James Gunn Calls Martin Scorsese ‘Greatest Living American Filmmaker’

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Well, that escalated quickly. Early Wednesday afternoon, a new Happy Sad Confused podcast interview with The Suicide Squad director James Gunn reignited comic book movie Twitter’s favorite argument: Why doesn’t Martin Scorsese like superhero movies? More particularly why doesn’t he like Marvel superhero movies, which when asked about several years ago, he said were “not cinema.” Perhaps unwisely, Gunn gave his two cents on that subject when pressed on the matter.

“I just think it seems awful cynical that he would keep coming out against Marvel, and that was the only thing that would get him press for his movie,” Gunn said about the legendary filmmaker, noting how at the time of his criticisms of superhero movies, Scorsese was doing press for The Irishman. “So then he just kept coming out against Marvel so he could get press for his movie. So he’s creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films, so he uses that to get attention for something that wasn’t getting as much attention as he wanted for it.”

Frankly, this quote appears misguided and arguably overly defensive. For years, the iconoclastic filmmaker has made himself the social media champion of the ability to create art within the confines of big budget studio blockbuster filmmaking. And we’d argue in the case of at least Gunn’s superhero movies, including both Guardians of the Galaxy films and now The Suicide Squad, he’s succeeded. However, it seems questionable the filmmaker of Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull sought the “superhero movie” headlines so much as journalists eager to write those headlines pushed the matter by bringing it up with the auteur time and again.

Not all superhero movies are art. Some might even argue most of them are not. However, that a septuagenarian artist hasn’t gone out to study the finer points of the unique ones with a talking raccoon shouldn’t necessarily raise any eyebrows. With that said, just as the internet is eager to frame all stories in the shadow of Marvel, Gunn got a reminder of how it and social media can take the simple headline of “filmmaker calls Martin Scorsese cynical” and ignore the actual nuance of what else Gunn said on the podcast.

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“He’s one of the greatest filmmakers who ever existed,” Gunn also insisted at the time. “I love his movies. I can watch his movies with no problem, and he said a lot of things that I agree with. There are a lot of things that are true about what he said. There are a lot of heartless, soulless, spectacle films out there that don’t reflect what should be happening. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve talked to filmmakers before they went and made a big movie and said, ‘Hey we’re in this together. Let’s do something different with these big movies. Let’s make them something different that’s come before them. And then see them go and just cater to every single studio whim or what’s thought of [by executives] and just be grossed out, frankly.”

He continued, “So a lot of what he said was good. And also he hasn’t seen my movie, he doesn’t know what my movie is. So it was irritating. My feelings were hurt.”

Likely given the uproar on Film Twitter today, that feeling hasn’t abated. Perhaps that’s why Gunn has stressed again on Twitter Wednesday evening his admiration for the director of such varied movies as The Age of Innocence and The Departed.

“And for the record,” Gunn wrote in the below tweet, “Martin Scorsese is probably the world’s greatest living American filmmaker. I love & study his films & will continue to love & study his films. I disagree with him on one point: That films based on comic books are innately not cinema, that’s all.”

In retrospect, Gunn might wish he led with that earlier in the day.

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