Oscars 2020: Rule Changes, Netflix Movies Cleared For Contention

Plus some back-pedalling from Spielberg.


In a meeting that took place on Tuesday, April 23rd, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors decided that the highly anticipated ruling on whether or not Netflix would be banned from competing in the Oscars, as Steven Spielberg suggested a little over a month ago, would be in Netflix’s favor. Since Netflix films are screened theatrically in compliance with the Academy’s rules, they will continue to be included in the Oscar discussion.

Of course, Netflix has to be ecstatic about this. Over the past couple of years, they’ve been ramping up their film’s promotional campaigns, peaking last year with Roma, which took home three Oscars (including Best Director) and was tied with The Favourite for most nominations. While it may have been upset for Best Picture, this decision by the Academy is a good sign for Netflix’s future aspirations, chief among them will likely be this year’s The Irishman from Martin Scorsese.

Another interesting note on this topic was Spielberg’s backpedaling on the idea of streaming movies being included in the Oscar lineup. As mentioned above, Spielberg was at first adamant that the Emmys were a more appropriate place for films like Roma or Mudbound, and that true theatrically released films should be the only qualifiers for Oscar consideration. However, in a statement released to the New York Times just before the Board of Governors met, Spielberg retracted a bit on his insistence of Netflix movies being banned from competition, instead saying, “Big screen, small screen [movies], what really matters is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories”.

Spielberg was caught in the crosshairs of angry fans when it was announced that he would be working with Apple on their new streaming service with a revival of Amazing Stories, despite being so against fellow streaming giant Netflix. His comments in the Times further went on to highlight what I and several others took his original comments for: a protection of the theatrical experience. Without repeating everything I said earlier on the subject, I agree: the best place for the moviegoing experience is the movie theater. The eventful nature of sitting with a hundred strangers in a dark room, and being moved to tears, laughter, screams and jumps, or any other emotion just can’t be duplicated with an in-home watch.

There were also a couple of changes to some categories we already have: a new title for Best Foreign Language Film, a new number of nominees in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category, and an old rule tossed out of the qualifications for Best Animated Feature. We’ll dive into these one by one.

Starting with the category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film, going forward, it will be called Best International Feature Film. It’s really just a semantics change, but it’s actually a great clarification. Cutting down the original title to Best Foreign Film is apt, but Foreign Language Film implies that it could be produced within the United States and qualify, as long as the main language spoken isn’t English. Now with the new title, that’s cleared up for everybody.

Finally, the Academy has come to the brilliant conclusion to expand the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category to the traditional five nominee structure. In addition, the shortlist of contenders announced a month or so before the nominations will also expand from seven to ten films. I know I’m not alone when I say that for years I have been struggling to come up with a logical reason to not have five films in this category every year. It’s not like only seven films (or ten) utilize the craft of hair and makeup. This was long, long overdue.

And finally, the old rule for Best Animated Feature requiring eight theatrically released feature-length animated films has been struck down. Now the category will run regardless of how many films are released. This was another no-brainer, and frankly, we haven’t had to worry about the old rule for a number of years.

While it may seem like the Oscars of last year just wrapped up, it’s still good news to hear that the Academy is still making decisions and thinking ahead. And I thank God that we didn’t hear any new developments on the idea of a Best Popular Film category. The 92nd Academy Awards will be held on February 9th, 2020.

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