24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Kevin Smith

Around Town: Ernie Kovacs, Joe Dante and 'Thelma & Louise'

August 25, 2011 |  6:00 am


A tribute to a late comic genius, a 20th anniversary of an Oscar-winning hit, and appearances from directors Joe Dante and Ron Shelton are among the cinematic highlights this weekend.

"In Kovacsland: Tribute to Ernie Kovacs," Saturday evening at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, examines the work of the the innovative comic, who died in a car crash in 1962. During the 1950s and early '60s, Kovacs transformed TV comedy with his surreal camera tricks and crazy characters such as Percy Dovetonsils and the Nairobi Trio. Among those discussing Kovacs are Jeff Garlin, Harry Shearer and George and Jolene Brand Schlatter.

Over at the Cinematheque's Aero Theatre, director Joe Dante will discuss his work Thursday evening in between screenings of his films 1989's "The 'Burbs" and 1993's "Matinee." And on Friday, writer-director Ron Shelton will appear at the screenings of two of his sports comedies starring Kevin Costner: 1988's baseball romance "Bull Durham" and 1996's golf-featured "Tin Cup." http://www.americancinematheque.com

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Kevin Smith brings 'Red State' to L.A.

April 10, 2011 | 12:26 pm

Thefather "I know how hard it is to be a Kevin Smith fan." From the stage of the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday night, Kevin Smith was addressing what seemed to be a room full of nothing but Kevin Smith fans after the local premiere of his new film, "Red State." 

The event capped off the first stage of a release strategy launched at the Sundance Film Festival in January. In some ways, it was a night in which it was never easier or better to be a Kevin Smith fan, as there was an upbeat, people's-gathering vibe to the whole evening. (This was the opposite, say, of the angry public beheading at the live show in Detroit by Charlie Sheen.)

Rather than sell the film to a conventional U.S. distributor, Smith is putting out the film on his own, hoping to cut out any middlemen and the need for an expensive marketing budget. And he's counting on the loyalty and patronage of his fans to make that plan work. As he said from the stage Saturday night, what with the 15-city premium-priced tour wrapping up with this L.A. stop and the sale of the DVD, VOD and foreign rights, "Red State" already will have made back its $4-million production budget before it reaches theaters in the fall.

Though Smith downplayed "Red State" as being in any way "a statement movie," he also acknowledged that it was "about two big subjects, Christianity and being an American." Smith -- who is known for dialogue-driven comedies such as "Clerks," "Chasing Amy" and the religion-themed "Dogma" -- has been describing "Red State" as a horror film, perhaps savvily trading one audience-friendly genre for another. The film's story involves a small, aggressively anti-gay religious congregation that through a series of events enters into a bloody armed standoff with a cadre of ATF agents at a remote compound.

ThevirginThe film certainly played well to the room, as there were derisive catcalls during an on-screen sermon denouncing homosexuality, screams of shock at some unforeseen twists and wild cheering as the villains got theirs. Smith said that, of the previous stops on the "Red State" tour, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C., had been "bloodthirsty" in their cheering -- but he said the Los Angeles crowd had topped both those cities.  

All told, Smith spent nearly 2 1/2 hours onstage Saturday night, first with a pre-screening introduction and then a marathon post-movie Q&A session that was longer than the film itself. After about an hour onstage following the movie, Smith brought out 10 members of the film's cast, including Michael Angarano, Kerry Bishé, Melissa Leo and Michael Parks. The questions from the audience, asked by people who had been lined up since before the cast was introduced, continued to be essentially only for Smith. He was, as it turned out, the one the Smith faithful had shown up for, just as the director had been saying in interviews building up to the screening.

The final question of the evening came from someone who introduced himself as an aspiring filmmaker and asked, "How do I get my stuff seen, how do I get a fair distribution deal somewhere?"

"I don't know," Smith shot back. "I don't have one for this."

-- Mark Olsen

Poster images: The Harvey Boys / coopersdell.com

Kevin Smith talks 'Red State,' Wayne Gretzky and why he's ready to leave filmmaking

April 7, 2011 |  7:25 pm

Kevinsmith Kevin Smith can talk. A lot.

