Last week, Netflix’s 180 million dollar opus The Irishman found its way to over 50 million people in North America, bringing them Martin Scorcese’s ten-years-in-the-making film about old people looking slightly younger and kicking off the Awards Season with one very simple, yet impactful question.
Can The Irishman actually win Best Picture at next year’s Oscars?
It’s a complicated question that has far reaching impact for the entertainment industry. It’s a result that Netflix has been reaching for over the course of many years now, and one of the major reasons why they’ve spent close to 6 billion dollars a year in creating, producing and releasing content. They need to be able to show talent, producers, directors and the rest of Hollywood that they can and they will nab a Best Picture Oscar. Because if they can do that, it means they are as legitimate as any major studio in town, and if talent see that as a possibility that the Academy’s voting body are willing to embrace (aside from Spielberg being grumpy about it), then we have clearly moved into a new chapter of what the entertainment industry actually is.
But can they do it? Will the voting body of almost 12,000+ people worldwide embrace a streaming film, on a streaming platform, as the Best Picture in the land?
Over the last five years, the Academy has done their part to diversify the voting body. They’ve aged-down (much like what the CGI in The Irishman did for Pacino, DeNiro and Pesci) the overall membership, diversifying it with minorities and women, and kicked out really old people (like Pacino, DeNiro and Pesci portray in the film) which has resulted in a voting body that is more open to foreign and streaming films in major nominated categories. Netflix has also done something that has been under the radar for most folks outside of the industry, which has been to get as many of their employees accepted into the membership so they can vote for their company’s own films. The more Netflix executives in the Academy, the more votes their films will get. And the more votes their films get, the possibilities grow for The Irishman to win the coveted statue.
This year, what it will come down to, is if the voting body of the Academy is finally ready to consider Netflix a major Hollywood studio producing major Hollywood films. Once they do, and once the awards are given to the streaming giant, the floodgates are going to open. And then, we’ll find ourselves worrying less about the format of a film, where it aired, or how it was shown; and more concerned with the quality of content.
Which isn’t a bad thing.
Unlike the de-aging CGI of The Irishman, which makes each of the key actors look like a cross between the creepy soulless characters in The Polar Express mixed with Mark Zuckerberg giving a deposition in Congress.