Martin Scorsese Versus the Marvel Cinematic Universe | The Big Picture

Martin Scorsese Versus the Marvel Cinematic Universe | The Big Picture


I didn’t want to do an episode about Martin
Scorsese saying that he doesn’t consider quote-unquote “Marvel Movies” to be movie because
1.) I don’t really think it’s an interesting or newsworthy story and 2.) Literally everything
about the whole scenario is stupid and depressing to me as a fan of pretty much everything involved
and 3.) Again: “76 Year Old Man is Not The Biggest Fan of one Particular Genre of Movie”
is not a news story even when it is one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers.
I mean are we really still doing “Appeal to Authority” for things like this in 2019?
Look, I’m a doughy white guy film nerd who was born in the 80s so I’m basically required
to worship Martin Scorsese but… guys, Marty also thought Exorcist II was better than the
first one. I mean that doesn’t prove anything either, but… have you seen “Exorcist II”
lately? “I can’t talk.” “But, you’re talking now. Yes, you are. I can hear you.” “You can hear me?” “Sure!” “What’s the matter with you?” “I was possessed by a demon. Oh, it’s okay. He’s gone.” I mean not everyone is a great filmmaker or
works in film is necessarily the last word on these things: When people asked Paul Thomas
Anderson if he made Punch Drunk Love with Adam Sandler to be “meta” he very matter
of factly explained: “No, I really like Adam Sandler movies and I wanted to work him!”
which, ya’ know, if you look into Anderson’s work and life outside filmmaking honestly
makes a lot of sense? He seems like a really down to Earth, regular, relatable dude like…
not every “artist” is an “artiste,” ya’ know?
Quentin Tarantino isn’t big on Alfred Hitchcock and thought Anthony Perkins was better in
Psycho II (which honestly is a much better movie than it has any right to be, but that’s another show) and speaking of Hitchcock: Do you know what his favorite movie was in 1977? I know, you’re expecting
me to say “Star Wars” because it was the birth of the blockbusters and it makes a good
segue here but… no, it was actually Smokey and the Bandit. Yeah. How about that.
And “People have opinions, it’s not worth fighting over just because they’re famous”
is where I’d prefer to leave it honestly… but now it’s turned into a “thing” because people
who like superhero movies got way too upset, people who hate that genre got way too self-righteous
and… most obnoxiously of all… the subset of fandom that likes superhero movies but hates these
ones in particular got the most self-righteous of all; as though the guy who started off by saying that
he doesn’t even watch the damn things wasn’t likely to be using “Marvel Movie” generically
like people do for xerox machines or bandaids. Yeah, sure I’m really sure that Martin
Scorsese has no time for movies like Ant-Man or Doctor Strange but is somehow also just all about
Suicide Squad and he’s soooooo pissed that Jared Leto isn’t in Birds of Prey. I mean come
on! But yeah, this became a thing and then Francis Ford Coppola jumped in and kicked
it back up the news cycle so fine – you win, we’ll talk about it. “See, I didn’t reck it Sheriff.” Okay, so… as I said, I don’t care that either of these two directors don’t like
movies that I happen to for the most part like because my identity and sense of self-worth
isn’t bound to the consumer products that I purchase in that way and if your’s is
please stop doing that it’s not good for you. But I also think that “I don’t really
enjoy this particular type of thing” is a perfectly valid media opinion – yes, even
if you work in that media. Now, I’m a film critic so I don’t really have the professional
option of not experiencing stuff I don’t generally like, but that’s a separate issue
from whether or not I can appraise it as objectively as possible. Yeah, I think everyone should
try to experience as much variety as they can but it’s not automatically, innately “bad”
to know that you dislike superhero movies, or romantic comedies, or horror films, or
black and white movies, or films from before a certain decade, or whatever.
But! And there is a but here… he didn’t just leave it at personal dislike, Scorsese is this case, he also opined that, in his view, these films “aren’t cinema,” and I would agree is being
unfairly dismissive. I also hasten to add that, if any filmmaker living has earned the right to
be a bit unfairly dismissive of… anything (unlike Coppola who’s honestly just kind
of being a hypocritical dick here and we’ll get back to that) it’s the director
of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ,
Cape Fear, Casino, The Departed, Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street among others.” “But, I’m funny how? Like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to f— amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny? But do I think he’s wrong on this point? Yeah, I do. And I don’t think it’s at
all unreasonable for people who’ve directed some of the movies he’s painting with this
extremely broad brush like James Gunn to talk back about it. Sure. I mean has Jame Gunn made a movie as good as Goodfellas? No. No he hasn’t. But, ya’ know he also hasn’t made a movie as bad as Gangs of New York. The thing of it is, I get the sense if this was taking the form of a dialogue instead
of soundbites which we now keep getting because I assume Netflix has decided that this
is good marketing for The Irishman it would still be just as obnoxious… but the people
who think they’ve found “validation” for their bold rebellious stand of “not
enjoying popular thing” would quickly find out that it’s a lot less about aesthetics
and genre than it is about business. Because – not to get too inside-baseball about this
– but when an older professional in the film industry says they’ve got an issue with
this or that property they don’t actually know much about but refer to in terms of “not
really movies” and “theme park rides,” like Scorsese did, what they tend to be annoyed about is less
the films themselves and more about distribution models and “discourse.” At least in my experience.
See when industry people talk about “too many superhero movies” or before that “too
many blockbusters, too many action movies” whatever, in general, people like me are usually quick to point out that the
numbers just don’t back that up – at most we’re talking maybe between 6 and 10 movies
a year total, half that if you really do mean only the Marvel stuff. But it does take up
a lot of the cultural oxygen and a greater share of studio marketing budgets because
