Oct 19, 2009

15 Years with "Clerks"

It was a normal Monday for me. I sat in bed, waiting for the alarm to go off around 9 to signal my need to get up and shower. Usually I don't hear more than a sentence before I shut it off, but today, I heard a familiar voice.

It was writer/director Kevin Smith, who has become somewhat of an inspiration for me, having made "Chasing Amy", which remains one of my favorites. So I kept it on and within the five minutes, they announced people's birthdays. And then, Smith interrupted them and stated "Aren't we forgetting something?"
You see, this day fifteen years ago, Smith's debut "Clerks" premiered across theaters to critical praise and a mild taste of success in profit. It since has spawned an empire for Smith that he calls View Askew featuring movies, comics, action figures, and occasional Q+A sessions.
The movie has held some impact. Not only in the sense that it helped to make a "Do It Yourself" feel to movies, but helped create a balance between dirty and sweet that few seemed to understand. And along with films like "Reservoir Dogs", it helped to launch pop culture vernacular into everyday movies.
But what impact has "Clerks" held on me?
For starters, I lable it in my Top 10 for numerous reasons, bluntly script writing was a big reason.
It was late 2005 and I was still living at my mom's house. We had gotten cable, so I was able to access movies late at night. For some reason, I saw that "Clerks" was on and I was curious to see the hoopla. I had recently seen a Bravo's Top 100 Comedies list and I aimed to see them all. I currently stand at least 3/4 of the way through.
I remember the first time I saw it, I was a little confused on if I should be watching it. For some reason, I used to hold paranoia that my parents would come out and tell me not to. It wasn't at the beginning when I saw it, but I couldn't take my eyes away. I did occasionally change channels out of paranoia, but I could tell I was hooked.
I am not sure when I saw it all the way through again. Something tells me it was still in 2005 and I was home alone. I can't remember too much other than I was psyched to see it all the way through.
And then, little happened until "Clerks II" came out the following year and I decided that it would be my way of breaking into Rated R cinema. So it was. Somehow, that was the breaking point of when I really got into Kevin Smith, despite the fact I don't think much of "Clerks II" anymore... or at least in terms to "Clerks".
After "Clerks II", I delved deep, buying books and watching all of the movies. It was amazing.
But what has "Clerks" personally done for me?
It's hard to say what the individual film did since I attribute my epiphany to "Silent Bob Speaks". But the film is iconic and represents majority of what I was about to change into.
Before I fell into Kevin Smith's work, I knew that I wasn't really a subtle joker. I usually did really tasteless sight gags and told pointless jokes. Sure, I was funny, but it's amongst kids your own age and only you will ever find licking pavement funny.
It's hard to really notice that there was a way about my style before Kevin Smith, speaking majority of you didn't know me until high school or college. But it was very basic and immature.
And then, I read "Silent Bob Speaks", a collection of rants he did for a magazine, and upon reading it all in one day, I was a changed man. I began to journey towards structure and not just writing random facts together and calling it a post. I had always been an acclaimed writer according to teachers, but I don't feel I really developed until "Speaks".
But this isn't "Clerks" yet... Sure, it spawned off from it, but let's focus now on "Clerks" since we have the back story all cleaned up.
This movie probably is one of my aspirations simply because it's not trying to be more than a bunch of guys at work. The soundtrack was grunge and punk-influenced and reflected the misery of every character. The two opposites Dante Hicks and Randall Graves, were very pure as employees just working. I was intrigued because it was very character driven and restored my faith in movies, having been overwhelmed with big budge action movies that made no sense for the past few years.
While it took me awhile to realize I shouldn't go for edge in my writing, I realized immediately that I needed to be me, which was very movie and music oriented. I will be honest, it took forever to take the leap correctly, but along with "Annie Hall" as an influence, I began to venture into complex structure while focusing more on character, which remains one of my interests.
Since, my wit has been very subtle and I feel has been a blessing. It is weird however that my back is almost turned on assholes goofing off with bad sex puns (of which I came from). It kind of made me depressed in high school when conversation became predictable, and Kevin Smith probably has a lot to with it. I found the writing very spontaneous (though I can watch "Clerks" and recite it while it's playing in the background) and I strived to be that in a creative way, even outside of writing, just in life in general.
I currently am in college and I finally am feeling that satisfaction. People who talk about movies with smarts and rarely make the same joke twice. I love it because I suppose I learned that I needed competitive language in my daily life to enjoy it. When I was the only one spouting off what I assumed was competitive language, I was either called really smart or people who didn't want to think about it just wrote me off as an asshole.
And finally, the one thing I probably picked up from "Clerks" is a quick change of emotion, turning on people because of being mislead. For some reason the general concept is a guilty pleasure of mine and I often will throw it in for good measures.
You see, my favorite scene in "Clerks" is not the "Star Wars"/roofer bit or even the Salsa Shark...
It's the first scene at the Quick Stop. Dante is doing his job and customers are buying cigarettes. A customer comes in and begins protesting, convincing customers to buy Chewlie's gum. It is later revealed he is a client at that company and the crowd throwing cigarettes at Dante just leaves.
There is some subtle genius to that that probably remains one of my favorite scenes in moves and can occasionally be seen in my own work, though never blatantly ripped off.
So every time I put the movie on, I believe I am seeing wisdom not from some version of middle class, but actual middle class that knows their culture as well as what they want in life. I feel that it's this that makes me strive for people to care more about characters than effects. So while I've only known this movie 3 years, I am proud to know that after 15 years, people like me still care about it.

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