Netflix earned 35 Oscar nominations—but it’s still screwed for 2021 wins

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It’s become a yearly ritual. Every awards season, we pundits say with pompous certainty that Netflix will finally grab the Iron Throne of the Oscars away from those tired old Baratheons: the big film studios. And, without fail, we get it wrong every single time.

The streaming giant was heavily favored to pull it off in 2019 with Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma.” Whoops — “Green Book” won Best Picture. And then in 2020, Netflix had two top nominees with “Marriage Story” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” Womp womp — “Parasite” emerged victorious. “The Irishman,” by the way, won none of the 10 awards it was nominated for. And Netflix led the field that year, too, with 24 nominations.

But 2021, featuring an impressively diverse field of nominees, has got to be the tipping point, right? For the past 12 months, many theaters around the country — and around the world — have been shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, and audiences have turned to streaming in desperation. Netflix helped get us get through a hard year at home, and the 2021 Oscars will surely celebrate that achievement. 

Yeah, right. Even with 35 nominations — the most of any distributor this year — Netflix is screwed.

When the Oscar nominations were announced Monday, there was a glaring omission: Aaron Sorkin was left out of the Best Director category for helming Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” While Sony’s “Nomadland” has long been the film to beat, many figured “Trial” could unbalance it somewhat. In a way, Sorkin’s movie is this year’s “Spotlight,” with sweeping emotions, a prestigious ensemble cast and an important piece of history. Maybe it could pull an upset.

But for now the only people upset are its producers. Yes, the film wrangled a Best Picture nomination, alongside “Nomadland,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “The Father,” “Mank” “Minari,” “Promising Young Woman” and “Sound of Metal.” But the acclaimed drama’s hopes were dashed by the Sorkin snub. Just one flick — “Green Book” — has won Best Picture without a Best Director nod since the year 2000, and that was a blip, to say the very least.

Another instance in which the Oscars yelled “Nyet-flix!” was denying a Best Picture nod to the streamer’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the scorching adaptation of August Wilson’s play starring Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. Both lead actors were nominated, and Boseman is a shoo-in to win a posthumous prize, but the film itself won’t compete.

Fear not! David Fincher’s “Mank” will save the day! Eh, don’t bet on it. While the ode to old Hollywood leads the pack with 10 nominations, enthusiasm from all but film buffs has been muted. It also led the field at the Golden Globes and didn’t win a single one. In fact, “Mank” could very well go the way of “The Irishman,” which is currently the losingest film at the Oscars since “The Color Purple” was shut out of its 11 categories in 1986.

“Mank’s” best hopes are wins for Production Design and, perhaps, Amanda Seyfried for Best Supporting Actress, who would valiantly have to fend off Olivia Colman (“The Father”), Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) and Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”). 

The brightest spot for Netflix at the April 25 ceremony will be overshadowed by sadness, when Boseman wins Best Actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Otherwise, no matter how many hundreds of millions of subscribers it gains, Netflix just can’t satisfy a few thousand picky Oscar voters. Maybe hand out some free subscriptions next year, guys.

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