The streaming giant proved once again it is a force to be reckoned with at Oscar time, earning 15 nominations, up from last year’s eight nods, and charging toward the Feb. 24 ceremony armed with 10 noms for Alfonso Cuaron’s black and white Spanish-language feature Roma.
Box office in some form or fashion has always worked itself into the conversation to prop awards contenders in any given season. However, poor ticket sales can sometimes stall a contender’s chances early on its launch, particularly during the fall. While the streaming studio has provided limited theatrical releases for both Roma and the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (and have kept ticket sales unreported), Netflix has succeeded with art triumphing over commerce strategy this awards season. AMPAS voters made their selections today based on the quality of Netflix’s awards slate, not on the wattage of how commercial it was, or whether it played countless weeks in a theater or grossed millions of dollars. Some in distribution will call Netflix’s limited theatrical-plus-streaming release for Roma and Buster Scruggs as something akin to what SVOD releases do with their theatrical plays, but clearly there hasn’t been anything as successful as what Netflix has executed here in regards to Oscar nominations for these movies.
Cuaron had heralded their theatrical/streaming model at the Golden Globes to us, saying that Netflix was the best means to get a black and white Spanish title to a mass audience thanks to the streaming service’s access to 58M subscribers in U.S., 139M WW, but they also gave him a premium theatrical release in Dolby Atmos in key awards voter markets.
With Roma, Netflix earned its first Oscar nominations in the best feature category today as well as best director, actress in a leading role for Yalitza Aparicio, original screenplay, foreign-language film, production design, sound editing and sound mixing. Marina de Tavira was also nominated for best supporting actress, and Cuaron received a nomination for cinematography, but Netflix had already cracked those respective Oscar categories last year with Mudbound‘s Mary J. Blige and DP Rachel Morrison.
Roma producer Gabriela Rodriguez became the first Hispanic woman to receive a best picture Oscar nomination this morning, while Aparicio is the second actress nominated for a debut performance in a spoken language other than English. Prior, Catalina Sandino Moreno was the first with her 2005 best actress nomination for Maria Full of Grace.
Among filmmaker nomination records, Cuaron’s four today as producer, director, writer and DP ties the record of other filmmakers, i.e. the Coen Brothers (four for No Country for Old Men), Warren Beatty (four each for Heaven Can Wait and Reds) and Orson Welles (Citizen Kane).
The Coen Brothers’ were recognized very early on in the season at the Venice Film Festival for best screenplay for Buster Scruggs, but the film looked like it didn’t have any traction at the Globes and a majority of other guild awards. But today, Buster Scruggs came roaring back with nominations in the adapted screenplay category for the Coens’ script, Mary Zophres’ costume design and David Rawlings and Gillian Welch’s song “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings”. The Coens’ Oscar pedigree already includes four wins (three for No Country for Old Men, one for Fargo).
Netflix rounded out its Oscar nom tally this morning with two in the documentary short subject category with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s End Game and Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton’s Period. End of Sentence.