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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 10:52am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

The Streamies!
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 12:41pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I think at one point it made sense to distinguish between TV and movies, but with some TV series costing several millions of dollars an episode and big-name movie stars and directors pursuing projects on prestige series on networks like HBO and AMC, the differences between a theatrical movie and TV are much smaller. 
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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 4:22pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Seriously, on the surface, John Byrne is right, I barely even see where any debate comes from. Netflix, and Amazon, and the other streaming surfaces, are television outlets. So they're not "Oscar" material, no matter how much is spent on them. They're candidates for Emmys. Case closed.

Apparently they also count as web outlets, which makes sense since a lot of people stream them online, so they are also eligible for "Webbies", but, again, not Oscars. And I don't see why there would be this push to say otherwise. But then, admittedly, I don't particularly care about The Oscars. I understand the "prestige" that many folks feel they have, but it's not something that effects my enjoyment, or lack thereof, of any film, filmmaker, or actor.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 5:05pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I barely even see where any debate comes from. 

——

The debate stems from the fact that the Academy has a rule on what films qualify for the Oscars, the Netflix films MEET that rule, and Spielberg’s argument says they shouldn’t count despite meeting that rule “because Netflix”. If the Academy wants to make a rule disqualifying Netflix films for some reason, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t understand how anyone can argue that a film that qualifies under the current rules should be exempted.
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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 5:21pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

 Michael Roberts wrote:
The debate stems from the fact that the Academy has a rule on what films qualify for the Oscars, the Netflix films MEET that rule, and Spielberg’s argument says they shouldn’t count despite meeting that rule “because Netflix”


They do?!?

I was under the impression that only films (and documentaries) with theatrical releases (even if it's just shown once in some theater) were eligible for Oscars, and that Spielberg was just saying that there's no reason to change that, and let Netflix productions be eligible from this point, just because some people think some productions are worth it. I
f that's not the case then nevermind then i take it all back. My bad.


Edited by Jabari Lamar on 27 March 2018 at 5:21pm
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 5:46pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Jabari, Netflix have been showing their films in theatres in order to qualify for Oscar consideration. Hence their consideration...

Spielberg's argument is not "because Netflix". It goes down to the heart of what the Oscars are for and what they are there to stimulate/motivate and the spirit, not the letter of the rules.

It's somewhat analogous to the controversy surrounding Bradley Wiggins, the Team Sky cycling team and the use of TUEs. That dispute revolves around staying within the margin of the rules, but clearly not following the spirit of the competition.

That is what I would argue is happening with Netflix, where they follow the rules just enough in order to gain the exposure of the award with the sole intent of getting more TV and web eyeballs, but with zero intent to provide a theatrical experience to pretty much anyone.

Yes, there are similarities with Indie films that do just enough to gain eligibility... except they do so with the hopes of getting more bums on seats in theatres somewhere down the line.

Anyway, as I said earlier, the Academy should just close the loophole by amending the rules.






Edited by Peter Martin on 27 March 2018 at 5:46pm
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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 6:06pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Eh. Now I feel like I have to repeat what I said before, except for the other side. As in, I barely even see where the debate come from. If these Netflix productions follow the same rules that have been in place for decades to get eligible for Oscar nominations, then so be it. They're eligible. Case closed.

Any argument that it shouldn't be so, or should be changed now, because the Netflix productions are motivated by a desire to attract more TV viewers rather than a "theatrical experience", just seems like nitpicking to me.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 7:24pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

If these Netflix productions follow the same rules that have been in place for decades to get eligible for Oscar nominations, then so be it.
------------------------------------------------------------ -----------------
The rules change far more frequently than that.

Consider OJ: Made in America.

It was a documentary made by ESPN for their excellent 30 for 30 series. They released it into theatres and won the Oscar for best documentary. It was 7 and a half hours long... When they showed it on ESPN it was shown in five parts over a week.

Though it met the rules (hence its win), it doesn't sound like a movie to me and it obviously didn't sound like a movie to the Academy. They changed the rules to stop the same thing happening again.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 27 March 2018 at 7:57pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Spielberg's argument is not "because Netflix". It goes down to the heart of what the Oscars are for and what they are there to stimulate/motivate and the spirit, not the letter of the rules.

It's somewhat analogous to the controversy surrounding Bradley Wiggins, the Team Sky cycling team and the use of TUEs. That dispute revolves around staying within the margin of the rules, but clearly not following the spirit of the competition.

