Kevin Smith Film Festival

Over the past couple of weeks, I borrowed the entire Kevin Smith film library from a friend and watched them in order. Overall, it was a highly entertaining time. Here's a breakdown by movie.

Clerks. (1994)

I saw this in a theater when it came out (on a date, no less) and didn't actually re-watch it this time because I pretty much memorized it the first time I saw it. This film is not just a perfect portrayal of what it's like to be a retail clerk in a small business, but what it's like to have grown up in central New Jersey. At first, it may seem this film is about nothing, but it's really about how even small things can become big events in your life.

Mallrats (1995)

At first, I wasn't sure what to think about this movie, but then I realized it's essentially a Marx Brothers film. Jay and Silent Bob are Chico and Harpo. Brodie is the "too smart for his own good" Groucho. T. S. Quint is the romantic lead underdog Zeppo. It's silly, and manic, but making a movie like this is mostly a lost art, so it's good to see Smith understands.

Chasing Amy (1997)

A little bit more serious than Mallrats, but it's hard to graduate directly to modern romance from slapstick comedy without some rough patches when people are expecting more of the same. Exploring romance and heartbreak is no new vista for cinema, but in 1997, who else tried tackling the complexities of modern sexuality with such sensitivity and with so little actual prurience? It's not a perfect film, but it's a journeyman piece of high quality.

Dogma (1999)

With this film, Smith graduates. It's a master piece, in my opinion. It's little bit of everything, very dark around the edges, but full of introspection at the center and peppered with humor. Just like life. People throw around the word "Vonnegutian" too much lately, but it's reasonably apt here, except for this film's devout religion. Make no mistake, this film is devoutly religious.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Now let's break free of serious issue like romance and religion, and return to the freewheeling slapstick of yesteryear! Anyway, this movie is about entertainment, and it contains a whole lot of chuckles and some genuine laugh out loud moments. Everybody needs a break sometimes. When you're watching these in a marathon like I did, this is a great seventh inning stretch.

Jersey Girl (2004)

Leading into another serious film. This is a totally serious drama. That's not to say there are no laughs in it, but sometimes they have a certain desperation derived from the tragedy behind them. It's full of great writing, with realisitic dialog. It's full of great performances, from actors who don't always get the chance. If this was the only Kevin Smith movie you ever saw, you wouldn't understand anything about the fan appeal of his other films. First and foremost, Kevin Smith is a great storyteller. This film is straightforward and endearing, and should prove to anyone that Smith is capable of making any kind of movie he wants to, with any cast he desires.

Clerks II (2006)

This film is a payoff in a couple of different senses. The first sense is, of course, a direct payoff to Jason Mewes for getting his life back into order. I'm happy to hear about it. The second sense is that of a punchline, a conclusion, a fitting together of everything into a coherent whole. Here, Smith combines his comedic sensibilities with his dramatic abilties, and produces a well-rounded film. Not as manic as Mallrats. Not as emotional as Jersey Girl. It's built of everything Smith has learned in 15 years, but it's the sum of its parts (at least), and not just a collage.

2008.04.08 at 8:00am EDT