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Wednesday, February 05, 2020 

Times-Record columnist acts as apologist for Marvel movies taking away finances from other films

Quentin Tarantino's not a filmmaker I find particularly appealing, but, he apparently joined the criticism of where the Marvel movies are leading in an interview with Deadline Hollywood:
TARANTINO: When you say, despite the sequels and the Avengers: Endgame and all of that, I actually think a war for movies got played out this last year.

DEADLINE: What do you mean?

TARANTINO: As far as I can see, the commercial product that is owned by the conglomerates, the projects everybody knows about and has in their DNA, whether it be the Marvel Comics, the Star Wars, Godzilla and James Bond, those films never had a better year than last year. It would have been the year that their world domination would have been complete. But it kind of wasn’t. Because of what you said, a lot of original movie comment came out and demanded to be seen, and demanded to be seen at the theaters. That ended up becoming a really, really strong year. I’m really proud to be nominated with the other films that just got nominated. I think when you sum up the year, it’s cinema that doesn’t fall into that blockbuster IP proof status, made its last stand this year.

DEADLINE: Hopefully not its last stand…

TARANTINO: If it hadn’t done it this year, it might have been the last stand for movies like that. This is a really groovy year. To combat something like Avengers: Endgame, which for the month before it came out and the month after, you couldn’t talk about anything else. They tried to do that with this last Star Wars and I don’t think it quite worked, but you couldn’t get on United Airlines without running into all the tie-ins, and even the safety commercial had a Star Wars scene.
So now, the Fort Smith Times-Record's biased comics columnist, Andrew Smith, decided to ridicule and dismiss all these filmmakers without considering what they're really getting at:
Well. Don’t pull a muscle patting yourself on the back, Mr. T. Especially when you’re spouting nonsense.

I know, I know — he’s a famous director, and I’m just a lowly ink-stained wretch. Who am I to question his judgment?
Indeed. A man who's acted as apologist for the medium's lurch to leftism and social justice, among other atrocities, has no business questioning the judgement of even a filmmaker as pretentious as Tarantino happens to be. And I say that as somebody who thinks the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs was going way overboard. Smith is, in his words, just a wretched, lowly propagandist stained with ink used for dishonest purposes.
But honestly, it’s not just my opinion. It’s the opinion of all those people who went to the movies Tarantino is dismissing. People who put their money where their mouth is by getting off the couch, going to a theater and buying a ticket. You know, the sort of thing directors should cheer.

But Tarantino is just the latest auteur to take a swing at Marvel movies, similar fare from Warner Brothers (DC Comics) and others. And while I firmly believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, these kinds of comments are not just wrong and petty, but self-serving.

Because when I hear Tarantino, or Martin Scorsese, or Francis Ford Coppola, or James Cameron, or Terry Gilliam complain about Marvel movies, a translation spontaneously occurs in my head. What I hear is, “I don’t want people to like the movies other people make. I want them to like the movies I make.”
Missing the point. What troubles some of these filmmakers is that major studios are all but stifling creativity, along with budgets and finances that could go to making less expensive films that could make you think, as Gilliam put it, all for the sake of only so many tentpole blockbusters that don't have much re-watch value, and many that are based on established franchises. It's actually mentioned later in the article, but even then, largely dismissed. Smith went on to put down Scorsese's view on conveying emotion:
Seriously? “Black Panther” inspired people. “Thor: Ragnarok” thrilled us, and made us laugh, too. “Avengers: Endgame” left the audience at my screening in tears. “Joker” was terrifying. That is the very definition of filmmakers “trying to convey emotional ... experiences to another human being.”

Scorsese is an expert in his field. Obviously he has a very narrow definition of “cinema,” which is fine. But he doesn’t get to define it for the rest of us — especially when his definition of cinema kinda sounds like “the movies I like, not the movies you like.”
Well neither do the makers of tentpole trivia, and he's still trivializing the financial aspect. He doesn't even consider the Russo brothers who produced/directed the Avengers films could have a narrow definition of what makes great moviedom.
Next up was Francis Ford Coppola, who also wants to tell us what to think.

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right, because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” said Coppola at the Lumière Festival in Lyon, France, last October. “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.”

That’s ... astonishing. Here is a filmmaker saying the work of other filmmakers — successful ones, who have brought joy, thrills and excitement to hundreds of thousands of people — is “despicable.” Because they make a kind of movie he doesn’t prefer. This from the man who made “Captain EO.”