That is what I would argue is happening with Netflix, where they follow the rules just enough in order to gain the exposure of the award with the sole intent of getting more TV and web eyeballs, but with zero intent to provide a theatrical experience to pretty much anyone.

Yes, there are similarities with Indie films that do just enough to gain eligibility... except they do so with the hopes of getting more bums on seats in theatres somewhere down the line.

-----

And yet Spielberg is one of the stakeholders and advocates of Sean Parker's The Screening Room, which is trying to build a streaming service for same-day release of home video on demand of theatrical movies. I would tend to doubt that he'd argue that any of his movies released with same-day home video would not qualify for an Academy Award.

I also have to point out that it's not like Netflix is shoving Hallmark-type TV movies into theaters. They are throwing money around to acquire distribution rights to traditionally produced movies and documentaries. MUDBOUND competed in Sundance, got offers from major film distribution companies, and Netflix ended up winning out. Please explain how the film is different because of the distributor.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 28 March 2018 at 12:09pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Okay, when I'm World President, it'll all be sorted, folks.

Films, whether produced by Netflix or released theatrically, will be eligible for an Oscar.

The Emmys will only be focusing on television episodes. Or episodes released via a streaming service.

I may even allow wrestling events to be nominated for Oscars (well, they are fiction, right?)...
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 28 March 2018 at 2:05pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Interesting that you bring up Hallmark because the issue of quality is not the crux of the matter here. Hallmark could make something better than Citizen Kane for its TV channel and it would clean up at the Emmys but would not be considered for an Oscar. It's a question of eligibility that is under discussion, not quality.

There are various rules to be considered eligible, that dictate format, length, distribution and so on (there are, in fact, 36 pages of rules and go so far as to allow a choice of only two frame rates).

The main Oscars (i.e. not for shorts) are known properly as the Academy Awards of Merit and the main gist for these awards is summed up by these words: "to honor outstanding artistic and scientific achievements in theatrically released feature-length motion pictures."

I would contend that this encompasses the intended spirit with which the awards are doled out and the minutiae of the rules are there to try and uphold that spirit.

For example, a film must be at over 40 minutes long to be considered feature length. A film that is 39 minutes and 59 seconds long would not be eligible. The producer of this theoretical film could append 2 seconds of black nothing in the middle of the end credits and it would  be eligible. The same rhetorical question could be posed of 'how is this film different' because of 2 seconds of black nothing, and the answer is: it isn't, except one conforms with the rules and one does not.

That the precis of the rules expressly mentions that films must be theatrically released clearly demonstrates the importance the Academy places on distribution.

Furthermore, the rules go on to dictate that not only must a film be shown in LA county for 7 days, within certain time ranges, but that the film must be  "advertised and exploited during their Los Angeles County qualifying run in a manner normal and customary to theatrical feature distribution practices."

Also interesting that you bring up Mudbound, because -- as you say -- it competed at Sundance and Spielberg's exact words were "Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money, or to compete at Sundance and possibly get one of the specialty labels to release their films theatrically". Now, I can't read his mind, but he doesn't seem to have a beef with a film that had its genesis in conventional means, competed at Sundance and then finally got a distribution deal through Netflix. Similarly, my suggestion of a larger grace period between theatrical and release to home markets would not exclude Mudbound, so I don't have an issue with it either. Note, though, that to gain eligibility for the Oscars, Netflix had to garner the help of an actual theatrical distributor.

I would say the crux comes down to Spielberg's point about 'committing to a TV format'. Mudbound was not created with the intent of committing to a TV format, it just ended up primarily being that way once they secured the distribution deal with Netflix.

Now, I would contend that the rules should maybe drop the LA county narrow focus and go for a more robust, broader definition of what constitutes a theatrical run, but let's not beat around the bush. The Academy clearly wants its awards to be for theatrically-released movies.

Ultimately I would say it does come down to how the Academy choose to intepret the intent of the filmmaker. The Academy does have a kind of trump-everything rule of 'the Academy shall resolve all questions of eligibility and rules.'

Consider animated feature. The rules require 75% of the running time to have animation. Seems clear. But then think of Avatar. We have to go beyond the margins of the rules here and consider the spirit or intent of the filmmaker. The Academy specifies that in such a case where the picture could be mistaken for live action the filmmaker must 'submit information supporting how and why the picture is subtantially a work of animation and not live action.' And then it just comes down to how they feel about it.

