Martin Scorsese Blames Rotten Tomatoes For The “Devaluation of Cinema”

Martin Scorsese was given the Robert Osborne Award at the TCM Film Festival. The Award has, as a tradition, to honor a man or woman “whose work has helped keep the cultural heritage of classic films alive and thriving for generations to come.” Thanks to EW, Scorsese decided to use his speech to comment on modern film criticism.

“It can all be summed up in the word that’s being used now: content. All movie images are lumped together. You’ve got a picture, you’ve got a TV episode, a new trailer, you’ve got a how-to video on a coffee-maker, you’ve got a Super Bowl commercial, you’ve got ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ it’s all the same,” said the filmmaker. “They can also turn a picture off and go straight to the next piece of content. If there’s no sense of value tied to a given movie, of course, it can be sampled in bits and pieces and just forgotten.”

Scorsese seems rather critical of YouTube, even though he doesn't outright mention the streaming giant. We should, however, remember that Scorsese's next film is  “The Irishman,” which is being distributed by Netflix.

On the toxicity of Rotten Tomatoes:

“The horrible idea they reinforce that every picture, every image is there to be instantly judged and dismissed without giving audiences time to see it. Time to see it, maybe ruminate and maybe make a decision for themselves. So the great 20th-century art form, the American art form, is reduced to content,” explained Scorsese.

He left the audience with hope, saying “You know the difference between a YouTube video and the great American art form..You react against the devaluation of cinema and movies by showing up."

Of course, I agree what he has to say, I have for many years now. Rotten Tomatoes narrowing 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

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. A movie, hell art, should not be given a consensus-driven endeavor. Imagine having a Rotten Tomatoes for paintings? Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" receiving a 95% Fresh score. I cringe 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 Pinkertons of this world.