Steven Spielberg has a leading role. No, not in his latest blockbuster but in the anti-Netflix movement that has emerged amongst Hollywood elites as the major studios put forward their say on why original films for video-on-demand services should not be eligible for Academy Awards.
Netflix has had its fair share of big news recently, and the Oscar’s gave the online streaming service even more of long sought-after boost alongside some of the biggest names in the film world. Via a unique combination of theatrical manoeuvring, exceptional marketing and one of a kind ideas, Netflix had its very own nomination for Best Picture, with Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.
Admittedly Roma didn’t win Best Picture, but the nomination itself was a huge honour for the service, and one that recognised a new wave of cinematic appreciation. Cuarón did pick up the award for Best Director, and Netflix is certainly one to watch in terms of upcoming movie events and recognitions, but not everyone is happy about it.
The idea that Netflix creates real movies is still one that is causing mass controversy. Now, one of Hollywood’s very own auteurs has come forward to share his opinion on the matter, and according to Steven Spielberg, Netflix should never receive another Oscar nomination again.
Such resentments do not lie solely with Spielberg, but he is the man currently gunning for the service to be excluded for any Academy consideration. Or at least in its present form.
His comments are nothing new, and he has expressed previously that Netflix’s non-traditional methods of distribution mean its films can only qualify as “TV Movies” that would be fit for Emmy consideration but not the Oscars. Roma, however, was placed in theatres for three weeks before its release on the streaming site – so Netflix may have found a sneaky way around traditions and onto the red carpet. Again though, sneaky is not sitting so well with some of the big names.
Even with the theatre screenings, Spielberg doesn’t seem convinced Netflix has a place with the big dogs. He is expected to deliver his opinions on the matter and speak in favour of a rule change that would exclude films such as Roma, and services such as Netflix, from appearing at the grander events. This is to take place at next month’s Academy Governor’s Board Meeting, where he represents the Director’s branch for the Exclusive Body – a title that seems fitting given his name and status in the realms of cinema.
Complaints surrounding Netflix include the fact they have spent far much more on Oscars marketing this year than any other candidate. Which could determine an unfair advantage (but then again, it didn’t make them win). Reported numbers for marketing stand as high as $50 million. (To put this into perspective, even a more conservative $25 million would still stand at five times the amount Universal spent for Green Book, which could explain why people are deeming the money that little bit excessive.)
The second comes back to that fact that they do not run their films in theatres, except for the rare occasion. This causes some anguish by other studios, given that Netflix doesn’t license its movies to cinemas and instead rents them outright, meaning ticket sale profits go straight back the studio. Although this explains partly why they have so much money to spend on marketing, this means, amongst other things, that box office returns are not reported, as quite simply – they are not there.
Essentially, many people are getting upset and angry over just how much Netflix is spending and making, without bringing any of that back into the film industry, at least not in the traditional sense.
Spielberg is of course a dedicated, and much more traditional cinephile. That being said, he has an incredible amount of money himself, and this cannot be looked at simply as a financial dispute.
The reality remains that there is a basic and fundamental difference between visual media made for the cinema, and that made for the monitor at home. This is something we can all believe Spielberg has some strong feelings towards.
Not everyone agrees with Spielberg; Ava DuVernay, whose projects with Netflix have included the brilliant feature documentary, 13th, and upcoming series, When They See Us, has defended Netflix and asked for the Academy to offer filmmakers outside of traditions to be given a say at the next board meeting.
Whichever way the meeting may go, it is obvious that change is upon us. Netflix might still be finding itself in a New Kid on The Block kind of state that is looked down on by the older and more established studios who scoff at its operations, but it is definitely doing something right.
You only have to look at the success of Netflix, and of the films it is churning out (such as Roma) and the films it is giving a platform to (including a number of the best British films of 2018 such as Calibre, Annihilation and Apostle) to see that there needs to be some serious discussion surrounding change, and as with all changes, not everyone is going to be impressed.