Is Netflix committed to the long-term well-being of theatrical motion pictures? I don't think so, because that is not in any way their model. I think the rules should be tweaked a little to try and encourage wider or longer theatrical distribution. Not just for Netflix, but for everyone.

Edited to add: sorry for the long post! I normally aim for brevity, so thanks for sticking with it if you made it this far :)


Edited by Peter Martin on 28 March 2018 at 2:09pm
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 28 March 2018 at 2:49pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

 Peter Martin wrote:
I think the rules should be tweaked a little to try and encourage wider or longer theatrical distribution. Not just for Netflix, but for everyone.

Not gonna happen.  You can't force or "encourage" theatre owners to keep a film on one of their screens just to help abide by a tweaked rule that really only benefits the studios.  Case in point: ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. It's widest point of release was three weeks when it hovered around 1,600 screens late November/early December.  That number plummeted to 238 screens by the third week of December and tumbled to just 49 screens in America by the holidays.  It got a slight bump (if a negligible addition of less than 40 screens nationally can even be called slight) when Denzel Washington was nominated as lead actor...for one week.  Following that, it was a steady decline until there were just three screens playing it in America by February 19 (Link).  The audience spoke and theatre owners listened.  The film is a dud.  Worldwide it grossed just $12.1 mil against a $22 mil budget.  Would a longer or wider release have helped it?  No. It would have taken up valuable real estate.  

In the current climate where major studios are chomping at the bit to release a film for the home market closer and closer to it's theatrical run, I'd venture to say that they aren't committed to the long-term well-being of theatrical motion pictures either.  When larger and larger chunks of a theatrical run's profits go to the studios and not the theatre owner, when more and more people would rather stay home and watch a film a couple of months after it's theatrical release, when the quality of work made by Amazon (THE BIG SICK was one of my favorite films last year) and Netflix is equal to that of both the major studios and art house companies, the times they are a'changing.  



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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 28 March 2018 at 3:02pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Yeah. What Matt Reed said.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 28 March 2018 at 4:26pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

 Matt Reed wrote:
...the times they are a'changing.

They certainly are, Matt. Very different world.

Peter, don't apologise. Brevity is overrated. As I have said ever since I came online in 2000-01, I like people who have something to say. I've learnt a lot about semantics in this topic, some of which I didn't know (e.g. LA County rule). 

It will be interesting to see where things go from here.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 28 March 2018 at 5:43pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Re: Roman J Israel.

1600 screens is a wide release, far wider than I would propose as a minimum for eligibility.

I'm talking about something like Beasts of No Nation, where the number of screens numbered in the low hundreds and it reaped lower than $400 per screen (mean) over its entire release. Given a minimum 7 day stretch at 3 times a day (which the rules for eligibility dictate), that's under $20 per screening. That means, on average, a couple of people (or maybe just one person) in each screening.

To me, that just seems like cynically jumping through the hoops to gain your nominations, while basically investing nothing to get people into theatres (or actively undercutting any demand from theatre-goers by simultaneously putting it on people's TVs).

Regarding Amazon's making of the Big Sick -- their involvement is pretty much along the lines of a conventional distribution deal. They came along after someone else had already made it, and shared the distribution rights in a pretty conventional way, i.e. a wide release with a good chunk of dough spent on marketing it so that people would go to theatres to see it.

If all of Amazon and Netflix's releases followed the path of The Big Sick, there would be no issue, because they would all firmly meet the definition of a theatrically-released feature film.

And once again, quality is not the issue. I prefer the quality of, say, Game of Thrones or Stranger Things to a big chunk of cinema fare, but would never suggest they are suitable for Oscars on the basis of being top-notch quality, because they aren't theatrically-released feature films.

As for forcing theatre owners to show a film... I said try to encourage, but you really can force theatre owners to show a film, by bundling one film with another that they desperately want. It's been done many times in the past. For example, back in 1977 many theatres were forced by Fox to take Star Wars in order to get the perceived-as-more-desirable The Other Side of Midnight.

I think ultimately it's just needs a hard window between release to theatres and release to home markets. You're right, Matt, that big studios are probably chomping at the bit to reduce that gap, but isn't that more of a reason for the Oscars to try and be a bastion, if they can be?


