With 24 nominations, the highest for any studio at this year’s Academy Awards, Netflix seems to have won the latest round of the battle with the Oscars.
The tech giant has always been seen as an outsider by the traditional powers-that-be of Hollywood, and has also been at the receiving end of film festivals and awards ceremonies, in terms of the conversation around its legitimacy. In fact, it’s hard to believe that only a few months ago, Netflix failed to reach a compromise with the world’s most famous film festival, Cannes, and had to take The Irishman elsewhere.
Today, the same film, with ten nominations including best picture, director, cinematography, and two supporting actors for screen legends Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, is not only leading the studio’s Oscars attack but could also well the one that changes the rules of games.
Ever since Netflix’s foray into film production, the standard Hollywood template — studios produce films; festivals and awards honour them — has been under threat.
For a tech giant to change the distribution platform, where multi-million dollar productions are beamed right into living rooms, was nothing less than a war cry. As a result, old-world cinema tried to create hurdles for the likes of Netflix and Amazon to get a seat at the high table.
To their credit, online streaming platforms have infact commissioned theatrical releases for their films for a brief period to comply with the norms for awards. Netflix’s Roma, a film helmed by Academy Award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón, was meant to be its ticket to the A-list as far as awards and festival went. But the way Roma was snubbed first by Cannes film Festival, which refused to enter it in competition, and later the tirade launched by Steven Spielberg post-Oscars 2019 — where, as an Academy governor, he reportedly wanted to change Academy rules so that films released by streamers needed to adhere to tougher guidelines — only suggested that things wouldn’t change so fast.
Netflix financing Roma and later bankrolling Martin Scorsese’s long-in-the-making epic, The Irishman (with a budget that was more than $100 millio), has earned it the respect among the filmmaking community. Similarly, had the allegations made by Dylan Farrow not marred the reputation of Woody Allen, Amazon’s investment in the auteur, too, would have shook things up.
Netflix recently took over the lease of New York’s iconic movie theatre, The Paris, in November 2019, to screen its films. The movie that Netflix screened was Marriage Story, which has garnered six nominations at the Academy Awards.
There’s no doubt that Netflix has redefined entertainment, and the question of whether it is a major player when it comes to “film” and “filmmakers” has long been answered. This, even at a time when their original slate is being questioned in India. The sheer drop in the quality of Netflix originals has been more conspicuous (read: Drive). The second season of Sacred Games was a definite letdown, and even the lead actor Saif Ali Khan expressed his displeasure at the graph of the show. Shows like Leila and Bard of Blood could not rekindle the euphoria that Sacred Games managed. It’s latest Ghost Stories, a series of four short films made by filmmakers Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, too, failed to live up to expectations.
Nonetheless, Netflix is here to stay and grow even more than it already has, permeating pop culture like no other tech giant before.
Unless Sam Mendes’ 1917 or Todd Phillips’ The Joker beats the others, the chances of the Academy acknowledging a Netflix film as the best picture are quite high with The Irishman and Marriage Story being frontrunners. For Netflix, more than critical acclaim, it’s now about the glory. The opposite paths undertaken by old-school Hollywood and the streamers were meant to bump into each other. But it’s going to get increasingly difficult to ignore Netflix in 2020.
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Updated Date: Jan 14, 2020 16:03:54 IST