"Red State" Kevin Smith's Horror Film- tonight with live Q&A after the screening!

I’m going to see a screening of Red State tonight with a Q&A appearance by Kevin Smith.
I’m excited. Tickets were $20 each, but in L.A. regular priced movie tickets are up to $12 or $13 at some places- so there’s really not so much of an extra charge for the Q&A.

My prediction is that the film will either be awesome . . .
. . . or it will be really bad.
I’ll be pleased with either of those results.

Did Kevin Smith make a great film that he realizes Hollywood wouldn’t understand, a film that would be ruined were the Hollywood Suits to get their grubby hands on?

Or did Kevin Smith just make a bad movie and refuses to admit failure?
I’m inclined to think the latter. Self-described misunderstood artists more often than not are just artists who made something that sucks. Still, if it sucks I will be happy to have been there when the whole thing came crashing down. Besides which, even if this film sucks I do still really like the majority of Kevin Smith’s work. To attend a screening with him there for a Q&A is still quite a treat for any fan.

Now, if against all odds this film is awesome- so much the better!

I do kinda hope, though, that it is either awesome or horrible. One extreme or the other will intensify the whole experience. What I’m hoping it won’t be: a film that shows great promise that ultimately is unable to overcome its many flaws. That will just be disappointing.

I’m worried that might be the case. The cast is too good: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Stephen Root! Put these actors in a bad film and they’re still going to class up the project. So, if the film is bad, it might not be bad enough to be awesomely bad.

I’ll report back if anyone is interested.

Here’s a little background info for people who don’t know what’s going on with this film. Any spoilers in the articles are pretty easy to skip over- I did not want to read spoilers, but when they were about to get into that territory it was set up obviously enough that I was able to jump forward to the next paragraph.

L.A. Weekly article
Film Junk article
Wiki Page (Marketing and Controversy section)

Oh, by all means please do.

I’m of the same mind as you - this movie had been so hyped up by Smith, it’s either gonna kick major ass, or blow major balls. I don’t know if Smith knows how to make an average, workaday movie (Jersey Girl aside).

On the one hand, it has an awesome cast: John Goodman, Stephen Root (yay!), Michael Parks, Melissa Leo. On the other hand, the plot summary on Wikipedia (ETA: NVM, wiki link already provided) looks… meh.

A good Kevin Smith film is a badly directed movie with good dialogues, a bad Kevin Smith film is a badly directed movie with bad dialogues.

I would love it if you reported back about how the movie and the Q&A went.

I read somewhere, probably his blog, that he charges more for just his “Evening with kevin Smith” events he does around the country than he is for the movie and Q&A. And he said something along the lines of, “Come and pay for the Q&A and watch a movie for free” or something like that. I would totally go to one of these if he came down to San Diego but I am not going to drive up to LA just for that.

Well the trailer looks godawful.

I saw it in NYC a couple of months ago. I found the movie good. Not great, but good, and not like anything he’d done before. The Q&A was very disappointing. Too many people in the crowd trying to get themselves or their projects over, or begging Smith for a job, and it lasted 60 minutes on the nose, then he was out. I’ll hold off on talking about anything from the movie specifically until you get back from it, but it would be cool to talk about it with someone else who’s actually seen it.

I like the way he marketed it though. I think it’s a cool idea, he knows about how much his movies can make and is basically cutting out the middle men and going directly to his audience. He’s in a position to do it, so why not?

I attended the “Evening” event last year in New Orleans. The movie was, as Brad the Impaler wrote: not great, but good. Very entertaining and very non-Kevin Smith.

The Q&A with Smith, Stephen Root & Melissa Leo was a lot of fun!

I’m assuming this movie was conceived some time after his rebirth as a full-time pot evangelist.

Kevin Smith claims to have improved as a director. He’s probably right. But given his starting point, he’s up to “adequate”. Which is good if he’s making a “Kevin Smith” film. I’m not sure it will help him here.

But good on him for trying to stretch himself artistically. And good on him for the somewhat novel approach he’s taken to releasing and marketing the movie.

I’m rooting for the movie to be good, but my hopes tempered.

O.K., I was wrong that the film would be either awesome or really bad.

It wasn’t awesome, but it was really good.

First off, it’s a well made movie.
Smith himself says that any talent he has is as a storyteller, not as a film maker, but this film is well made. He hasn’t particularly grown as a filmmaker in terms of achieving interesting visuals, but this film is paced beautifully. It is very well structured, with credit to his talent as a storyteller, it is well edited, and he gets wonderful performances from the actors. He has made admirable growth as a film maker, and should give himself more credit.

