggers and vloggers are out there. There seem to be more and more of them everyday. Each of them with their opinions and theories on how a certain filmmaker handled self expression. They lay down their wisdom on us, educating the masses on how films should be made.

I’ve compiled a number of theories about this. The strongest of which being the accessibility of movies. It’s easy to watch a movie. You sit there for a little bit, get up and move on. Anyone can sit through a movie. Even if the process is agonizingly boring. It will only eat up a microscopic portion of their time spent on the Earth. It’s also insanely easy to get your hands on a movie. Not only do we have colossal cathedrals erected across the country for their viewing, but dozens of portable devices to download watch them on.

No other art form (with the exception of music) is nearly as accessible, either physically or intellectually. Lots of people hate to look at paintings because they don’t get it. The same with poetry or dance. It challenges them. Dares them to look beyond flickering light and delve deeper into their brains. Not that movies don’t do that. I’m merely suggesting that the masses have been hardwired to view art in a certain way. That way leans towards projected images with the illusion of movement and human interaction. To introduce something else often results in dumfoundedness.

I have no opinion either way. As I said, all art is the same and it is all different. To say that any art is greater or lesser than the other is asinine. To claim that someone would be downgrading themselves by choosing to partake in another art, is equally asinine. To claim that you know an artist so well that you know what’s better for them than they do, is the epitome of asinine-ness. (?)

What I will leave off with is a little bit of the perspective I have gained since pursuing writing. Film making is the great collaborative art form. What appears on the screen is a product of a lot of hard work from a lot of different people.

Writing is solitary. Yes, you have editors and beta readers, who assist you in tweaking the story, but the creation of it is all you. You, alone in a room with a blank screen staring you down.

Movies do most, if not all (in some cases), the work for you. You have the actors showing you what these people look like, how they sound and move. You have camera movements showing you where to focus your attention. There’s an entire art department making sure you see exactly what the director wants you to see. Then there’s a composer and his/her score, letting you know what emotion you should be feeling. It’s up to you to take all that in and figure out whether it’s for you or not.

The only collaboration that truly matters in writing is what is had between the author and the reader. It’s the author’s job to give you enough info and description so that you can follow where he’s leading, but the reader chooses everything else. As in Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing”, he describes a white rabbit sitting in a cage that sits on a table with a red table Cloth. He tells you what’s there and gives some art direction. You do the rest by deciding what shade of red, if there’s a pattern to the fabric, is the cage mesh or bars, which way is the rabbit facing, and so forth.

See? Very different, and very much the same.

So if Mr. Kevin Smith (that’s my Mr. compromise) were to try his hand at a novel of fiction, it would be new. It would be different. But I’m sure it would be the ultimate self expression.

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