it’s generally what’s making money right now and paying for all the other stuff. Plus,
the serialized, cross-multimedia “big screen TV series” format of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular that everyone else want to chase actually is a major new thing that has completely changed how
people interact with filmgoing as a week to week year to year experience that’s very
much outside what filmmakers in their 70s or older are used to and it’s not totally
surprising that they end up bracing at it. Sure, some of the transformation of theatrical
moviegoing is sort of unavoidable and people get bent out of shape for the wrong reasons
or without taking a truly well… if you’ll pardon the branding, “big-picture” look at the issue by ignoring the impact of television and streaming and that the large audience of adults with
disposable income are more likely to stay home than go out: I mean, if you’re
wondering why it seems like there were a lot more mid-budget cop movies, lawyer movies,
family dramas, serial-killer movies even, whatever else in the 80s and 90s it’s because
there weren’t four different CSIs, Law and Orders, etc to turn those ideas into episodes
of instead and you also didn’t have HBO, AMC and whoever else turning every pretty
good drama pitch into a 13 episode streaming series.
And if you’re an actor or screenwriter maybe this doesn’t make as much of a difference
or its even preferable case to case but you gotta remember guys Scorsese and Coppola’s
age came up when there wasn’t even home video, so when they said they wanted to make
films they meant films as in self-contained pieces for movie theaters; and even as an
“embrace technological evolution” guy I can’t not sympathize with at least Scorsese
going out to studios with The Irishman – his reunion movie with both Robert DeNiro and
Joe Pesci plus Al Pacino… “I’m going to miss my hoo-ha, my tangoing, my blind driving, my hoo-ha.” “You said that already.” “I say it a lot. Hoo-ha!” …and having all the majors go “Eh, ya’ Marty
know, with the de-aging effects that’s kind of expensive, and it’s gonna have to be
long, and it’s not really something we can franchise out into a dozen other things and make back the money so we’re going to pass…” and he ends up taking it to Netflix – which will gladly make it
but then it’s going to get pulled into these bullshit controversies about whether Netflix
movies should be eligible for Oscars and that’s gonna be the discussion instead of the movie
so he’ll be on a junket tour promoting that to answer those questions – yeah, I get why
he’d be a little salty. I probably be pissed too, it happens.
Coppola jumping in is another story a together though – legend or not, sure, but he hasn’t had
his name on a quality product that didn’t come out of his vineyard in over two decades. He’s
mostly been retired for almost as long as a lot of the people in front of and behind
the cameras on the Marvel movies have been working and when he was it’s not like he
was operating in all that different a mode. [record scratch] No, seriously – people forget this, but Coppola
built his reputation on The Godfather, which was an adaptation of a contemporary popular novel
that was considered huge… but not necessarily “good.” I mean, it wasn’t thought of as “bad,” either, but it was regarded in it’s day a potboiler not a literary classic – a big, long, bloated airplane read of a thing full or lurid tangents and over the top melodrama that especially scandalous because
everyone knew certain characters and events were supposedly based on some people
of who were real and still alive. In other words, as source-material goes…
it was closer in pop-culture perception to mass-appeal lit phenomenons like The DaVinci
Code or James Patterson’s 20 bestsellers a year – and Coppola figuring out how to (successfully!)
transform that material into a genuine artistic triumph instead of the lurid soap opera that it would have readily been made into is not all that dissimilar from the task facing
everyone who steps up to direct one of the Marvel movies and tries to get something that
resonates on a bigger, deeper level even if it’s based on assembly-line serialized children’s
literature from the 1970s. And besides that he and his whole “film school generation”
clique of directors – particularly his close pals Lucas, Spielberg, DePalma, Milius, etc – all
pretty much made their names transforming the seemingly-disposable and disreputable
genre fare of their youth into big-budget modern Hollywood’s cash cows. In other words, he of all people, should know better… or, at the very least, he could stand to be less vitriolically dismissive
about something that’s in many respects very much the next logical evolution of his
own legacy. At least that how I see it. Egh… what irritates me about these sorts
of reductionist takes and the way people glom onto them is that they mostly end up obscuring
important, meaningful dialogues about bigger issues behind specifics that people want to
focus on for unrelated reasons. And, I don’t just mean Scorsese not really getting to talk about his concerns about the business of the film industry changing because all anyone want to ask him about is Marvel now. In a way, this has kind of always been a “second function”
of the Walt Disney Company as a pop-culture institution going back to when it was primarily
a movie studio. In reality, there wasn’t that much difference in terms of being an
assembly-line production-house with contracted stars and employees between Disney and other
Hollywood companies …but being one studio that ended up corner the market for a good stretch on feature-animation
and safe family-comedies aimed at middle-class white suburbanites allowed generations of
people with the very common, boring opinion of not liking certain genres or filmmaking
styles to shorthand it as “not liking Disney specifically” and suddenly it sounds like
some focused, considered, possibly righteous stance against a specific corporation.
And now that same irritating transference happens with Marvel, Star Wars and dozens
of other things where conversations we should be having about the homogenization of the
blockbuster scene, the transformation of the industry, globalized distribution vis-a-vi
workers rights, everything involving the Chinese market… but the discourse over every one
of those keeps getting hijacked by this or that subset of competing fandom or political
subgroup or whatever to score cheap points for one “side” or the other. And it helps…
well, it helps nobody really. So, can we stop, maybe? Can we stop discussing these thing like this? Anyway… I’m Bob and this has been the 300th episode of The Big Picture.

