When Disney+ went live earlier this month—attracting 10 million-plus subscribers in its first 24 hours—the tremors at Netflix and Apple TV weren’t half as much as the full-tilt earthquake felt in the offices of basic cable providers. In fact, Bloomberg.com reports that Netflix defections aren’t much of a worry at Netflix; and in fact, the veteran streaming service is still on target to meet if not exceed its goals, and Netflix stock is up 16% YTD. Simply put, Netflix’s initial argument that there’s plenty of room for streaming competitors is a pretty sure bet, at least for now.
Meanwhile, cord-cutting is accelerating at a much faster rate than anticipated. Last year, for the first time, the number of global streaming subscribers surpassed the number of cable subscribers, and by the end of this year (i.e. just a few weeks away), the number of U.S. cable-cutters is expected to be about 46 million, according to eMarketer.
But Netflix apparently isn’t taking anything for granted. With a tip of the bowler to Disney+ for its campaign to dominate family friendly audiences, Netflix is instead looking for something a good deal tougher to attain: respect. And oh yeah—they’re really gunning for Oscars, too.
In the coming weeks, Netflix will unleash its best slate of new releases. While some previous efforts (Roma, Mudbound, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) have been swell, Netflix’s newest Oscar-contenders are nothing short of must-see streamers.
The Irishman (now streaming) is the best of the lot, and a lock for a Best Picture nomination. Netflix bankrolled this Martin Scorsese epic (it’s a whopping three-and-a-half hours) to the tune of $159 million. Based on the 2004 bestseller I Heard You Paint Houses, it stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Any, or all three, might pick up an Oscar nod (they’ve all won before). But the real surprise here is a Ray Romano in a supporting role as Teamster lawyer Bill Bufalino. We alI know “everybody loves Raymond,” but does the Academy?
If there’s a sure bet for Oscar acting nominations this year, it has to be Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannsson in Marriage Story (begins Friday, Dec. 6). Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale), it’s an incisive and compassionate portrait of love on the rocks. Many are comparing it to Kramer vs. Kramer. I think it’s better. Following a big-screen sneak peek at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, attendees couldn’t stop buzzing about Marriage Story and much of that buzz included the word “Oscar.”
The Two Popes (begins Friday, Dec. 20) also had a much-heralded screening at TIFF; and truth be told, it’s my favorite of the bunch. Even on paper, The Two Popes sounded like a winner; and it suprasses much of those lofty expectations. From one of the best directors on the planet, Fernando Meirelles (City of God), The Two Popes is a delicious imagining of what was said (and unsaid) in one of the most dramatic transitions of power of the last 2,000 years: the ascendency of Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) and the descent of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). Behind the walls of the Vatican, a struggle commences between tradition and progress, guilt and forgiveness, and doubt and faith. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) said his screenplay was “inspired by true events.”
Dolemite Is My Name (now streaming) is one of the few vehicles grand enough to frame the unshackled genius of Eddie Murphy. Also screened at TIFF, I can tell you that Dolemite’s premiere audience laughed its collective ass off in while reveling in Murphy’s portrayal of real-life filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, best known for portraying the character Dolemite in a series of 19702-era blaxploitation films. Let’s face it: Murphy was robbed of an Oscar when he was denied a statuette for his all-singing, -dancing and -mugging performance in 2006’s Dreamgirls. Here’s hoping that he gets a little love from the Academy this season.
Now, start filling up those cues.