I sort of hated writing this article. It involves writing about an artist (actor, filmmaker, whatever), and evaluating them based on things that have nothing to do with their work, and I hate the idea of it so much.
My problem is I work on the Internet for a site that dabbles in entertainment. So, for better or worse, my career choice forces me to be exposed to articles and stories and interviews about an artist instead of their art. I can't un-read Entertainment Weekly or Gawker or any other entertainment news-rag. I am stuck with whatever information gets shot directly at my face via the Internet. As a result, my love for certain artists has been tainted -- so I present this article. In an ideal world, entertainment blogs the net over will read this and decide, "Hey, maybe we should stop talking about what Martin Scorsese's like in real life because it turns out no one gives a shit."
But that probably won't happen.
In 1994, Kevin Smith made Clerks for under $30,000. It was shot with a very light crew, cast with a bunch of Smith's friends and filmed quickly. It was incredibly successful for an independent film and is hilarious. (It's mostly just two friends bullshitting about pop culture and making dick jokes for a little under two hours, so it's not hard to see why a Cracked employee would enjoy it.) But it wasn't just funny. Clerks achieved cult status because Kevin Smith didn't go to film school, and he didn't have any connections and he had made no mark in Hollywood. He was just a regular funny guy who loved movies so much that decided to make one. The success of a movie like Clerks is a win for the little guy. Kevin Smith is just an average dude who worked hard to achieve his dreams. He made a movie without big stars, and without a studio and he managed to make $3 million at the box office. It was an inspiration to any group of friends anywhere that dreamed of one day making films. (Shooting videos with our friends and no budget is basically all we do here on the Internet.)
Kevin Smith is just like everyone.
After Clerks, Smith went on to make a bunch of other mostly funny and mostly successful films. But, in every interview, he still came across as just a regular guy who dug movies. Sure, he made some weak movies, but even Cop Out has a scene where Tracy Morgan punches a child in the dick. So how bad can it be really? And even if he makes a REALLY shitty movie, he just seems like a cool guy, the type of dude you want to sit down and have a beer with. His speaking engagements are always hilarious, his Podcasts are entertaining, and he always struck me as very down to Earth and just naturally funny. There's a video of him making fun of a heckler at Comic-Con and it always brings a smile to my face. Always charming, always self-deprecating. Real class act.
Also he's from Jersey, so we must stick together.
But, Unfortunately ...
Kevin Smith can sort of be a huge baby. He never used to have a problem with critics but, over the last few years, he's campaigned against them several times, on his podcast, in interviews or on Twitter. He doesn't like the idea of letting a bunch of critics see his movie for free if they're just going to shit on it; he'd rather just show it to fans and friends and his Twitter followers.
The thing is, it's not that he just suddenly said, "I don't like critics anymore." He started his anti-critics crusade immediately after they gave bad reviews of Cop Out. Once critics admitted that this one movie he made was maybe kind of shitty, he took to Twitter and said that, in the future, he's done with critics' screenings, and he very clearly stated that he would not do press interviews to promote his latest movie. He's even distributing it himself, which would be cool, but his reason is that he refuses to let anyone else distribute it because "they don't get it." It's the director's equivalent of taking your ball away when you get tagged out at the schoolyard.
It's always hard to hear or read criticism about something you made, but there are better ways to handle it. We get our fair share of criticism in the comments here at Cracked. For all of the wonderful folks who support us, there are plenty that have nothing but negative things to say. Usually it's to the tune of "This article would've been better if it wasn't written by such a shithead" or "I liked you better last year, before you got all that shit in your head," or "Uh, actually, [fart noise fart noise fart noise]." Happens to all of us. You can read and then brush off the comments, or you can read and make adjustments in the future in an effort to cater to a few of the unhappy commenters, or you can straight up not read the comments. I've done all three.
What I haven't done is shut off the comments section, and I haven't gone to Twitter to bitch about people who don't like the things that I like. And I'm not going to ban certain people from reading anything I do, because that's not how life works. It just sounds cowardly, Kevin Smith, who I otherwise like very much. It's really easy to avoid ever having to hear negative feedback if you only show your movie to people who already like it.
Daniel Day-Lewis threw a buttload of knives in Gangs of New York and screamed about milkshakes in There Will Be Blood. Those two things alone make you a good actor in my book. (My book is called I Don't Know How Acting Works by Dan O'Brien.)
Bill the Butcher, Daniel Plainview, Abraham Lincoln, Hawkeye -- his IMDB page reads like a roll-call full of unapologetic badasses. And, according to rumor, when he's not out pretending to be badass, he's actually doing it in real life, riding his motorcycle through the mountains of Ireland and working as a carpenter or shoe-cobbler, or building houses. You get the idea that he's an old-school, hardworking, red-blooded hardass. He's not like one of those fancy, pampered Hollywood actors. He's a Guy; the kind of person you can sit and have a steak with.
But, Unfortunately ...
He's not the badass we want him to be. For one thing, most of the time he dresses like some kind of weird Lumberjack Glam Cowboy.
It's like he's the lead singer of a band that isn't sure if it wants to be grunge or The Fray (but from the future). When he accepted his Academy Award for My Left Foot he took the stage with a slow glide in a dress-length tux jacket and spoke using odd, almost-creepy metaphors and heightened language, like some kind of poet vampire. He opened his There Will Be Blood speech with "My deepest thanks to the Academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town." Which, sure, is eloquent and interesting, I suppose, but also weird as shit.
"The ghost of Gay Ernest Hemingway, ladies and gentleman!"
Now, I'm not one to judge fashion; I wear a white T-shirt every day of my life -- my policy on stains is tolerant at best and irresponsible at worst -- but that's also not my only hang-up when it comes to Plainview. Day-Lewis' decision to dress himself as a Wild West space-clown notwithstanding, he's also completely crazy. He's one of those actors that a lot of other actors can't stand. Liam Neeson hates him because Day-Lewis refused to not call Neeson by his character name during Gangs of New Yorkeven when they weren't on set, and Paul Dano is uncomfortable because Day-Lewis threw actual bowling balls at him during There Will Be Blood. (And Dano wasn't even the first actor to play the priest in that movie; the original quit because Day-Lewis was too crazy.) In My Left Foot, he made the crew push him around in a wheelchair, even when the camera's stopped rolling, because he never wanted to be out of character.
It's wonderful that he's committed to a performance and, yes, the work shows because he absolutely crushes every role he's ever had. But it's hard to watch him in a movie knowing that he's making everyone around him miserable in real life because he demands to be called "The Butcher" or "Daniel Plainview" or "Mr. Crucible" (I, uh ... didn't see The Crucibile).
"Boy, that sure was one CRAZY crucible!"