I remember the surreal feeling of sitting at the theatre in late 2018, waiting for Roma to start, as I watched the opening credits and saw for the first time the Netflix Logo dance across the screen I could hardly believe that I was actually watching a Netflix original film–at the theatre. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma would eventually rock the 91st Academy Awards, thus changing the public opinion and opening a discussion about what qualifies a major film for a prestigious awards ceremony.
At the 91st Academy Awards Roma received 10 nominations, but ultimately brought home three awards for Best Director, Best Foreign Film, and Best Cinematography. No one expected this from a streaming service. Many believed, including Steven Spielberg that allowing a streaming service to submit a film to one of the most prestigious award ceremonies would devalue that very institution. Netflix had to prove that they were more than a streaming service and not just simply a “TV Network”. The issue here is that people thought Netflix films should be considered as a “made for TV Film” which in turn would make them ineligible for the Academy Awards. Now, this is not too far-fetched of a claim. Netflix only allowed a minimal amount of theatres to screen Roma and that was the issue. Cannes saw the successful lobby to ban any Netflix original films from entering their competition, moving Roma to the Venice film festival, where it did, in fact, win the highest accolade at the festival The Golden Lion.
Now Netflix’s biggest issue is allowing theatres across the country to screen their films. To be considered a legitimate contender in Hollywood, we run into an interesting issue where Netflix has to find a balance between having a successful run at the box office and still maintaining viewership on their streaming platform. This is a lot more complicated than just having Netflix push their films through a short theatrical release before releasing on their platform. I personally do not believe that discrediting a studio because of how they distribute a film is right. The entire point of film-making is to tell a story and the point of telling a story is to let people hear it, so I say let people hear it. Netflix is certainly not backing down from any criticism.
Netflix in 2019 proved to us that they support the art of film-making by providing us with some of the year’s best films. Such as IO, The Highwaymen, Triple Frontier, and Beats. Netflix even has films slated to be huge contenders in awards seasons with The Irishman, The Laundromat, Dolemite Is My Name, Marriage Story and The Two Popes.
In a recent interview about The Irishman on CBS Sunday Morning, Martin Scorsese says,
“It’s a whole new game out there, we don’t know where this is gonna go. The fact that this film is made by Netflix, they stepped up, no interference–None. Allowed us to experiment with the CGI.”
Not one studio was willing to give Martin Scorsese a chance. Netflix was the only studio to step forward and fund The Irishman, one of the highest-rated and most talked about films of the year. Netflix is taking massive risks to bring these sorts of films to the masses.
It is truly exciting to have original content right at our fingertips and I believe that Netflix has given much-needed competition to reinvigorate the film industry. Every so often someone comes along and disrupts the standard. We are witnessing a protest unfold, a new opportunity to improve the way we get our films. We should allow Netflix to compete at the highest caliber because they have proven that they are more than just a streaming service. They are actual purveyors and curators of art. So next time you get on Netflix, remember that we are privileged to be in a time where we can conveniently experience these beautiful pieces of art.