Exclusivity of eligible formats restricts diversity
New styles, genres, and formats have historically been snubbed at award ceremonies, despite expanding the definition of cinema and pushing the envelope- whether it’s animation, indie, or foreign-language films. Equally, we should embrace, not reject, the variation of streaming service offerings.
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In 2018, Cannes Film Festival declined to show Netflix's exclusive Roma, only for it to be met with acclaim at the Venice Film Festival. Roma, with it’s three Oscar wins and widespread critical attention, could be considered something of an anomaly: it’s a foreign-language film shot in black and white with a glacial pace and female protagonist who barely speaks. And of course, it’s a Netflix film. Roma puts to rest the notion that streaming-exclusive films are all of low quality or lack craft. It also suggests that platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime are more welcoming to unconventional films and creators than big production studios, in which gaining recognition is notoriously known to be a grind. This distribution model bypasses many of Hollywood's intrinsic problems- some of which are also embedded within awards ceremonies. We’ve seen a rallying call for diversity at the Oscars in recent years, after accusations that those shortlisted are often overwhelmingly white and male (a demographic reflected in the Academy memberships), but there’s no easy fix. They may attempt to mend these discrepancies through tokenism, but these gestures will be shallow so long as Hollywood operates within its usual business model. Only through new avenues can marginalized voices emerge in film. The prominence of films from a limited number of powerhouse studios is a problem in itself for awards. Their nominations are too often predictable, Oscar-bait, and sometimes at odds with public perception. A push toward accepting subscriber-based platforms would create awards that better represent their audience. Without it, they will continue to lose public interest.