Martin Scorsese on Rotten Tomatoes ruining moviegoing, our Box Office obsessions and his love for 'Mother!'



I agree with his comments. Reducing movies down to a binary good/bad is definitely helpful for the general audience but it also stops people from actually reading reviews. Instead of finding a critic they trust, a lot of people see a 40 and think the movie isn't worth their time

"And then, once the movie is made, there are the reviews. Like everyone else, I’ve received my share of positive and negative reviews. The negative ones obviously aren’t much fun, but they come with the territory. However, I will say that in the past, when some critics had problems with one of my pictures, they would generally respond in a thoughtful manner, with actual positions that they felt obliged to argue."


They still could, but I know what you mean Marty. Just look at the way the "fanboys" shunned "Silence" into oblivion. That movie is a masterpiece that will age like a fine wine over time. The dismissal it received was unfair and a lot of that had to do with snap-judgment criticism from many RT critics whose case of ADD was way too frenetic to sit down and ponder a slow-burning meditative film very much influenced by 1950's Japanese cinema.

"The brutal judgmentalism that has made opening weekend grosses into a bloodthirsty spectator sport seems to have encouraged an even more brutal approach to film reviewing. I’m talking about market research firms like Cinemascore, which started in the late ‘70s, and online “aggregators” like Rotten Tomatoes, which have absolutely nothing to do with real film criticism. They rate a picture the way you’d rate a horse at the racetrack, a restaurant in a Zagat’s guide, or a household appliance in Consumer Reports. They have everything to do with the movie business and absolutely nothing to do with either the creation or the intelligent viewing of film. The filmmaker is reduced to a content manufacturer and the viewer to an unadventurous consumer."


I started film "critiquing" in 1999 and I've seen the rise of the internet ruin the art of film criticism. As I mentioned to a colleague the other day, there is no way Pauline Kael would survive today's zeitgeist. She'd be touted as a "troll." Admit it, I'm right. Film criticism to me has always been an art form. It more than just "this movie sucks" or "What the hell was that?" More importantly, a movie, hell art, should not be given a conensus-driven score. Imagine having a Rotten Tomatoes for paintings? Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" receiving a 95% Fresh score. I have cringe-inducing goosebumps just thinking about it. Movies and music seem to be the only art forms that are seriously rated by score ratings. If they want to be taken more seriously in the next generation they will have to delve away from this format and into more thought-driven criticism. I say, stop giving ratings to film and force the reader to actually, you know, read the review. It should always be a hands-on approach of attentive dissection. No matter the movie. Now with Rotten Tomatoes all but accepting 500 or so critics for their aggregator system, the difference between a good film critic and a bad film critic is being blurred into oblivion. My advice? Seek the ones worth reading, the Nick Pinkerton's of this world, the Manhola Dargis' and etc.


"These firms and aggregators have set a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers—even the actual name Rotten Tomatoes is insulting. And as film criticism written by passionately engaged people with actual knowledge of film history has gradually faded from the scene, it seems like there are more and more voices out there engaged in pure judgmentalism, people who seem to take pleasure in seeing films and filmmakers rejected, dismissed and in some cases ripped to shreds. Not unlike the increasingly desperate and bloodthirsty crowd near the end of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!"


Ah, yes. Aronofsky's "mother!" Before we embark on that endeavor, Scorsese makes an interesting point here. A lot of the folks reviewing movies these days don't have a background in film or Journalism at all. I went to film school at Dawson college in Montreal and took a ton of elective journalism classes as well at Concordia University. I'm not saying that that is the only way to be qualified to write about movies, some of the best film critics today have had no official education in those departments and, hell, can write better than I do. However, if you are willing to make it an actual trade of yours to review and critique cinema then you sure as hell need to know about the form and its history. I do think that this is where the problem really begins. A lot of the younger critics I've met in recent years, at various festivals, have barely scraped the history of film, hell, some have never even seen a silent movie and their lack of knowledge of cinema, even from the 50s, 60s and 70s, is an empty wasteland. I've always been disturbed by that. If you decide to concentrate your life on writing about movies, why dishonor its history and the founding fathers that built its language. Blasphemous as far as I'm concerned.


"Before I actually saw mother!, I was extremely disturbed by all of the severe judgments of it. Many people seemed to want to define the film, box it in, find it wanting and condemn it. And many seemed to take joy in the fact that it received an F grade from Cinemascore. This actually became a news story—mother! had been “slapped” with the “dreaded” Cinemascore F rating, a terrible distinction that it shares with pictures directed by Robert Altman, Jane Campion, William Friedkin and Steven Soderbergh."


We've already tackled this. CinemaScore is a completely useless way to know if a film is of quality or not [HERE]


Scorsese goes on to praise Darren Aronofsky's film in such a way that it makes you want to rewatch it this instant. Maybe Scorsese should have been a film critic as well.

"Is it a picture that has to be explained? What about the experience of watching mother!? It was so tactile, so beautifully staged and acted—the subjective camera and the POV reverse angles, always in motion…the sound design, which comes at the viewer from around corners and leads you deeper and deeper into the nightmare…the unfolding of the story, which very gradually becomes more and more upsetting as the film goes forward. The horror, the dark comedy, the biblical elements, the cautionary fable—they’re all there, but they’re elements in the total experience, which engulfs the characters and the viewers along with them. Only a true, passionate filmmaker could have made this picture, which I’m still experiencing weeks after I saw it."


"Good films by real filmmakers aren’t made to be decoded, consumed or instantly comprehended. They’re not even made to be instantly liked. They’re just made, because the person behind the camera had to make them. And as anyone familiar with the history of movies knows all too well, there a very long list of titles—The Wizard of OzIt’s a Wonderful LifeVertigo and Point Blank, to name just a few—that were rejected on first release and went on to become classics. Tomatometer ratings and Cinemascoregrades will be gone soon enough. Maybe they’ll be muscled out by something even worse."


[THR]
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