Power of the Streamer: How a Potential Oscar Win for Netflix Could Change the Film Industry

With each passing year, Netflix gets closer and closer to its quest for global entertainment dominance. And on Sunday, it might make history – setting a new standard for the streaming era – when its psychological cowboy drama, The power of the dogis vying for Best Picture and 11 other awards at the 94th Academy Awards.

Directed by Jane Campion, the film is the clear favorite for the top prize of the night, having won numerous Guild and Critics’ awards this season. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a charismatic cowboy whose torment of his brother’s wife (Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst) and eccentric son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is part of a delicate facade. of masculinity.

“I knew it was special, but I didn’t know, you know, how other people were going to react to it,” said Smit-McPhee, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

“And I guess that’s our mission as storytellers, is to try to convey that intimate feeling that we have with something in front of us on the page and in the world.”

WATCH | The Oscar-nominated producer discusses The power of the dog:

“Cinema becomes more accessible”

Roger Frappier, the Montreal producer of The Power of the Dog, tells CBC News what it was like to collaborate with Netflix and how streamers have changed the cinematic experience. 1:28

Netflix, as with past awards seasons, isn’t the only streamer on the ballot (just the most prolific, having nabbed 27 nominations across all categories, including a second best picture nomination for climate satire Don’t look up). Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus are all in the running.

But a big win for The power of the dog could open the floodgates, allowing streamers to take their place in an industry that has historically given them a cold reception.

“The habits of the spectator have changed”

It’s been a long journey to respectability for Netflix.

Its distribution model upended traditional ways of filmmaking in the early 2010s, with critics pointing to the streaming giant as a symbol of TV’s encroachment on cinema. It slowly lost that reputation through a slew of Academy Award nominations and collaborations with high-profile directors.

Cumberbatch is pictured with co-star Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog. The film is directed by Jane Campion, a former Oscar nominee for her 1993 romance The Piano. (TIFF)

The pandemic has forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make eligibility concessions that were previously a headache for streaming companies. For the second year, films can to jump a theatrical release and still eligible for the Oscars. It’s only fitting that streamers dominate categories in a year when many have been watching movies from the comfort of their homes.

“When we met Netflix in Cannes three years ago — because we had other offers, and we went with Netflix — they said they wanted to go with it. The power of the dog what they did for Rome“, said Roger Frappier, the Montreal producer behind the power of the dog.

WATCH | The psychological drama trailer The power of the dog:

Netflix’s past top picture contenders include Rome, The Irishman, The Trial of the Chicago Seven and Faded away. Rome, a black-and-white arthouse film about a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City, was the top-rated film of 2019 — but no cigar. He was defeated by road trip drama green book.

“When we… accepted Netflix, we had no idea the pandemic would precede us,” Frappier said.

“And during the pandemic, viewer habits have changed.”

Upon its release, The power of the dog took the top spot in Netflix’s global top 10.

“I have read in so many [periods] in my life, in the 70s and 80s, the 90s, the 20th century, this cinema was dying because of VHS, because of DVD, because of streaming,” Frappier said.

“No… cinema is becoming more accessible. »

The industry veteran has produced former Oscar nominees Jesus of Montreal and The Decline of the American Empireboth by Quebecois director Denys Arcand.

“I think people increasingly understand that this is the new way cinema will be made and received.”

Netflix rewards campaigns as a turndown for some voters

Some academy members may be reluctant to award the top prize to a studio that wants it “too much”, according to Clayton Davis, the awards editor for Variety magazine.

“I remember a conversation I had last year with an academy voter, and a lot of people felt that Netflix is ​​spending too much money on rewards campaigns and, in essence, trying, in quotes, to buy their best pictures,” Davis said. .

From left, directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas pose with Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos at the American Film Institute’s tribute to John Williams on June 9, 2016 in Los Angeles. Sarandos defended the company’s stance of simultaneously streaming and releasing its films in theaters. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Netflix executives have been transparent about the company’s hunger for Oscar nominations.

“We all want to be recognized by our peers as the best in our class,” Scott Stuber, director of Netflix film, told The Wall Street Journal. Last year.

CEO Ted Sarandos has defended the company’s stance to simultaneously stream and release its films in theaters, forgoing exclusive theatrical release on which legacy industry bodies like the Cannes Film Festival and the academy had previously insisted.

Sarandos said in a 2017 interview with vanity lounge that the academy should celebrate the art of filmmaking, not the art of distribution.

In 2020, esteemed industry insiders that Netflix spent US$70 million on its rewards marketing, a conservative guess that still blows traditional distributors. Smaller studios are relying on grassroots campaigns to make a dent in the Oscar race, Davis said.

Dark Horse Competitor

“I think the resistance that [Netflix] was quite significant,” said Radhika Seth, film and culture editor at British vogue.

“And I think if they were to finally cross that threshold, that means more Netflix movies and more movies from other streaming platforms would also get those awards.”

CODA is a dark horse in the running for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. The family comedy-drama follows a child of deaf adults, Ruby, as she questions whether pursuing her love of music would violate her family obligations. (AppleTV+)

But a surprise dark horse contestant rose to the occasion: a family comedy-drama CODA, about the only hearing child in a deaf family, was distributed by Netflix’s brave rivals on Apple TV Plus. Her understated style and feel-good story resonated.

The Oscars use ranked ballots, where voters rank their top picks for best picture. As such, The power of the dog will have tons of votes at the top of the leaderboard, but just as many in the bottom percentile, Davis said. CODA could be advantaged by obtaining a majority of votes in second and third places.

“After all this Netflix talk, if Apple TV plus became the first streamer to win the Best Picture Oscar…would that be amazing?” Seth said.

WATCH | The trailer for the three-time Oscar nominee CODA:

From Wednesday, CODA was listed as the top pick for best picture on Gold Derby, an awards prediction website.

Davis agreed that an Apple TV win is a possibility.

“Who would have thought – not me – that Apple could be the first to do this?” He asked.

“It really has a very good chance because, again, with the preferential ballot, it’s not about what’s most liked, it’s about what’s most liked.”