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Nick*Z

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And I can get a wider range of offerings on Blu-ray than I can in the local cinema market. And Blu-ray isn't really any less of an "it's all just product" option than streaming. And I buy a lot of the movies on disc that Scorsese may scorn, but I also buy films Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, Federico Fellini and Vittorio de Sica, Philippe de Broca and Jean Renoir, Krystof Kieslowski and Milos Forman, and so on.
Actually, you're getting the same content over and over again. While some streaming services are more adept at 'recycling' what they own, every once in a while, switching things up just enough to provide for the illusion of diverse entertainment options, they actually maintain a fairly anchored and curated collection, outside of their 'new release' section, which has become a dumping ground of sorts for not only the 'quality' efforts Scorsese - and others - would put forth, but also, those cheaply made and not terribly prepossessing efforts, merely designed to fatten their content, as opposed to filling up our leisure in a meaningful way. It's not quantity that should rule. It's quality. But again...preaching to the choir.

In 1989, Gregory Peck addressed this to a gathering of his surviving peers at the AFI, adding, "There's been a lot of glamourous talk in the financial news in the papers lately. Multi-media conglomerates. And there are more such mergers yet to come, so we are told.

Well, I would like to hear some glamorous talk about elevating the quality of films and television. Entertainment, that in the words of T.S. Eliot, enlarges the sympathies, stimulates the mind and spirit, that warms the heart, punctures the balloons of hypocrisy, greed and sham, tickles the funny bone, and leaves us with the glow that comes when we know we have been well entertained.

Making millions is not the full ballgame, fellas. Pride of workmanship is worth more. Artistry is worth more. The human imagination is a priceless resource. The public is ready for the best you can give them. It just may be that you can make a buck, and, at the same time, encourage, foster and commission works of quality and originality!"

Indeed.

In accepting his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986, the late/great, and prophetic, Billy Wilder said it best: "I have been here for more than 50 years. That's half a century...and all through those years I've watched Tinsel Town vacillate between despair and fear. First it's going to be the sound that kills us. Then, it was going to be television...then cable, then pornography, then cassettes, and now that terrifying new word - microchip.

They tell me that those guys, working in Silicon Valley, believe that pretty soon we will not need theaters at all, nor studios for that matter. They will have invented tiny little screens that will attach to your steering wheel, or big 20 ft. screens on the ceiling of your bedroom, and someday, someone is going to press a button and send a signal to a satellite which in turn will light up 5 million screens, all the way from Albania to Zanzibar.

Fantastic. It's unbelievable. All the hardware is there...beautifully programmed. Bravo! Except for one little detail. What about the software? What are we going to do on all those screens. Who is going to write it? Who is going to direct it? Who is going to act it?

For all I know, right now, these wise guys are trying to supplant the human factor with microchips that will replace the human brain and the human heart. Mechanical gadgets that can simulate the human emotions...laughter - tears.

Well...so far, they have not succeeded. Not yet anyway. So, relax, fellow picture-makers. We are not expendable. The fact is, the bigger they get, the more irreplaceable we become. For theirs may be the kingdom, but ours is the power and the glory!"


You can experience all of Mr. Wilder's caustic wit here.

You can experience Mr. Peck's magnificent, quiet rectitude here.

Enjoy humility in its grandest forms. And so, on with the show.
 
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Nick*Z

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The horse has already left the barn so arguing over semantics isn't going to change one damn thing.
It isn't about change - directly - its about discussion, healthy, uninhibited and probing, which, in turn can foster change when all of the participants are willing to come to the table with an open mind.
 

Jeffrey D

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I know I've seen a few movies where the opening company cards last a full minute. The longer it goes, the funnier it gets.
I recently bought a BluRay that had a cast of several as producers/backers, and I immediately got skeptical of the quality of the film before the first shot. In my eyes, a bunch of backers means the film had a difficult time getting funding from one source due to the dubious quality of the screenplay. The film I bought proved this out- it was awful.
 

Robert Crawford

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It isn't about change - directly - its about discussion, healthy, uninhibited and probing, which, in turn can foster change when all of the participants are willing to come to the table with an open mind.
Yeah, like that's going to happen with this discussion.
 