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  1. Congrats on 300, Bob. I'm a fan since near the beginning and hope you keep cranking them out. I'm glad someone's out there fighting for things like nuance and subtlety.

  2. Just like Coppola, Scorsese's most well known films are basically popcorn genre films with a high art gloss over the top. Most of the kinds of films he worked on were considered pulp fiction in his day, it was his generation of directors that gave them the cachet they have now. And many of his recent films are shameless blockbuster fare, well crafted though they are. Nothing wrong with any of that, but it's a little rich watching him sneer at popular fiction as if he's some indie director who's all about art for art's sake, maaaaan.

    That said, he's entitled to an opinion, and an old cinema snob not liking mainstream blockbusters is the least surprising headline I can think of.

  3. Martin Scorsese was in Shark Tale of all things (he was the pufferfish, and probably the best character in the movie, to be fair), and yet he's trying to argue that Marvel movies aren't art? Nothing against the guy and all he's done, but..seriously?

  4. Aeee grats on the 300th episode! I remember watching the first ones way back when you had to go to the Escapists main site and Youtube was barely a thing!

  5. Hei good job and cobgrats on reaching 300 of these things. If you keep churning them out i will watch them….kinda like disney and the mcu, huh….

  6. But I agree on Coppola, he should know better. His four best films were genre pieces: two gangster movies, a war film, and a horror-fantasy vampire flick. His whole gen's MO was taking B movie concepts and giving them A+ filmmaking.

