Wealthy filmmaker complains about filmmakers with significantly larger budgets not taking risks

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“if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself. But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.”

“No matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures,” Scorsese states. “And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.”

You know what? I don’t disagree with him. Not much at least, he seems to be using Marvel movies as proxy for the modern movie industry which is a little unfair, but not far from the truth either.

The problem is that Movies like Black Panther, Iron man 3 and Guardians of the galaxy Vol. 2 prove him wrong but Iron man 2, Infinity war and Thor: Ragnarok prove him right. He really shouldn’t comment on movies he hasn’t seen.

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Or perhaps more simply…movies are like the human beings who create them: varied, different, and not one size fits all.

Films like The Piano, Annie Hall, West Side Story or not the same as Star Wars: ESB, Avengers: Endgame, Raiders of the Lost Ark which are not the same as Ratatouille or The Birdcage, or The Fifth Element.

Just because a movie does not fit Scorcese’s narrow view of what elements make a great film doesn’t mean they aren’t.

He has simply turned into the stereotype “old white guy” who get’s pissed at and berates anything that isn’t what he thinks is the “right” version of whatever the thing is: That music is trash, back in my day. That restaurant is trash, back in my day. etc etc.


you should quote a longer passage. i pretty much agree with everything he writes here–

" Sixty or 70 years later, we’re still watching those pictures and marveling at them. But is it the thrills and the shocks that we keep going back to? I don’t think so. The set pieces in “North by Northwest” are stunning, but they would be nothing more than a succession of dynamic and elegant compositions and cuts without the painful emotions at the center of the story or the absolute lostness of Cary Grant’s character.

The climax of “Strangers on a Train” is a feat, but it’s the interplay between the two principal characters and Robert Walker’s profoundly unsettling performance that resonate now.

Some say that Hitchcock’s pictures had a sameness to them, and perhaps that’s true — Hitchcock himself wondered about it. But the sameness of today’s franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.

They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.

Another way of putting it would be that they are everything that the films of Paul Thomas Anderson or Claire Denis or Spike Lee or Ari Aster or Kathryn Bigelow or Wes Anderson are not . When I watch a movie by any of those filmmakers, I know I’m going to see something absolutely new and be taken to unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience. My sense of what is possible in telling stories with moving images and sounds is going to be expanded.

So, you might ask, what’s my problem? Why not just let superhero films and other franchise films be? The reason is simple. In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system. Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.

That includes me, and I’m speaking as someone who just completed a picture for Netflix. It, and it alone, allowed us to make “The Irishman” the way we needed to, and for that I’ll always be thankful. We have a theatrical window, which is great. Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.

And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.

But, you might argue, can’t they just go home and watch anything else they want on Netflix or iTunes or Hulu? Sure — anywhere but on the big screen, where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen.

In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.

For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness."


but the issue with his perspective is that he sees it as “Oh, I can’t make the movie I want any more for the big screen…people always loved that…now they are stuck with super hero block busters”

Uh…no. People were stuck with the stuff you did and we stopped going to the theater to see them and started putting our money into the films we enjoyed and lo and behold the film companies saw that and started making more of them!

The Piano will not get butts in seats…Captain Marvel 2 will. No one is saying he can’t go make what he wants, we as the audience are telling him we just don’t want to watch it!

Again…old man who doesn’t like that times have changed. Tough shit dude, get over it. The world spins and time marches…things change.

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This past weekend, I went to a multiplex (that place where apparently only non-risky films are shown) and watched a completely original film in which a young German boy has Hitler as his imaginary friend. It was stunningly funny, emotional, and brilliant.

Last year, Netflix – the same company that bankrolled The Irishman – also gave a theater run to a black and white movie filmed entirely in Spanish.

Marty also seems to believe that films set on other planets starring talking raccoons and trees aren’t giving the theater-goer anything new. Thank goodness he’s still making gangster films, because those are totally original!