Angelo Colombus

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Does anyone remember that Scorsese wrote this article about Fellini and its focus was definitely not on streaming or even the current state of the movie business? :laugh:

And his brief statement on streaming basically amounted to saying that a human and not an algorithm should be recommending movies to interested parties.
Speaking of Fellini since i did view the Criterion box set lately i will watch his last film The Voice of the Moon tonight. Not one of his best but i did like it and like all of his films not a dull moment. It's kinda sad he could not find a US distributor for it.
 

JoeStemme

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I understand where Scorsese is coming from. But it's like a chicken and egg thing. The studios...or perhaps the money men...who don't see movies as anything but a way to line pockets, want more big franchise pictures.... I can get a wider (not a narrower) range of offerings on Prime/Netflix/HBO Max/etc. than I can with that theater....

And I can get a wider range of offerings on Blu-ray than I can in the local cinema market. And Blu-ray isn't really any less of an "it's all just product" option than streaming. And I buy a lot of the movies on disc that Scorsese may scorn, but I also buy films Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, Federico Fellini and Vittorio de Sica, Philippe de Broca and Jean Renoir, Krystof Kieslowski and Milos Forman, and so on....
Speaking of Chicken and Egg, the point Scorsese and I would make is that without a viable eco-system of distribution/reviews/curation worthy films don't get the spotlight on them in the first place to encourage folks to seek out the pictures.
You can have all the chickens in the world laying eggs, but, those eggs never hatch because they are but mere blips on the screen. The reason you seek out an Ozu or a Forman film is because it has been 'hatched' already. A newbie don't know Ozu from an episode of Ozark. That's the point that Scorsese is making in that section of his article (most of which is a lovely tribute to Fellini).
 

Angelo Colombus

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Scorsese made a great documentary "My Voyage to Italy" (1999) about the Italian cinema and the films that influence him the most. I have many of those films on my shelf.

1613748683092.png
 

Reggie W

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Well, yes...and no. Let's be honest about this. 'Big movies' have been a thing since television entered the market place back in the early fifties, Hollywood combating the little box in the living room with a 'bigger is better' mentality. Hence, widescreen, 3D, stereophonic sound, the resurrection of the Bible/fiction epic, the big splashy musical, and the sprawling western saga. The point is, despite its yen to 'go big or go home' the dream merchants still recognized they had to tell a good story - perhaps, even more so - to get the public to attend.

OK, yes, big blockbuster attempts have been around a long time. I would not debate that. Also for much of Hollywood's earlier years including the 1930s through the 1960s. directors were not really a big thing to the public to draw them into to see a picture. Even Scorsese when he tells stories about seeing films in his youth talks about how he was not drawn to these pictures due to who directed them. He discovered the directors after he discovered the pictures. Studios had directors they liked to work with, that they would have under contract, that did a good job delivering pictures that looked good and worked.

Here's the thing though, during that period of 1930-1960 the audiences came to see the "stars" in the films mostly, that was the big draw. Sure sometimes there were big stories that were being told that drew people in, King Kong, Cleopatra, biblical epics, Roman epics, etc...but what audiences latched onto were the stars. Even a director like Hitchcock knew he wanted his pictures populated with stars.

A shift began in the 1960s though as audiences seemed to tire of the big spectacle films Hollywood had been delivering and some smaller, more intimate, more personal pictures got their attention. Still as this change occurred the thing that remained was "movie stars" were still seen as important.

The late 1960s through the 1970s became anomaly of sorts though because it was through this period that the director began to rise both in terms of power and becoming an aspect that would attract an audience to a picture.

This is when Scorsese rose to prominence and this is the period that obviously all directors would look to with some sense of "I wish it were like that again." because they were had a level of control and influence that is no longer enjoyed and no longer part of why most pictures get made.

While the directors rose one thing stayed consistent, they still wanted "stars" in their films. So, now a director and star pairing was a big thing...not just to a studio that had them under contract, but also to audiences who were now paying attention to who the director was AS WELL AS who the stars were.

This became a heady combination because now you could make any kind of story when you had a director and star paired that wanted to make that story. A studio would green light a picture regardless of what the story was because of the talent behind and in front of the camera. This is what has gone away and what has changed in this era of filmmaking.

