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Taratino denounces Marvel and the era of modern cinema. Why is that so offensive.


The current era of cinema is one of the “worst in Hollywood history,” legendary director Quentin Tarantino said on a podcast last week. He doubled down on another podcast on Monday, saying that “there are no more movie stars” because of the “wonder-ization of Hollywood.”

Tarantino isn’t the first major Hollywood auteur to shake off the current status quo of cinema and its penchant for super-spectacular. In 2019, Martin Scorsese said that Marvel movies were “not cinema” and worried cinema was “invaded” by them. Francis Ford Coppola added that Marvel movies were “despicable”.

It’s hard to overstate the massive change cinema has undergone over the past decade – or even the past five years.

I happen to not be a fan of Marvel movies either. “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021) were marginally better than this year’s blockbuster, “Top Gun: Maverick,” but that’s a very low bar. Still, even for a Marvel skeptic like me, calling this era of cinema the worst in history and using the language of invasion, these directors sound like aging cranks yelling at kids to get off their weed.

It also makes them sound, unfortunately, like they’re yelling at women to get off their screens.

For most of the history of cinema, women have not had access to the capital necessary to make them. Male producers and backers, like Harvey Weinstein – who was convicted of two counts of sexual assault in 2020 – decided who to fund. And people like Weinstein are mostly enlightened by movies from male directors like (ahem) Quentin Tarantino.

From the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, only of them directors have made careers in Hollywood: Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino. Things improved slightly between 1966 and 1980. There were at least 15 female directors in the commercial film industry at that time. One was Elaine May – who directed 1972’s brilliant ‘The Heartbreak Kid’, 1987’s flop ‘Ishtar’ and that was about it. His shortened career was typical. Women directed only 0.19% of feature films between 1949 and 1979.

The numbers weren’t much better 11 years ago in 2011, when just 4.1% of all movies in the United States were directed by women. But a few years later, the numbers began to change drastically: 7.7% in 2015; 12.6% in 2017; 15.1% in 2019. In 2021, 21.8% of films were directed by women, five times more than a decade earlier.

It’s hard to overstate the massive change cinema has undergone over the past decade – or even the past five years. Films like Euzhan Palcy’s 1989 apartheid drama “A Dry White Season,” Amy Heckerling’s 1995 romantic comedy “Clueless,” and Karyn Kusama’s 2009 feminist horror film “Jennifer’s Body” were not alone. But they were notably unrepresentative. If you entered a new version without knowing the director, you could be almost certain that the director was a man. Now, women’s films are rather gloriously unmissable.

These include indie art films like Claire Denis’ “Stars At Noon” and Sophie Hyde’s “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” They include streaming movies like Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and Anna Foerster’s “Lou.” They include niche horrors like “Fresh” by Mimi Cave and “Alone With You” by Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks. They include animated films like “Turning Red” by Domee Shi. And it includes big-budget Hollywood fare like Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King” and Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling.”

Marvel has also produced more female-directed films recently: Chloe Zhao directed “Eternals” in 2021 and Anna Boden co-directed “Captain Marvel” in 2019. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has paved the way here. . But I think the dynamic that created the MCU, and which Tarantino and Scorsese denigrate, was essential in giving women access to the director’s chair.

Tarantino and Scorsese and many moviegoers blame Marvel for invading theaters and pushing other films off the big screen. But Marvel’s formula of cinema as a theme park event seems more of a symptom than a cause.

The real culprit is the streaming explosion. People can now watch thousands of movies from the comfort of their homes and laptops. There’s got to be a particular reason to go to the theater – and the MCU, with its giant explosions and infographics and ongoing serialized narrative rushing to the next plot twist, is getting a rough ride. Everything else is pushed to the small screen.

This may enrage (almost all-male) directors who have made a career out of seeing their work larger than life. But I think it’s been a huge boon for women. Television requires less capital investment than film, and perhaps that’s why it’s always been at least a little more accessible to female directors.

In 1997-98, women made up 8% of television directors. It’s lamentable but more than twice as high as the number of female film directors of the same era. In 2017-18, women made up 19% of directors in television – again, significantly more than the number of films. In 2021-2022, the number was still only 18%. But in streaming, women accounted for 29% of directors.

Streaming has blurred the line between television and cinema. Like actors, directors now go back and forth between the two mediums. Scorsese might cringe because ‘The Irishman’ ended up on Netflix. But the fact that the walls between platforms have been brought down is undoubtedly part of what has allowed so many women to create connections and resumes that allow them to cross what was, there is no so long, insurmountable barriers for half of humanity.

Films change and each era has its fans and its detractors, its strengths and its weaknesses. But the simple fact is that the unprecedented transformation of cinema right now has nothing to do with Marvel star Chris Evans counting as a movie star, and little to do with the ego of Tarantino or any other male director who has spent most of their careers indifferent to the rampant sexism of their industry. We live in the golden age of female cinema. To see it, just open your eyes.

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