Martin Scorsese criticized aggregator websites Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore — and railed against “the devaluation of cinema itself” — at the Turner Classic Movies film festival this weekend.
In his acceptance speech for the inaugural Robert Osborne Award at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on Thursday evening, Scorsese said that the review aggregators lead films to be “instantly judged and dismissed” before audiences can see them and judge for themselves.
The legendary director was being honored for his film preservation efforts, and frequent Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio was on hand to present the award (when Scorsese came out, he pointed out that the last time the two were together at the Chinese was to film the Hell’s Angels premiere scene in The Aviator).
“No one is more knowledgeable, more committed, or draws more inspiration from the film art form that I know of than Martin Scorsese,” said DiCaprio. He also explained how his working relationship with Scorsese taught him to appreciate film as an art form over the course of his career. “He gave me an immense appreciation for the greatness of cinema’s past. And not only memorable performances but also an appreciation for directorial achievements throughout the history of movie-making. As a young actor standing beside him during the creative process of making a movie, I discovered that just like a painting, a sculpture, music or theater, film was just as essential, relevant, as a matter of fact, the most integral art form of our time. In other words, I felt I could truly own the term artist by working alongside Martin Scorsese. There is almost no aspect of his life, creative or personal, where he doesn’t reference the history of movies.”
Scorsese gave a lengthy acceptance speech, touching on his love of TCM (“I won’t stay in a hotel if it doesn’t have it”) and his immense appreciation for Robert Osborne and receiving the first award in his name. He praised Osborne as a popular historian, saying, “They’re the people who lovingly preserve all the lore, all the treasures, and who recite it to whomever expresses even a little bit of interest…They give you the history through the stories, the anecdotes, the details that have been remembered and passed down. They’re spreading the world to invite more people in, and enlarge the culture, to share. Robert Osborne shared his passion for movies in a way that made you feel it wasn’t distant or forbidden but something everyone could take part in.”
The director then took the occasion to criticize “the devaluation of cinema itself.”
“It can all be summed up in the word that’s being used now: content,” Scorsese said. “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.” He praised the widespread availability of films nowadays compared to the 1970s and ’80s, but noted, “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 also took the moment to call out aggregator websites Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore, saying, “The horrible idea they reinforce [is] 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.”
He ended on a high note, however, praising the cinema-lovers in attendance at the TCM film festival. “You know the difference between a YouTube video and the great American art form,” he concluded. “You react against the devaluation of cinema and movies by showing up.”