question of the day: Has Kevin Smith finally gone mad… or is he brilliant?

After Kevin Smith’s tirade against film critics almost a year ago — because we all misunderstood what his Cop Out was all about, and that’s why we trashed it — we have all been eagerly awaiting his next film. Would he let critics see it? Would he show it only to his most undiscriminating fans and let them tweet their “reviews”?

Turns out Smith gave his latest film, Red State, the usual Sundance treatment this week. But I’ll let Worst Previews sum it up:

Kevin Smith is easily the most entertaining person in Hollywood. First he considered letting fans donate money to make “Red State.” Then he promised to never do any press, make a trailer or screen the film for critics. After Sundance agreed to premiere “Red State,” Smith said that he won’t simply sell the rights to a distributor. He will instead auction the rights off.

“Red State” has now screened for the first time and the reviews are coming in. Unfortunately, they are not very positive. You can read some of the critic comments below. But first…

After the movie screened, Smith then moved forward with the auction. Several buyers gathered in a room where producer John Gordon took the stage announcing the beginning of the auction. Smith immediately raised his hand and bid $20. Gordon then quickly yelled out “Sold!”

Buyers were shocked, but then Smith explained the insane events that just took place. His plan is to distribute “Red State” himself. “Selling my film would be like having a baby and then selling it to somebody else to raise,” he said.

Clearly, the auction was a stunt from the planning stages, and Smith had no intention of actually letting the film go. Because immediately after the auction came the details of the self-distributed tour Smith would take the film on: the RED STATE USA TOUR, the official site blares, starts at Radio City Music Hall in New York on March 5. Obviously this tour has been in the planning stages for a long while, because you don’t just book an event at Radio City Music Hall on a last-minute whim. Tickets go on sale this Friday, January 28, for the princely sum of $60 (according to MTV News), you get to see the film before it opens theatrically in October (also self-distributed by Smith) followed by a Q&A with Smith.

Sixty bucks to see a movie? Yoikes.

The Guardian reports that some of Smith’s longtime fans and defenders who also happen to be critics are furious:

[F]or some of the online pundits offended by Smith’s recent stance on movie criticism, the auction stunt was the last straw. At Hitfix, Drew McWeeny posted a barb-filled missive accusing Smith of perpetuating a lie. Meanwhile, Steve “Frosty” Weintraub of tweeted that he’d never again write about the director’s work.

John Gholson at Cinematical reminds Smith’s fans:

If you’re a fan, remember this — you don’t owe Kevin Smith anything. He doesn’t know who you are. You aren’t pals, but he does need your money (and seemingly more than any filmmaker, your love). In return, he will occasionally make an amusing sex comedy, and offer a constant illusion of friendship to the loyal and hardcore. That’s the end of it. He doesn’t need you to passionately defend him from (valid) criticisms, and he certainly doesn’t need you to paint him as a misunderstood genius.

Flavorwire thinks Smith’s self-distribution plan “might be kind of brilliant,” and I don’t necessarily disagree. I find a lot to love in the statement from “the Harvey boys” — aka producer Jon Gordon and Kevin Smith — at the Red State tour site:

The Harvey Boys have witnessed first hand the vagaries of “studio math” – the byzantine numbers game that sees an uneducated media and public celebrating “huge” openings at the box office while ignoring the obscene marketing costs attached to reach those figures. We believe it’s a pyrrhic victory to simply “buy” an opening weekend by pouring millions of dollars into TV spots, billboards and print ads. As storytellers, why not instead use our creative abilities that resulted in a film in the first place to also creatively SELL that film directly to our public?

We believe the state of film marketing has become ridiculously expensive and exclusionary to the average filmmaker longing simply to tell their story. When the costs of marketing and releasing a movie are four times that film’s budget, it’s apparent the traditional distribution mechanism is woefully out of touch with not only the current global economy, but also the age of social media.

Therefore, The Harvey Boys will not spend a dime on old world media buys (such as TV/Print/Outdoor) as we self-distribute our film, Red State, in an admittedly unconventional, yet extremely cost effective, word of mouth/viral campaign.

That said, Smith is asking his fans to pony up $60 — which is a lot of money to a lot of people in this down economy — to support him and his film. Can any movie possibly be worth that much to a single viewer. Would you pay that much based on the mixed reviews out of Sundance and this teaser trailer?

Has Kevin Smith finally gone mad… or is he brilliant?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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