Netflix defends its impact on the movie business ahead of Oscars debate

Netflix did pretty well at this year’s Academy Awards, but it’s also facing pushback from some big names in the movie business.

“Roma” took home more high-profile Oscars (Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography) than any Netflix or streaming original before it. But it lost out to “Green Book” for Best Picture, a race where its association with Netflix may have hurt its chances — though it faced other obstacles, like the fact that the Academy has never given Best Picture to a foreign language film.

Now director Steven Spielberg is reportedly preparing to speak out against Netflix at the next meeting of the Academy’s Board of Governors.

It’s not entirely clear what Spielberg is proposing — the story in Variety said it was “unclear what specific rule changes he would advocate for,” while a more recent Hollywood Reporter piece suggests that he’s suggesting that movies be required to play exclusively in theaters for at least four weeks to be eligible for an Oscar.

Whatever the specifics of his plan, Spielberg has been open about his feelings on Netflix and awards before, arguing in an interview last year that Netflix original films were “TV movies” that should be up for Emmys, not Oscars.

The news has, perhaps inevitably, led to debate about Netflix’s impact on the movie business — for some, it’s time to trot out the “old man yells at cloud” meme, which in turn has prompted others to criticize the streaming company’s lackluster selection of movies (particularly older films), plus its resistance to putting its movies in theaters before they go live on Netflix.

Clearly, the discussion has gone beyond the Oscars themselves, tapping into broader anxiety about the threat that Netflix and streaming poses to the theatrical model. It’s the same anxiety that prompted the Cannes Film Festival to announce a rule that prevented Netflix films from competing (a rule the festival may be reconsidering), and that led the major theater chains to refuse to show “Roma,” even after it was nominated for 10 Oscars.

The debate has gotten Netflix’s attention too, with a tweet yesterday declaring, “We love cinema.” It goes on to argue that the service brings movies to people who can’t afford or don’t have access to movie theaters, gives everyone access to movies at the same time and gives filmmakers “more ways to share art.”

“Netflix, good or bad for the movies?” is an argument that isn’t going away anytime soon, and it’s far beyond the scope of this article to settle it.

I will say this, though: I’m glad Netflix financed “Roma,” but I’m also glad Netflix backed down from its initial, hard-line stance on theatrical releases — if only because I’ve seen “Roma” on the big screen, and that’s how it deserves to be watched.

I’m certainly glad that Netflix has helped movies like “Roma,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “The Meyerowitz Stories” and “Okja” get made. But if a little Spielbergian pressure means that the company gets more serious about releasing its movies in theaters, even better.

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Netflix’s ‘Roma’ wins three Oscars, including Best Director (but not Best Picture)

“Roma” took home three Academy Awards tonight — though not Best Picture, which went to “Green Book.”

Alfonso Cuarón did win an Oscar for directing the film. It was his second victory in the category, following his previous award for “Gravity.” And it marks the fifth time in six years that Best Director has gone to one of the “Three Amigos,” a trio of acclaimed Mexican directors that also includes Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Iñárritu.

“Roma” is based on Cuarón’s childhood in Mexico City, as told through the eyes of the family’s maid Cleo. It went into the night with 10 nominations, tying “The Favourite” for the most nods, so it seemed well-positioned to bring home the first Best Picture award for a streaming film (it would also have been the first for a foreign language film).

Despite losing out on the biggest prize, it won the awards for Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Film and Best Director.

“Being up here doesn’t get old,” Cuarón said as he took the stage for the third time. He went on to thank the Academy for recognizing “a film centered around an indigenous woman — one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, a character that had been historically relegated to the background in cinema.”

Netflix spent an estimated $25 to $30 million to campaign for “Roma” — a particularly impressive sum since the film cost $15 million to make. The company also dropped its previous insistence on simultaneously releasing films on streaming and in theaters. (Giving theaters just a few weeks of exclusivity still wasn’t enough to win over the major chains.)

