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This Movie Is Streaming Only. Should We Lower Our Expectations?


FREDERICK I think that adding a special category for streaming-only films would not only suggest that they’re different, but that they’re also of lesser quality than other nominated films. And a lot of times that’s just not true.

I do think that streaming platforms will have a lot to sift through in terms of what they think is a viable contender for, say, an Academy Award (if they choose to put the film in theaters to qualify it). To combat that, they might become more selective about acquiring content. Still, even if a movie isn’t considered to have a good shot at a nomination, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. Viewers deserve a variety of films, including ones (like the comedy “Someone Great”) that aren’t considered “prestige” by an extremely finite group.

BAILEY It’s tempting to resist framing awards as affirmation, since we all know how flawed that thinking is (and everyone has their own list of unjustly ignored and/or unduly rewarded films to make that case). But it’s very clear that this is a goal for the streamers, and probably a frustration. Is there any doubt that if a traditional studio released “Marriage Story” or “The Irishman,” they would have taken home far more Oscars than they did?

But to my thinking, this sort of recognition, this confirmation of legitimacy, is inevitable — because the shifting of the industry is inevitable (indeed, already well underway). The film business may be liberal in politics, but it’s conservative in practice; there is, undeniably, resistance to changes in the basic business model. But eventually, films will come along that are simply too good to be stigmatized, and that’ll be that. Until then, to borrow a phrase from an aforementioned film, it’s what it is.

VINCENTELLI I agree with Jason that streaming originals will inevitably become legitimate contenders for awards, with or without a theatrical run. This means that streaming platforms will have to be more selective, as Candice said — though not about what they acquire, which will remain a lot, but in terms of what they decide to market and how. In that way they will be even more like the studios of yore, which would make prestige films, middlebrow fare and drive-in fodder. That comparison is reinforced by Netflix making public a “Top 10 in the U.S. Today” list — we’re getting a little closer to something akin to box-office figures for streaming, minus actual numbers. If we ever get cross-platform figures, then we’ll be even closer to a certain old-school model of tallying commercial success. And so now we have circled back to the idea of curation: awards and indicators of popularity are a form of that after all. Perhaps there is also a future for us critics!

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