As to “seeing the same movie over and over again” ... how many Godfather movies has Coppola made? How many gangster movies has Scorsese made? Obviously, neither of these august gentlemen are averse to going back to the same well when it suits them, or repeating what audiences seem to like. But others are “despicable” for doing the same.
And this article is despicable for fudging any challenging issues and lecturing all who read it. Aren't Coppola and Scorsese successful filmmakers, both artistically and financially? They certainly used to be in the past. And the number of Godfather movies? Three, IIRC, so what's the point? Coppola didn't make as many gangster dramas like those as Marvel's studio did superhero movies, which already comprise 20-plus, and combined, that's what Coppola meant by the same film over and over. Same with some of DC's movies through Warner Brothers, though of recent, there was only one Superman solo movie 6-7 years ago starring Henry Cavill, compared to 3 or more spotlighting Batman, and there's yet another coming this year with a boolean in the title. If there's far more Batman than Superman, it's trouble alright.
That brings us to James Cameron, who may have been the first filmmaker to voice his Marvel displeasure.

“I’m hoping we’ll start getting ‘Avenger’ fatigue here pretty soon,” Cameron told IndieWire in 2018. “It’s just, come on guys, there are other stories to tell besides hypergonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!”

I can’t imagine what other stories Cameron might be talking about, unless it’s the four Avatar movies he has in the pipeline. Since “Avengers: Endgame” displaced his own effects-heavy “Titanic” as the highest grossing movie, he might be feeling a little heat.

In defense of Cameron, though, he graciously congratulated Marvel on “Endgame’s” success, and embraced what should be the main takeaway from Marvel films. “You’ve shown that the movie industry is not the only alive and well, it’s bigger than ever!” he told Variety last May.
There may be a valid argument to make about Cameron, but Smith's not suited to make it. And why should Cameron be feeling much heat when the Terminator sequels have lost their luster, to the point they may finally be shelved?

Then, Smith says in reaction to Gilliam's commentary:
As Luke Skywalker said to Kylo Ren: “Amazing. Every word of what you just said is wrong.”

I collated five different lists of movies with theater dates in 2020. More than 125 movies are expected to premiere this year. Exactly two of them will be from Marvel. Only eight could (charitably) be called superhero movies. Very few could be considered expensive tentpoles. If there’s no mid-range money, how can there be so many mid-range movies?
Has it ever occurred even the television adaptations cost a lot of the same money as movies do? Even television's become awfully expensive over the past decades, so I wouldn't be shocked if recent Star Trek products cost more to make all those elaborate setpieces and alien makeup latex than ever before, along with the ray-gun effects. Say, and didn't Smith just mention Star Wars? There may not be another related film planned for this year, but that doesn't mean what came before wasn't staggeringly costly too. The question is whether it's taking away funding from independent divisions where the cost for production could actually be less, yet all that money's being allocated far more to big-budget movies and TV.
As to variety, expect double figures in action/adventure, horror, animated and fantasy films. Expect a healthy supply of romance, comedy, mystery, slice-of-life, historical and biography films, too. New adaptations of literary classics “Call of the Wild,” “David Copperfield,” “Emma,” and “Turn of the Screw” will screen. Ben Affleck, Dave Bautista, Daniel Craig, Vin Diesel, Tiffany Haddish, Blake Lively, Eddie Murphy, Liam Neeson, Keanu Reeves, Alicia Silverstone, Will Smith, Hillary Swank, Kristin Wiig and Reese Witherspoon are among the A-listers headlining non-superhero movies in 2020. There are no less than three movies starring Tom Hanks, with nary a cape nor cowl in sight.

And let’s not forget the explosive surge of streaming services, which offer both funding and platforms for movies — like Scorsese’s own “The Irishman.”
Umm, I think Scorsese did argue that, outside of streaming services, it wasn't easy to get movies like his made for the theater proper. Is that fair? Also consider that whatever the genre, if these are major studio releases, and the bigger budgets went foremost to their output, taking away funding from smaller films with cheaper budgets, that's not really fair either. To be sure, some criticism should be reserved for non-superhero movies too if they take away from financing others' productions. But it doesn't make the superhero movies any less deserving of the criticism, since they seem to take far more at the box office than the non-superhero movies.
Does that sound like superhero films are killing the movie industry? Or is this situation more like the comics industry, where sales of superhero books keep the retail outlets open, creating space for other, smaller genres to exist?
Has he ever considered the Big Two sometimes flood the shelves with only so many scrap piles, it's hard for indies to get proper shelving? Besides, I've already noted the dozens of stores that went out of business, many which sold plenty of caped and cowled fare, and did it help keep them going? Alas, no. IMO, some business agents should consider stocking far more indie fare than mainstream, and at least see if that nets them more business based on merit.
But Gilliam didn’t stop there.