While “Roma” was the big streaming success story for the night, Netflix’s “Period. End of Sentence.” won for Best Documentary (Short Subject). The streamer’s “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” also received three nominations, and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings took the stage to perform the movie’s Best Song contender “When The Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” though it didn’t win in any category.

Meanwhile, Hulu’s “Minding the Gap” was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, but lost to “Free Solo.”

Beyond the streaming news, “Black Panther” was the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Ultimately, it took home the awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. Also on the superhero front: “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” won for Best Animated Feature.

And since I’ve written about “First Man” — hey, it won for Best Visual Effects!

The awards were given out at a ceremony without a host, for only the second time in Oscar history. Instead of a monologue, there was a performance by Queen, then a montage highlighting all kinds of movies from the past year, then Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph came out to make a few host-style jokes before presenting the first award.

And how did I feel about the results? Well …

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‘Roma’ guides Netflix to best-ever BAFTA haul

‘Roma’ director Alfonso Cuarón

Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Netflix had its best year ever at the UK’s Oscars last night. The streaming service’s hot favourite Roma took home four BAFTAs, out of seven nominations, including Best Picture. Netflix’s only other candidate, the Coen Brothers’ western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, lost out to British comedy The Favourite in the costume design category. Until yesterday, the platform had only scooped a single film BAFTA back in 2016 when Ava DuVernay’s 13th won Best Documentary.

Roma also won Best Director and Best Cinematography for Alfonso Cuarón, and Best Film Not in the English Language. Amazon’s polish epic Cold War, which was also nominated in those categories along with Best Screenplay, went home empty handed. As a consolation, the film won the top award from the American Society of Cinematographers over the weekend, boosting its chances to repeat the trick at the Oscars, where it’s also up for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film. Roma, meanwhile, leads the pack with 10 Academy Award nominations.

For a moment there it looked like Roma‘s star was waning after it lost to Green Book at the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America awards, but its BAFTA tally puts it back on track for Oscars glory.

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The only place to watch Oscar-nominated 'Roma' online (for now) is this one site

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Set in 1970s Mexico and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Netflix-original
Set in 1970s Mexico and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Netflix-original “Roma” was among our favorite films of 2018.
Image: netflix

Netflix is notorious for doing the opposite of traditional film distribution — or at least they were, until they realized that awards would be involved if they debuted movies in cinemas for a few days.

And that was a damn good move: After playing in select theaters for a few weeks, Netflix original Roma has been nominated for 10 (yes, 10) Oscars including Best Picture and has tied with The Favourite for the film with the most nominations this year

Other nominations include Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Production Design, Achievement in Sound Editing, and Achievement in Sound Mixing. This is unheard of for a Netflix original.

Based on director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood, the black and white tearjerker brings to life the effects of political turmoil and scandalous relationships of a family in 1970s Mexico and was among our favorite films of 2018

Says Angie Han:

“What Roma understands is that the personal and political aren’t just inextricably intertwined, but one and the same; that every single detail or setting tells a story, if only you know how to listen; that the intimate can be epic, and vice versa. And despite being released by Netflix, it’s one of the greatest arguments this year for making the effort to actually go to the movies.”

It’s pretty much a masterpiece — even Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rare 96%.

Netflix is understandably proud and protective of their movie’s accomplishments — is it any surprise that they’re not letting you stream it anywhere other than Netflix?

If you don’t have a Netflix membership, you can sign up for a one-month free trial and cancel before it ends. (Although if you don’t have a Netflix membership right now, or — gasp — are mooching off of someone else’s account, then it’s time you became an adult and signed up for yourself.)

Netflix — watch it for free with a membership or free trial

Image: netflix

Netflix recently upped its prices to $9 per month for the basic plan, $13 per month for the standard two-screen option, and $16 per month for the premium with four screens and Ultra HD.

If you’ve never heard of Roma, it’s about time you did. Check out the trailer:

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The 2019 Oscar nominations are finally here

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“Roma” and “The Favourite” are top dogs this year with 10 nominations each. The other films nominated for best picture are “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “A Star Is Born,” “Vice” and “Green Book.” Read more…

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