Rewind your mind back to March 4th this year. Netflix, streaming giant extraordinaire and budding Movie studio, come into Oscar night with a real chance of taking home the Academy’s top prize. Alfonso Cuaron’s powerfully intimate semi-autobiographical hit ‘Roma’ had the entire weight and monetary power of the world’s biggest streaming service behind it throughout its awards run and was many people’s favourite to become the first foreign language film to snatch Best Picture.
Eventually losing out to Universal’s controversial winner ‘Green Book’, with many arguing ‘Roma’s award for best foreign film was the Academy fobbing off the Mexican drama, and whilst Cuaron winning for Best Director and the films multiple nominations did represent a huge step as the streamer morphs from streamer to studio, it’s no secret they are desperate to grab films most illustrious award.
Now, fast forward to the present day, as we sit in the middle of a jam-packed festival season as studios, including Netflix, draw up their strategies for this year’s awards run. A year in which it looks like Netflix will mount a three-pronged attack on Best Picture. Firstly in the shape of the highly anticipated Martin Scorsese mob thriller ‘The Irishman’, a film rife with acting royalty from Robert De Niro (working with Scorsese for the first time since 1995’s ‘Casino) to known collaborator Joe Pesci, and the great Al Pacino working with Scorsese for the first time. The film, which in itself would garner enough hype and anticipation, even if it wasn’t for the hugely mooted de-aging technology Scorsese has used on his stars for the films entire first half, will debut at the New York Film festival in a few weeks’ time, in which it is expected to have its Best picture credentials underlined.
The second head of Netflix’s three-headed dragon looking to fight its way to best picture glory is Noah Baumbach’s intensely powerful, and tragically comedic tale of divorce ‘Marriage Story’. Which, despite beginning the season as an underdog has received across the board acclaim following its festival debut in Venice, and subsequent screenings at Telluride and Toronto. The Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson led drama is also the only film heading to every festival this season. A sign of Netflix’s well-placed faith in a film currently sat at 95/100 on Metacritic and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Whilst their final shot comes in the form of Fernando Meirelles’ ‘The Two Popes’, which stars seasoned veterans Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Popes Benedict and Francis. A film which as well as having received highly positive reviews since its world premiere at Telluride, also (on paper) looks like incredibly enticing ‘Oscar bait’ for voters. However, ‘The Two Popes’ would still sit behind Netflix’s other hopefuls in terms of Best Picture chances at the moment.
But will they fall at their usual hurdle?
Following the company’s break down in negotiation with theatres, regarding a wide release for ‘The Irishman’, Scorsese’s probable epic will join Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’ and Meirelles’ ‘The Two Popes’ in debuting in limited release (in order to qualify for the Oscars) before being dropped on Netflix on November 27th, December 6th, and December 20th respectively.
This proved a contentious talking point last year following much debate over how Cuaron’s acclaimed ‘home-made’ story should be seen, with film-makers imploring audiences to find it on the big screen. This could yet again be a stumbling block for Netflix, as any Academy ‘purists’ may refuse to acknowledge them of deserving of a place at Hollywood’s top table.
Regardless of what happens, this season looks set to improve on the lacklustre 2018 season, as the field of Movies emerging this year look set to cause close races in many top tier categories, whilst Netflix’s three possible big hitters may face off against the likes of Todd Phillips’ Venice golden lion winning ‘Joker’, Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood’, Trey Edward Shults’ ‘Waves’, and the universally acclaimed ‘Parasite’ from ‘Snowpiercer’ director Bong-Joon Ho.