It’s interesting to me that director Martin Scorsese has chosen to take issue with sites like Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore (which later responded) recently. He has a point when he says they reinforce the idea that every movie can be assigned a quantitative score, something that devalues the artform in real ways. I actually kind of agree with that, as I do with his position on how films being lumped in as “content” alongside quirky YouTube videos and Tweets isn’t helping anything.
While the internet has been great in how it’s allowed a broad range of previously unheard voices to be shared, it *has* also demonstrably contributed to the degrading of expertise. The lack of gatekeepers deciding what should or shouldn’t be published means a lot of garbage makes it into the system that wouldn’t have 25 years ago.
It’s not just citizen journalists who are adding unwanted opinions to the mix, though. In a few recent cases it’s other filmmakers who have added some questionable takes to the conversation.
Most recently we have esteemed filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci offering his unsolicited (it seems) opinion on director Ridley Scott’s recasting of Kevin Spacey’s role in All the Money in the World. That decision, Bertolucci says, was horrific and one Scott should be ashamed of. It’s unclear why, but one can assume it’s because Bertolucci believes Scott should have stuck with his actor and not given in to the mob mentality. I don’t know about you but I’m shocked to see the director of Last Tango In Paris, which has come under fire recently due to comments from actress Maria Schneider, taking this position. (not really)
That all comes after director James Cameron has become notable over the last year for not only continuing to fail to produce any of the 18 Avatar sequels he’s promised but also for offering his thoughts on how Wonder Woman is a bad example for women, how 2001: A Space Odyssey “lacks emotional balls” and how there has to be something happening in sci-fi/fantasy other than Star Wars and super heroes.
I’m always interested in what other filmmakers think of movies both new and old, but to quote Ron Burgundy, maybe these guys should sit the couple plays out.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course. And again, there are some interesting thoughts here that can be discussed further. What I really just don’t care for, though, is someone criticizing the work of others in this way or dismissing fandom with the wave of a hand.
Put it this way: Contrast what Bertolucci (who has zero moral high ground to stand on when it comes to taking someone else to task on responsible filmmaking) and Cameron (who is in a position to do something about the inequity he sees regarding IP-based franchises but hasn’t) with the way the last year has seen Patty Jenkins, Taika Waititi, Ava DuVerny, Ryan Coogler, Jordan Peele, Rian Johnson and others all come out as each other’s biggest fans. All of these directors have been active on social media and in the press praising each other’s work and building each other up.
It’s not that there isn’t still a competitiveness or that they’re not making their own artistic decisions. It’s just that they realize this isn’t a zero sum game. If one of them succeeds in bringing in new fans and audiences, it’s good for all of them. They’re all out there hustling for their next gigs and making the most of the opportunities they’ve been given.
That’s much more encouraging to the audience that sees the interactions play out than the squabbling and backbiting some feel they’re entitled to engage in. It rewards fans and has the potential to turn people on to new things they otherwise might not have tried.
Filmmakers, actors and others need to be aware of how their opinions have the power to influence the moviegoing audience in a way that even peer or critic opinions don’t. It’s one thing for a CinemaScore review to weigh in negatively on a new film but a very different situation when it’s a giant of film. Not only do they kind of show their ignorance as to the state of the current marketplace and culture, but they do damage to the entire industry.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.