  7. He lost me when he tried to compare Marvel and the Godfather, just to make a point that you disgree with Coppola disagreeing with you. I'd watch Apocalypse Now ten times before I'd watch ten minutes of another fucking Spiderman.

  8. He is right though.
    They arent high art and there is nothing wrong with it. There is also nothing wrong with a movie being "just" a theme park ride.

  9. I watched the first 3 minutes and it made me realize that these videos are kind of a waste. I like hearing a smart guy talk fast as much as anybody but Bob is scraping the bottom of the barrel as of late.

  10. An elderly man doesn't like what I like.
    I'm not surprised.
    I don't care.
    I will inflict on him the greatest insult an enemy can suffer: To Be Ignored. (Yes, I ripped off Mass Effect 2).

  11. Its really starting to get annoying when Bob begins the episode by complaining about having to talk about a certain topic. 1) if you find it that insufferable and don't care, don't make the video 2) it seems like you just do it to get to the magic 10 minute mark. 3) if you don't care about the subject material, why should I finish th3 video? I'm not finishing this one.

  12. I love your content, Bob, but the # ads posted on these Escapist productions is making them unwatchable. I'm ok with an ad at the start — and even at the end — but not for God's sake in the middle!

  13. I understand the frustration… I was made fun of when I went to film school in my Full Moon t-shirt.

    I enjoyed "Puppet Master" and "Subspecies," as well as "The Witch" and "The Lighthouse." Like what you like, I say. It's all film.

  14. The tendency of well established movie-makers declaring that the latest Cinema trend is a regression of the medium is a common occurrence in the history of film. It happened when the trend of story-telling gained majority in expense of the avantgarde, dadaist, experimental movements back in the dawn of cinema. It happened when the "talking pictures" (movies with sound) emerged, it happened when color came in, when the wide-angle cameras enabled the creation of theatrical genres like the peplum (swords and sandals) movies. It came when the censorship of the Hays Code was pushed aside, or when genre films ruled the world of cinema in the 70's and 80s. Trends rise and fall, and the bright stars of one age might be pushed aside in another. It is all part of change, and both side's argument is understandable and should be respected, but not necessarily agreed upon. Let the discussion flow, and let people echo their opinions and perspectives, the same way others did decades ago. It is part of being human and loving what you love.

  15. Ok, first…. CONGRATULATIONS ON 300TH EPISODE! I didn't love them all (I'm not even sure I've seen them all) but certainly very thoughtful, engaging commentary that I enjoy and look forward to seeing more in the future.

    On the subject…. this feels like the fine art industry to me (or the Oscars… take your pick). Elitist snobs looking down their noses at the mainstream and lecturing everyone on what is "art" and what is "good" when at the end of the day all that REALLY matters is: do you like it? Based on the revenue stream, I'd suggest a LOT of people like super hero movies, and Marvel movies in particular. I don't know if that makes Scorsese wrong per se, but what it does do is make him irrelevant.

    People debate all the time whether Marvel movies or Star Wars movies are worthy of Oscar recognition, when the reality is that it's box office numbers that indicate true recognition. Is cinema "art"? Sure, but at a more basic level it's ENTERTAINMENT… and trying to create the former does not guarantee the latter. Is Scorsese truly thumbing his nose at all the talented cast and crew that made all those movies…. or is he just bitter because they have made so much more money than his "better" films?

    I don't care who wins at the Oscars… and I don't care what Scorsese thinks…. I only care what I like, because that's where I spend my money…. and at the end of the day, spending my money is the only way for me to have a say in this debate.

  16. "Marvel's big screen TV show…is a new thing."
    Republic Pictures: "Am I a joke to you?" Straps on rocket pack and flies away crying

  17. Happy 300! Another thing about The Godfather is that the producer Robert Evans was just as instrumental if it more to the success of the movie. I only know this because he passed away recently and npr did a segment on him.

  18. While I have enjoyed the MCU and comic book movies in general, Scorcese has a point too. Their sheer dominance is harming story telling. They push everything else away except building that next never ending stories. We keep retelling children stories even as we are supposed to be adults. There is a place for escapist movies, but I want something that moves me and makes me think too.