Currently, he often talks into a microphone at least four hours a week spread across four separate podcasts. He has plans to begin an online morning radio show next month and also frequently hits the road for speaking tours, talking directly and in person to his dedicated fan base. He has done so much talking of late that Smith –- who with his debut feature “Clerks” came to embody the credit-cards-and-a-dream ideal of independent film in the 1990s -– seems to have talked himself out of making movies altogether. He has announced that following the release of the new “Red State” and the yet-to-be-made hockey movie “Hit Somebody” he will abandon filmmaking to become simply a full-time talker or, as he puts it, “a storyteller.”

“Red State,” which stars Michael Parks, John Goodman and recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo, will have its first local screening Saturday night at the Wiltern with onstage appearances by Smith and special guests, ahead of a fuller release in the fall. Regardless of how one feels about the film’s quality, it is undoubtedly unlike any other film Smith has made, and his first since “Clerks” to be made completely as an independent. Rather than another of the snappy, raunchy comedies he is known for, the film is a chilling, deeply felt parable of human wickedness, as a small, anti-gay religious congregation becomes engaged in a Waco-style standoff with federal agents.

When Smith premiered the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, many in the audience were under the impression he would auction off the distribution rights after the screening to someone right there in the room, a pressure cooker of expectations and media buzz turned to a boil by protests outside the theater by controversial pastor Fred Phelps’ Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay congregation on which the group in the film is loosely based. When Smith used the moment to announce he was going to self-release the film, many were outraged by his piece of theatrical showmanship, some saying Smith had simply wasted the time of fellow film professionals, while others saw the stunt as a form of career suicide.

The Wiltern show will be the 15th and final stop of this first leg of the premium-priced “Red State” tour, with Smith mostly traveling by bus from venue to venue with a digital projector in the luggage hold. On Tuesday afternoon, with Smith just back from a screening of “Red State” in Seattle the night before, he took time to sit for a nearly two-hour interview .

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Sundance 2011: Kevin Smith takes 'Red State' into his own hands

January 23, 2011 |  9:59 pm


Seventeen years after his “Clerks” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, Kevin Smith returned to Park City, Utah, with “Red State” — but he won’t be leaving town with a distributor for his new work.

Ever the showman, Smith had announced before the festival that he would auction off the film’s rights in the lobby of the Eccles Theater like an antique desk being hawked at Sotheby’s. But soon after the film played to a good but not great reaction in its world premiere, Smith ditched the idea of a public sale and announced to the audience (after auctioning the film to himself for $20) that he would release the film on his own in October. "The fans are the ones who got us to make this film, and they're going to be the ones who help us get it seen," Smith said.

In an introduction filled with obscene jokes, Smith briefly talked about the demonstrations staged outside the theater, and held up several of his favorite counter-protest placards.

The film is largely focused on the congregation of a hate-spewing preacher (played by Michael Parks) who kidnaps and murders people he believes are homosexual. The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which is equally homophobic (“God Hates Fags” is a favorite poster) but hasn’t yet killed anyone, sent some of its supporters to picket the film, and the resulting counter-picket turned the Eccles parking lot into a free-speech carnival.

There wasn’t quite as much fun inside the theater.

Smith warned the audience that the movie, which also stars Melissa Leo and John Goodman, wasn’t humorous like his “Chasing Amy” or “Dogma,” and he spoke the truth. The film starts with the abduction of three young boys, who are to be sacrificed for their libidinous transgressions. Parks’ preacher is clearly shaped in the mold of Westboro’s Fred Phelps, but then Smith takes the story to Waco, Texas — not physically, but metaphorically as the church starts to resemble David Koresh’s apocalyptic, armed-to-the-teeth Branch Davidians. There’s a lot of gun violence, an apparent rapture, and even some anti-fascist preaching (when it comes to America, it will either be wrapped in a flag or on the cross, the film says).

“Red State” might have been a difficult sale for any distributor. Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax Films distributed “Clerks” and several of Smith’s other works, waited for Smith in the Eccles lobby, to see if the auction would in fact happen. When Smith announced his self-distribution news inside the theater, Weinstein and a few other buyers left the Eccles, and piled into their SUVs to go see other movies. By that time, the protesters were long gone.

