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Movie Review: Netflix Is A Major Hollywood Player

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Last winter, Netflix raised eyebrows by nearly winning Best Picture at the Oscars with Alfonso Cuaron’s gorgeous film Roma. But rumors at the time indicated some people weren’t willing to vote for Roma because they didn’t want to reward, or encourage, what they saw as a company that was taking movies out of theaters and threatening moviegoing culture.

Now, a year later, this is going to be a lot harder to do. 

Because Netflix has put out some of the biggest contenders for this year’s Oscars. Fully 40 percent of the recently announced Golden Globes Best Picture nominees were released by Netflix, and all have realistic shots at Academy Awards in February.

I can’t speak yet to the quality of one of the films, The Two Popes, because it’s being released tomorrow, but two of the movies, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, have to be considered essentially locks for Best Picture nominations, and I can’t imagine many people would bat an eye if either one took the award. The Irishman is rightly being regarded as something of a culmination of Scorsese’s entire career, and it’s a stunning piece of work. I don’t think I moved my eyes off the screen once during the final 90 minutes. Marriage Story could take any or all of the acting awards, not to mention its strong likelihood of winning for Original Screenplay.

And while the last movie, Dolemite Is My Name, doesn’t quite have the same punch as the others, it is probably the most pure fun I’ve had watching any movie this year, with a real shot for a Supporting Actor nomination for Wesley Snipes, and Eddie Murphy as a dark horse possibility for Actor.

People worry Netflix is ruining our movie culture, but multiple top-tier directors have said the company is simply the only one that would allow them to make their movies the way they wanted to. We can argue about the impact of home streaming services on the way we watch movies, but if Netflix is the only outlet willing to take real creative risks, who’s really to blame for how things are changing?

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.