This Is What Steven Spielberg Is Saying About Netflix And The Oscars

Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg is known for many things. But now, he’s being talked about not for one of his films, but for his stance against the Netflix platform. Many are objecting to Spielberg’s opinions regarding Oscar nominations for streaming platforms, as well as his proposed plan of action. Here’s what you need to know about the situation.

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Can Netflix films be nominated for Oscars?

Since Netflix began creating original content, the subject of what kinds of awards it is eligible for has been a discussion. In 2013, the series won its first Emmys for House of Cards — the same year that the platform received its first Oscar nomination for The Square in the Documentary Feature category. Oddly enough, it was also nominated for Emmys, as they were still trying to determine how to categorize Netflix original content.

While Documentary Features and Shorts on Netflix have received nods every year since, it wasn’t until last year’s Mudbound that the nominations began to spread into other categories, specifically those received for feature films. And in 2019, Netflix had a real player in the mix for the first time with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, which took home the Oscar in three of 10 nominated categories.

Here’s what Steven Spielberg is proposing

According to Spielberg, this is a threat to “the motion picture theatrical experience.” He, along with a group of Academy members, propose that in order for a film to eligible for an Oscar, it but have “an exclusive theatrical window of at least four weeks.” This is for “major Oscars” — likely referring to categories in which Roma was nominated, like Best Picture and Best Director.

He argued it is about the experience

While accepting a recent award, Spielberg said, “I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience. I’m a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever.”

Roma did spend time in the theaters. Netflix has typically shown its Oscar hopefuls in select theaters for a limited period of three weeks. However, with the upcoming Scorsese drama The Irishman, there are talks of a wider theatrical release.

Here’s why Spielberg is facing controversy for his opinions

There are several issues with Spielberg’s arguments. In a thread on Twitter, The Blacklist founder Franklin Leonard pointed out the discrepancies in the industry that have led to movements like Time’s Up and the 4% inclusion challenge. Spielberg comes from a place of privilege as a white man. As Leonard said Spielberg doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle to get a film made as a woman and/or person of color.

This also has to do with the “types” of movies nominated. Despite his status in Hollywood, Cuaron’s Roma may not have been made if it weren’t for Netflix. Critic Candice Frederick tweeted an article in which he spoke about the arguments of streaming services vs. theaters, in which he argued that the two should “work together.” As the quote below points out, black-and-white foreign language films, specifically those with no well-known actors, aren’t typical fare in mainstream theaters, and probably wouldn’t have received the acceptance or push that his movie did at Netflix.

More well-known voices also got in on the conversation. Academy-Award nominee Ava DuVernay was in agrees with the above comments, requesting that the Academy allow her and others who disagree with Spielberg to voice their concerns if the measure is considered.

Right now, this is simply an argument. However, with Spielberg’s influence in Hollywood, it will likely continue to be addressed. There may be change on the horizon for how the Academy views nominees on varying platforms, but hopefully it will remain inclusive across the board.

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