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Sundance '11 Day 5: Kevin Smith's career 1994-2012?

Posted by Wesley Morris  January 24, 2011 11:03 AM

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The festival thus far has been short of big news. Then Kevin Smith declared yesterday that he will cease directing so as to help filmmakers distribute their own movies outside the Hollywood system. The occasion was the premiere of his alleged penultimate film, a political provocation/horror film called "Red State," a movie he said he had come to Sundance to auction off. ("What, is he going to put it on eBay?" a friend quipped.) As it turns out, he was pulling our legs. In a house packed with studio people, he announced he'd be selling the film to himself. For $20. While doing very little to promote the film himself (he's shooting for an October release), he's chosen to rely on the power of his 1.7 million Twitter followers. 

Smith still sounds bitter about his experience with "Cop Out," a terrible Warner Bros movie from last February that Smith nominally directed. That Smith made it lured people curious about what he'd do with a Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan buddy-cop comedy. The answer was nothing. His retirement is still a movie away; but if he's serious, it'll be interesting to see what his distribution company (Slasher Films) yields: Lots of movies made by Smith acolytes? God forbid. Lately, Kevin Smith has had a hard enough time being Kevin Smith.

His choice to announce at Sundance his breakup with the movie-studios in order to go commando feels like a dare to other filmmakers to seriously consider alternative distribution channels. It's as much a publicity stunt as it is rousing call to arms. Smith's career was born here in 1994, with "Clerks." It's uncharacteristically dramatic of him to come back to lay that career to rest. Still, this is something Smith, by virtue of his moderate success, has the luxury of threatening to do. I'm not sure the guy who made "Clerks" would have the nerve to bite a hand that wants to feed him.

I missed last night's premiere. But the movie's about an anti-gay minister (Michael Parks, picture), a killing spree, and some horny teens. It also stars Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano, and John Goodman. Here's a full report of the post-screening Q&A from Entertainment Weekly

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