Edited by Peter Martin on 28 March 2018 at 5:53pm
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 1:25am | IP Logged | 16 post reply

At the end of the day, Peter, I guess I'm not all that concerned.  If the Academy sets as it's rules that a film must premiere in a theatre before it is screened anywhere else, then them's the rules.  Just because it's taken nearly a century to bend them via a different distribution system doesn't mean it's gaming the system in any way.  It's how the system works now.  In the 21st Century. A film "lives" in theaters for seven or fourteen days, then it qualifies for an Oscar. If you want to petition the Academy to set some arbitrary rules on 14 weeks in the theatre, X amount of screens to constitute a wide release and X amount of dollars to qualify, then have at it.  I just think it's all silly in this day and age.

Do there have to be rules?  Sure.  But if companies play by them, then why arbitrarily extend them (only to the detriment of new model distribution and in favor of traditional studios) for some outdated notion that a theatrical release "means more" than one that may end up on home vid sooner than others?  Doesn't make much sense to me. You say "quality" doesn't matter, but it matters to the Oscars.  That's the only reason the Oscars (or any awards show) exist: to hand out awards to the highest quality winners that they believe their voters have agreed upon. If quality (as subjective a term as there ever was one) isn't a criteria, then all awards shows fail.  Full stop. 

Furthermore, if a film released in theaters for just seven days to qualify for an Oscar reveals a deft director or an otherwise unnoticed actor doing exceptional work, they why in dog's name wouldn't it be worthy of contention?  They met the minimum standard for contention, so it has to exceed that?  Seriously?  Seven days is too short but fourteen is just fine?  Or it has to withstand three months in the theatre to the detriment of owners? Or it has to be a mass release when, realistically, most voting members watch a film via a DVD screener sent to them by the studio vying for consideration? Many an Oscar winner starred in, wrote, scored or directed a film that mass audiences couldn't afford a theatre owner to sustain a long theatrical run. 

At the end of the day, the Oscars have never been, weren't created for, and won't ever be a "bastion" of theatrical distribution.  They were created by the studios and for the studios in an age that, through no fault of their own, never saw the landscape that we're in now.  To endow them with some sort of power to preserve theatrical distribution or imbue them with the romantic notion of going to the theatre is, I'm afraid, archaic.  I know they celebrate "the theatre" every year, but going to a physical theatre is in and of itself an outdated notion upheld by an Academy that has struggled to recognize women and people of color in their awards.  

The Academy is lagging behind the times, both in its representation as well as it's criteria for acceptance.  It is not an institution one must ascribe the highest notions of common decency or fair play.  


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Doug Jones
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 2:47am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Be a bastion of what? Oscar ratings are in a freefall, and so is theater attendance. While the Academy waxes poetic every year for four hours about the wonder of the theater, the audience has decided otherwise. You can neither stimulate nor motivate if your audience isn't even showing up.

MIDNIGHT/STAR WARS was 40 years ago; the business has completely changed. There was no blockbuster ecosystem, and no home market. The only studio capable of leaning on theaters now is Disney, with 39%, and they don't waste franchise leverage propping up small films no one's ever heard of. They just tell theaters to run STAR WARS for a few more weeks and take a bigger cut of ticket sales. Studios can't force theaters to carry indies in any measurable way.

"Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money, or to compete at Sundance and possibly get one of the specialty labels to release their films theatrically."

If the eligibility issue is about theatrical release, then what does he care who financed the film, or how many film festivals its producers had to schlep through to get a deal? The audience sure doesn't. 

Therefore, his answer was essentially "Because Netflix". Because Netflix built its streaming foundation on studio content. Because Netflix isn't interested in propping up the contracting theater release model. Because Netflix threatens to be waiting in the wings when Sean Parker's streaming service sputters out of the gate (if it even makes it there).

The shadow of day-and-date looms large over his response...and after it becomes the norm, people will look back upon The Curious Moment When Steven Spielberg Decried Red Water Buckets While the Roof Was In Flames.
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 4:42am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

I think the nature of the release should remain relevant unless today how a theatrical movie is made differs hardly at all from a non-theatrical movie. In the old days, for example, you'd have no choice but to watch theatrical movies on television in pan & scan, simply because movies were not made for the platform of television. In the same way that a theatrical movie looked comparatively awful on the small screen, you certainly back then wouldn't dream of watching a TV show on the big screen. (JB has noted often that the newest forms of watching "Star Trek" can often be unflattering, but not because of any defect in the original series: rather, the media of home-viewing have changed radically over time.) Movies and television were different art forms, in the old days. But if any non-theatrical movie today has no real differences in the quality of production values from a theatrical movie, then what's the point of preserving the distinction?
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