In February 2018, the world almost lost auteur filmmaker Kevin Smith. Yes, I said auteur. He's awesome. He's a hero of mine. You can't deny he brings his own sense of style to the screen. Come at me! Suffering a heart attack at a gig in California, Smith was rushed to hospital where doctors saved his life, and his LAD artery blockage a.k.a. the Widowmaker failed to take another victim that night. But what would the world be like Kevin Smith-less? Love him or hate him, his impact on Hollywood is undeniable if not understated, a little surreptitious and dare I say it, serendipitous. Think about it...
Ben & Matt... Ben Affleck first appeared in the View Askewniverse in 1995's 'Mallrats' in a small but memorable role. Since then, Ben has appeared in seven Smith features, including the upcoming 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot', taking the lead in three of those seven. Along for the ride is his BFF Matt Damon who has appeared in five of Smith's films, going so far as to star alongside Affleck in 'Dogma' where the duo played fallen angels hellbent on getting home at any cost. The pair even played themselves - sort of - in 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' (2001). It was Ben and Matt's friendship with Kevin that allowed them to turn to their friend, script in hand, hoping to get the screenplay produced with them as the stars. A call to He Who Shall Not Be Named later and the rest is Oscar-winning history, with Smith on board as producer. So yes, 'Good Will Hunting' is kind of a big deal, but beyond that (and okay, most will see what I'm about to say is a negative yet still impactful) it was Smith's love of comics that got Ben into the idea of playing a superhero on the big screen. Affleck's fantasy was always to play the caped crusader, but believing they couldn't top the Keaton years, Smith convinced Affleck to go after another masked hero when 'Daredevil' came knocking. Again, I don't need to tell you what happened next, but needless to say Ben's dream of portraying Batman never died, though many wish it had.
Podcasts... It seems today that any idiot with a microphone and an internet connection has a podcast. Some are good, most are bad, but where did they all start? Kevin Smith, baby! That's who. I may be giving him far too much credit here, but let me take a step back for a second... Around 2003 or 2004 is when the first podcasts started streaming (depending on what you consider to be "the first"). In early 2007 Smith, along with friend and producing partner Scott Mosier, created SModcast. Smith's love of his own voice, his incredible storytelling ability and general bullshitting skills have led to not one, not two, but a total six podcasts including 'Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs' where he and friend Matt Mira commentate 'Frasier' episodes. There is no limit to what this man will talk about. Smith's love of the medium led to the creation of the podcast platform SModcast network, and let's not discount his constant encouragement to create a podcast yourself to those who attend his live Q&As. So think about it for a second - when did you start listening to podcasts? When all your friends told you, "You have to listen to 'Serial'!" Right? Well, 'Serial' started in 2014, by which time Smith had already been podcasting prolifically - and successfully, I might add - for the past seven years. Yeah. Whoa.
Stan "The Man" Lee... If you don't know who Stan Lee is, then you should just stop reading right now, crawl out from under the rock in which you are clearly living and Google it! Stan Lee, God of Marvel, has delighted us with his cameos in all 23 MCU films. But before the MCU, Stan's biggest big-screen role was as himself in 1995's 'Mallrats'. Kevin Smith's love and devotion to all things comics is long and vast, constantly referencing them in his films and even going so far as to open his own comic book store (well, two actually), the result of which spawned its own TV show called 'Comic Book Men' which ran for seven seasons between 2012 and 2017. But I digress. Sure, Stan played a part here, a part there, narrated this and that, but it wasn't until his 'Mallrats' appearance that the "name among names" finally became a household name for the uninitiated. Playing himself, a subplot of 'Mallrats' revolves around the comic book-obsessed Brodie (Jason Lee) attempting to meet his hero when The Man makes a signing appearance at the mall's comic book store. Unsuccessful in the traditional sense, the pair finally meet by sheer happenstance and Stan imparts some sage wisdom and love advice on our anti-hero. And with that, a lifelong friendship was forged both on and off-screen. Still not convinced? Then I suggest you revisit Stan's cameo in 2018's 'Captain Marvel' and then get back to me.
