Netflix’s streaming TV prowess ebbs and flows, but what it really wants is to rule the Oscars. That latter goal, obviously, has proved more elusive, for as far as TV-focused awards nominations go, Netflix is now regularly stomping the competition, even surpassing HBO for Emmys nods and cleaning up with the Golden Globes this year. The Academy Awards have been harder to crack as a streaming service (largely due to the presumption that the Internet’s a cinematic dumping ground). So, Netflix has recently focused on producing and streaming what they hoped would be awards-quality fare (while giving these films limited theatrical releases), and that quest has finally paid off with Roma, which landed Netflix’s first Best Picture Oscar nomination on Tuesday morning.
This most-coveted nomination was actually one of film’s ten total Oscar noms, which also include the following: Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Foreign-Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Actress (Yalitza Aparicio), Best Supporting Actress (Marina de Tavira), Best Original Screenplay (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Production Design.
This isn’t Netflix’s first rodeo with the Academy, of course, given that Russian doping documentary Icarus (which is on our list of best documentaries on Netflix right now) landed the streamer’s first feature-length Oscar in 2018 (after a total of eight nominations, including four for Mudbound, for 2018). Still, Netflix intensified its game and poured a lot of dough into a massive Oscar campaign for Roma. The project, of course, hails from Gravity helmer Alfonso Cuarón, who fashioned the film as a love letter to 1970s Mexico. It’s a stunning, black-and-white masterpiece, and although some folks aren’t thrilled that not everyone’s able to watch the movie on the big screen, it’s still widely available, globally, to all of Netflix’s estimated 119 million subscribers at the touch of a button. That type of exposure should thrill the Academy, given that viewership for the Oscars telecast has become an annual source of ratings doom.
So clearly, there’s some symbiotic back scratching to be had because Netflix viewing numbers can only help the Oscars, even if there’s no way to predict whether Roma can actually win Best Picture. This year’s nominees range far and wide, both in subject matter and quality, including Black Panther (the category’s first superhero film) and critical outlier Bohemian Rhapsody, as well as BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, A Star Is Born, and Vice. No matter what, though, Netflix has now proven that it’s capable of being a serious Oscar contender. While the company’s business plan still looks unsustainable from an outside perspective — the streaming service’s latest across-the-board price hike wasn’t timed well in light of its recent flurry of TV series cancellations — they’re still making the boldest of moves that must be
Cuarón is celebrating, as he should, via his Twitter account.
One hiccup has occurred, given that Regal and AMC won’t be screening Roma as part of their annual Best Picture nominations lineups. While this could be viewed as pushback from theaters against Netflix (and regarding the customary 90-day screening window for eligibility), the following AMC statement details the reasoning, which reads like a licensing-based decision:
“For more than a decade, movie-lovers have enjoyed the AMC Best Picture Showcase to catch up on the nominated films that played at AMC throughout the prior year. This year, Academy members nominated a film that was never licensed to AMC to play in our theaters. As such, it is not included in the AMC Best Picture Showcase.”
Likewise, Regal has issued a statement about how Roma never played in its own theaters, and that’s why they won’t be including it in their lineup either:
“The Regal Best Picture Film Festival showcases the Best Picture nominees that played in our theatres in 2018. For that reason, Roma, a movie predominantly shown on TV, will not be included in our festival.”
Are AMC and Regal being a little petty toward Netflix? Even if the multiplexes do have a rule upon which to justify their calls, there’s still an obvious beef there.
The 91st Academy Awards air on ABC on February 24.