Oscars and Golden Globes reflect change as technology reshapes how we view movies
PUBLISHED: 18:56 14 December 2018
The Oscar season starts here. This week a number of US critics awards feted Alfonso Cuaròn's Netflix movie Roma and The Golden Globes gave a hint at what films are likely to be this year's front-runners. But, Arts editor Andrew Clarke feels that there is change in the air
The Oscars may not be held until February 25 next year but with the announcement of The Golden Globe nominees and various critics awards, the movie awards season is now officially under way.
This year the talk is not only about who will win but rather who should win because, for the first time, in Oscar history, the question of eligibility has raised its head.
Technology has muddied the waters because not all films now play in cinemas. It’s something which first raised its head in April when Cannes refused to allow Netflix-funded movies in the prestigious festival because they were not going to be screened in French cinemas.
As a response Venice did allow Netflix to submit movies for competition screenings in September and were roundly criticised by Italian film industry when they awarded Alfonso Cuaròn’s Roma, a film only to be released on the subscription streaming service, it’s Golden Lion top prize.
All eyes will now be on The Oscars to see which way they will go after The Golden Globes have nominated Roma as a candidate for Best Picture. The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, also funded by Netflix, is also tipped for possible Oscar glory after it was also in the running for The Golden Lion at Venice.
As far as the UK is concerned Netflix is getting round the BAFTA eligibility rules by playing both Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs at selected Curzon cinemas in London for one week only so they will have had a proper public screening but one that will not affect their market value online.
This is a problem that needs sorting because it’s not something which is going to go away. As Hollywood becomes increasingly obsessed with superheroes and action-franchises, the smaller, independent, awards-friendly fare is increasingly likely to find a home online.
At last year’s Sundance Festival, where many independent movies find distribution deals, not one major studio picked up an award-winning feature film. It was online giants Netflix, Amazon and Hulu that scooped up the lot.
What is more worrying is that this discrimination is also forcing out foreign language films. It seems impossible now that a foreign language movie like Amelie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Cinema Paradiso could become a mainstream crossover hit – the cinematic infrastructure no longer seems to exist. Digital technology was supposed to make access to smaller releases easier because independent producers were no longer to required to spend thousands of pounds creating expensive 35mm film prints. Instead digital hard-drives could be copied for just a few quid and these sent around the country expanding the choice available to filmgoers. This hasn’t happened.
Independent cinemas, which we have several dotted across East Anglia – Ipswich Film Theatre; Cinema City, Norwich; Abbeygate, Bury St Edmunds; Woodbridge Riverside and Aldeburgh Cinema among others – are finding it increasingly difficult to come up with a programme that is very different from their mainstream counterparts.
The reason for this is that the independent and foreign language films are becoming increasingly scarce. As Netflix and Amazon finance more awards-season fodder and hoover up more independent films at festivals, then this theatrical film famine is only likely to get worse.
Cinema remains the best place to see a movie but I fear that future Oscar winners may only be available online. It would be nice to think that audiences could have a choice about where they see a film but that would require a commitment from the distributors themselves.
A glance at The Golden Globe nominees reveals that this year’s leading contenders are likely to be the Dick Cheney bio-pic Vice, starring Christian Bale, Sam Rockwell and Amy Adams; the A Star Is Born remake, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut which is likely to be in the running for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress for Lady Gaga and Alfonso Cuaròn’s Roma, a story of middle-class life in Mexico City during the 1970s. First Man, Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong bio-pic also expected to be a regular fixture on the awards circuit.
Other nominees likely to dominate the awards season are Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, along with Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in the dark comedy The Favourite, the magical Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Robert Redford could get a farewell award or two for his well-reviewed swansong Old Man and the Gun.
The fun starts here and goes on until the end of February. It’ll be one of the most interesting and unpredictable awards seasons of recent years. Watch this space – the drama’s not over yet.