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Spielberg to push for new Oscars rules that exclude streaming movies (engadget.com)
42 points by occamschainsaw 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

The Oscars are speeding headlong towards irrelevance. It seems like every year the "Best Picture" winner is more and more of a complete joke driven by politics and marketing rather than the actual quality of the film. This policy will just be the another nail in the coffin.

This would be a good opportunity for Netflix and Amazon and other streaming services to team up and start their own awards show.

I was saying this to someone just a few days ago. And, if I might add, many of the films from Netflix and Amazon are way better.

I honestly can't think of a single Netflix movie that isn't, to me, shallow or half-assed. I'm curious to know which movies you found way better, as I might have missed them.

Roma seems to have been received well to critical acclaim.

Other than the critics, I don't know anyone who was actually able to force themselves to finish watching that slow, pretentious film. Like most of the films on the ballot this year it did not deserve to be nominated.

Old Man Here.

Nor would they be able to sit through 2001 A Space Odyssey. The quality of the movie hasn't changed but the audience has.

I love betting people they can't sit through one of the best movies ever. I have yet to see some under 40 make it through.

38 here. I love that film, and many others with similar pacing.

I don't think it's age. There are plenty of older folk who used to be able to appreciate slower works — be it film, music, literature, or art — but no longer have quite the attention span for it. We appear to have managed to lower the attention span of society as a whole in the past few decades.

Not sure that has anything to do with slowness or appreciation. It has to do if you enjoy the material and then if it's worth your time.

I kinda liked Apocalypse Now. I am not rewatching Redux, it's just too long. I have no problem rewatching the 3 extended editions of the Lord of the Ring, even one after the other.

You don’t know me but I not only found Roma to be wonderful, I traveled to another city just to see a 70mm projection.

I loved it. But I was lucky enough to see it on a big screen

i can't tell exactly what Spielberg's criteria is from the article, but Roma had a theatrical release so i'm not sure it counts here

but Roma had a theatrical release so i'm not sure it counts here

He seems to think that Roma sticks to the letter of the law, but not the spirit and thus wants the law changed. Roma, the argument goes, had a limited token theatrical release solely to qualify it for the Oscars, but the intention was always that people where meant to see the movie on 'TV' rather than at the cinema.

> limited token theatrical release solely to qualify it for the Oscars

A lot of non-US (and even US) films do this as well. The distributors do a limited release to qualify for the awards, and bank on it winning the awards so that they can do a wide release of an "award-winning" film.

thanks for the clarification-- i hadn't even realized it was on netflix until after i'd seen it in the theater

I really enjoyed The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. If you like the Coen Brothers, you should definitely watch it.

Lots of people in the FighterZ community now say they're "birdboxing" their opponents with blind mixups which I think is more culturally significant than anything the movies up for best picture put up, save Black Panther.


Hollywood has a long history of trying to control distribution. In fact they did, until a 1948 Supreme Court ruling forced the studios to sell their ownership in movie theater chains.

Netflix irritates the old studio heavyweights because they basically started as a lowest-rung distributor (they used to ship rental DVDs around by mail — how entirely devoid of film business glamour!), then slowly and cleverly built themselves up into an immensely wealthy studio, thus reconstructing the tight production-distribution bond that was forbidden to the old studios. Admitting Netflix productions to Oscars is like salt in their wounds.

Having watched some/plenty of Netflix movies (imho) they are flat, lack substance. Just as a point of reference/to make a comparison, one of my favourite movies is The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky). Maybe some of the Netflix movies got the big names (e.g. Ed Harris - Kodachrome), but they feel like one-dimensional.

Cinematography and cinemas keep people give people jobs, not only while MAKING the movie (cast and crews), but for people to watch it as well. Cinemas (the actual venues) give people jobs, the crews that work there, make pop-corn, sell tickets, cleaning crews, etc.

Netflix wants us to sit on our couches and binge/rot-away [1]. The two experiences (cinema vs netflix) are not even close.

[1]: https://twitter.com/netflix/status/854100194098520064

Edit: I am not negating the usefulness of Netflix, HBO, and other online/serving platforms. But if you want to play the movies-game, you have to win it on THEIR rules. Otherwise make your own 'oscarZ' and go wild :)

None of this gives a legitimate reason to exclude their works from the Oscars. Unless they are to become a valueless celebration of media oligarchs, the awards should be awarded on merit - if Netflix productions are as low-quality as you assert, it should not matter whether they are eligible for the Oscars.

I'm not sure you'll find a receptive audience on HN for cinemas as a job creation exercise.

There's something to be said for movie theatres as an experience or an event, but it's a stretch to argue that overcharging for popcorn and hot dogs are a public good.

