Thursday, October 10, 2019


"I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being."
Martin Scorsese, on Marvel/superhero movies

It seems we are again debating what qualifies as film.  This time, Martin Scorsese has offered his opinion on what qualifies as worthy of being dubbed cinema, determining that the Marvel movies are not worthy of that distinction.

It echoes sentiments made by Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and William Friedkin.  Funny how the comments all seem to be coming from the same generation of filmmaker regarding the current state of film.  Never thought these mavericks would be the ones to get to the yelling at clouds state.

There is no doubt, the Marvel movies, and a lot of modern cinema are heavy on spectacle and the worst examples can be heavy on plot, light on character and emotion.  But to paint them all with the same brush would be just as ill-informed as to paint all of their movies with the same brush.  To dismiss them all as plotless, esoteric exercises.

There has always been a backlash against popular entertainment.  That it's not real art.  That it is just a crass commercial product.  That it's soulless.

That its's a sellout.

It's a tired argument.

In a way,  I understand it.  We live in an age when the types of films that Scorsese is championing are not being made for the theater anymore.  Where you have to be a Scorsese, a Spielberg, a Tarantino, a Coppola to even get attention for such a film.

But I would argue that focusing on such an issue is putting form over function.  There is a great new opportunity for such character focused pieces to be made in streaming and in television.  We are in a golden age of television right now.  And thanks to all the various streaming platforms, there is a great demand for new content.  Maybe that means the project you thought would be a feature is now a 6 hour serial instead of a 2 hour movie.  But that also means you can make the mega 4, 6, or 8+ hour project.  You can really dig into character development and plot.  You can truly dig into those and explore them to your hearts content.  The format can be adjusted to fit the needs of the story, not the other way around.

Budgets aren't even an issue, because some of the Netflix budgets that I've heard are outrageous.   The only thing you have to let go of is the attachment to actual celluloid.  To the theater experience.

So again, what matters more, the story or how it is presented?

Scorsese has to understand this; he's making a film for Netflix now.  Rumor is he was even considering helming the current Joker film, producing and directing.

But for this argument to keep coming up, makes these contemporaries look like snobs at best and grumpy old-timers at worst.  Making them appear out of touch with their audiences.

So, from this, perhaps we can all learn the best response to such a question - "It's not my cup of tea."  We can stay out of trying to define what is and what is not art, and can just be honest and voice what we are qualified to raise, our opinions.  Recognizing, not everything is meant for us.

Art doesn't have to be for all people.  But sometimes it can be for the masses.

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