Netflix won a clutch of Oscars, taking home statues in seven categories during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony to make it the winningest studio of the night. But the coveted Oscar for best picture again remained out of reach for the world’s biggest subscription streaming service, despite have two films — Mank and The Trial of the Chicago Seven — as nominees. Nomadland, distributed by Disney unit Searchlight, won best picture.
And of all things, Facebook won its first Oscar. The 25-minute film Colette, made by its Oculus virtual-reality group and video game company EA’s Respawn Entertainment, won for documentary short. The short film — which was made as part of the World War II-set VR video game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond — chronicles Colette Marin-Catherine, who as a young girl fought the Nazis in the French Resistance, as she returns to Germany and the concentration camp where her brother was killed for the first time in 74 years.
Netflix entered the evening with the, 35 total. It had the most-nominated single film, Mank, with 10 nods. In addition to missing out on a best-picture Oscar, Netflix came up short in the acting categories too.
In the end, Netflix won in seven categories during the Sunday’s telecast, comprising production design and cinematography for Mank; costume design and makeup and hairstyling for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; documentary feature for My Octopus Teacher; animated short for If Anything Happens I Love You; and live-action short for Two Distant Strangers.
“Streaming” movies had a simpler run at the Oscars this year. Because theshuttered and restricted cinemas around the globe, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which runs the Oscars, loosened its eligibility rules. Streaming-only releases could apply to be nominated, as long as the films had originally been planned to hit the big screen.
But the unprecedented style of releasing movies during the pandemic also blurred the lines of what is a “streaming” movie. Typically, movies by traditional studios follow rigid release windows that put films exclusively in cinemas for six to nine months. During the pandemic, that went out the window across the board. It made this year’s Oscar films more accessible to watch from home than ever before, but it also mixed up what to consider as a “streaming” movie.
Nomadland, for example, hit Hulu the same day as its “wide” theatrical release in traditional cinemas and drive-in theaters, after it was shown off at film festivals, through “virtual screenings” and on IMAX screens. But Nomadland isn’t branded as, nor really considered to be, a Hulu movie.
Even during a year when all movies felt like “streaming” movies, the deciding factor of whether a movie is a credit to a streaming service or not depends on distribution arrangements, which don’t mean much to viewers who cue it up on a smart TV or phone to watch.