My son and his friend have a podcast. Recently, they were discussing "the state of movies," which brought them to the inevitable confrontation over the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His friend said they were trash. My son was ready to fight him on it.
I was so proud.
Until now, I have stayed relatively quiet on the matter. When Martin Scorsese said, “Theaters have become amusement parks. That is all fine and good, but don’t invade everything else in that sense. That is fine and good for those who enjoy that type of film and, by the way, knowing what goes into them now, I admire what they do. It’s not my kind of thing, it simply is not. It’s creating another kind of audience that thinks cinema is that.” I remained quiet. I have great reverence for Martin Scorsese. His are some of my favorite films. They are not amusement parks. Except maybe After Hours. That one is a fun house. A dark and creepy fun house, but wouldn't be out of place in a dark and creepy amusement park. The kind that might be a front for some shady real estate dealings, ultimately foiled by those meddling kids.
That may be telegraphing my position a little. First, I should say that I spent a good deal of time studying film formally, in a university setting, where I watched semester after semester of whatever the professor sought to put in front of us. Black and white, color, sound, narrative, non-narrative, foreign and domestic. Most of that time I worked in a video store and watched most everything that came our way on VHS. I remember hearing the apocryphal tale of why Steven Spielberg was dead set against releasing E.T. The Extraterrestrial on home video. It stemmed from the experience he had watching a group of burly men required to load a theatrical print of Close Encounters of the Third Kind into a projection booth. He could not, at the time, imagine someone walking out of their local video store with a copy of his most personal work in a little plastic box. Unless it came with a green gate and spools. Meaning: Steve caved. Many of Steven Spielberg's most personal works have become amusement park rides. I understand the Schindler's List Experience is opening next summer in Universal Studios.
Sorry. That was in poor taste. But only as bad as the other apocryphal Spielberg story which I am about to relate: While filming his Holocaust epic, Steven would come home from a harsh day on the set and unwind by taking meetings on the phone for the pre-production of his revisioning of The Flintstontes.
Which brings that other film school figure to the forefront, Francis Ford Coppola. Francis recently one-upped his colleague Martin Scorsese's assertions with his own: “I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.” These words were uttered by the man who brought us Godfather III, Godfather the Complete Epic and Godfather - Breaking Training.
So where does this leave us? Perhaps at what my son and his friend decided to call "the C word." Cinema is different from "the movies." Hollywood movies have always been an escape. Super Heroes are nothing new. Dinosaurs on the silver screen, same thing. Afterward, will you be repairing to the local bistro to discuss its merits, or gathering with friends to talk about the fun ride you just went on? After all these years of study, I like to have some time away from the deeper meanings. I'll get back there.