“I hated ‘Black Panther,’” he said. “It makes me crazy. It gives young black kids the idea that this is something to believe in. B*******. It’s utter b*******. I think the people who made it have never been to Africa,” he said.

Aside from the fact that, yes, a number of the “Black Panther” filmmakers did go to Africa, this the unkindest cut of all. It astonishes me that Gilliam, whose work leans so heavily on fairy tales and fantasy, is unaware of how that material is absorbed and used by children.

I doubt any of the kids watching “Black Panther” thought they were going to grow up to be royalty in a fictional African paradise. But they did see a world much better than their own, sparking imagination and ambition. And characters like T’Challa and Shuri are role models — not because of their super-powers, but because of their character. They show courage in the face of danger, tenacity in the face of adversity and humor in the face of despair. Children soak that up as life lessons.
Missing the point again. Gilliam was alluding to the politicized angle the filmmakers and supporters of the film were marketing it upon, like "diversity and inclusion", despite how the slogan's mostly limited to POC, LGBT, and religions like Islam. It could even be limited to left-liberal viewpoints, politically speaking. Besides, what's described above doesn't automatically translate into a finely crafted screenplay and performances.
The bottom line is this: Millions of people enjoyed these movies, and proved it with ticket sales. The films have provided both entertainment and inspiration. They have advanced the industry in terms of F/X. They have enriched theaters and streaming services, creating opportunities for other, less popular movies to find a home. Those are all good things.

The filmmakers who malign them are doing so at their own peril. It looks self-serving. It looks petty. It looks like intellectual snobbery. It looks like bullying.
And those with huger budgets can't possibly do the same? If the blockbuster producers were attacking the vets and belittling their work, he'd say they're just "defending" their output. Let's also note that, despite the huge sales for Captain Marvel, there were those who did say afterwards they were disappointed with the finished product, a victim of SJW-pandering, the very nemesis of comicdom and its pioneers like Stan Lee.
I was bullied as a kid for reading comics, a less-than-popular hobby at the time. But I found inspiration in another slightly-built, bespectacled bookworm named Peter Parker. I learned a thing or two about character. At the very least, I learned not to attack other people’s hobbies because I don’t share them.

Marvel movies offer the same lessons. Maybe these filmmakers would benefit from watching a Marvel movie or two.
Trouble is, the Marvel movie-makers aren't necessarily doing the same with their own output, or watching Coppola and Scorsese's films for the same, if they're offered there. Seriously, what lesson is offered, say, in a movie where a scene was originally filmed with the star electrocuting a motorcyclist who's deliberately and absurdly made to look like a sleazebag for the sake of attacking "toxic masculinity", and then stealing equipment from him? Heck, where were propagandists like Smith when the Comicsgate campaign was villified for trying to defend their favorite hobbies from being deconstructed and stripped of what made them work in the first place? Or when Eddie Berganza was bullying girls at DC's offices? When SJWs attacked actress Ruby Rose, claiming she wasn't lesbian enough to play Batwoman? Why, where were people like Smith when Billy Tucci came under attack by creeps who identified with the anti-Comicsgate crowd? Apparently, acting as apologists for all the wrong elements, of course. Somebody who can only adhere to such wretched positions and not stand up for artists and writers who were victimized isn't fit to lecture about what's bullying.

This isn't a matter of attacking other peoples' hobbies, but a lamentation of how movies with larger budgets are taking the funding away from smaller movies, getting a prioritized status, and harming their creativity in the process. According to Grantland, character dramas like Barry Levinson's Rain Man wouldn't be approved today by Hollywood, as they continue on this path of vapid blockbusters. To make matters worse, there's a surprising dearth of family fare - or anything you could consider suitable for children from a realist's viewpoint - and the Marvel movies aren't proving a true substitute. Certainly not if Kevin Feige plans to veer them more towards social justice propaganda. So is it any wonder some filmmakers are complaining how action blockbusters have all but taken away from their creativity and budgets? Those who think comics movies are all we should care about would do well to consider there are other genres worth defending, and that's why Smith's apologia, as usual, is appalling.

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" Seriously, what lesson is offered, say, in a movie where a scene was originally filmed with the star electrocuting a motorcyclist who's deliberately and absurdly made to look like a sleazebag for the sake of attacking "toxic masculinity", and then stealing equipment from him? "

Yes, the movie they did not make would have been awful.

"Gilliam was alluding to the politicized angle the filmmakers and supporters of the film were marketing it upon, like "diversity and inclusion", despite how the slogan's mostly limited to POC, LGBT, and religions like Islam."

It is mostly a slogan of human resource professionals at large companies.

It is true - most comic book fans like a lot of other types of entertainment besides superheroes, and would get bored with all the Marvel movies if there was nothing but out there.

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