Startups exist as job creation exercise for programmers. Or do you really think we need 100 tiktok clones?

If everyone thinks like you (hopefully not for variety sake) then they won't win any awards. However, banning them from movie awards (they do make movies) is not the answer.

I agree with the general critique about Netflix movies. Although it is equally valid for Spielberg films in my opinion.

Today, if I think about Hollywood, I have to think about remakes. You have to force me to watch another Marvel/DC movie, although I think they are generally very well made and I liked some characters as a kid.

Just look at the most successful Hollywood movies of 2018. There is absolutely no depth to be found here at all.

These are movies I can enjoy, but mostly while doing something on the side.

Even deadpool? I'm getting marvel/dc fatigue as well, but damn I can't get enough Deadpool -- fucking hilarious.

As far as depth, I can't think of a Netflix film I really remember as standing out, now Serials --I can name a bunch: The OA, Stranger Things, Haunting of Hill House, etc -- they may not have found a groove yet w/ movies but they sure have w/ original series -- though they did hit a few snags too, their Marvel world sort of fell apart, and some characters were good, some totally were lame (Iron fist esp.).

Regardless of the spotty quality of netflix productions, film awards should be about expression in the medium, not the distribution channel.

If they are so bad, why are there people that feel threatened enough to ban them?

I think he's taking the wrong approach in his argument. Convincing people that a streaming movie should not be considered a movie seems like an impossible task. This apple is green, so it should be considered a pear.

The easier route would appear to be changing the rules for the Oscars to require a wide, long, exclusive theatrical release, or some other nomenclature which will preclude streaming services, or at least cost them a significant amount of money.

If that's what he wants for the Oscars then whatever, but trying to convince people that streaming movies are technically TV sounds ridiculous. Anyway, have at it, lest it quicken the Oscar's inevitable demise.

I think you're on the right track with this. The issue, apparently, for Spielberg is the definition of a movie. From the article it seems that his definition includes the requirement that a film must be shown in theaters to be a movie. I don't think the average person thinks of movies that way. Especially not in today's world with Redbox and streaming services.

Personally, I never really thought about the definition right now, but I think a crude definition would include something regarding runtimes since I think part of what defines a movie is its length. You can do more with additional time than a 30 or 60 minute TV episode can do. However, you can do more with a miniseries or episodic TV over the long term with regards to character development, story arcs, etc. I think the definition of a movie has to be somewhere between the individual episode and the miniseries.

Length is a poor criterion. Movies used to be shorter than they are nowadays. Forty to fifty minutes wasn't unusual in the 1940s for cinema.

Spielberg’s definition of what a movie is seems to include “must be offered for viewing in a theatre”. I think that’s at odds with the general public’s conception of what a movie is.

Even more ridiculous when you consider all those voting for Oscar winners will have watched the contender movies on their home TV setups from specially provided BluRay screeners!

Most films are actually watched at specially arranged viewings in theaters in LA and NY. The studios cut back on mailers several years ago because they were the biggest difference of pirated movies.

However, it's not at odds with the general public's conception of what a cinema film and when I think Oscar, I always think cinema film. I also think irrelevant, but that's another story.

Please do this, in 20 years there will be no more Oscars, this would be an improvement.

Old man yells at cloud.

By the way Hollywood almost died before when TV happened in the 60s and they survived that.

I find this hilarious. Streaming has much greater reach than theatre, so if Canute/Spielberg has his way, over time the Oscar nominees will become increasingly obscure to most people, diminishing the whole point of the award, which is publicity and money-making.

If getting people together in a room to watch is somehow important, the Oscars, Tonys, and the Opera awards should combine.

I think this is likely to go in the other direction where more and more movies find a way to release directly into our homes on streaming services. A single movie theater ticket costs more than a month of Netflix.

The theater experience is going to have to figure out what its USP is in the digital era. It's no longer enough to provide access to the movie.

Anecdote: my gf and her friends were gonna watch Roma on the couch until they found out it was playing at the nearest theater. They then had to devise a plan to sneak alcohol and candy into the theater, coordinate ticket purchasing using venmo, and actually head out into the rain to get there. There was a lot of buyer's remorse. Good luck, theaters.

Movie theaters will lose popularity but the theater experience cannot be reproduced in the home at least for the foreseeable future.

I don't see many films in theaters because many films gain nothing by being viewed at the theater. I often see films in like Interstellar, Dunkirk, Blade Runner, etc that are an assault on the senses and have a lot to gain through theater viewing.

The question to me is- will people care? There are plenty of examples of people shirking quality for convenience.

