Let's End This Debate About Cinema! It's Tearing the Film World Apart
by Alex Billington
November 11, 2019
"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." If you came here to find out what my take on this whole Scorsese vs Marvel debate is, unfortunately I'm not going to give provide a "take." This entire debate, and discussion, has gotten out of hand. Way out of hand… I get that in our current social climate we must take a side, and must make our voices heard, but it's all so extreme now. We have to choose one side or the other. We have to speak out in defense of one side, and in opposition to the other. Or, maybe we don't…? This is cinema we're talking about, after all; movies or film or motion pictures or whatever you want to call them. What matters most is that we continue to watch and support and love and spread the love for cinema, for movies, for films of all kinds - big and small. Not whether Marvel movies are or are not cinema, or whether Scorsese's opinion is right or wrong, or whether this filmmaker is an asshole or not, or whatever it might be. Just stop all of this madness. Let's move on. We're tearing the film world apart, and as a movie lover, I'm tired of watching this.
Ever since Martin Scorsese uttered "that's not cinema" about Marvel movies in that interview with Empire magazine discovered on October 4th (via Indiewire), things have never been the same. It's endless back and forth between "he's right!" and "he's wrong!" And then someone else chimes in with "anyone who says this [about Scorsese, Marvel, cinema, et al] is insane" and then the response of "but anyone who says that is an asshole", and then another "but anyone who responds that way is ignorant." And it just goes on and on and on. What is this achieving? How is this helping us fix… anything? Solve any problems? The abominable news cycle these days means we have to keep regurgitating popular news that generates buzz so people keep clicking, and this means digging up this stupid debate over and over and over until they've pinched every possible
penny click out of us. It's up to us to stop caring, stop debating, stop trying to be extreme and make a point and take a side just to show how cool we are. Let it go: watch movies, and talk about what you love.
Just realizing that Scorsese is probably living his worst nightmare, being on a press tour where everyone just wants to hear his thoughts on marvel movies instead of the piece of “cinema” he spent years making.
— Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm) November 5, 2019
Inevitably someone is going to respond to me and tell me that yes, we do need to speak out on this, and take a side, and defend cinema, as Mr. Scorsese defines it. Inevitably someone is going to call me an asshole for even trying to respond in a way that isn't perfectly satisfying to their "one side or the other" view. Cinephiles will think I am not a true cinephile because I don't immediately support Scorsese and shout out "he's right!" Marvel fans will think I'm betraying them because I don't defend superhero movies as worthwhile cinematic entertainment. But maybe there's more to it than just those options, only agreeing or disagreeing? Maybe all of this is stupid? Maybe all of this is just useless debate and meaningless gossip that doesn't actually effect anything or make a difference in the grand scheme of cinema. Maybe we've lost our ability to have nuanced conversations, to appreciate the grey area inbetween the black & white divide. Ironically it's the nuance and subtle complexity worked into great films that makes them so brilliant (see: Parasite), and yet we've entirely forgotten that and dived head first into another split-everyone-into-two-sides division. Divide and conquer.
At the end of the day what really matters, ultimately, is that we remind ourselves we're all here to, and we're all talking about cinema, because we love films. We love movies. We love motion pictures (or just "pictures", as Scorsese calls them). We all love watching 24 frames fly by every second, flashing spectacular, emotional images in front of our eyes. And damnit, I don't care what side of the debate you fall on, movies matter. Even the "bad ones", even Marvel movies. They matter more than you know, more than we want to admit. As Anton Ego said: "the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so." Maybe one of these Marvel movies connects with a kid, who falls so in love with cinema that he pursues filmmaking, and one day grows up to be the "next Scorsese" (or whoever) and makes films that someone like Scorsese will appreciate as true cinema. Why would that be so bad? Do we really have to bash Marvel movies in hopes of reviving a love for cinema? Do we really have to criticize Scorsese to express enjoyment of "theme park" movies? I think not.
After living with the normality of never-ending social media for so many years now, we've all been primed to respond with the most extreme and loudest responses we can muster. Subtly has no place on the internet… Nuance is lost in this day and age… And our desire to fight about something, to make ourselves feel proud because we put up a fight and spoke out about cinema, doesn't actually achieve the change we're hoping for. To be clear - politics and social progress and human rights do require our voices and our loudness. But this debate about Scorsese vs Marvel vs Coppola vs superheroes vs cinema vs fanboys doesn't. We're not making anything better, we're not suddenly saving cinema just because we all yelled our opinion online. We love them, we hate them, whatever. There's so much to talk about that isn't this debate… I want to talk about how brilliant Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is. I want to talk about how long movies over three hours aren't the worst thing ever. I want to talk about how Star Wars is still one of my favorite franchises. I also want to talk about how filmmakers like Celine Sciamma should have the money they need to make whatever films they want.
There is no doubt in my mind that this Scorsese vs Marvel debate will rage on. But it's up to all of us, movie lovers and cinephiles and film fans, to move on and to dedicate our time and our voices to more important issues. So much of my Twitter feed every day now has critics complaining about how horrible Marvel fans are, while they clamber over themselves to be the loudest to yell "Scorsese is right!" In all honesty, this is just as awful as the Marvel fanboys clambering over themselves to come up with excuses as to why or how Scorsese is wrong. All of it, both forms of exasperated expression, are shameful and smug. I believe Peter Sciretta from SlashFilm said it best: "Scorsese is probably living his worst nightmare, being on a press tour where everyone just wants to hear his thoughts on Marvel movies instead of the piece of 'cinema' he spent years making." This is embarrassing for cinema. It's obvious Scorsese wants to defend the cinema of old that he grew up with and fell in love with. It's obvious Marvel fans want to defend the movies of now that they're growing up with and enjoying so much. Let's just enjoy what we enjoy and get back to focusing on the films.
Someone just accused me of loving movies too much, and I've gotta be honest with y'all, I don't think that's possible.
There is no prize for disliking a film, nothing to be gleaned from dismissal. So don't just love movies, love THE EVERLIVING SHIT OUT OF THEM.
— C. Robert Cargill (@Massawyrm) November 9, 2019
I've always tried to keep my focus on championing films I love, without demanding that my opinion is the only right opinion. Everything in art is subjective, and we can share that subjectivity in much healthier ways. I want to tell you about what films moved me, and impressed me, so that you may discover them. And then I want you to tell me about the films that moved you, and impressed you, and why they did. I want to meet up at film festivals and chat for hours over beer/wine/drinks/water discussing the moments that you'll never forget. The gasps during that one scene, the applause at the end, the hissing from a crowd of critics in the corner, the broken projector, the scene that made you suddenly start crying. To me, this is what cinema is really about. It's not about defining this movie or that film as cinema, it's about our collective love for the big screen. For movie theaters, for cinemas. For the experience of watching films together, or by yourself or with friends or family or loved ones, and reveling in that shared empathy as we listen to and watch stories be told. I hope we can remind ourselves that we're all sitting in the cinema together. We're all the audience.