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Steven Spielberg Has a Big Problem With Netflix Competing at the Oscars

aka old man who made Jaws yells at clouds.

Steven Spielberg doesn't think streaming service films should qualify for the academy awards.

Last week’s Academy Awards saw Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma take home a trio of Oscars, for Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography, in addition to several nominations. But if Steven Spielberg had his way, Roma would be out of the running altogether. The iconic director (who has several Oscars of his own) has publicly said that he disapproves of streaming services like Netflix being able to compete in the Academy Awards.

Spielberg said of the films, “I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.” He also believes that SVOD films and content will drag viewers away from theaters and damage the film industry. As the Academy Governor of the directors branch, Spielberg is now making his case before the board of governors.

His company, Amblin Entertainment, released a statement saying “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation. He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.”

But Spielberg’s case ignores both the shifting landscape of modern media and the issues of inclusion and accessibility for marginalized audiences. When filmmakers choose to distribute through a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon, they are widening their audience by millions. Where an indie film of past years may enjoy a brief run in a handful of independent cinemas, SVOD streaming allows everyone to access their content whenever they choose. and as the theater experience becomes more expensive, folks from lower income backgrounds are less able to see these films in the cinemas.

That’s not even to mention that POC, female and queer filmmakers have received greater support from these streaming services, who have stepped in to fill the gap left by studios making fewer films and shifting focus to big budget tentpoles. Ava DuVernay spoke up in support of Netflix, which distributed her film 13th, a documentary about the prison-industrial complex. The film went on to be nominated for an Oscar.

Netflix released a powerful PSA about diverse programming, narrated by Orange is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba, which featured offerings of exclusively women and POC:

Many people took Spielberg to task over the issue, and his ignorance of how the studio system he’s trying to desperately to defend if rife with institutionalized discrimination:

Netflix has only been in the Oscars game for a few years, but in that time they’ve given us the first female nominee for cinematography (Rachel Morrison for Mudbound), a best documentary short award for a film directed by an Iranian-American women about menstruation (Period. End of Sentence.), and the first indigenous woman nominated for best actress (Yalitza Aparicio, Roma).

While Steven Spielberg is a groundbreaking, innovative filmmaker, his stance on this issue feels wildly retrograde. Here’s hoping the Academy is more interested in moving forward than in indulging the whims of of an out of touch icon.

(via Collider, image: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.