The only things I found not reproducable at home were loudness levels that hurt my ears, sticky floors and inconsiderate people talking during the movie and leaving before the credits stopped rolling.

Yea, this is another thing I've been thinking about. Of course Spielberg would prefer the 'cinema' experience since the only way he experiences cinema is private viewings or gala premiers at state of the art luxury theaters, surrounded by film connoisseurs and with people serving you vintage champagne. I wonder when he last had a 'genuine' cinema experience like the one your average middle class family experiences.

"Movie theaters will lose popularity but the theater experience cannot be reproduced in the home at least for the foreseeable future."

I heard a similar argument about the (live acting) theaters. Those are still around, sure.

Not defending Spielberg, but I would have spent $$$ to see Roma in the cinema. Off the charts cinematography.

Not because he is good a something he is good at understanding the evolution.


On a different tangent: Why should a movie have to be released in cinemas to be considered eligible for an academy award? A film is a film, so unless the Oscars are owned by the cinema industry (instead of the film industry, which was forcefully separated at some point as a commenter indicated), IMO streaming, direct-to-video and direct-to-TV movies should be eligible to be included as well.

I mean most Netflix (and direct-to-video) films are hit and miss, but there's some good ones there.

As for your comment on voting, don't complain about how people up / downvote your stuff (I mean why do you even care?), instead, write a better comment.

> On a different tangent: Why should a movie have to be released in cinemas to be considered eligible for an academy award?

Since the Academy Awards are a award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is an association of movie industry to promote themselves. Any organization can award whoever they like.

The question is: Should the public give them that much attention?

The attention they're receiving continues to decline. Ratings for the Oscars have been on a long downward trajectory, and that seems likely to continue as long as the show is more about political virtue signaling than it is about the art of making movies.

Heck, they couldn't even find someone willing to host what used to be a plum gig because the political climate in that tiny crowd is so toxic.

It is difficult to determine what constitutes "better" if there is no real feedback on why the current comment is "worse".

They're already giving their movies a limited theater release to comply with existing Oscar eligibility rules.

What's the exact point where something is more TV than cinema ? Does it have to be earnestly made hoping it's not seen by more people than those in the 10 limited release theaters ? Also, none of the Netflix productions was ever TV broadcast, so why call them TV ?


Really the concrete difference is encapsulation of episodes - while TV may have their own story arcs and continuity they are a bunch of beginnings, middles, and ends. Meanwhile movies are longer continuous blocks. Theoretically you could say take a season and stitch together a movie into a run time but the pacing wouldn't fit. TV is just being used as a snarl word without irony from the same people scoffed at by theater.

If you screen a “Netflix Original” in one theater, for one night, as a launch, and then make it available on demand the next day, does that make it a movie?

If not, how many theaters and days must it be? It’s a media version of the abortion debate.

I had the same thought in the back of my head. Netflix could spend some money and open a dedicated theater in some small town to just show all new releases for a week or two. It's not much shorter than any major release spends in the theatres, right?

Since distribution is digital now, maybe they could just align with a midsize chain and offer a "Netflix Night" once a week or something. Hell, it would probably make money.

Or, actually, "Netflix Night" could be free to Netflix subscribers.

Theatres make all of their profit off of concessions, they would jump at the chance to show a film for free.

You bring up an interesting point.

What makes a movie a movie? Does it matter where a movie is watched? Most movies are watched on monitors/tv. If I watch Infinity War on netflix, is it not a movie? If my local theater runs a weeklong viewing of Seinfeld or Friends, does it make Seinfeld or Friends a movie?

To me it is clear that Roma, Annihilation, Birdbox, etc are movies whether they run in the theaters or not.

This seems like Spielberg is using his influence to help the old hollywood studio system maintain it's monopoly on movies and especially the major advertising day known as the Oscars.

I don't think anyone is questioning what is a movie. Spielberg points out that this question is not controversial when it comes to made for TV movies. They are not eligible for oscars but rather emmys. He is arguing that streaming movies are made for the small screen and should qualify for emmys the same as made for TV movies.

Interesting point. But I wonder, why not expand the oscars by including all movies regardless of platform? Make the oscars, a movie awards and advertisement show and the emmy's a tv series awards and advertisement shows.

If VR takes off in 20 years and people watch movies in VR rather than in theaters, how will the oscars distinguish "theater movies" vs "other movies"? If theaters disappear in the manner of phone booths ( a distinct possibility ), will the oscars simply shut down? I doubt that.

Both sides have interesting points and I certainly don't the answers. Maybe the answer is streaming services like netflix, youtube, etc create their own awards advertisement show?