The wonderful thing to the people that finance pictures now is that the audiences have gone back to not really paying attention to who is directing, that no longer matters. So, there is no need to hire a Scorsese to make a picture for you. Sure to film buffs his name matters but not to most of the people going to see the latest Star Wars or super hero film.

However, the other thing that franchise pictures and super hero films eliminate is the need for a "star" to sell them. So, the idea of the "movie star" has also been devalued...on purpose. You don't need a "star" to sell a franchise film or a super hero film...the people are coming for the franchise and the suit not who is in it. If an actor asks for more money they just replace him. You don't need Chris Pine to do a Star Trek film...people will come to see Star Trek "the franchise" not the actor. So, with franchises the actors don't have the power or allure they once did.

So, now you have eliminated the need for a name director and movie stars. These were people they once had to negotiate with, pay big salaries to, but now they don't need them at all. In fact you don't want a Scorsese putting his stamp on a franchise film, it needs to stick to the formula. Why invest in a director who might change something people liked in the last franchise film?

When they had Rian Johnson do a Star Wars film, well, breakdowns were had across the internet. Sure, he messed with some things but it was basically a Star Wars film...just not Star Wars enough. I can say, Johnson is no Martin Scorsese so imagine the horror if Scorsese messed about with a Star Wars film. Disaster! Quentin Tarantino doing a Star Trek film? The horror!

Formula is central to everything now. They've worked out all the algorithms, run all numbers and the machine now spits out the same thing, possibly reshuffled slightly, again, and again, and again.

So, the director is devalued, the actors, are devalued, they are following formula so the writers are most certainly devalued...hell, you need the finance guys, the effects guys, costume department and a printer to spit out a script with a few words changed here or there and BOOM...there's your next blockbuster.

This is where Scorsese is saying the art is devalued because that method of filmmaking is designed to make assembly line "content" because you have cut out the three things that were, when he was coming up as a director, the most important...the director, the actors, the writing. These were the human intangibles of a picture. The director, the actors, the writers all brought something special to the table.

These things gave a picture something special, now they are not even in the top ten considerations when making a huge picture.

There are some other considerations at play here too. You don't need a good writer on a franchise or super hero film because the script needs to:

1. Follow the formula
2. Not get in the way of translating the film for foreign markets
3. Be about the set pieces and timed to have a lot of them

This means the last thing you would want would be a good writer. If you have someone playing around with words...that's a problem. The script in terms of dialogue needs to remain as simplistic as possible. Meaning as deep as you want to get with a line of dialogue is "I'll be back." or "We must get to the temple!"

If you don't have a script with great dialogue...well...you are not going to get great performances. It's much more important to look good in the suit. So, just have someone pretty say the simple lines...we do not need Al Pacino here.

Basically, great acting now is the ability to give a decent line reading of a smartass remark. This is generally as much as you will get in the big budget films.

Honestly, that's why so many of these pictures feel disposable.

Scorsese does not like that these pictures now dominate the marketplace.

Scorsese and DiCaprio are the last of the old school director/star combos. I say this because both of them have made their livings and careers about making original films not franchise pictures. They keep coming back together because, I think, DiCaprio is the last man standing that can launch a picture that is not about super heroes or franchises into a lot of theaters. He's the last guy left standing that if he says he wants to do a film everybody from studio people, finance guys, other actors, audiences, get interested.

Look at Tom Cruise and his career. He was a movie star. Once he achieved that status he began choosing directors he wanted to work with. He got together with Scorsese, Kubrick, Stone, Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brian De Palma, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola, if a director was a big name Tom made it a point to work with them.

This director actor combo played out through the 1990s but as the 2000s kicked off this is when things really changed. These last 21 years really have been the era where people that finance films have perfected a formula where directors, writers, and actors really can be bypassed to make a successful feature.
 

Kevin Fox

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I am at a complete loss as to how anyone couldn't be. About the only way that someone could disagree with him is if they love Marvel movies so much that they now just have to disagree with anything Scorsese says.
I disagreed with him about the Marvel movies, though not completely, but he's spot on here. This shouldn't be controversial at all.
 

