Entertainment

Netflix's best picture moment spotlight thwarted by safe bet

'Roma' nomination marked first for streaming co.

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Netflix's moment in the best picture spotlight will have to wait another year.

The streaming service's big Oscars bet, "Roma," won best director and best foreign language film on Sunday night, but "Green Book" took home the top prize.

The chemistry between Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen was "apparently enough to help Academy voters forget the controversies that have plagued the film," CNN's Sandra Gonzalez wrote.

Looking beyond best picture, "Roma" and "Black Panther" both won three awards; Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar for best adapted screenplay for "BlacKkKlansman;" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" picked up the most wins of all, with four Oscars.

So there was no dominant winner overall. Netflix scored several significant victories. But given the amount it invested in an award campaign for "Roma," the best picture result must have been disappointing for Netflix.

The New York Times said that "by backing 'Green Book,' voters slowed the ascendency of Netflix, which had been pushing a competing nominee, 'Roma.'"

Resistance to Netflix?

Was there a resistance to the streaming service -- and its disruptive ways -- among some Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members? That's what some observers surmised after Sunday night's show.

"My guess is that 'Roma' would have won if it wasn't for the preferential ballot," Variety's New York bureau chief Ramin Setoodeh tweeted. "Many Oscar voters that I talked to truly loved it, but also a bloc voted against it because they didn't want a Netflix movie to land best picture."

This anti-Netflix view also came through when Brooks Barnes of The Times spoke with anonymous Academy voters earlier this month.

But the "preferential ballot" was probably also a factor. This format has been employed by the Academy for the past 10 years.

"In its top category," The Hollywood Reporter explains here, "the Academy uses a system designed so that the 'most liked,' but not necessarily the most popular, film prevails." Get the details here.

Lowry's take

CNN media critic Brian Lowry commented: "There's going to be a ton of grumbling about 'Green Book,' but as I stated in my predictions, both 'Black Panther' and 'Roma' faced enormous hurdles -- the first that there's still a sense that superhero movies are big and dumb, and the second because of Netflix's high-handed approach to the movie business, no matter how much money it throws at the process."

Lowry added: "We'll never know, but if Netflix had treated 'Roma' like a more conventional nominee — starting with providing box-office data — it might have been a different outcome."

Netflix did some things the old-fashioned way. For one, it absolutely blanketed Hollywood with ads and events to promote "Roma" to Academy voters.

"Netflix clearly didn't spend enough," THR editor Matthew Belloni quipped after the show.

On a more serious note, Belloni added, "That people consider 'Green Book' an upset is a testament to how successful Netflix's 'Roma' campaign was. They took a black and white foreign language film all the way, in the process sparking a dialogue about the future of film. A pretty remarkable achievement."

Along with the three Oscars for "Roma," Netflix also prevailed in the best documentary short category for the film "Period. End of Sentence."

"With 4 wins, Netflix tied Disney, Fox, and Universal for the most wins by any studio," Yahoo's Daniel Roberts wrote.

So Netflix's takeover of Hollywood is rolling along, with or without the best picture prize.

>> Arguably the night's biggest winner was Participant Media, which was behind both "Green Book" and "Roma." Brooks Barnes has a backgrounder here ...

No host, no problem

Frank Pallotta emails: There was a lot of talk about the controversial choice to have a host-less Academy Awards this year, but the show went off mostly without a hitch without an emcee. It kept moving along and kept the focus on the films, where it should always be...

>> Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler offered a "terrific mini monologue," Bill Carter tweeted. "Beyond the unrelenting commitment to pace, this Oscarcast is working well because presenters are genuinely prepared" and well chosen...

Some of the takeaways

-- Rami Malek won best actor for "Bohemian Rhapsody..."

-- Olivia Colman won best actress for "The Favourite ..." And shouted out Glenn Close, who just set a record "for the actress for the most nominations without a win," Chloe Melas noted...

-- It was a night "marked by greater inclusiveness," Brian Lowry wrote...

-- Netflix's "Period. End of Sentence." won the prize for best documentary short...

-- Chloe has the full winners list here...

"Shallow" goes deep

This was the moment of the night: "Not only did Lady Gaga win an Oscar on Sunday night, but her performance with Bradley Cooper hit viewers right in the feels," Lisa Respers France and Sandra Gonzalez wrote here. "Shot entirely from upstage, with the audience acting as a backdrop, the duo's rendition of 'Shallow' from their film 'A Star Is Born' was as intimate as it was seeped in chemistry..."

"Oscars Rebukes Donald Trump Without Saying His Name"

That's the headline on this Lisa de Moraes post for Deadline. "Donald Trump was the name that would not be spoken at the 2019 Oscars," she wrote. "But, with much recognition given to immigrants, and shout-outs to Mexico throughout the night, and all the cautionary warnings about the rise of white supremacy and antisemitism, a strongly implied rebuke of the President of the United States hung heavy in the broadcast..."

Quotable moments

-- Maya Rudolph: "There is no host tonight, there won't be a popular movie category and Mexico is NOT paying for the wall."

-- Spike Lee: "The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let's all mobilize. Let's all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let's do the right thing!"

-- Javier Bardem speaking in Spanish: "There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent."

Top tweets

-- Mitra Kalita: "Anyone who says this has been a bad year for film is not living my life and feeds which are already celebrating this glorious night of inclusion and so much shattering of records and ceilings..."

-- Joe Adalian: "I believe as far as ABC and Nielsen are concerned, this year's Oscars will run for roughly 3 hours, 10 minutes (everything after the last commercial break isn't counted). Pretty close to goal of 3 hours..."

-- Ben Jacobs: "Really nervous what the President is going to tweet about the Fox & Friends segment on the Oscars tomorrow morning..."

Netflix and Disney battle during the ad breaks

Frank Pallotta emails: There was news away from the actual ceremony, with Disney and Netflix showing off teasers for two of the most anticipated films of the year: "The Irishman" on Netflix and Disney's "The Lion King." Here's "The Irishman" teaser via EW...

→ More: Variety's Brian Steinberg recapped the night's expensive ads here...

The more things change...

Brian Lowry emails: Variety's Tim Gray reupped a 2011 piece about chaos and tumult surrounding the Oscars that year -- including, adding another parallel, a homophobic slur by producer Brett Ratner, who subsequently bowed out of that role. It's a good reminder that when it comes to the Academy, even in what's felt like an inordinately chaotic year, the more things change, the more they tend to stay the same...

-- Read more of Sunday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...


Editor Notes

This Just In