Editorial: Kevin Smith Alive And Well! Thank Buddy Christ!

By Scott Kurland

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                For the past three weeks I have been shaken. I almost lost someone near and dear to me. That someone is Kevin Smith. Smith had a heart attack on February 26th due to a blockage in his LAD artery (a.k.a “The Widowmaker"), which is just as horrible as it sounds. Now before my emotions threaten to overwhelm me, allow me to tell you a little story about how I stumbled upon Smith's filmography . When I was thirteen years old, my dad got us (and by us I mean himself) a subscription to Netflix. This was back in the good old days when Netflix was just a rent-dvds-by-mail organization (cue the shocked gasps of young Millennials).  The first movies I rented were “Dogma,” “Clerks,” and a film that would change my life forever, “Chasing Amy.” I chose these films because they usually ended up in Siskel & Ebert’s "Video Pick of the Week". All three films were written and directed by Kevin Smith. To me, these were the kind of films that needed to be to made, written, and talked about. To this day, I still cannot fathom why "Chasing Amy" was not nominated for any Oscars.

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                Smith is underappreciated in that he makes good dialog and character development look effortless. Some of his choices, such as the one to replace Jesus on the crucifix with Buddy Christ, initially comes across as nothing short of blasphemous Catholicism ribbing. Its only later that you realize that the character is not in fact a slight. His inclusion is actually a commentary on how a great many people see Jesus as a confidant/friend and less as a martyr. Smith always has more going on inside his mind then he’d ever give himself credit for (or share out loud). He has become so familial to me and so many others; like a fun uncle who you can talk “Star Wars” with while he hogs the vape pen. His personality, like his film style, is filled with an infectious energy whereas many other directors surround themselves with a fog of grim intensity (Oliver Stone I’m looking at you). I think this was the precise reason I was so shaken. Smith had appeared at every crossroad in my life (essentially the emotional equivalent of finding a dirty magazine in the middle of the woods). When I was unsure of what I was going to do after High School, I re-watched “Clerks,” and film school seemed the only logical choice; though not necessarily the cheapest one.

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                 I showed one of my old high school friends “Chasing Amy,” not knowing just how important the film would be to them. We watched the plight of Ben Affleck’s  Holden McNeil, and as the movie came to an end, I saw my friend crying as the credits rolled. When I asked what was wrong, they said: “Nothing. That movie made me realize who I am, Scott I think I’m….” This conversation went unfinished. It didn't matter though. I knew what they were saying due to the subject matter in “Chasing Amy.” That’s what Smith's films do. They show you versions of yourself or your friends, but they do so in unconventional ways. I was once asked in an acting class to read a monologue from a film or play that has meaning to me. The monologue I chose was Ben Affleck’s from “Chasing Amy.” Apart from the fact that I was just 15 years old, I was a lot like Holden in that I was a sensitive guy who quietly pined for girls who had no interest in me. Quoting Smith’s dialog was as easy as breathing. It flowed naturally and it was the only time I didn’t feel awkward in front of a crowd. Smith’s work acts like a security blank for myself and many film geeks like me. Whether it’s Loki convincing a nun to give up the habit in Dogma, or George Carlin’s heartfelt speech to his son in “Jersey Girl;” Smith has a way of getting into your mind and soul.

              Kevin Smith is a pioneer of independent filmmaking and also Podcasting. He covets the title of being one of the first well known podcasters. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have started my own Podcasts. Originally I was too terrified to even venture into a new medium. But with Smith constantly in my ear reminding his listeners to take risks and make or do something that scares you, I began my transformation into something new...like a human walrus (See Kev? People have seen "Tusk.")

                I’m very grateful that Kevin Smith is still alive and in good spirits. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a fan of Smith. His talent goes beyond film and podcasting. He’s just a big, lovable teddy bear that brings nothing but joy and stories of working with a cantankerous Bruce Willis. There’s been too many celebrity deaths the past couple of years and it feels good to be able to let the world know we still get to have this showman in our lives. I had to pleasure of seeing Kevin Smith live back in 2012, and the man is a gifted storyteller. Watching him speak in a theater filled with fans was like watching a king hold court. He is indeed the king of the geeks, and a god to chubby young filmmakers who love “Star Wars.” Thank you Kevin for still being here. Now, there’s only one way to end this editorial. To quote Silent Bob: “………*Shrugs and walks away*….”

               

scott kurland