It’s not a “Kevin Smith Movie” in the way that we have heretofore known “Kevin Smith Movies”. But it is, however, a film that wouldn’t have been made by anyone else. It does not fit the template of recently popular movies, it does not fit the template of similar genre movies of an earlier era as a “throw back” or homage. It’s a movie that this guy made, not one that anyone else would have made.

I avoided the plot summary until after seeing the movie. Reading it now, yeah it doesn’t promise much of anything interesting. But what makes the movie good is the tone, the way it builds, the storytelling style, and the performances. I’m sure you’ve seen movies that you thought were good but that would seem dull from a plot summary. The presentation has so much to do with why it’s good.

I avoided watching the trailer until after seeing the movie. Just watched it now. Hmmm, I thought it was a pretty cool trailer- so, if you didn’t like the trailer this movie might not be for you. I will say that the trailer makes it look like it will be an amped up adrenaline rush all the way through. That’s not the case. It builds to the climax.

When I have more time, I’ll make another post under a spoiler tag to talk about the movie. I’ll say this much now: Michael Parks’ performance alone makes this film worth seeing.
The Q&A part was great. He was funny, told interesting stories, and was- dare I say it- inspiring. His running theme was that, in life, you should avoid the “‘Why?’ People” and surround yourself with the “‘Why Not?’ People”.

Brad the Impaler, we had a cool crowd. I’ve been to some Q&A events where questioners just seem to want to be thought as “cool” by the speaker, like the speaker will be so impressed with them that he’ll invite them out for a beer afterward and they’ll be best friends. None of that last night. Also, no one trying the shmooze him or “network” with him. Just people who were interested in what he had to say. A couple aspiring artists asked for advice, but they posed open questions that provoked answers that were interesting/helpful for the whole audience- not making it all about themselves.

The Q&A went on for an hour and a half but never felt overly long. He was entertaining for the whole time. In that hour and a half he answered only about five questions- he gave detailed and lengthy answers incorporating entertaining and fascinating anecdotes.
Most fascinating to me were the number of stories he had about direct interaction between himself and the Phelpses. He came onto their radar years ago when he first started talking about this film- when it was just an idea for a film. He had ongoing Twitter communication with Megan Phelps (granddaughter, aged 20-something), spoke to her when she called in to a radio interview he was doing, and even invited the family to a screening of Red State (and they came! but didn’t stay beyond the first 7 minutes of the film).

Very sad to hear about his falling out with Harvey Weinstein. He really looked up to Harvey as a father figure (Smith’s new production company, The Harvey Boys, is named after Harvey Weinstein), and Harvey’s pretty much disowned him- their ultimate falling out was pretty ugly. His relationship with Bob Weinstein is still good, though.

O.K., when I have time to post again I will discuss the actual film.

I’ve become a big fan of Kevin smith through his weekly Hollywood Babbleon podcast and his many appearances on the comedy podcasts I listen to every day, and I can’t wait to see this movie. I’m so glad you liked it. I really can’t wait to see it.

I like some of Smith’s work but not enough to pay to go to a Q & A with him, but I would totally pay to go to a Stephen Root Q&A. He’s the type of actor who probably has some wonderful stories.

Michael Parks is one of the greatest actors ever not to be an A-list household name. His roles in Kill Bill took less than 10 minutes between them and he knocked both out of the park.

Aside: I watched The Conspirator on DVD and on Robert Redford’s very skippable commentary he discussed how Root did his scene (a few minutes as a witness against Mary Surratt) in one day without any formal rehearsal with the other actors. Redford seemed respectful of this and his talent (he did a good job naturally- it was a serious role) but seemed not to be remotely familiar with Root’s work. In fact on the whole Redford came across as a self absorbed jerk in the commentary, especially as this was the type of movie where ideally you’d have a historian and at least one of the actors on the commentary.

I haven’t seen the movie but I kind of think it’s pretty cool that he cast Betty Aberlin (most famous for being, well, Betty Aberlin from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) in it.

ETA: It seems he’s cast her in some of his other films. Even cooler!

Here’s why the trailer looks godawful to me:

This movie seems to me to be trading in cheap stereotypes. The type of stereotypes held by someone who has only the dimmest understanding of fundamentalist Christianity, or for that matter, of whole swaths of the country. The title of the movie betrays the mindset.

