Film Awards Season: Streaming Edition?

With 2021 approaching quickly, there is question regarding how the current pandemic will affect film awards season. Several months ago, the Academy had decided to adjust the eligibility of films in order to fit with 2020’s circumstances. This included allowing streaming and video on demand films to qualify without a limited theater release. Furthermore, the eligibility date has been postponed to February, coinciding with the awards show being pushed to April.

Streaming Sensations

This shift in rulings opens up new possibilities for awards shows. Since its rise, streaming-exclusive content has been considered a black sheep of sorts in the film industry. This is seen in how prestigious directors such as Steven Spielberg have denounced services like Netflix in favor of a silver screen release. However, in recent years, it seems that many have garnered a more reputable position, especially given Netflix-produced films like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story making strong impressions in last year’s Oscars.

This year, many well-known directors have followed suit. For example, David Fincher (Fight ClubSe7enThe Social Network) is continuing work with Netflix with his new film Mank. Other 2020 films like Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods are all possible candidates. With this shift, there is great potential for expanding Netflix into more than just a “streaming service.”

Money Makers and Passion Drivers

But what about the very few theatrically released films this year? Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is likely to come to mind. With Nolan’s popularity, and his films’ presence at many past Oscars, he will likely take center stage among theatrical film. Other blockbusters like Birds of Prey and Sonic the Hedgehog may be less likely candidates because of the common attitude of the Oscars towards comic book movies and video game movies as a whole.

What the greatest potential may lie in this next awards season, however, is independent film. For the longest time, the Oscars often excluded independent film, a criticism of 2020’s among many when the Academy snubbed Willem Dafoe and Adam Sandler for their roles in The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems respectively. With most major film companies postponing their money-makers, film festivals have been able to feature independent content throughout the year. Movies like Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland have already made a strong impression on critics. This means that there is great potential for indie film’s big break into the Hollywood mainstream.

The Evolution of Cinema

What lies ahead for the film industry is uncertainty. As theaters shut down, and streaming expands, cinema may look very different in the near future. Although the pandemic has stifled the business norm, it has opened up new possibilities for artistic achievement.