Netflix just quietly stormed the Oscar nominations – has the Academy finally accepted streaming?

Take that, Steven Spielberg

Ricky Gervais hasn’t always been popular. Nor, to be honest, has he always been funny. But The Office creator did get one thing right last week when he chose to call out the Golden Globe Awards for their snobbish attitude towards streaming. “No one cares about movies anymore. No one goes to the cinema. Nobody watches network TV,” he said to an audience of Beverly Hills’ richest residents. “Everyone’s watching Netflix. This show should just be me coming out, going: ‘Well done Netflix! You win… everything! Good night.’

They’re not the only ones, either. This year’s Globes might have given the streaming platform just one award from 17 nominations, but Roma remains the only Netflix film ever to win an Oscar. If there was a prize for most backwards creative body, it would definitely go to the Academy – until now, it seems.

Announced this morning (January 13), the Oscar nominations 2020 saw Netflix quietly storm the shortlist with their best ever haul of 22 nods. That’s more than any other studio, even Sony and their big-hitting awards roster of Once Upon A Time… In HollywoodLittle Women and Pain & Glory. Never before has a production house dominated to such an extent.


Marriage Story review
Adam Driver enjoys a tender moment with Scarlett Johansson in Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’. Credit: Netflix

Of course, Netflix racked up 15 nominations last year – thanks largely to Alfonso Cuaron’s foreign language phenomenon – but the Martin Scorsese-led voting panel shut out its films in most categories. Scorsese has been fairly vocal about his dislike of streaming – even though his mob epic The Irishman literally just racked up 10 nominations for them – and the battle to define ‘cinema’ is still raging. In fact, another Hollywood heavyweight, Steven Spielberg recently went as far as to suggest that movies debuting on the streaming service concurrent with a very limited theatrical release shouldn’t be eligible for Oscars. He was, thankfully, ignored, but the views of these filmmaking dinosaurs has permeated the entire Academy. Hence the lack of golden statuettes in the bathrooms of Netflix HQ.

However, over the years, there has been improvement. After earning its first Oscar nod in 2014 for harrowing war doc The Square, Netflix has gradually taken a bigger piece of the pie. In 2015, there was another solitary nomination; 2016 gave them two; 2017, three; 2018, seven; in 2019 the number doubled to 15 and this year it’s jumped again. Logically, the number of wins should increase as well.

The Irishman
Robert De Niro in ‘The Irishman’ Credit: Netflix

Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach’s heartbreaking tale about a family splitting apart at the seams – is best-placed to dominate the acting categories (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern are all nominated), while Scorsese’s The Irishman seems certain to win big. The Two Popes has also helped them close out the Best Supporting Actor gong (three out of five nominees are Netflix talent). But the online giant has also done well in the smaller categories, the ones no one really cares about. Hand-drawn Christmas flick Klaus is up for Best Animated Feature, The Edge of Democracy is just one of three documentaries nominated and crusty pop icon Randy Newman has eked out yet another Original Score nod (he’s now on 15) for his melancholic Marriage Story soundtrack.

The Oscars have’t typically approached change with much enthusiasm – last year’s plans for a ‘Best Popular Film’ award were almost immediately scrapped. But if even Ricky Gervais – a man not usually known for his ability to read a room – has noticed what’s up, then maybe this really is the year Netflix gets what it deserves at the Oscars.

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