Meme Me... These days, you're nobody until somebody loves - I mean, memes you. And for Kevin Smith, it's happened more than once, so the world must love him a lot. Years ago, a paparazzo snapped the filmmaker pumping petrol (or "gas" for our American kinfolk) wearing his infamous uniform of jorts. But these were no ordinary jorts. These where the largest and longest pair of jorts the world had ever seen - and with that, the memes came rolling in. Sweet doggy doo, those jorts need to be seen to be believed! Next stop to Viralville was an ill-fated South West airlines flight in 2010 on which Smith was dubbed "too fat to fly". Smith, the prolific social media user, quickly got the word out to his many followers and the taunts, the jokes, the memes and the catchphrase came in thick and fast. What can I say, there's just something about him that speaks to the Every Man.
25 years ago, a little black-and-white movie made by a guy from New Jersey no-one had ever heard of, on a budget of maxed-out credit cards totalling US$27,575 hit Sundance by storm.
Jay and Silent Bob a.k.a. Bluntman and Chronic... What can one say about Jay and Silent Bob? Well, quite frankly, they're the glue that holds the View Askewniverse together. The hetero-lifemates have appeared in seven Smith films, originating in 1994's 'Clerks' where it was love at first puff. They are a force unto themselves, constantly surprising audiences with Bob's sage wisdom and popping up at unexpected moments and even proving themselves to be prophets when dealing with divine beings. The dynamic duo has also appeared in countless other projects together, including 'Scream 3' and wandering into Degrassi High. Fans love them and guys and gals want to be them, with frequent cosplay sightings being made at comic fan events across the globe. I mean, who else can go from quirky bit-parts in a black and white independent movie to having your own feature film, a reboot, a cartoon, toys, a comic book and a fictional superhero movie?
Chronic and Harley Quinn?... Kevin Smith only has one apple, and that pink lady did not fall far from the tree. Presenting themselves as more like twins or BFFs than father and daughter, Smith's offspring Harley Quinn Smith (yes that's her real name, and yes I know, it's freakin' awesome) is steadily becoming a name in her own right as an actor, recently appearing in Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood', a musician with her band The Tenth, director, presenter and vegan and animal rights activist. Smith may have evaded death once, but when it finally comes for him he has well and truly ensured his legacy with this female firecracker.
I Assure You We're Open!... 25 years ago, a little black-and-white movie made by a guy from New Jersey no-one had ever heard of, on a budget of maxed-out credit cards totalling US$27,575 hit Sundance by storm. Smith proved with his little labour of love that anyone can make a movie - a mantra he's repeated time and time again to the droves of fans and wannabes that attend his Q&As. With this one little film, he launched a cinematic universe 14 years before Marvel ever did. He forged lifelong friendships, created characters that still endure to this day, ushered in pop-culture sensations, taught us what Snow Blowing is (eek!) and gave rise to the voiceless and disenfranchised. Like I said - love him or hate him, you know him, you've seen his work, he's inside you now and he's going to hold on tight until his heart stops beating - permanently - and even then his films will still live on.
BONUS ROUND... I was one of the idiot schmucks that actually read 'My Boring Ass Life', Smith's blog-turned-book. In his daily musings, he mentioned his love, obsession and bingeability of the TV show 'Veronica Mars', even earning himself a cameo in season 2. Despite being relentlessly pestered by a school friend to watch the show during its first season, I never did. To this day, I still don't know why. But it was reading Smith gush about this teenage supersleuth that got me intrigued. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I was right there with the other 91,000+ Kickstarter backers pledging our hard-earned funds for a chance to see the 'Veronica Mars' movie. So thank you, Kevin. Credit where credit is due. I am a Marshmallow because of you. Thank you.