— John Horn

Photo: Director Kevin Smith (center) stages a counter-protest against picketers demonstrating against his film 'Red State' at its premiere, held at the Eccles Theater at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival on Sunday. Credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images

U.S. government fines Southwest. Somewhere, Kevin Smith is smiling

April 27, 2010 |  4:18 pm

SmithkKevin Smith hasn't tweeted his victory lap -- yet -- but we couldn't help but be amused by the news that Southwest Airlines has just been penalized for its policy of bumping passengers. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation is hitting the red-and-yellow with a $200,000 fine.It's not for wrongly enforcing a weight issue, but it's not that different either.

Like so many airlines these days, Southwest apparently overbooked -- but then neglected to compensate passengers, or inform them they could be compensated.

According to the Los Angeles Times story, "a Transportation Department spokesman declined to say how many cases were investigated. But the agency representative said the airline agreed to pay the assessment to avoid potential litigation." And a Kevin Smith Twitter war.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: Kevin Smith. Credit: Justin Lane/EPA

Kevin Smith: I almost wanted to "curl up in an asylum" when Southwest controversy was brewing

March 1, 2010 |  9:02 pm

With an $18-million haul for "Cop Out" at the box office this week, Kevin Smith has the biggest opening of his career (even if it's also a relatively modest one by studio comedy standards). We caught up with Smith, one day removed from the opening weekend and about 10 days removed from the Southwest Airlines publicity blowup that almost engulfed said opening.


In a colorful, profanity-strewn conversation, Smith had plenty to say about all of that -- how Arnold Schwarzanegger called him to speak at an obesity conference, how Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov is just like Harvey Weinstein, how critics don't matter anymore, how he's going to spend the next few weeks hammering out the script for his hockey comedy "Hit Somebody" ... and how how he's not taking planes again for the foreseeable future.

--Steven Zeitchik

24 Frames: You had a respectable opening but you didn't hit No. 1 this weekend. Did that cause any weirdness for you with the studio?

Kevin Smith: I thought they'd be like, "You didn't get to No. 1 ... you." But what I learned about the studio versus what I used to think is that these cats could care less about the horse race. They just care about the bottom line. And we made a movie for $34.2 million that's already made $18 million just on the opening weekend in the U.S. The other thing I thought I'd get castigated for is the reviews. I
thought [Warner Bros. President] Alan Horn would yell at me. But they didn't really care about those either.

Were you personally bothered that some of the critics were so harsh?

KS: It's weird -- these were some of the worst reviews I ever got in my life, including work I did in grade school. But they're completely out-of-sync with what people want to watch. It's just a different world than the one I entered. I came from a world where critics matter. Janet Maslin made my career by saying I turned straw into gold. We don't live in that world anymore. It's about the marketing, and the Internet takes care of the rest. But I wasn't surprised they were that nasty. When a movie is called "Cop Out" and it's made at a studio, half the reviews are going to ... you for that alone.

Were there any that did get to you, the other half?

KS: Some of them are like "How dare you not cure cancer with his film?" And I'm like "Cure cancer? I'm just trying to make a TNT classic." And A.O. Scott insinuated that I did it for a studio paycheck and I guess he didn't do the research and see that I took an 80% pay cut. People assume it's a studio movie and you just cashed the check. But everybody took a pay cut so we could make an R-rated movie. Bruce [Willis] even a took pay cut. We didn't make the $75-million version with Will Ferrell and Marky Mark. We made the $34.2-million version.

Speaking of an R rating, a lot of people wonder how much the studio got involved in development. This is a script you didn't write, and you're not making a movie with the Weinsteins, with whom you had such a fruitful collaboration over all those years, but with a major studio.

KS: Say what you will about Harvey and Bob -- they're true believers. And I worked with Jeff Robinov for the better part of the year, and he's a true believer too. He just happens to work with a bigger wallet. These cats are just like the brothers Weinstein. They stayed away through production and then in post, probably more than Harvey did. I mean, Jeff has been that guy who takes chances on people like Chris Nolan.

