Almost buried by the attention surrounding The Slap at the Oscars was a historic first: a streaming movie won best picture, taking Hollywood’s top prize to legacy studios that have long ruled the town.
If it hadn’t been for Will Smith taking the stage and punching out Chris Rock, Best Picture win for Apple TV+ “CODA” would have been the talk of Tinseltown since the Oscars.
“There was clearly going to be a streaming service break through that barrier. And I think that’s a significant break,” said Kendall Phillips, a Syracuse University professor who specializes in pop culture.
“I think it’s going to open up a much wider set of films to be taken more seriously by Academy voters.”
For months before the ceremony at the Dolby Theater, streaming maturity seemed to be the main storyline for the 2022 Oscars.
The smart money for best picture was initially on the artsy western “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s brooding meditation on toxic masculinity.
The film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a sexually repressed cowboy, was a Netflix title that the streamer – the biggest player on the small screen – had spent big on promoting as he chased the seal of fame. Hollywood’s ultimate endorsement.
But a late push from “CODA” as audiences warmed to its charming cast of lovable characters — and its hopeful message of a deaf family overcoming adversity — propelled it into the top spot.
– Money – Streaming services first burst into Hollywood’s top awards in 2017, when Amazon’s ‘Manchester by the Sea’ earned a Best Picture nomination.
He lost to “Moonlight”, at the ceremony where “La La Land” was briefly and incorrectly announced as the winner of the year.
Netflix now has a growing stable of Best Picture nominations, including “Roma,” “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “Mank,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Don’t Look Up.”
Over the past three years, Netflix has landed the most Oscar nominations of any distributor. This year alone it had 27, although it only won one – best director for Campion.
Apple TV+, on the other hand, received its first-ever Oscar nomination last year, and this year picked up three wins out of six nods.
Business headline Variety reported that Apple spent more than $10 million on its Oscars campaign, about as much as it cost to create “CODA.”
Netflix has spent big on its bid for Oscar fame – Los Angeles has been awash for months with ads inflating its price.
For some in the industry, all that money being spent was a little hard to swallow.
“Everywhere you drive in LA you’re met with a billboard saying it’s ‘Best Picture of the Year,'” an unnamed director told Indiewire.
“If anyone is to blame for the pushback, it’s Netflix itself that pushed the film really hard.”
– Modern Day Medici – Some members of the Academy have informally complained that they can’t vote for a streaming movie due to a general distaste for the upstart format.
For starters, there’s a nostalgia for the medium.
Many filmmakers lament the lonely experience of watching on a small screen at home, and speak warmly of the joy of being in a dark cinema with dozens of other moviegoers.
Kevin Costner emerged at the Oscars to award best director with an elegy to the art form (and some of the most eloquent speeches of the night).
“Before, I too was a boy, in that magic castle of history and narrative, my seat there in the flickering darkness of imagination…projected ghosts painting portraits of past poets “, he waxed.
But, says Phillips of Syracuse University, audiences ultimately care about content — and streamers are up to the task.
“It is increasingly difficult to determine where [a film is] coming, whether it’s a streaming service production or a big studio production. Those lines have probably faded forever,” he said.
Audiences who went to see “CODA” during its limited run in theaters didn’t care who did, he said.
“That boundary, where one side is the cinematic experience and the other side is the home streaming experience, I think that boundary will probably never be reestablished, at least as it was, for many decades. “
Increasingly, the filmmakers themselves care less about the distinction.
“Netflix isn’t what I would have wanted historically, but they’re kind of like the Medici of our time,” Campion told the Los Angeles Times last year, referring to the wealthy patrons who funded many of the the most famous pieces of the Renaissance. art.
“People at the top love cinema, they want to see good things. When you have a lot of money, beauty matters.”