  19. Congratulations on 300. Watched all of em and can't wait for 300 more.

    PS: i actually want 700 more so i can see you use the clip of Jay's 1000th episode…

  20. Uhh bob, you gotta admit there’s a step down between making popular genre cinema into cinematic art and making comic books for children into “popular genre cinema” that is actually too pg-13 sterile and boringly formulaic to earn that label outside of airquotes

  21. Uhhhhhhh bob, and in terms of actual effectuality, there’s a difference between The Godfather and needlessly-expensive-tv-show-that-plays-in-theatres

  22. Exorcist 2 was fucking brilliant Bob, also are your sure your sense of self-worth isn't tied to your consumption choices? Your SMB book suggests otherwise

  23. Mr. Scorsese is a person who put in so much work in the art of film that even if I don't agree with him on some things but I respect him and hope that the film's he makes continue to be amazing

  24. It's been 300 episodes, so I feel like I can finally say this: HERE'S HOW TO EDIT YOUR AUDIO PROPERLY

    8:12 "[…] from the seventi- …and besides that"

    Every MovieBob video I've ever seen is riddled with editing gaffs like this. It makes you sound less like someone who's been doing this for over a decade, and more like someone who just opened a laptop yesterday and started fucking around.

    If you're not already using Audacity, download it, it's free. Duplicate your audio recording onto two separate tracks, so they're side-by-side and synchronized. Using the above example, cut AFTER the "S" sound trails off on one timeline, and make the next cut on the OTHER timeline, and overlap the two until you're happy with the pacing.

    It's so easy that I will literally do it for you, for free, for every video you put out.

  25. I think it’s completely unnecessary how everyone is dogging on Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola just because they don’t care for the MCU. And honestly, I don’t think Scorsese is entirely wrong about what he said about many of the Marvel movies being big theme park rides. Even though I like a lot of Phase 1 Marvel films and some of the Phase 2 films, a lot of Marvel films really are just all style and little substance.

    Also, Bob’s fast-talking Boston accent is very grating. Please talk normally, Bob. You’re not a auctioneer.

  26. Some of your best work. Extremely well thought out, throughly logical, and overall a great intelligent look at a seemingly over dramatized event. Congrats on 300!

  27. First off, Congrats on #300 and IMO to answer the end of the video… I'm sorry Bob, but no, no it won't and it actually helps those in power who want the groups to fight among themselves. To me it is just the Old Guard fighting back against what is coming and anything they say about a franchise or film should have been dismissed for how stupid it is, but they like to get their hands of what the new stuff and even preventing their legitimacy to do it leading up to this crap.

    And as long as the audience gets what it wants with the limited time and resources dedicated for entertainment, does it or want to care about the underlying issues surrounding the industry. Even if we do, where do we even start?

  28. Congratulations Bob! Monumental achievement and I love the episode, great spin on the conversation and wonderful lead in with big directors off center faves, thank you!

  29. I think he's got a point if you define cinema as art. And if you define art as something that says something meaningful about the human psyche and so forth (As Scorcese does). MCU movies doesn't do any of that and neither do they try.

    As a sidenote, i have yet to see a single MCU movie that didn't slip from my mind a day after i watched it. I don't really think i would give any of those movies any kind of thought if culture didn't force me. It's entertaining but super forgetable and shallow. It's not even a genre thing, there are super hero movies that i think about and actually feel like rewatching. There are also action movies that stays with me, for instance i thought that i would never rewatch Dark Fate but today i have this feeling that it actually had a bit of personality that invites me back. I never had that feeling with anything in the MCU, it's just in one ear and out the other. Great punchlines and flashy effects, but no emotional core…

  30. If Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock rose from the dead and did a perfect Fusion Dance under the watchful supervision of David Lynch (who is Piccolo in this metaphor, I think), it wouldn't make that opinion any more valid. If he don't watch the movies, even ONE, he don't get to talk about how shit he thinks these movies are. I sat though Batman V Superman and Justice League, so I didn't sit through Suicide Squad because I think it LOOKS like shit. But I don't get to say "I think that movie is shit" because I don't know, I haven't seen it. There's a difference between saying something LOOKS like crap, and saying something IS crap.

    Also Coppola made "Jack," a whimsical romp about how progeria can be fun, he can sit right the fuck down about what's a "despicable" movie.

