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#97 January 11, 2012

Marie writes: I have no words. Beyond the obvious, that is. And while I'm okay looking at photos, the video.... that was another story. I actually found myself turning away at times, the suspense too much to bear - despite knowing in advance that he's alive and well and there was nothing to worry about. The bottom of my stomach still fell out...

(click images to enlarge)

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Joel Siegel helps Kevin Smith promote 'Clerks II'

Not Very Silent Bob blows his own tooter to make some publicity noise.

Extra! Extra! It's a match made in movie hell: Joel Siegel vs. Kevin Smith (or vice-versa). It's ugly, but it's perfect, because the former is to movie reviewing what the latter is to movie directing. So, when Siegel stormed out of a screening of "Clerks II" (allegedly exclaiming on his way up the aisle: "Time to go! First movie I've walked out of in 30 [bleeping] years!"), well, Smith saw an exploitable promotional opportunity and ran with it. Not for nothing is he considered the leading contender for Most Avidly Self-Promoting Director, neck-and-neck with M. Night Shyamalan. Smith posted a positively (or should that be "negatively"?) scabrous attack on Siegel on his blog, and went on a drive-time morning radio show to further express his outrage. Plus, he got in an indirect and gratuitous smack at Shyamalan, whose "Lady in the Water" opens opposite "Clerks II" Friday, writing: "I don’t need Joel Siegel to suck my d--k the way he apparently sucks M. Night’s, gushing over his flick before he’s even seen it..."

(WARNING: If you follow the link to Smith's blog above, be prepared to scroll down through various merchandising offers before getting to the posting itself; and, of course, you should expect lots of profanity and comments about donkey shows and mustaches and ejaculate -- that incorrigible Smith je ne sais quois!)

If Siegel's own account of his outburst on that radio show is correct, it was unnecessary and unprofessional. He could have just walked out and chosen not to review the picture. If he did write anything about the movie (he couldn't review it because he'd only seen 40 minutes), he was indeed ethically obligated to tell his readers/viewers that he had walked out in the first hour. But, somehow, I find myself having just a tiny bit more respect for Siegel than I ever had before, simply because I didn't think he was even capable of caring enough to be offended. I remember leaving a studio screening of some Christopher Lambert turkey in LA about 15 years ago (after the movie was over) and the publicist saying to me: "Yeah, I think we're gonna have to rely on Joel Siegel for this one" -- referring to Siegel's Peter-Travers-like reputation for pumping out ad blub copy to promote just about anything.

Full disclosure: I once liked a Kevin Smith movie ("Dogma"), and I haven't seen "Mallrats" or "Jersey Girl." Others, however (especially "Clerks"), have been painful experiences for me. I feel like an accused Communist writing this, but it is my full confession. Indeed, when an aspiring indie filmmaker (who has since had considerable success) once asked me for some directing advice, I told her to watch Smith's films to see exactly how not to shoot a movie, especially a comedy. She recently wrote to say she had heeded this advice, and to thank me for it. She is more than welcome. You can learn a lot from watching bad movies, and Smith's are every bit as hacky as Michael Bay's. The only difference is that the budgets are generally a bit smaller.

At the Independent Spirit Awards this year, Smith did his aw-shucks self-deprecating act and belittled his own directing skills, but apparently critics are not allowed to do their jobs and scrutinize his work. What puzzles me is that Smith and his fans openly acknowledge they know his movies aren't particularly well-made, but they don't care because they think they're funny. Smith himself writes: "I recognize that brand of whimsy might not be for everybody. Film appreciation is very subjective..." So, why not leave it at that? Smith can't. Witness, for example, the following stories from Mark Caro, Scott Foundas and David Poland:

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