This October was like any other October.
Folk getting ready for Halloween, all things horror, and of course, some folk were preparing to go to the movies. This month; however, that meant Joker. That is what seemed to get Hollywood royalty a touch upset, and by “upset” I mean, a glaring mean mug of condescension and haughtiness staring directly at Marvel and DC Comics, Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. Pictures.
Earlier this month, Martin Scorsese was on his press junket about future “Best Director” (among others) nominee The Irishman, when he sat down with Empire and shared a word about his feelings on comic book movies.
After what I can imagine was a dramatic let-me-collect-my-butthurt-thoughts pause, Scorsese admitted he tried then failed to get into comic movies, which he sees as cosplay ballyhoo rather than genuine drama created to be experienced.
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese [said]. “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.”
He not only admits he doesn’t watch them (any longer), but compares CBMs with Six Flags?! Now, the man has made some of the most prolific films in cinematic history, so he’s earned the right to get in front of a microphone and say whatever he wants. His full name is Martin Effin’ Scorsese, so give him that time, any time.
However, now that his opinion has fueled the angst of fans with more impressive resumes than regular nerds (more on that in a moment), we get Francis Ford Effin’ Coppola. (They may be related). He’s definitely not a fan of the CBM hoopla either, as he shares (vociferously) with Yahoo! Entertainment:
“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” the 80-year-old Coppola told reporters.
“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” he added. “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.“
These two guys are not only on Mount Rushmore next to each other, etched in stone, but they go back — way back. They’re paisanos. Eh, homies, if you will.
They are accustomed to the generalities of moviemaking with deep roots in storytelling, stellar characterization, and a plot that makes you experience something. Come to think of it: that’s what some — not all — comic book movies do for other audiences. Ironically, those same audiences adore both Scorsese and Coppola too.
Remember The Dark Knight or Joker? Anything in the Infinity saga? Those films, as brilliantly of a story they laid out, also showcased memorable characters, pop culture references, and, oh yeah, the visceral connections millions of people around the world experienced.
Okay, let’s be fair, did this ever happen during a screening of The Godfather or Goodfellas?
Yeah, probably not.
Those movies weren’t designed to make audiences go completely ape-ess. The Godfather is one of the most quoted movies in cinematic history and Goodfellas is easily top 10 on anyone’s list (including mine) of best biopics ever. But, no one was dancing in the streets, slapping high-fives, and tearing their Avengers t-shirts off Hulk Hogan style as a result of one scene.
So, let’s debunk the idea: This is cinema…just not their cinema.
If you watched how Ledger’s Joker or Hardy’s Bane terrorized people, which caused Batman to second-guess not only what to do but also who he is. What about a young pencil-neck geek named Steve Rogers who exemplified what it meant to never quit to become Captain America? (Those older two gents loved that story…when it was done in Rudy.)
And, in a lesser sense but still emotional and psychological, do I really need to mention Spider-Man during the snap in Avengers: Infinity War?
Again, it is cinema, Mr. Scorsese. It’s just not something you watch (anymore).
Certainly, there is a little of “this is not my idea of Hollywood motion pictures.” Scorsese is a legend. His pal there is too. And both of them look at the work of Taiki Waititi, James Gunn, Joss Whedon, Zack Snyder, Todd Phillips, James Wan, Patty Jenkins, Kevin Feige, and oh yeah… Christopher effin’ Nolan and shrug, roll their eyes, and expel a breathy “Meh!”
These are folk (most of them at any rate) those two consider “contemporaries,” but if any film work can be found inside a comic or graphic novel, now it’s “not cinema” and downright “despicable.”
Not so much.
(Come to think of it, I wonder which film was the one that caused him to say, “No more of this ess!” [Probably Ant-Man and the Wasp, “Josstice League,” or Thor: The Dark World.])
Is This All Your Lawn?
When you have spent more years in Hollywood at the top of your profession longer than most fans and critics have been alive, you have earned a little levity to express your opinion.
