There really hasn't been a film like mother! that's riled people up in the same way.
It's split audiences in two - one half calling it a masterpiece, the other people hating it intensely - and its meaning and themes have been endlessly debated by those who've seen it and those who claim they have. What's also been interesting about mother! is the fallout from the film, i.e. its CinemaScore rating and how the box office returns have been less than stellar, and what that means for films like mother! in the future.
Do they even have a future? Will there continue to be films like it when so much is made of reviews and critical success? Martin Scorsese is no stranger to receiving both positive and negative reviews, and the same goes for commercial successes and failures - and he's more able to talk about it than anyone else.
In a guest column for THR, Scorsese made clear his feelings on both Rotten Tomatoes, CinemaScore and the effect it's having on the modern cinematic landscape. "Good films by real filmmakers aren't made to be decoded, consumed or instantly comprehended. They're not even made to be instantly liked."
"They're just made, because the person behind the camera had to make them. And as anyone familiar with the history of movies knows all too well, there a very long list of titles — The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo and Point Blank, to name just a few — that were rejected on first release and went on to become classics. Tomatometer ratings and Cinemascoregrades will be gone soon enough. Maybe they'll be muscled out by something even worse. Or maybe they'll fade away and dissolve in the light of a new spirit in film literacy. Meanwhile, passionately crafted pictures like mother! will continue to grow in our minds."
It's a fair point about films that were either ahead of their time or took time to grow in the minds of audiences, and the same could be true of Blade Runner 2049. The idea of instant gratification and the erosion of nuance is something that's having an effect everywhere - including how people interact with films.
The fact remains, however, that people like what they like and audiences rejecting films like mother! isn't necessarily the fault of CinemaScore. People can't hide from they like and don't like, and if literacy in films is something that's been slowly swept away, the fault is with the studios and their output.
At some point in the '90s, studios decided that they needed to make more and more money - and creating big blockbusters with huge potential for merchandising, home media sales, theme parks, licensing, and so on, was the way it was going to go about it. Audiences eagerly took them up because they were just that - crowd-pleasing, audience-friendly films and films that were inaccessible and unlikely to make money were kicked to the curb.
Taking issue with CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes - which isn't a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination - is like taking issue with a burning building while the arsonist who started the whole thing isn't even addressed.