Due to the on-going Coronavirus pandemic, cinemas have been forced to close for the past year. Many are still closed or have had to shut permanently. Most people thought that with cinemas shut down for many months, that there would not be an Oscars ceremony this year. Yet, as per the tradition in Hollywood, the show must go on.
With the Oscars ceremony now scheduled for April 25th instead of the usual date in February, the deadline for the studio’s awards contenders to qualify has been pushed to February 28th, meaning that some 2021 films are eligible for Academy Awards; some of these films are Netflix’s “Pieces of a Woman” (released January 7th) & “Malcolm and Marie” (scheduled to be released February 5th). Warner Bros. has “Judas and the Black Messiah” (scheduled for February 12th). A24 has their festival hit film “Minari” (coming February 12th). STX Entertainment is rolling out “The Mauritanian” (on February 19th) and finally, Searchlight Pictures’ has the current frontrunner, “Nomadland,” coming on February 19th.
Some of these movies, such as “The Mauritanian” are having traditional theatrical releases, meaning that they will be playing in cinemas only, while Warner Bros.’ “Judas and the Black Messiah” will be playing in cinemas and on HBO Max, which means that audiences will be able to see it in a cinema or on the streaming service. However, titles on Netflix are exclusive to their streaming service. Some of their latest features that have not had a limited theatrical release have only been able to stream via their streaming platform. My question is the same as it’s been since Netflix, in particular, got into the Oscar game with “Mudbound” in 2017…Can a streaming film win Best Picture at the Oscars without a traditional theatrical release?
With many people believing that “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) or “Nomadland” (Searchlight) will become our next Best Picture Oscar winner, the conversation starts to narrow down to which one is more likely to win? “The Trial of the Chicago 7” has been a critically applauded movie, along with audiences praising its fantastic writing and more crowd-pleasing nature. “Nomadland,” on the other hand, has not been widely seen yet but has been sweeping the critics’ awards throughout the past few weeks. Because “Nomadland” is having a more traditional theatrical release than what “The Trial of the Chicago 7” had, maybe that could give it the edge for traditional Academy voters over Aaron Sorkin’s latest film?
Lots of audience members were adamant that either “The Trial of the Chicago 7” or David Fincher’s “Mank” (both Netflix Originals) would take home the Best Picture Oscar award early in the season due to to “The Trial Of The Chicago 7’s” somewhat light-hearted tone and politically timeliness or “Mank’s” homage to 1930’s Hollywood (Hollywood can’t resist a film about themselves) and overall adoration for director David Fincher. However, both have lost significant buzz over these past few weeks after critics have opted to go for different movies instead. Will the Academy follow suit? If the past few year’s Academy Awards has shown us anything, it is that the Academy could be slightly biased against streaming movies. Last year’s “The Irishman” failed to take home a single Oscar and Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece, “Roma,” failed to win Best Picture over the controversial “Green Book” the year before.
But, in a year when distributors have sold a lot of their movies to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Hulu, maybe this is the year where a streaming movie could sweep the ceremony and certain prestige films with a traditional theatrical release could lose out due to a lack of box office revenue because of the pandemic. It may sound old-fashioned to suggest that a lack of box-office will make a film look like a perceived loser in voters’ minds (yes, even during a pandemic) but that is still another possibility. Such a flawed way of thinking will at least level the playing field in a year where the box office truly doesn’t matter and voters will have to judge a movie not based on whether or not it is a success for the industry but whether or not it is actually a good movie.
This is just me theorizing and predicting what could happen in April at the Oscars 2021 ceremony. Netflix, in particular, has been building steady momentum over the last few years with the Academy and the industry as a whole. In a year where most of us had nothing to do while cinemas were closed except stay inside and watch Netflix, you have to believe that will play a factor when an Academy voter is deciding on the best of the year. But, if you ask me, I can still see a theatrically released film taking home the Best Picture award because the Academy has always supported the theatrical experience and may not be ready yet to embrace a “streaming takeover” of the industry, even though let’s be honest, it’s already happened. So, I could see a film like “Judas and the Black Messiah” or “Nomadland” taking home Best Picture instead of films like “The Trial of the Chicago 7” or “One Night in Miami.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.
You can follow Charlie and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @McGivernC_