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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The film industry’s new direction


Streaming services offer a new artistic frontier

In the 91st Academy Awards, Netflix’s “Roma” particularly stood out to me because it is the first streaming service accessible movie that has won big in this way.

Alfonso Cuarón’s wins are changing the landscape for what falls under the category of successful, and streaming services can be added to that list.

We know that when it comes to television, streaming services have been recognized for their innovative and captivating content. Amazon Studios’ “Transparent” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” come to mind, along with Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” and comedic animations like “BoJack Horseman” and “Big Mouth.”

Streaming services are known for their lauded television content, but movies have always been an area in which streaming platforms, especially Netflix, have had hard time gaining real critical acclaim. Now not so much, with “Roma” winning the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language film and Best Director.

“Roma” winning three Oscars, while receiving seven other nominations, creates a new kind of landscape for movies. It allows for a less restricted space with a wider release that certain art house and independent films wouldn’t get.

Netflix’s involvement in the distribution of movies today is moving the film industry in a new direction.

Cuarón’s “Roma” is a beautifully crafted movie from start to finish. It’s quiet moments are tranquil, and it’s dramatic moments have the build-up and time to fully developed. The performance of Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo is incredibly executed. 

Cuarón is one of my favorite directors, and his passion project is a revelation. Netflix gave “Roma” the backing and platform to expose so many more people to this extraordinary film.

Netflix allows for a wider audience to view a movie that might have been shuttled off to the small, limited release art house theatre that seats maybe 150 people. And maybe that’s giving Netflix too much credit, but their platform is large and their reach is global.

And I know that my opinion is somewhat controversial due to the state of the film industry. While the big studios of old Hollywood have long since lost their grandeur, the kind of mentality around film has stayed relatively the same.

We look at film in terms of box office sales, something which Netflix doesn’t disclose. We believe fervently in the way in which distribution rights are stipulated for theaters like AMC and Regal Cinemas that have refused to show “Roma” in the annual Best Picture showcase due to their policies regarding theatrical exhibition and home viewing. Which, if I’m being honest, is a pretty petty snub due to the fact that AMC and Regal might have lost out on some money.

We also have a real hesitancy when streaming services move away from what we feel is their innate purpose.

Netflix, Hulu and even Amazon Prime Video are for binge-worthy content. We can watch seven episodes of “Criminal Minds” or “Charmed” in a row. We weren’t, at least until now, meant to see Netflix release critically acclaimed magnum opuses from an equally critically acclaimed director.

“Roma” is challenging moviegoers’ (or more accurately movie streamers’) conceptions of what streaming services can do and what kind of art they can promote.

“Roma” doesn’t have to be an anomaly in film history. Netflix, and maybe soon Hulu, can do some real good for the sake of good movies and acquire the distribution rights for truly artistic feats of filmmaking. Not to seem like too much of optimist but streaming services might just be the way in which quality film is dispensed to audiences.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, back towards the end of 2017 “[movie] attendance plummeted in North America to a likely 27-year low.”

Less people are going to movies and more people are acquiring Netflix’s accounts.Notably in the fourth quarter of 2018, Netflix came close to breaching 150 million subscribers.

“Roma” might be a precursor for streaming services getting the distribution rights to Oscar-worthy movies, due to the fact that these streaming platforms are used by so many. 

In the end, while Netflix will still grab up half-baked independent films and the box office juggernauts (looking at you Marvel) months after release, the streaming platform is proving it can cultivate and distribute better content.

And it is in this wide and global distribution that “Roma,” and hopefully so many movies after it, will get the chance to be seen by curious and appreciating audiences.

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