If Netflix and other streaming platforms are looking for a big name Hollywood supporter in their corner, Steven Spielberg might not be the guy. While speaking with ITV’s Nina Nannar about Ready Player One and his forays into technology — not including his regret over digitally altering his old films — the interviewer hit on Netflix and the legendary director’s thoughts on streaming’s status in Hollywood.
While he is quick with praise and feels that television is thriving with quality, taking artistic chances that studios won’t take today in light of a secure franchise or big budget blockbuster. But he also sees that as a threat to film, joining with other prominent filmmakers like Christopher Nolan in disagreeing with the model of release they employ and the debate over their inclusion in awards conversations:
“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”
Spielberg feels that a film given “token qualifications” by having a release in cinemas for less than a week shouldn’t be up for awards consideration, a similar criticism made by those behind the Cannes film festival. These comments come on the heels of Cannes’ own decision not to allow films from Netflix or other streaming platforms compete unless they commit to a theatrical release — stemming from controversy over the selection of Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories in 2017. Cannes’ director Thierry Fremaux spoke with Variety about the rule and the reaction to 2017:
This rule was established last year. It’s now clear: Any film which is selected to compete will have to be released in theaters. Last year, I thought I could convince Netflix but they refused (to release films in theaters). That’s their economic model, and I respect it. But we are all about cinema and we wish to have films that play in competition get released in theaters. That’s the model of film lovers and Netflix must respect it as well…
Because in order for a film to become part of history, it must go through theaters, box office, the critics, the passion of cinephiles, awards campaigns, books, directories, filmographies. The collective discussion in cafes, in theaters, on the radio. All this is part of a tradition on which the history of film is based. Last year, in France, the films from Noah Baumbach and Bong Joon-ho sadly didn’t really exist. They got lost in the algorithms of Netflix. These films don’t belong to the psyche of film lovers
Fremaux did say that Netflix and others were welcome at Cannes outside of competition, adding that the discussion will continue and changes may come in the future. It really seems that this will be the debate going forward for the film industry over the next few years. While the quality of Netflix films definitely fluctuates, there are some like Mudbound, Beasts Of No Nation, and the others mentioned that should’ve received the same awards season hype that other films have.
It’ll take time to see if this will change, maybe around the time Spielberg actually directs a film that ends up premiering on Netflix.