Netflix Comes For The Oscars

When looking at the trajectory of Oscar season films, one wouldn’t have expected its top contenders be ones you can watch from home.

But, as for most things in 2019, the expected has rarely come to pass. In the wake of the 2020 Golden Globe nominations, an early look at the eventual Oscars list, Netflix’s The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes have strongarmed the categories, leaving the service with the likely odds of securing the much-coveted gold.

That’s particularly due to a strong slate. The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating mob film, was bought by Netflix in 2017 after financing disputes left the project on the rocks. A reported $159 million later, the film has been hailed as the director’s best in years and shot him toward the top of the Oscar race. 

Same is true with Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, which has earned universal praise (including a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator) and top acting nods for stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver and Laura Dern. It’s the director’s second film after 2017’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), though the first to have achieved the level of relevancy it has.

Much has been made, however, on whether that slate will be able to push Netflix across the finish line. Last year, the service had a rising star in Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s partly-autobiographical story that went on to win three Academy Awards. However, despite critical acclaim and the largest share of nominations, the film couldn’t latch onto the top prize of Best Picture. That is largely due to industry sentiment that, as a streaming service, Netflix films don’t hold the same weight as those shown in a cinema.

It’s a debate that has taken over the industry, with each responding to it differently. Netflix has moved to showcase their films in theaters in select cities to meet the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ guidelines, though they’re usually far and few between. Amazon Studios, the production arm of the shopping company, pushes their films out in theaters first before shifting them to Prime Instant Video, with its biggest successes including Manchester By The Sea (six nominations; won two) and The Big Sick (one nomination).

The answer to those questions remain to be seen. The service has already made much headway in the preliminary offerings, with actors from all three of its films garnering guild nominations and the movies consistently regarded as best of the year. Whether that turns into Oscar gold remains a mystery.