The Corner

Film & TV

Martin Scorsese Still Hasn’t Seen Joker

Director Martin Scorsese (middle) and actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro pose in London, England, October 13, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

I didn’t find the new New York Times profile of Martin Scorsese terribly illuminating; mostly he talks about getting old and the prospect of dying. He’s 77, albeit an extraordinarily hale 77, and he might well have another 20 years of vigor in him. But Scorsese is known to be a filmmaker who really, really wants to win Oscars. He campaigns relentlessly for them whenever he thinks he has a shot. As Janet Maslin points out on Twitter, there is a slightly cynical vibe to the interview:

Scorsese is almost certain to win both Best Picture and Best Director for The Irishman, which isn’t one of his ten best films in my opinion. Fine. It’s a career make-good. He should have won for Goodfellas and the Oscars are always correcting past omissions.

But the most interesting detail of the profile is that he hasn’t seen Joker, which also looks like it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars. Scorsese was on board to produce Joker in the early stages of its development but later bowed out. He’s aware that the film is an extended homage to his own work, but he has seen only clips of it. He apparently has no interest in seeing the whole thing. Maybe he doesn’t appreciate the competition; Joker is a better Scorsese picture than the Scorsese picture this year.

Scorsese noted last fall that he thought superhero movies are “not cinema” but this remark went viral on the very day Joker was released as if to disprove his point. Is Scorsese contending that Joker is “not cinema” when he hasn’t even seen it? It is. He should see it.

Scorsese is being remiss in his duties in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, of which I assume he is a voting member in good standing: Voters submit their suggestions for nominees by next Tuesday, and the spirit of the thing is that voters at least try to see the movies that appear to have a shot based on industry buzz. If Scorsese hasn’t seen Joker, it’s not really fair of him to decide it doesn’t deserve to get nominated.