TallPaulInKy

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I think the same arguments were made about broadcast television vs movies in the 1950s. I feel theaters and streaming (which is just a modification of television) can co-exist on equal footing. There are times I'd like to see an older movie, like I just rewatched the film "Little Darlings," and I know it has been out of theaters since the 1980s.

I worked for a local theater chain in my hometown while in high school during the 1960s.
Then lots of films were still being reissued to theaters like Around The World In 80 Days, This Island Earth, War of The Worlds, Gone With The Wind, W.C.Fields comedies, Columbia reissued the two Batman serials and run all the episodes at once like a long feature. That type of thing doesn't happen these days, unless it's a TMC Fathom event.
 
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theonemacduff

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I think that the responses to the Scorcese article are mixed because he's pushing two points simultaneously. One the one hand, cinema as art vs movies as mass entertainment, and on the other hand, the disappearance of the art movie eco-system due to streaming. He seems to want to argue that the latter is a consequence of the money guys deliberately – or carelessly; he hedges that bet – prioritizing entertainment over art. I'm not convinced that the two parts of the argument are really related.

He tries to relate them by saying that curating films for exhibition has been largely replaced by crude algorithms based on thumbs up or thumbs down, ie, binary choices, which in the long run affects everybody because those mass choices in the end will determine which films enter the streaming services at all. One thing we can do about that, and which I decided several years ago to practise, is simply never to rate films watched on Netflix. Why? Because the long-term result of that on a personal level will be me confined in a little box of my own making with generous help from an idiot computer, and on the larger scale, as I said, it will result in the streaming services giving viewers "what they want," as opposed to providing a broader variety of content. As it is, the streaming services keep track of what we watch and constantly try to shove stuff at us based on out "preferences," which is, if you think about it, a really stupid term for a laundry list (so to speak). But Kurosawa doesn't show up on my preferences not because I don't want to watch High and Low again, but because films like that are increasingly less likely show up on Netflix (and I simply can't afford subscriptions to absolutely all the services).

The experience of watching films at home is actually pretty good, and we've converted part of the basement into a media room with a big screen and indirect lighting, but it's still not the same as that echoey sensation you get in a real theatre with a truly giant image and the sound bouncing off the distant walls and the packed bodies of the audience, and the collective excitement and amusement generated by certain scenes and sequences.

As to what to do about it, Scorcese offers no solutions, in part I think because there really aren't any, beyond, maybe, taxing the "content providers" so as to create a fund that will support the restoration and distribution of classic cinema? But that seems a remote possibility. I have a feeling too, that part of his despairing attitude is actually local, I mean in the sense that almost nobody has been to the movies for over a year now, and we're beginning to feel like maybe we never will again. I disagree. I think once the COVID threat has retreated, people will go back to the theatres. The longer term issues are probably not easily resolveable because if Scorcese is right, cinema as art depends on the choices of individual artists, but on artists who must be supported in some way by the audience because unlike other arts, cinema tends to be hugely expensive; the money has to come from somewhere, and because even art films are part of the business, when they don't make some money, the ability of every cinema artist to make art shrinks just a little bit more.

Every time the world changes, somebody gets damaged or left behind. But we can't stop it. I for one would rather see Scorcese make a small personal film, maybe for Netflix, about all this, something like After Hours, just as funny, but with a sharper satirical edge.
 

jayembee

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It isn't about change - directly - its about discussion, healthy, uninhibited and probing, which, in turn can foster change when all of the participants are willing to come to the table with an open mind.

I'm not seeing a lot of open minds in this thread. On either side.
 

Mikael Soderholm

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Scorsese and DiCaprio are the last of the old school director/star combos. I say this because both of them have made their livings and careers about making original films not franchise pictures. They keep coming back together because, I think, DiCaprio is the last man standing that can launch a picture that is not about super heroes or franchises into a lot of theaters. He's the last guy left standing that if he says he wants to do a film everybody from studio people, finance guys, other actors, audiences, get interested.
Well, much as I agree with mostly all of what you wrote, I really must point out that one of the best, and most successful colabs of Scorsese/DeCaprio was actually The Departed, a remake of an Asian franchise picture. A good one, to be sure, but still not really original.
 

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