It seems limiting to confine awards to platforms rather than the art genre. It would be like there being a music award dedicated solely for each platform - cassettes, CDs, Vinyl, Radio, Streaming, etc.

Extending reach isn't necessarily a good thing. Just like with software, expanding until it can read email isn't necessarily a good thing.

Why not have a different award? Though, not sure why people even want awards.

Clearly the cinema awards should only be for films - if it's shot digitally, it's not using film, so it's not cinema. The Oscars should be restricted to those works that were shot on film and projected on film without ever going through a fully digital stage.


Netflix has shipped some good movies.

If we limit movies to non-streaming aren’t we going to get slim pickings and mostly infantile superhero flicks?

That’s as short-sighted as believing streaming movies should be excluded. Traditional studios have shipped a lot of quality movies that aren’t superhero flicks. Indeed a very small percentage of traditional studio movies fit that mold.

Traditional studios have shipped a lot of quality movies

Sure, but the problem is that unless you live in a large city with a vibrant independent cinema scene and have a lot of free time on your hands chances are you'll never get to see them (unless they show up on a streaming service 6 month later, ironically enough).

I think we’re talking about entirely different things at this point. The topic was Oscar eligibility, not whether the movies should exist or be available to you.

If Oscars reduce the picks to movies unavailable to the general population, I think that's relevant. Maybe. The Oscars is already an overwhelmingly an absurdly scoped and self-congratulatory event, so maybe it couldn't get any more so.

Hmm interesting I guess I’d never thought of that. I guess I associate Emmy with “movie interrupted by commercials.”

Counterpoint, maybe only films should be eligible for Oscars, as Oscars are for "film makers". Digital cameras would not qualify, right?

Seriously, there was a huge gulf in quality when the best home TV was 19" NTSC 4/3. Nowadays, my picture quality exceeds that of most movie screens (except for imax). I don't see any reason to differentiate.

You have an 8k TV at home? Lucky you. If not, then your home TV doesn't even begin to approach the quality of a modern movie theater.

I said "most movie screens", not a theatre with the best equipment.

My point is that the difference between 2k/4k/8k is noticeable, but not significant. NTSC, at 480i, was a magnitude worse than film.

Is that actually that widespread in theaters? I can't find good sources, but most I can find suggest that it's not yet.

When colour film showed up there were separate colour and black and white Oscars.

Do you consider physical books and e-books to be different as well?

A movie is intended to be watched as a single episode of 1.5-3 hours. TV shows are at least a few episodes long, generally an hour or less per episode but usually much longer in total. Seems a better differentiation than distribution method. Ask someone if they can guess if what you watched was a movie vs a TV show based on your description. Tell some people "I watched it via the internet", and some people "I binge watched 5 episodes" and see who gets the correct answer more often.

Not everything on TV is and episodic show. There is an Emmy for Television Movie so there is as least some recognition out there that there is a difference between movies made for TV and movies made for Cinema. (Although this year the best Television Movie award did go to an episode of a TV show, so I'll admit it is rather muddled).

Spielberg is arguing that movies distributed on streaming platforms are seen on TVs and should be eligible for emmys just like made for TV movies are.

No, he’s arguing that they should be ineligible for the Oscars. He’s campaigning to block them from the Oscars, not to open them up for inclusion in the Emmys. The Emmy reference is merely a rhetorical device he’s employing.

Surely it's inconceivable that you were downvoted because people thought the comment was bad?

Thank you for your deep and insightful commentary.

Sounds like fair and logic to me. Have a DOWNVOTE button? Use it!

At your edit. As per the guidelines lines, if we don't have something constructive to say (re:other replies), we are expected to downvote anything we disgaree with.

It's not Reddit and it's generally not snap votes, it's either agreeing or disagreeing with a point of view. In this case, it seems mostly disagreeing.

The guidelines don't say that. They say you should flag "egregious" comments. Down voting comments you disagree with is absolutely the wrong way to engage in a thread. Down vote incorrect information; if you disagree you should have something to say.

Down voting for disagreement is not banned by the rules (unlike on reddit) and described as acceptable by the site founder and moderators. (even if not all users agree on this)

What's explicitly banned is complaining about downvotes and saying HN is turning into reddit.

I was responding to marak830's claim that the guidelines say you should downvote comments you disagree with. You can look at the guidelines; it's not there. The rest is my opinion.

I believe that downvoting comments that you disagree with is a terrible policy since you end up with an echo chamber where anyone with a contrary opinion gets their comment moved to the bottom of the thread and grayed out. If someone says something you disagree with, the appropriate response is to engage them in a dialog and figure out why they believe what they do, not downvote them.

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