Martin Scorsese has already blamed the Marvel Cinematic Universe for ruining movies, and now he’s singling out another culprit: algorithms.
The acclaimed director was honoured at Thursday night’s Palm Springs International Film Festival, where he was presented with the festival’s Sonny Bono Visionary Award, reports Vanity Fair. During his acceptance speech, the Scorsese, 77, offered high praise to Netflix for allowing him the necessary resources to make “The Irishman” when traditional movie studios all passed.
However, he also slammed the streaming service for the algorithms that suggest similarly themed programming to that of what someone has just viewed.
“I’m concerned about pictures being suggested by algorithms,” Scorsese said. “I know, I get involved with them too. The algorithms, they tell you all these things: ‘If you like that, you might enjoy this…’ And ‘If you don’t enjoy this right away, there’s something else. And something else after that.’ The algorithm is dangerous because it takes away from your creative viewing. I think you have to make up your own mind about creative viewing.”
Scorsese admitted that he’s as susceptible to being sucked into the algorithm’s viewing suggestions as anyone. “The usual end result of that — and it’s happened to me — is pretty much binge-watching,” he said. “I like it, but I’m telling you, I easily fall into it, and never come back. There’s a paranoia that sets in. I punch up Netflix or something, and I see, ‘Because you watched ‘Zombie Slumber Massacre’… I say, ‘No! I didn’t watch it, it was a mistake.’ It really was! Okay, I hit the button. I don’t know what happened.”
While Scorsese appreciates the convenience, he lamented that viewers are no longer encouraged to seek out programming that’s outside of their comfort zones.
“I know the business has changed, and everything changes all the time,” Scorsese said. “You can watch anything — anytime, anywhere. And it puts the burden on you, the viewer. Not all changes are all for the good. If we’re not careful we might be tilting the scales away from that creative viewing experience, and away from movies as an art form.”
He continued: “Ultimately, it’s remarkable that so many movies are being made today, and it’s like a dream we had 50 years ago. You can see them, almost immediately accessible, just like that. In the old days you’d have to go from theatre to theatre. You have to wait in line, get a seat. I’m short and the people in front of me were tall. I couldn’t see anything!”
Scorsese also seemed to have made peace with the fact that the moviegoing experience as he knew it is on its way out. “Moviegoers are better defined today as movie watchers. A lot of that movie-watching now mostly happens at home, that’s just the way it is,” he said.
“While the art can’t survive without the business, in the end the business certainly isn’t going to survive without the art, which is made by people with something to say. You see the people receiving the awards here tonight? They’ve got something to say,” Scorsese added.
“Every individual filmmaker amounts to more than the number of awards they’ve won or the amount of money their pictures make,” he concluded. “And every individual viewer — that’s you — amounts to more — much more — than the data that has been collected about them.”