Netflix and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” will be nominated for Best Picture come next year's Oscars. You can put it in the bank. Nothing is going to stop this film on its tracks to nabbing a nomination. It's the only film so far this fall festival season (Venice and Telluride) that feels like it has earned the distinction of being called a "masterpiece."
Netflix has tried hard, very hard, to insert themselves into the Oscar game these last few years. Last year they almost squeezed in a nomination for Dee Rees' "Mudbound," and in 2015 Cary Fukanaga's “Beasts of No Nation”was met with Oscar buzz at Telluride only to fall flat come Oscar nomination day. However, a new era is upon us and "Roma" seems unstoppable. It was, far and away, the most heavily praised film at Telluride and Venice, and will likely garner the same kind of approval at TIFF next week.
Think about it, an Academy, heavily criticized for pandering to the masses with their idiotic "Popular" film category, deciding to honor an artsy film from Mexico that is set to be released via streaming. Unheard of! As we slowly head towards a complete monopoly of the Hollywood blockbuster by Disney, Netflix is starting to look more and more like the savior of well-made adult dramas. I can see a future where half, or more, of the Best Picture nominees are Netflix originals. You can call this the start of a new era for American cinema.
Netflix will be legitimizing itself as a major studio in the next few months when its fall lineup is released, one by one, like a staggering domino-effect that's about to take over the industry. Who knows, maybe crashing the Oscar game could help and push other major studios to step up their game and actually produce more original, adult-driven content instead of the money-hungry, franchise-obsessed mindset that is currently running rampant in almost every major exec's head — Or the opposite could happen.
The Netflix model for movies could fit perfectly with audiences that have already made the switch from movie theater to the comfort of their own living room. After all, why dish out $20 for a ticket, another $20 for parking, another $20 for popcorn and drinks. The thought of staying at home and watching streaming content could spare mature, respectful audiences of the bozos invading multiplexes that would rather talk and text during a film. Why would anybody in their right mind want to deal with all that trouble when they could just sit back, relax and have an enjoyable experience at the comfort of their own television set.
Netflix has convinced some of the most important Hollywood filmmakers to make the jump to the small screen. After all, Hollywood executives from the other major studios have all but killed the idea of giving highly talented directors the room for creative freedom.
Take for example the case of the Coen brothers. Later this fall, Joel and Ethan Cohen will be giving us their anthology Western "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs." The creative freedom Netflix afforded them was so flexible that, although they had originally envisioned "Scruggs" as a six-part mini-series, they have decided, with the full backing of the streaming giant, to turn it into a 132-minute, feature-length film. "Scruggs"premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier this week and is set to be released via streaming in November.
Want some icing on that cake? How about Netflix nabbing the rights to the most anticipated film of 2019: Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman." It's been 25 years since Scorsese/De Niro teamed up for a movie (1995's "Casino") but during that time the director/actor behind such classics as "Goodfellas," 'Taxi Driver," The King of Comedy" and "Mean Streets" have seen their work age like fine wine and become the stuff of legend, with even millennials jumping onboard and taking great affinity to the staggering body of work these two artists concocted in their 3+ decades of work together. The $200 Million budget afforded by Netflix to Scorsese for the film is unheard of, with Scorsese even admitting that there was no way this could receive a green light from any of the major Hollywood studios.
It's not just Scorsese, the Coens, and Cuaron, but also other high-level directors such as Paul Greengrass, Jeremy Saulnier, David McKenzie, Noah Baumbach, J.C. Chandor, Andrew Dominik, and even, beyond the grave, Orson Welles that will be releasing Netflix original movies in the next few months.
And so, I stress again, with all the facts that we now have in front of us, the word that needs to be used when it comes to Netflix, Oscar and cinema is "legitimization." Those unwilling to accept that a Netflix movie should be counted as a real movie, one that is gunning for credible awards contention, will get a major wakeup call these next few months.