And I say that all that as a liberal atheist.


And you’d have a point if those “cheap stereotypes” weren’t living and breathing people known as the Westboro Baptist Church. I haven’t seen Red State yet, but from I understand, aside from the murderin’, the characterization is spot on.

Yeah, that’s how a stereotype works. You take the very worst example and then you say to yourself, “Well, they’re all like that.”

Sorry, this movie just looks like self-righteous liberal wanking to me. It’s the kind of thing that makes people resentful of so-called “liberal elites.”

(And again, I say that as a liberal.)

I couldn’t agree more. He’s a terrible director who doesn’t know how to move a camera much less properly direct his actors. He wrote some good dialogue at one point but now he just seems to do pointless rants. I just don’t see the why certain people worship him. As a real fan of the behind the scenes history of comics I also detest that he celebrates Stan Lee as a golden god. I guess one hack bowing down to a ripoff artist makes sense.

Not an attempt to persuade you into seeing the movie, as I said at first: if you don’t like the look of it from the trailer, you might as well pass- since I thought the trailer was a good representation of what the film delivers.
When first hearing the title, I thought to myself “Well, he’s not doing himself any favors calling the movie that.” Anyone who lives in a State politically deemed a “Red State” is going to object at being titularly reduced to an association with the worst of their neighbors- especially unfair since the types that fall among the worst of the Red Sates also exist in large numbers in any of the Blue States and are only obnoxious minorities in any States. So, yeah, not only will this title not earn him any friends- it’ll even put off some people who have previously liked him.

I can kind of understand the allure of the title. “Red” is such an evocative word- it stirs thoughts of madness, violence, blood, hell, alarm. With the term “Red State” having risen to such prominence as a cultural common reference, the potential for such multi-level meaning in a title for a horror film is hard for a writer to resist. But, he should have resisted. It should have remained a first draft title to be replaced with something that wouldn’t be so alienating.

The fact is, the characters are well developed and complex. Nothing in Smith’s previous films has ever hinted that he was capable of writing such interesting characters. None of the characters are simple enough to be summed up by basic stereotypes.

The family at the center of the movie is definitely presented as a singular cult, with a clear distinction made that the cult shares no connection to any aspect of the broader outside culture- not even fundamentalist Christianity.

Then, within the context of this family cult, there are layers making up who each individual is as their own person. Smith doesn’t use the cheap shortcut that “They’re all looney! I can have them do crazy shit because they’re nuts, they don’t have to be grounded in any motivation!” The audience experiences the story with a connection to the sincerely held point of view of the cultists. We don’t root for them because we realize how demented their point of view is- but we do see that they, damaged as they are, are sincere in their beliefs and can find ourselves wanting to see them helped rather than hurt.

In fact, hearing in the Q&A that Kevin Smith was engaged in regular communication with the Phelpses while writing the film, I can really see his real life experience of these people as people ended up influencing the script.

Smith paints some goodness amongst the “bad guys” as well as a good dose of badness amongst the “good guys”. The “bad guys” almost come off as more sympathetic since they at least believe they are righteous, whereas the “good guys” are seen compromising themselves when faced with difficulty.
Hmmmm, I think I was able to say as much as I wanted to say about the movie without going into any actual Spoilers. Still, Brad the Impaler, I’m happy to progress into a Spoiler-Tagged conversation with you!

The one Spoiler-ish comment I feel compelled to make, I’m not sure if it counts as a Spoiler. More a point of how the movie fits into it’s genre.

I’ll put it in a Spoiler tag to be on the safe side, but really it’s just a genre observation.

This is not a Horror Film despite being described as such (even by the filmmaker). I’d call it a Siege Film, although I don’t know what broader genre that should be considered a subgenre of.

Read the wiki entry on the movie. In regards to the Weinstein falling out: Kevin committed the “sin” of making a movie that didn’t make Weinstein alot of $.

I just saw the movie a couple of days ago. It’s nothing like what you describe. It doesn’t stereotype. Even within the religious clan, there is a modicum of diversity and humanity, and the southerners outside the clan aren’t portrayed as being like them at all. This movie doesn’t trade on “types.” It doesn’t bash religion or hicks or anything like that. There is no “they’re all like that.” If it betrays any stereotype at all, it’s in the way it shows ATF agents as exactly the jack-booted thugs of paranoid, right wing imagination.

I don’t know how the trailer plays (I haven’t seen it), but the movie is not like how you characterize it, and is not even really political at all.