Have you had any contact with Harvey before or after "Cop Out"? Is it weird to be releasing a movie with someone else for the first time in a long while?

KS: I wrote Harvey an e-mail  two weeks ago. Everyone has written you off, I said. But this isn't the end of the third act; it's the beginning of a new act. Buy the Miramax name back, make a deal with a cable station, buy the library and then you put everything on Blu-ray and call it the Miramax Reunion collection. It becomes more poetic than Gretzky returning to end his career in Edmonton. I told Harve, "You buy that studio back. I will make every movie there until the day I die. That's so romantic ..." But in a world where that doesn't happen, it's nice to know there's a new family that welcomes me at Warner Bros.

So does that mean we can expect you to do another movie with them?

KS: It was easy this time. I don't know what it would be like if I went in with something I wrote, or let's say something I didn't write but wanted to write. They were talking about "Hit Somebody," the hockey movie I wanted to make based on the Warren Zevon song. And I said, "I know you like me right now. But I sweat blood for this. If you say you're committing to it then you're saying you're greenlighting this movie." So we said we'll talk.

What's "Hit Somebody" actually about?

KS: It's not a movie about the NHL. It's a movie about the game, and it's a movie about Canada. I look at it and keep describing as what I'm going for as the "Forrest Gump" of hockey movies. Not flat-out funny stuff I've always done. It's a more serious comedy.

If you get that one going, does that preclude you from coming on to direct another studio comedy that already has a script written?

KS: There are about five scripts that Warner Bros. has handed me that they're interested in. One of them is with Tracy [Morgan].  The romantic in me wants to paint it as a "Platoon"-like battle for one soul, a battle between Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. But it'll come down to what happens next. If best-case scenario, I'm shooting "Hit Somebody" by the end of the year, then what am I going to do between now and then? Maybe nothing. Or I can multi-task and spin another plate while waiting for it to come together. And there's also "Red State" [a dark political drama he's written]. There's some very interested money that wasn't interested a week ago, before "Cop Out" came out.

It must seem like a long time since all the Southwest stuff was happening about two weeks ago. Did you ever think about not tweeting about it?

KS: There was this part of me that wanted to be, like "An injustice was done" and shine a light on a bunch of ... cockroaches. That's how I was raised. At the same time, I got really scared for the movie, and I don't mean at the box office. I'm a big believer in karma, and I wanted to go out of my way to make sure I didn't do anything to mess up this movie. And then I had to cognitively reframe it and I think I need to be true to myself. It's like I tell my daughter, "You start yelling or you start telling." I didn't think there would be publicity. I thought a few people on Twitter would write about it. I didn't think the press would write about it. Why would they?

With millions of people following your odyssey on Twitter, it was hard for us not to. But I take it you won't be flying Southwest for a while?

KS: I won't be flying at all. I'm doing this Q&A tour in something like six cities, these gigs in Austin and Milwaukee and Detroit. And I rented a tour bus. I just don't want to get on a plane. Someone else is going to drive the bus, and on the road I'm going to write "Hit Somebody." I have reams and reams of notes, and I wrote the ending and I feel like it's a zit and it's built to a whitehead and then you put a warm ... on it and it'll pop.

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Can someone please shoot the interracial buddy cop comedy?

February 26, 2010 |  8:41 pm


The interracial buddy crime comedy -- the very subgenre that audiences will be subjected to with Kevin Smith's "Cop Out" this weekend -- has been around for decades. But that doesn't stop filmmakers from adhering fervently to the tropes as though they were handed down at Sinai yesterday.

In approximately this sequence, those rules include:  Two men of different background/race are thrown together by circumstance (and quadrant-minded Hollywood marketing executives). They chafe at and resist each other; in fact, they rub each other so wrong that comedy (and, later, a little bit of drama) ensues. But thanks to a common threat, they finally come to appreciate and help each other. We all feel a little lighter for laughing, and maybe a little elevated to boot, because, hey, if a white cop and a black cop can get along, can't all of us?

The races sometimes change (Asian instead of white, Hispanic in lieu of black); the setup varies. A raunch-minded director who made a great '90s slacker comedy, for reasons understood by no one, decides to come on board. But the rules never change.