If Marty thinks there aren’t any risks being taken by filmmakers whose films get shown in multiplexes, he’s not paying attention anymore. And, as he says, that fills me with terrible sadness.


it got my butt into the seats and my wife’s. the art house theater closest to me plays incredible films but it generally only runs them for one week and then they’re gone. i’ve missed the opportunity to see a half dozen incredible films at the theater because they try to give so many films a showing on the big screen each year and i can’t go every weekend. two miles away is a 30 screen multiplex. when endgame came out they showed it on 11 screens including their imax screen. they had it on 8 screens for 6 weeks or more.

it isn’t the audience that’s telling him we don’t want to watch it it’s the confluence of two large corporations, the one that owns the major multiplexes and the one that produces the major blockbusters. together they’re creating perverse incentives for each other to keep homogenizing the products and selling almost nothing but that product.

and is jojo rabbit still playing there this weekend or has it moved on. even scorsese isn’t saying no one is taking risks but his point that those risks are not what is being rewarded is very real and very true. and while guardians of the galaxy was a lot of fun, after the sequel and then their appearance in two other marvel universe movies talking raccoons and trees aren’t new. even the directors whose work he praises in his fifth paragraph aren’t unknown quantities even if their work can be unpredictable because they are established directors with successful track records. and even then, how many times do you see films by those directors appearing in 6, 8, or 10 screens at once at the multiplexes? you don’t.

despite his attempts to clarify his statement you’re still acting as if he were totally dismissing super-hero movies. my reading of the passage i quote above does not support that interpretation.


Anecdotal evidence is not a measure here. I’m with you in enjoying those types of films…and I am not one to pay to see things like End Game 5 times in the theater…not when it’s going be on DVD in 6 months time.

And while major companies are helping to shape what is available and for how long, etc…let’s not make that out to be them controlling things. If we as the paying audience stop going to these films; they will change accordingly. They don’t want to spend $250m on making a movie that only makes $200m in the theaters.

Well, it just opened this weekend to rave reviews. I don’t imagine it’ll do Guardians of the Galaxy numbers but it’s hard to say that it isn’t a film that takes massive risks.

Note that I’m not disagreeing with you – I’m disagreeing with the author that films in multiplexes are too safe these days and that there’s no “art” being produced for the masses. But I’m sure he knows much more than I do about how hard it is to start out in the industry, and I don’t disagree with him on that note.

Played by the movie’s creator who is Pacific Islander-Jewish. Huge risks went into this movie.

OTOH, a lot of the hype and acceptance of that risk is based on knowing who he is. How do most people know who he is? Just a little thing called Thor: Ragnorok. What universe is that a part of, I wonder.


Hey Marty take a chill pill.
While I have not seen all the Marvel films in the theater I have seen most of them. I am waiting for a copy of Endgame from the library.
They are fluff and adventure like Flash Gordon or Roy Rogers (Which put butts in seats when they came out) only with a modern sense and a real budget. No they are not serious movies but not everyone is a cinephile like you Marty and even the cinephiles sometimes just want to sit back with popcorn and a beer to watch epic superhero fights.

Not everyone wants to see The Cremaster Cycle nor should they. I deeply love The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover but I know better than to tell a lot of my friends and such to see it.


i’d like to see that. i’ve been wanting to since i saw the excerpted third part on dvd–the only part on dvd. i don’t know if there will ever be a texas venue that would host it.


I wish it was more available; I haven’t gotten to see it either, and when it comes around, it’s usually a one-off showing at an art museum or college campus.

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in university park on the campus of smu there’s a venue called mcfarlin auditorium. my wife and i have seen two performances by laurie anderson there. several years ago we saw a showing of koyaanisqatsi at which the soundtrack was performed live by the philip glass ensemble. it was pretty amazing. at the time i had a vhs copy of the film. one of the guys working the show took it backstage and got glass to autograph it.


This is hardly a new phenomenon. Even in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood it was hard to get studios to throw a lot of money at a project that wasn’t based on a popular book or other established IP.

Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were based on bestselling novels. The Sound of Music was based on a stage musical. The Ten Commandments was lifted straight from the Book of Genesis. Even Scorsese’s own filmography includes a lot of films based on novels or nonfiction books, just lesser-known ones.


I tried.

Lord knows I tried.

Ultimately, I opted for literally anything else


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