IT'S A MATCH made in heaven. Since Clerks, Kevin Smith has received a lot of acclaim for his screenwriting ability, which has only gotten better since his focus shifted from crude jokes to personal reflection (peppered with crude jokes)--but as a director he still comes across as strictly amateur. Paul Thomas Anderson, on the other hand, is a slick director who can effortlessly appropriate the style of any master filmmaker, but whose scripts showcase a terrifying lack of substance. Imagine Dogma directed by an accomplished filmmaker, or Magnolia with a script that was more than a collection of clichés. Imagine these two indie film superstars teaming up for a project that would cater to both of their strengths.

Alas, it will never be. On his View Askew website posting board, Smith says he received and watched an Academy screener DVD of Magnolia, then bluntly states, "I'll never watch it again, but I will keep it. I'll keep it right on my desk, as a constant reminder that a bloated sense of self-importance is the most unattractive quality in a person or their work." He later compares it to a cinematic root canal, adding, "There are very few movies that make me want lost time back, and that movie tops the list."

For his part, Anderson has been quiet about the criticism, perhaps knowing that Smith's lack of filmmaking skill is an easy target, and more importantly, that if he remains quiet he casts himself as the victim of what many will perceive as an unwarranted attack.

In my view, the biggest shock is not that Kevin Smith hated Magnolia (particularly after admitting he enjoyed Boogie Nights and acknowledging he might "cream [his] pants over the guy's next flick"), but that he admitted it. That honesty--his willingness to speak his mind no matter the consequences--is the core of what makes people like his scripts, even when they disagree with what he's saying. Perhaps it's an East Coast honesty derived from his New Jersey roots. On the other coast, Anderson, through his silence, becomes the poster boy for Hollywood politics, not wanting to insult a fellow filmmaker lest he come out looking bad himself.

Most surprising, actually, is Smith's reaction to the Paul Thomas Anderson "apostles" who attacked him for his opinions. He states, still on his own website, "Oh, you precious but pesky few who feel maligned if Magnolia is questioned! From beyond my rage I thank and bless you--for this has been a life-changing, eye-opening experience for me. If this is what rabid fans are like, then I don't want any." Though this kind of statement is exactly the kind of thing rabid fans eat up, it's still an interesting epiphany.

But I still think they'd make a kick-ass movie together.

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