Of course just because there's a formula and/or a cynical marketing calculation doesn't mean the form hasn't been executed well. The right chemistry, writing and timing has given us "48 Hrs.," the first few "Lethal Weapon" movies and, if your definition of crime and cops stretches a little, the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder gem "Silver Streak" (or, if your definition of buddies stretches a little, "Beverly Hills Cop"). With a little bit of dramatic heft and some well-constructed action scenes, many of these movies have worked.

48hrThey just haven't worked anytime in the last 15 years, a period in which the subgenre has spawned the "Rush Hour" franchise, future AFI honoree "Nothing to Lose" (with Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence), the "Miami Vice" remake, and this weekend's "Cop Out." You could argue that Hollywood has been unlucky. Or you could say that every avenue for comedy or action in this format has been explored (forcing filmmakers into a position where the only thing they can up is the silliness level) and filmmakers should just stop looking (this means you, all you people working on the "Beverly Hills Cop" reboot.)

One does wonder how the Kevin Smith movie would have looked if it hadn't been made at a studio, or if David Dobkin had wound up directing it, as some original discussions had it, back when it was called "A Couple of D@$ks." Dobkin directed "Wedding Crashers," so "Cop Out" might have had the freshness and vigor of that movie. Or it might have offered one more reason someone should put this subgenre out of its misery.

--Steven Zeitchik

Top photo: Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis in "Cop Out." Credit: Abbott Genser/Warner Bros.

Seond photo: Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in "48Hrs." Credit: Paramount

L.A. Times week in Hollywood (February 25, 2010)

February 26, 2010 |  2:23 pm

A busy week in Hollywood as Kevin Smith, the recent subject of Fatgate, releases a new movie; horror flick "The Crazies" tries to pretend it's an environmental jeremiad; and "The Hurt Locker" copes with scrutiny from the military and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

The Los Angeles Times' John Horn and Steven Zeitchik do their best Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott impressions as they take on the week in moviedom.


Kevin Smith's pre-'Fatgate' admission: 'I broke a toilet.'

Kevin Smith to go Silent Bob on Southwest incident?

Overture goes crazy at 'Crazies' event

'The Hurt Locker' sets off conflict

Kevin Smith to go Silent Bob on Southwest incident?

February 16, 2010 | 12:40 pm

Readers and reporters hoping to get more color and quotes on the Kevin Smith Fatgate espisode may be disappointed: the freewheeling filmmaker and prolific Tweeter won't talk about the subject as he embarks on a publicity tour for his movie "Cop Out."

Smi According to members of is publicity team, the director is planning to decline questions at a junket for the film in New York next weekend (no, he won't be flying Southwest to get there) and at publicity stops afterward.

In fact, Smith is contemplating doing just one mainstream media appearance -- if that -- with "Larry King Live" one of the programs in contention.(There have been discussions with many shows and even a conversation with "Oprah," though that one didn't materialize.)

This past weekend, Smith was removed from a flight because of his weight, creating a media- and Twitter-storm. The incident has hit several zeitgeist chords, touching on obesity in America and the (in)conveniences of flying, favored subjects for many.

But what publicity effect the whole fracas will have on the upcoming "Cop Out" remains to be seen. Most people who weren't Smith fans didn't know the film, which is being marketed by Warner Bros. as a Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan "Rush Hour"-esque vehicle, was a Smith-directed piece, and they probably still don't know. The talk is of airline policies and prejudices; it isn't parsing the Smith oeuvre or the nuances of Greasy Reesy.

With Smith's 1.6 million Twitter followers (and plenty of other online readers) jumping on the story, the incident does once again highlight how a story can enter and stay in the news cycle without much help  from the mainstream media. (Of course with the Larry King and other media discussions it also shows how the mainstream media is needed to move that story forward, but no matter.)

Having brought the issue to the fore, Smith, though, is now tiring of it. On Twitter last night, after linking to a blog post responding to a Southwest blog post (one in which he wrote "Let’s Tweet about other stuff, shall we? This is starting to taste mediciney and fruitless)" he concluded with "G'night, folks. Let's talk about anything else tomorrow." That could happen soon -- but probably not today.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Kevin Smith. Credit: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times


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