Scorsese and Coppola are at the top of the master class invite list, but let’s be honest: It’s definitely elitist opinion to assume that 3.5 hours of film not involving CGI, VFX, or other acronyms not found in some “old school” motif of making movies are just bad and beneath their viewing.
On the old-school booshie hand, we have Apocalypse Now, The Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, The Godfather Trilogy, Patton, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull. On the new-school nerd hand, we have witnessed The Infinity Saga, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Joker, The Raimi Trilogy, The “Home” Trilogy, Wonder Woman, and Man of Steel.
All are great films. All have achieved a level a greatness. And all deserve to have a little “respeck put on their name.”
Just ask James Gunn (via Complex):
“Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favorite living filmmakers,” he explained. “I was outraged when people picketed [his film] The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film.
I’m saddened that he’s now judging my films in the same way. That said, I will always love Scorsese, be grateful for his contribution to cinema, and can’t wait to see The Irishman.”
Yeah, a little hypocritical. Considering this is the guy who gave us The Color of Money and Kundun, it is saddening.
Another guy who, while doesn’t have all that hardware, certainly deserves massive respect is Marvel Studios Chief Architect Kevin Feige:
“Maybe it’s easy to dismiss VFX or flying people or spaceships or billion dollar grosses. I think it is easy to say that you have already been awarded in a certain way,” Feige said . “[Alfred] Hitchcock never won best director, so it’s very nice, but it doesn’t mean everything. I would much rather be in a room full of engaged fans.”
On a far more less authoritative level among elite producers, ask Kevin Smith:
“Martin Scorsese probably doesn’t have the emotional attachment to those movies that I do,” Smith said. “When he sees those movies, he’s like, ‘That’s a theme park.’ When I see those movies, that is the closest I get to being with my dad at a movie theater again.
I respect his opinion, but I don’t think he has the same emotional attachment that a lot of us have. It’s the men and the women that we relate to in the movie, not the ‘super’ part.”
He went on to connect directly to what many consider a Scorsese masterpiece, and some of us consider the genuine Son of God:
“I’m not diminishing Jesus by any stretch of the imagination,” said Smith [when speaking of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, “But who is Jesus if not a superhero?”
You better preach, Kevin Smith!
Enough Gold to Go Around the Yard
It all comes down to this: Both Scorsese and Coppola have been honored with more awards than can fit on their respective fireplace mantles. They truly are among the best to ever do this.
And Marvel Studios and DC Comics have to go on a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign just to convince Oscar their halcyon movies (Avengers: Endgame and Joker, respectively) deserve a sniff of one gold-plated statue.
When we all buy a ticket and view that gigantic movie screen, we should remember there is plenty of screen and plenty of “Hollywood’s lawn” for films of every genre. Sure, those “other” movies consider $1 billion as a standard to reach while those elite movies look at the $1 billion threshold from the back of the tour bus.
These opinions, something these two greats are entitled to have, is hauteur of the highest order. They’re great, but they’re pompous. And to discredit someone else’s work simply because it didn’t follow their rigorous standards is shameful. Period.
That’s like a professional athlete of any team in any sport looking at the geeks who fill stadiums playing Fortnite and telling them, “You don’t deserve to earn all that money and all those sponsors.” They do…they just did it in a way you don’t.
MEMO to Mr. Scorsese and Mr. Coppola: Are you going to look at a geek with $12 wadded into a ball in their pocket the next time they want to see one of your movies and say, “Yeah, thanks but we’re not interested in your money”? No, no you won’t.
We can’t wait to see The Irishman or Megalopolis. Equally, our nerd pants are flying everywhere for The Rise of Skywalker or Dune or even Disney Plus to get here on November 12.
It’s safe to say all (good) movies follow the same formula — yours and theirs — a strong character audiences can invest in, a plot audiences want to follow and get lost in, and an experience they all want to walk away with and spend time discussing.
It’s all cinema. All of it.
And, candidly, the only “despicable” thing is that your mesmerizing minds have firmly closed to a point over the decades that they can’t be open enough to realize this fact.