Fueling the controversy is the release of "The Irishman," Martin Scorsese's $160 million-budget crime epic, by streaming giant Netflix Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
entertainment

Superheroes vs cinema? Debate continues over Scorsese remarks

8 Comments
By Andrew MARSZAL

Martin Scorsese's dismissal of Marvel films as "not cinema" has split Hollywood and moviegoers, sparking reactions from full-blooded support to accusations of hypocrisy and elitism.

The Oscar-winning director penned a New York Times op-ed last week in which he argued superhero blockbusters lack the sense of risk, mystery and complex characters vital to the "art" of filmmaking.

Marvel films are "market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they're ready for consumption," wrote the "Goodfellas" director.

"They lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist," Scorsese added, fueling a controversy he initiated in a magazine interview last month.

Fellow luminaries such as Francis Ford Coppola, Ken Loach and Fernando Meirelles have backed Scorsese, with Coppola even calling the record-breaking Marvel franchise "despicable."

Top Hollywood film critics have also endorsed the auteur's position.

"Scorsese is basically a film climatologist, pointing out a sinister change we can all see with our own eyes," tweeted David Ehrlich, senior film critic of Indiewire.

"Glad he said this, sad he had to," he added.

But the rejection of film's highest-grossing franchise has provoked debate in Hollywood about what constitutes "art," and who gets to define it -- not least because of Scorsese's admission that he has only "tried to watch a few of them."

"That's just not good enough -- you can't dismiss an entire genre as uncinematic without watching them," said Tom Nunan, an Oscar-winning producer and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film and Television.

"People have always been vocal when they see change going on and it makes them uncomfortable," Nunan ("Crash," 2006) told AFP, pointing to the arrival of 1970s smash hits like "Jaws" and "Star Wars."

"No-one has ever had the nerve to just dismiss the arena -- blockbuster-worthy films -- as uncinematic."

Bob Iger, CEO of Marvel parent company Disney, last month described Scorsese's original comments as "so disrespectful to all the people that work on those films."

"Anyone who has seen a Marvel film could not in all truth make that statement," Iger later told the BBC.

Natalie Portman, who has appeared in several Marvel films and will star in the next "Thor" movie, told The Hollywood Reporter there was "not one way to make art."

But those rebuttals were nothing compared to the fury from Marvel's army of obsessive fans, who have taken to social media to vent their rage.

Countless tweets have painted Scorsese as elitist, with many pointing to box office figures showing nine Marvel films in the 25 top-grossing movies of all time.

Marvel lovers say that to fully enjoy all-time record holder "Avengers: Endgame," you need to have seen the preceding 21 movies, due to their interconnected storylines and characters.

"What's happened over time is there's a knee-jerk reaction of the old guard in Hollywood," said University of Southern California adjunct professor Gene Del Vecchio. "Filmmakers today have changed the artistry -- they've expanded the artistry."

Del Vecchio believes audience tastes have broadened to accept genres like sci-fi and fantasy, while the establishment's have shrunk.

"The artists of old aren't accepting that because they are used to a much more narrow definition of art," he told AFP. "They have been left behind as audiences and new filmmakers have gone forward."

Fueling the controversy is the release of "The Irishman," Scorsese's $160 million-budget crime epic, by streaming giant Netflix.

In his op-ed, Scorsese said the distinction between Marvel and "cinema" matters because superhero sequels are crowding auteurs out of movie theaters -- the place "where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen."

"The Irishman" is currently in theaters, but only for a relatively miniscule 26-day window before it shifts to Netflix's small-screen streaming platform. "Endgame," by comparison, was still showing in picture houses four months after its release.

Netflix "allowed us to make 'The Irishman' the way we needed to," wrote Scorsese.

"Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would," he added.

But Nunan described Scorsese's position as "hypocritical at minimum."

"When did he become the god of cinema? He's in business with the very company that many people accuse of destroying cinema."

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


8 Comments
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They lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist," Scorsese added, fueling a controversy he initiated in a magazine interview last month.Fellow luminaries such as Francis Ford Coppola, Ken Loach and Fernando Meirelles have backed Scorsese, with Coppola even calling the record-breaking Marvel franchise "despicable."

These comments come AFTER the sad passing of Stan Lee who conveniently is unable to defend Marvel and his creations. I would call Scorsese and Coppola despicable.

Their work in my view is trash suited to narrow niche audiences. Just as I do not watch their rubbish, if they chose not to watch Marvel movies that is their right. It is all cinema, the good, the bad and the ugly.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

He is right... Disney - Marvel garbage..

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I think the most cutting edge Marvel output was on the telly. Legion is not like anything that's gone before (at least on the screen) it's more David Lynch than Stan Lee (no offense to either).

It's easy, of course, to dismiss Marvel films as the same old same old etc. But it's a genre and usually, it does what it says on the tin. I'm no film snob and I'll get my escapism hits from wherever and whoever. FFC has provided some classics but also some lesser films. Think of the taut, tense and paranoid The Conversation and then skip forward to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Ham sliced thickly, I believe. That said, I enjoyed both. Even though the latter is more comic book.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Marvel films are "market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they're ready for consumption," wrote the "Goodfellas" director.

Agree with this 100%. They're not bad and they're not good; they're all just exactly the same.

I think the most cutting edge Marvel output was on the telly. Legion is not like anything that's gone before (at least on the screen) it's more David Lynch than Stan Lee (no offense to either).

Wow, somebody else who like Legion! I've never met anyone else who even watched it. Series 1 was fantastic, absolutely mindbending stuff but I got stuck halfway through 2 and didn't finish it. I should go back and rewatch it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow, somebody else who like Legion! I've never met anyone else who even watched it. Series 1 was fantastic, absolutely mindbending stuff but I got stuck halfway through 2 and didn't finish it. I should go back and rewatch it.

Just started it (S2) the other day - as you say; mindbending stuff. Made even more awesome by Aubrey Plaza & Jemaine Clement. Not one, I'd imagine, for the average Marvel fan who just wants 2 hours in the cinema and nothing overly challenging (and nothing wrong with that).

As mentioned before, the other superhero genre series I'm currently loving is The Boys. A very different beast & not one for the feint of heart.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Films are entertainment, a diversion.

It used to be done with song and dance, a great story and acting,

now it's also done with special effects and super heroes...

I'll choose what works for me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I get Scorsese's point, but why single out Marvel all of a sudden ?

The Marvel movies are a cultural phenomenon right now, but there has been movies like this before.

If he wants to talk about films that are "not cinema", there's plenty to chose, from Transformers to Saw, or 90% of comedies, horror, action or martial arts movies. "Movies were better before" is a myth. There has been terrible movies before, and there are great movies nowadays.

And you can enjoy both entertainment movies and serious ones, just like you can enjoy both classic music and heavy metal, or both 19th century literature and cartoons.

Just enjoy what you enjoy and be done with it !

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And you can enjoy both entertainment movies and serious ones, just like you can enjoy both classic music and heavy metal, or both 19th century literature and cartoons.

Exactly, I don't get it when there are complaints that "decent" music/film/literature doesn't exist anymore. Of course it does, if one looks for it. And if the thought of early 21st century entertainment repulses so much; there's centuries of art to discover/re-discover.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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