Over at Flavorwire, Jason Bailey has an interesting piece about Kevin Smith's latest, Red State, and whether its unconventional release was a clever move by Smith or a colossal failure:
Red State is 180 degrees from anything [Smith] has ever done; his filmography to date has been firmly comedic, with occasional seasonings of fantasy, romance, and action. Red State is deadly serious… and seriously disturbing. It is easily his finest film to date, but most moviegoers will remain completely unaware of it, because Smith has undercut its success at every turn with his own hubris, greed, or ignorance. Or, perhaps, all three.
Oh, okay. So I guess it's mostly about how the release was a colossal failure, then. Bailey calls Red State "a genuinely harrowing and well-made picture that has, at least as far as the general public is concerned, gone straight to video"—and that last part, at least, is hard to argue with. Even as a film writer, and even as a fan of Smith's—Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy all made pretty serious dents in my impressionable young mind—I haven't yet seen Red State. That's partly because on the rare occasions I've heard people talking about it, their reviews haven't been nearly as adulatory as Bailey's; that's partly because of Cop Out; and that's partly because I've been waiting to see if a theatrical release would ever materialize. Even as I watched Red State pop up on iTunes and Xbox Live, I couldn't bring myself to cough up $7 for a digital rental.
Bailey's whole piece is worth reading, if only to see an example of how some filmmakers are currently flailing around, trying to find a distribution system that works better than the current one—and, in Smith's case, trying to find a way to monetize the director's considerable online fan base and general nerdlebrity. It's also interesting to plug Smith's Red State tactics into a greater context of Smith's past coverage and reviews. Look at Smith's page on Rotten Tomatoes, and try to figure out if Red State's reviews (or, maybe more accurately, the lack of them) helped or hurt the film.
It doesn't seem that long ago that I conducted an amiable phone interview with Smith for Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It was a solid, funny, enjoyable conversation—we talked about Zack and Miri and how and why he made it, sure, but we also geeked out a bit about Watchmen and Star Trek, two films he'd seen that I hadn't, and before I hung up, I was able to let him know that his movies had made some pretty serious dents in my impressionable young mind. There's no way Smith would remember our conversation—no doubt it was one interview in a billion he did that day—but it's weird to contrast the way he used to interact with film writers compared to how he does now ("so we let a bunch of people see it for free & they shit all over it?" is a pretty good example here, or, y'know, ask Amy Taubin). There's a chance, maybe, that Smith's decision to eschew both traditional distribution and flip off the press has laid the early groundwork for a better, or at least different, system—but if I had to guess, I'd say his Red State tactics worked like gangbusters for his hardcore fans, but left the general public, not to mention casual fans like me, out in the cold.
(Also, regarding this blog entry's headline: Did you see Red State? Lemme know what you thought in the comments. Since there's not gonna be a press screening, I'm gonna flip this around from how it usually goes and have you guys tell me whether or not I should see it. Let's also consider the comment section an informal study of how many regular Blogtown readers have heard about/seen Red State.)