Should Netflix films only be eligible for Emmys and not the Oscars?

Elisabetta Pulcini and Em Richardson argue both for and against Spielberg's comment that Netflix films should only be eligible for Emmy awards, not the Oscars.

Elisabetta Pulcini
18th March 2019
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Em Richardson for Spielberg's comment that Netflix films should only be eligible for Emmys and not the Oscars:

Let’s start this debate by stating the obvious- as Spielberg himself has stated, Netflix is a television production company, which surely means their films should be classed as ‘made for TV’ movies, rather than feature films. In addition, most Netflix movies are never shown in cinemas, leading me to believe that, when it comes to awards season, they should be treated as television specials, rather than films in their own right. Surely the existence of such films is part of the reason the Emmys has its ‘Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie’, meaning this award is more appropriate for Netflix-produced movies than an Oscar.

There is also the issue that allowing Netflix-made movies to be eligible for both Emmy awards and Oscars will allow the streaming service to dominate awards season. Some commentators who believe Netflix films should be eligible for Oscars have argued that Netflix should be praised for its tendency to provide funding to less well-known filmmakers. Whilst this is undeniably true, it must also be considered that Netflix itself can be accused of monopolising awards season, and potentially denying other filmmakers of awards opportunities, if its films are to be nominated for both Oscars and Emmys. Surely the easiest solution to this issue is to decree that Netflix-made films should only be eligible for one award or the other, and the Emmys seem much more appropriate.

Part of the joy of Oscars season has always been spending the weeks in the run-up to the big night watching all the nominated movies at the cinema, and this is another opportunity that is denied by nominating Netflix-made movies. Personally, I feel Netflix-produced movies should always be nominated for Emmys, rather than Oscars, unless they are released in cinemas.

Elisabetta Pulcini against Spielberg's comment that Netflix films should only be eligible for Emmys and not the Oscars:

This regrettable comment comes from a place of multilayered privilege. As an established filmmaker living in a big city, Spielberg ignores the reality of many who do not enjoy the same circumstances.

Firstly, Netflix is allowing filmmakers to explore the boundaries by providing a platform to display their creations. Spielberg certainly hasn’t had to worry about that for a while now. Although the concern about the endangered theater experience is understandable, it is important to consider that Netflix is not the cause of it. In fact, while Spielberg was critical of the way Netflix movies are only released for a short period in few theaters, in most places around the world movies like Roma and Okja wouldn’t have been screened anyways. Living in cities like Los Angeles, where independent film is a thriving market, is not the norm. While watching these movies from a computer might not deliver the same experience it would have in the theater, the truth is that this way they are accessible to a wider and more diverse audience.

Secondly, barring Netflix movies from the Academy Awards will have the effect of delegitimizing the awards themselves: Best Film will no longer recognize the best movie, but the best one to meet arbitrary standards of release. If the decreasing popularity of the Oscars seems inevitable, shunning the movies audiences will have had the opportunity to see is not only pointless, but irresponsible. Comments like this are why people feel distanced from Hollywood: while preserving the art form is certainly a noble quest, there will be no art form to preserve if people lose interest.

Not only is Netflix providing access to movies on its platform, but it’s also reviving the passion in film itself: the more movies people watch, the more they will feel involved in the conversation.

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AUTHOR: Elisabetta Pulcini
Film Editor 19/20 and Law (LLB) graduate. An Italian passionate about journalism and the law: always up for a debate. @ElisabettaPul

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