Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ain't It Cool News Review, Response

It’s hard to be 31 and defend something you wrote at 26. And it’s awkward rebutting a review instead of just absorbing the blows of criticism. But this review frustrated me, and it also happens to be on a high-traffic movie site.

In their comics section today, Ain’t It Cool News contributor Kristian Horn reviewed Purgatory Comics. I’d submitted it to him weeks earlier. I was warned it would be an honest review and that’s completely cool; we’ve been bashed before. Early in the review, Kristian basically calls Purgatory Comics a Clerks ripoff, which again, is fine. It’s been done before. But then Kristian stays on that point for the rest of the essay; comparing me to Kevin Smith and calling the film “Clerks Light.” And he doesn’t attempt to truly review the film because he can’t see passed this by his own admission.

Kristian gave me 90 minutes of his life and he did write nice words about me having potential, so I’m not going to knock on the guy. Plus I appreciate recognition from AICN. But I do want to present my side of this whole “Clerks Light” thing.

Look, I get it. I love Clerks and I’m very public about that. So I see why the film world believes Kevin Smith owns the monopoly on the “young adult dialogue comedy in retail” subgenre. But to me, that’s just what it is: a subgenre.

I challenged the monopoly because I thought I had a story worth telling that hadn’t been told in this exact way. Is the film community really so "day and night" that a different filmmaker can’t try this? With a completely different theme?

Because beyond dirty humor in retail, I fail to see the tonal comparisons that are so substantial, Kristian can’t see through them to write an honest review. Purgatory Comics has no banter about the minutia of pop culture. There’s no ragging on customers. Half of the film doesn’t even take place in the comic book store. The movie is half drama (and is always billed as a comedy/drama). The store owner is a divorced man in his early 30s who loves his shop – so much that he almost has a meltdown at the thought of losing it. The protagonist is a woman running from a successful business career and relationship. And the youngest guy is a simple-minded kid who was never taught responsibility, but has a huge heart. All three of them are changed by the end.

I just don't see this potent tone similarity Kristian can't get passed; and I'm the first to rip on my own work. And I'm not going to deny Smith was an inspiration in the early stages, but I worked very hard to go my own route from there.

The day I decided I wanted to shoot in a comic store, I was completely prepared for the Clerks comparisons. And I get it. And believe me, I’ve met many people who disliked my film and I get that too. But be constructive, Kristian. If the movie failed to hit a spark because of the script, acting, direction, whatever . . . criticize that. I can take it. Don’t write it off as “Clerks Light” because it reminds you of a movie made over 10 years earlier, and then leave it at that. Believe me, I know I’m not Kevin Smith without you pointing it out. I’m not trying to be.

Even when you’re a broke indie filmmaker, you can’t help but feel the pressure to be innovative and give the audience something that’s never been done; even in the slightest. On one hand, the pressure is healthy: I probably would have more success if I invented something completely new. On the other hand, it’s maddening - and I argue - unfair. And I would never tell an aspiring filmmaker to pass up on a personal, low budget story because it isn’t 100% groundbreaking.

So there’s my review of Kristian’s review. I guess we both have a lot of room for improvement.

One last point: Kristian unfairly states that the biggest thing I have to sell my movie is Bree Olson. Kristian: if you had even an inkling of how competitive the indie film world is, and how difficult it is to stand out, you’d understand grasping to name-recognition in marketing.


Mike V said...

Slamming this movie because it is set in the same environment as another movie means that no other movie, or TV show, should ever get made again.

Lost sucked, it was a Gilligan's Island rip-off. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sucked, it was a rip off of The Karate Kid.

I guess "The Fighter" wasn't any good because that had already been done in Rocky and Raging Bull and Cinderella Man? (All 4 were excellent IMO, despite the similar setting.)

Ralphy I guess you should have your next movie be about toothbrushes that come to life inside of a rotten pumpkin, on the moon. Then it would be inarguably original, and thus, inherently good. Doesn't matter whether the premise, message, dialogue, cinematography, plotline, etc. are any good.

-Mike V

Angela Benedict said...

Agreed. Influence is definitely apparent however to go as far as to call it 'Clerks Light' seems a bit pretentious to me. The plot is different, there are no comparable characters, the dialog, not even close. #1 It's no secret that Kevin Smith is into comic books, #2 the only one of his films to have a retail setting is Clerks. Pretty thin. Good thing Mallrats wasn't filmed in a sunglass kiosk!