Spielberg VS. Netflix

Over the past few days Steven Spielberg is basically the real life version of Clint Eastwood’s character from Gran Torino, just pissed off at the world for being the way it is. As I’m sure some of you know Netflix had its first real Oscar contender this year with Roma. The film was directed by Alfonso Cuaron and was the streaming service’s first real threat to win Best Picture. It did end up losing to Green Book but it did take the Best Director win. I saw the movie about two weeks ago I think it was worthy of the attention it got. I think its actually the only non-English film I’ve ever watched.

However it appears that Steven Spielberg isn’t fond of films that are considered “Netflix originals” and he thinks that they should be removed from contention at the Academy awards and be eligible for Emmys instead. Whether its fair or not “TV films” are less respected than theatrically released films and an Emmy winner is no as prestigious as an Oscar winner.

Netflix did catch on to people disregarding their films because of their platform and decided to give Roma a small run in theaters, which as enough to get it the attention it deserved. Obviously, being able to experience the film in a theatre is a far more powerful experience than it would be on a computer or tablet screen on Netflix. I watched Roma on my computer and the cinematography was definitely worthy of seeing on a big screen if you could manage it, but unfortunately I didn’t have the option.

I can see where Spielberg is coming from in his thinking. He seems to want to preserve the theater experience, which is a good thing, but this is not the way to do it. I don’t think you can think of the Netflix films as “lesser” because of how they are released. Sure, a lot of the Netflix movies suck, but they have improved, and they have Spielberg’s friend Martin Scorsese’s new movie The Irishman coming out later in the year with Oscar attention expected. They also caught a pretty big fish this year with the Coen brothers making The Ballad of Buster Scruggs too. Netflix has been able to attract strong directors because they seem more willing to let them make films they want to make than the studios are because there is so much more money at stake with a theatrical movie. Netflix doesn’t seem to interfere with the filmmaker as much.

Spielberg himself hardly has to worry about this. He’s so fucking rich that he could probably fund a large blockbuster himself, but he’s also one of those people in the film industry that’s words have a bit more weight because of the nearly 50 years of success he’s had. He also may have taken for granted just how hard it is for some talented people to get their film made. It could also be that Spielberg is a bit pissed that Roma was such a rival of Green Book during awards season. While Spielberg was no a producer himself his production company Amblin was. Hey, I love Spielberg as much as the next guy and this debate is a bit of a gray era. There is no right or wrong here, I just don’t think trying to vote Netflix off the island is a good way to handle this.

If Spielberg wants to keep theaters relevant he’ll have to go about it another way instead of bashing Netflix. Honestly I sort of respect Netflix for holding studios and theaters accountable. People aren’t just going to go to the theater for any old garbage now, especially with the prices of movies these days. A trip to the theater for a family can hit close to $100 dollars now. For me personally I’ve probably spent $50 bucks for just myself by the time I account for the gas it took me to get there. Sometimes Netflix is able to give a box office bomb a second wind on their service.

So, maybe streaming platforms will motivate studios to make better films and be more creative with their marketing in order to get people in seats. It’ll be a shame if these platforms result in the death of the theater, but it’ll be because of their own stubbornness and not Netflix in my opinion. If Netflix didn’t exist these studios and filmmakers would be complaining about piracy instead. Netflix is the most convenient option right now, if they want to stay alive they have to find a way to keep themselves alive.

Is Spielberg right? Should Netflix be eligible for Oscars? Netflix did comment about this dilemma on Twitter today.