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Oscar Myth of ‘Pure’ Movies: Why Netflix, Amazon Should Be Recognized

Some voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are worried about new delivery systems such as Netflix and Amazon; as Oscar voters, they don’t want to support a method that they believe endangers traditional moviegoing.

I hate to say this, but the major studios put an end to “traditional moviegoing” more than 30 years ago.

The voters’ fear of new delivery methods follows a long showbiz tradition: shake your fists at any major innovation, make gorilla sounds to scare it away, then eventually embrace it.

The Hollywood establishment was terrified of talkies in 1927, radio in the 1930s, and TV in the 1950s. Emmy voters ignored cable so a group invented the CableACE Awards in 1978; it took the Emmys a decade to eventually come around.

Oscar voters may worry about blurring lines, but they’ve been blurred for decades. Oscar is clearly the industry’s biggest celebration of movies — yet every major decision about the show is TV-driven. That includes the date, host, presenters and even the honorees.

For example, ABC will air the 90th annual Academy Awards on March 4, rather than late February, so the ratings won’t be hurt by NBC’s Winter Olympics. The Governors Awards began as a separate event in 2009 because they added too much time to the telecast and limited the number of possible recipients.

As for the competitive winners, the Academy insists that all 24 awards must be presented on air. It’s debated regularly, and no AMPAS branch governor wants his/her category to be shoved off the broadcast, saying that all awards are equal.

But if you win an Oscar and it’s not televised, it’s still a real Oscar, isn’t it? It seems that, even with movies, TV is a deal-breaker.

The studios ended traditional moviegoing in the 1980s. With the VCR boom, they released a cassette about 10 months after the film’s big-screen bow. Now the window is only a few months after its theatrical debut, and studios continue to talk about reducing the window even more. Movie audiences know that they can wait for most titles.

Studio execs are in a next-quarter-profits state of mind, aiming for blockbusters that fuel merchandise, theme parks and sequels. Meanwhile, Netflix, Amazon and other companies are making smaller-scale and more daring projects, while talent including Damien Chazelle, Martin Scorsese, Will Smith, Joon-Ho Bong, Peter Morgan, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Richard Linklater, and Anjelina Jolie are migrating there.

Netflix and Amazon are spending billions on original content. Hurting the industry? I don’t think so.

To some Oscar voters, all of the “new kids in town” are lumped together, even though they’re very different (Apple, Google, etc.). Netflix is prolific in its production and has offered a radical alternative to old-fashioned moviegoing. To some, it’s everything that’s scary about the future, and they’ve focused their hostility here.

Amazon started out selling books; now it sells everything and Fortune predicts it could be worth $1 trillion in two years. That growth is scary to some in Hollywood who are still not comfortable with the idea of studios being owned by conglomerates, even after all this time.

Both Netflix and Amazon companies have good Oscar contenders this year. Netflix has “Mudbound,” “Okja,” “The Meyerowitz  Stories (New and Selected)” and “First They Killed My Father,” among others. Amazon has “The Big Sick,” “Wonderstruck,” “Last Flag Flying,” and the docu “Human Flow.”

So, dear Oscar voters, if you want to take a stand with your vote and bolster the definition of a “real movie,” you should absolutely stick to your convictions. But if you follow your own logic, you can’t watch any film on a screener. Those discs (like their predecessors, videotapes) have been blurring the lines between movies and home viewing for decades. In good conscience, you need to see every contender at a screening in a theater. No cheating!

It’s up to you. It doesn’t affect me personally how Netflix and Amazon fare. Yes, they advertise in Variety but they advertise in a lot of other places too, and their awards success doesn’t affect my income, my happiness or my sanity (which has become increasingly fragile in 2017).

Academy reps always talk about creating “a level playing field” for contenders. Which means everybody gets treated equally, whether they’re traditional veterans — or new delivery platforms.

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