  31. This whole thing was just so stupid.  Martin Scorsese isn't someone who I would expect to like the MCU movies. I only saw Endgame and tbh, I liked it just fine. Did it change my life or anything like that? No, but I enjoyed it. I also like the movies of Martin Scorsese a lot. Casino and Goodfellas are some of my favorite movies ever made and I think Gangs of Mew York is underrated. However while I like his movies I feel Bringing out the Dead was a rare misfire on his part. I don't hate it, as it was well made, but I don't feel the need to watch it again for any reason. But getting aside from that tangent, I don't think he said at any point people aren't allowed to enjoy these movies, I think people took it that way and are wrong about it.

  32. I mean I don't consider Marvel movies cinema. I just consider them Amusement Park attractions. Because honestly that's the kind experience people get out of them.

    * The Dust Settles *

  33. At the end of the day, it's just one person's opinion. I mean, I dislike Titanic or Frozen, but I'm not gonna pretend they don't exist or condemn others for enjoying them. It's all subjective and nothing more.

  34. Bob went pretty easy on the overly defensive Marvel fans here. I'd rather say this: whatever your favorite thing is, there's a ton of people out there who couldn't care less about it. Get over it.

  35. "James Gunn has never made a film worse than Gangs of New York."

    …so, you're just gonna forget about Super and Movie 43?

  36. Let's assume for a second that Martin Scorsese is right. The MCU ain't cinema. It ain't movies in the traditional sense. What would the MCU be?

    A series consisting of story arcs which take at least two hours and often much longer to resolve. A series with a meta plot, independ stand-alone episodes and the freedom to even change genres in between episodes. And naturally with a blockbuster budget and best viewed on a bombastic screen and epic sound system.
    And in that sense I think the old man yelling at cloud as a point. It's not cinema in that tradition sense. It's not making a point within 2-3 hours about something, even when plenty of MCU films do that as well. The MCU is still a series with 2-4 new episodes per year.

  37. I will walk you through any Marvel movie and show you just how simple and stupid they all are step by step, frame by fucking frame. I like superheros, I just very much dislike shitty writing. nothing wrong with liking the simple and stupid, I like the resident evil franchise and Yugioh but that doesn't make it high art. Its like buying a McDouble and claiming its good for you, no it isnt. People have opinions.

  38. Honestly I didn't even know this was news or that it even happened. I mean really, I can't believe this many people care about what one old man thinks as if its the end of the world. Everyone has a right to an opinion and no opinion in the history of existence is absolute fact. So, who cares.

  39. You should read his article. He actually makes good arguments about how marvel movies differ from other movies…

  40. You lost me at "as bad as Gangs of New York". Any word you say after such a sentence holds as much weight as the farts after a cheese burger.

  41. Liked what you said at the end. Not one for Marvel movies / modern blockbusters at all, but my difficulty with them has to do with ballooning budgets and an increased focus on spectacle over character and storytelling (commenters, spare me your screed about Tony Stark’s Christ-like character arc, I’ve heard it before). I think what I’m sensing is the lack of consequences, which Scorcese mentioned. We all know it’s a serialized thing, we all know it’s an expanding franchise, we all know these characters will always be around, in some form, or another, because we all know that nothing matters in comic books. Give it 10 years, they’ll just be rebooting everything again. How many Spider-Men and Batmen have there been now? This, to me, robs storytelling of its true humanity. Nothing truly matters in these comic book stories, nothing matters in any of these movies. And when comic book movies die, people will be crying, “Why don’t they make any more Spider-Men?” And their kids will answer, “Shut up, old man, we like fairy movies now.” And on and on.

  42. Funny that you call Scorsese opinion "appeal to authority" when the most of the MCU movies were brought and pay by the U. S. military. That fact alone should make you question the "plots" of those movies, don't take me wrong, I am huge comic book nerd, but the MCU movies are nothing more than military propaganda dressed as superheroes films.

  43. If it wasn’t for Marvel, half the movie theaters wouldn’t still be able to pay the rent. Scorsese is mad at the wrong people for the fact that his crime dramas are gonna be released on Netflix. Movie theaters that he knew and thrived in were of an era that didn’t have streaming and high quality home TV. And Coppola was director of Michael Jackson in Captain Eo, so fuck him. Even if Godfather is one of my favorite movies.

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