Martin Scorsese Is Here To Teach Us About Content Vs Cinema. So, You Better Listen Up – Entertainment

Back in 2019, Martin Scorsese had famously said that Marvel movies aren’t cinema, sending the internet into some kinda frenzy. Everyone from Kevin Feige, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr. Jon Favreau, and more reacted to it, some saying that he is right and some saying that he is wrong. I vehemently disagreed with him then. But as time passed, I understood what he’s saying and ended up agreeing with him. Now, in 2021, he’s here with another, what the kids like to call nowadays. “hot take”, about content versus cinema.

In an essay on Federico Fellini, published in the March 2021 edition of Harper’s Magazine (Check out the full essay here), titled “Il Maestro”, Scorsese has used the Italian filmmaking icon to argue why the magic of cinema is being lost due to the onslaught of content coming out of film studios and streaming companies, while acknowledging how he has benefited from streaming platforms. He said,

“As recently as fifteen years ago, the term ‘content’ was heard only when people were discussing the cinema on a serious level, and it was contrasted with and measured against “form.” Then, gradually, it was used more and more by the people who took over media companies, most of whom knew nothing about the history of the art form, or even cared enough to think that they should. ‘Content’ became a business term for all moving images: a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode. It was linked, of course, not to the theatrical experience but to home viewing, on the streaming platforms that have come to overtake the moviegoing experience, just as Amazon overtook physical stores.”

He further added that,

“On the one hand, this has been good for filmmakers, myself included. On the other hand, it has created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn’t. If further viewing is ‘suggested’ by algorithms based on what you’ve already seen, and the suggestions are based only on subject matter or genre, then what does that do to the art of cinema?”

While taking about film curation, Scorsese said,

“Curating isn’t undemocratic or ‘elitist’, a term that is now used so often that it’s become meaningless. It’s an act of generosity—you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you. (The best streaming platforms, such as the Criterion Channel and MUBI and traditional outlets such as TCM, are based on curating—they’re actually curated.) Algorithms, by definition, are based on calculations that treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else.”

Later in the essay, he said,

“We can’t depend on the movie business, such as it is, to take care of cinema. In the movie business, which is now the mass visual entertainment business, the emphasis is always on the word ‘business’, and value is always determined by the amount of money to be made from any given property—in that sense, everything from Sunrise to La Strada to 2001 is now pretty much wrung dry and ready for the ‘Art Film’ swim lane on a streaming platform. Those of us who know the cinema and its history have to share our love and our knowledge with as many people as possible. And we have to make it crystal clear to the current legal owners of these films that they amount to much, much more than mere property to be exploited and then locked away. They are among the greatest treasures of our culture, and they must be treated accordingly.”

He concluded by saying,

“I suppose we also have to refine our notions of what cinema is and what it isn’t. Federico Fellini is a good place to start. You can say a lot of things about Fellini’s movies, but here’s one thing that is incontestable: they are cinema. Fellini’s work goes a long way toward defining the art form.”

Unlike last time, the internet is practically in agreement with Martin Scorsese this time. Here are some of the reactions…

Tha God Scorsese hitting it out of the park 1nce again

— Jesse Hawken (@jessehawken)

I find Martin Scorsese’s ability to make the right people angry on a consistent basis incredibly inspiring.

— Steven Hyden (@Steven_Hyden)

I’d love Martin Scorsese even if he hadn’t made some of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen.

— Farran Nehme (@selfstyledsiren)

Scorsese’s passion for preserving the art of film and the language around it is important. It goes beyond whether marvel or dc is considered cinema. It’s about restoration, survival, and knowledge of the medium.

— monica rambeau’s natural hair routine (@shiaintshy)

People who think Scorsese is an elitist gatekeeper will be shocked to find out that one little Italian-American has relatively little power compared to the litigious, union-busting, multi-billion dollar corporations some of y’all stan for.

— Justine Peres Smith (@redroomrantings)

Martin Scorsese after stating nothing but facts every few months

— Film Daze (@filmdaze)

the man’s essay makes a great point: if computers and algorithms decide everything, you’ll get mostly the same stuff, over and over. film critics, aficionados, curators, etc., provide a valuable service for viewers and filmmakers. I am one of them, and proud of it.

— Scott Weinberg (@scottEmovienerd)

Where do I stand? I whole-heartedly agree with my man, Marty. The main reason why I agree with him is because I think we need film curation so that quality stuff comes first instead of things that are being watched the most. While arguing with film distributors about why good films don’t come to my hometown, Siliguri, the most common argument I came across was that those aren’t movies that people want to watch. And my counterargument was that if you don’t show people good movies, how are they going to know what’s good? If you keep feeding people shit, the only thing they’ll know is… shit. Diversify! Give them options. Let them choose! That’s what Scorsese is saying through all this. So, here’s a suggestion. Streaming platforms should hire film and TV show reviewers to curate stuff for them. They can have their popular section. Then they can have a curated section. I think that’ll not only benefit the streaming platform but cinema as well.

Cover image courtesy: Martin Scorsese/Instagram

This content was originally published here.