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Netflix Disrupted

Did Netflix help or hurt 'Roma's' chances at a Best Picture Oscar win?

This is another think piece in what will certainly be a long line of think pieces about how Green Book ended up walking away with the 91st Academy Award for Best Picture on February 24, 2019. A lot of ink will be spilled about Oscar campaigns but most will single out a lone reason why Alexander Cuaron's Roma didn't beat Green Book, and that reason is because it is a Netflix movie. That may have played a part but it's not the only reason, and frankly not even the biggest reason for the upset. 

A lot of the articles that are already out have cited Netflix as the reason that Roma didn't bring home the big prize. The arguments generally center around the fact that theatre owners are threatened by the streaming giant taking business away from them. That argument holds as much water as a leaky kids pool. Yes, Netflix is a disruptor and it is true that theatre owners are not fans of the internet giant, but the academy is not made up of those people. In fact, the academy is made up of actors, directors, producers, and other talents behind the scenes. When looked at through that lens, it is obvious that the talent loves the new company. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Ava DuVernay have set their next projects at Netflix. Top tier stars like Matt Damon, Channing Tatum, and Chris Pine have had or will soon have movies debuting on the streamer. All of this negates that the Academy hates the disruptive nature of Netflix. 

Also working against that theory is the fact that Roma won three Oscars at the ceremony. And it must be stated that the wins were the ones that were expected that the movie would carry the entire time, including Best Foreign Language Film. About that award, let's dive into the history a little. Only 12 movies have been nominated for Best Foreign language Picture and Best Picture. How many have gone on to win both awards? 0. Once Roma was announced as the winner for Foreign language movie, the race for best picture was essentially over for it. Maybe it could have overcome history but that didn't seem likely. 

One critic said, "To me, it's a very slow and rather indulgent film — the most expensive home movie ever made." While Roma counts a 96% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes versus Green Book's 80% fresh score, the critics don't have a vote for the Oscars either. Instead, look at the star power between the two movies. Roma is filled with first-time actors or those that are not known in Hollywood. Green Book's strength came from the performances of its two stars, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, both favorites of the Academy. Green Book also had something going for it besides star power. 

The story of Green Book is very timely. It's a story of two very different men becoming friends despite one being black and affluent and the other a poor-ish white guy. As Will, producer of Drunk Gossip, astutely observed, "It's the kind of story that The Academy loves to shower with awards." The liberal bent of the movie probably carried it to the top of the heap as well. Presumed frontrunner A Star is Born was too flashy for the Oscars to recognize with anything other than a Best Song win. Vice, Black Panther, and The Favourite received Best Picture nods to ensure the A-list celebs in them would show up to the ceremony. This was probably always a horse race between Green Book and Roma. 

With an Academy pleasing story, and performances that were universally praised by critics and the stars' peers alike, Green Book had the edge in the race to start with. All it needed to do was overcome a slightly racist scandal—one of the producers cosigned a Tweet about Muslims cheering the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11—which it did when the producer issued an apology and admitted he made a mistake. A redemption tale on top of a liberal-leaning plot that was based on a true story? The only way it could have lost the Best Picture race would have been if Meryl Streep had a movie based on her life, and she played all of the roles.