During the Oscars, Alfonso Cuaron's Netflix flick Roma made film history. Not because it forced a bunch of millionaires to notice a Mexican housekeeper, but because people now had to seriously consider whether movies produced by streaming sites can be just as powerful and artistic as those from the big traditional theater-based studios.
"Not on my watch," responded one of our most iconic directors, Steven Spielberg. He is now taking steps to make sure straight-to-streaming movies will never get a shot at Oscar glory again.
Like many grumpy cinematic geniuses, Spielberg doesn't bother to hide his hatred for how good Netflix is getting. But with the Oscar success of Roma, the director is now ready to launch his last crusade against this nemesis. As a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Spielberg wants to lead a discussion in April in order to convince the institute to no longer recognize Netflix movies. After all, the Oscars needs more cultural irrelevancy like it needs a host-shaped hole in its head.
So why is Netflix so bad? According to Spielberg's many rants in recent years, the streaming service is devaluing movies by changing the quintessential cinematic experience -- which isn't the least bit hypocritical coming from the man Alfred Hitchcock said forever changed the quintessential cinematic experience. Netflix immediately releasing its movies online lures people away from the theater, which is the only right way to watch movies. This is from the man who backed a company that wanted to deliver in-theater movies to your home for $50 a pop in 2016. After all, "there's nothing like going to a big dark theater with people you've never met before" continued the director ... who has spent millions of dollars on a private home cinema so exclusive it has a hidden entrance that only he has the key for.
But Spielberg does have a point. Under the current Academy rules, movies barely have to be shown in theaters (and only in LA) to qualify for awards consideration. That makes it far too easy for studios (like Netflix) to abuse the minimum requirements and snag some Oscar noms for a sweet marketing bump. And the director knows what he's talking about. After all, his movie The Post showed in only nine theaters for one week in 2017, which was all it needed for that precious Best Picture nomination a month later, by which time the movie was in wide release.
And that's the problem. It's not that we doubt Spielberg is trying to save the medium; it's that the way he does it makes him sound like a big ol' hypocrite who's defending an aging industry that's out of touch with audiences. That's why Netflix easily clapped back at the accusations, saying that just because people watch movies on their laptops doesn't mean they love cinema any less than theater-goers. Maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with them not wanting to spend 100 bucks on tickets and a babysitter just so they can drive for an hour to the nearest theater for the privilege of sitting in room full of nacho-eating a-holes and staring at a screen that's barely the quality of their own TV.
Times change. What once was the only way to watch movies is now part of a wide spectrum. And the man who once was the greatest example of the future of film is now the dude who made Ready Player One and is trying to stop further progress.
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