Debate: Netflix vs Oscars

March 25, 2019

 

This year’s Oscars were certainly eventful. First was the controversial choice to kick Kevin Hart off hosting because of old homophobic tweets, then was the announcement that they weren't actually going to have a host for the first time since what I like to term the “Rob Lowe travesty”. Mix that win with If Beale Street Could Talk being unrighteous shafted, Olivia Colman's emotional speech and the frankly egregious choice to crown The Green Book as the year's best film and The Oscars were quite the spectacle. And now, even though we thought it was over for another year, Steven Spielberg has brought up yet another controversy surrounding the award. Since Roma's success at the Oscars, Spielberg has declared he believes that Netflix films must also have at least a 4 week cinematic run to be eligible for an Oscar of any kind. This has split the industry and moviegoers alike right down the middle as to whether or not Spielberg is right. But who has the better case? Is his opinion snobbery or sanctity? You decide as you go over each side’s points.

 

For:

  • “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,”

This is a direct quote from the man himself, as he argues if you’ve made a film that – at best – is viewed on a TV screen, you’ve made a TV movie. This is important because in the rules for the Oscars, made for TV films are not eligible for awards. Why are Netflix films any different?

  • It’s damaging cinemas

This argument is an older one and was famously used by Christopher Nolan when he stated he would never make a film for Netflix or any other streaming service as he worries what it would mean for the future of cinemas and the movie going experience. However cinema ticket sales haven’t been declining since the rise of the Netflix movie, so perhaps this fear is unfounded, although only time will tell.

  • A film cannot be fully experienced on a laptop, TV or phone

A favourite argument of another director David Lynch as he was famously quoted as saying “if you watch a movie on your phone, you’ll never in a trillion years, experience the film”. I personally have found this to be of great importance. Suddenly, a horror film I had to walk out of in the cinema bored me senseless when I tried again on my laptop. Imagine watching Apocalypse Now, seeing the desecrated Vietnam landscape and being able to just look up and see a really awful picture of yourself your mum has framed for some godforsaken reason – takes you right out of it.

  • A truly good film can just get lost in it all

With a theatrical release, focus is given to the film, great, expensive attempts to get people to watch are made and there are several months of allotted time for them to be in an actual cinema. With Netflix, it’s put at the top of the page when you open the app in the sort of “hey, look, new thing” attempt to make you idly click on the film. I mean, there’s something truly tragic about being able to pause Roma mid-way through to watch The Kissing Booth instead. I myself don’t want to live in that world.

 

Against:

  • Films too risky for big budget releases are funded

As an outspoken fan of Sorry to Bother You, I waited frustratedly for the film to reach the UK, but because the immensely good social commentary comedy was an independent film too risky to be funded by any kind of big studio, I had to wait months. Netflix – because of the fact their money is made by easy clicks rather than tickets – is able to just churn out whatever (terrible crap or incredible indie films) and so funds some genuinely good films that are more accessible to a wider audience this has also led to a surge in the number of people seeing foreign language films.

  • Some people don’t have the time or money to go to the cinema

Not really anything to do with the academy per se, but if no one has seen the films that have been nominated, really what’s the point? Netflix cuts down on the expense of travel, tickets, parking, babysitting etc into a neat little £5.99 monthly payment, meaning more people are able to see the films it produces.

  • The Oscar judges only get screeners anyway

In case you didn’t know, screeners are DVDs sent to anyone that has anything to do with the film industry or judging films for awards, this is how most judges are able to see the films they want to nominate, and guess what: they pretty much just watch them on their TV anyway.

So, those are the points. For and against Spielberg’s proposition. What do you think? I personally side with good old Steve – I adore going to the cinema and I don’t want that to change, the whole experience makes it just so much better. And though I loved Roma, I did pause it to make a cup of tea.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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