Jake Gyllenhaal in Okja, one of two Netflix films competing for the Palme D’Or.

A Personal Battle In The Netflix War

As the Cannes Film Festival makes it start, there is already a heated debate taking place over Netflix and whether or not it has a chokehold on the film industry, indicating the fate of the traditional moviegoing experience.

Because there are two Netflix movies competing for the Palme D’Or for the first time ever, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, that has caused a clash between two Cannes jury members, Will Smith and President of the Jury, Pedro Almodovar.

Almodovar says how he won’t award a film that won’t be screened in theaters the top prize because he wants younger generations to experience the “capacity of a hypnosis of a large screen for a viewer.” However, Smith says there is “very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix.”

Before I go a little further, I will just say that I am not Team Pedro or Team Will. I think there are faults and good points in both arguments. Regarding Almodovar, I can understand where he is coming from. He is aiming to maintain the traditional moviegoing experience. But at the same time, I think it’s unfair to judge a film based on whether or not it is being handled by a streaming service. A film should be judged on its own merits and not by who handles it.

As for Will Smith, I do agree that Netflix allows a more global movie watching experience since there are films from all over the world that can be found. It can be beneficial for those that want to see an indie film that never makes it way towards their local arthouse theater. Streaming services like Netflix and Google Play are how I’ve watched films like Closet Monster, The Fits, A Monster Calls, and Girlhood. Films I’ve wanted to see at my local arthouse theater but they never came my way. So thankfully, I caught them on streaming.

But when there is a small film that plays near me that I hope to see, I go right downtown to see it because I do have an appreciation for the traditional moviegoing experience. I also go to the movies to see what hidden gems are out there so that I can vote with my dollars and attempt to make it known that I want to see more original, diverse content get greenlit. That way, we don’t have to worry about films waiting to get distributed getting picked up by Netflix where they end up buried. When I watched The Discovery on Netflix, I had to type it in the search engine so I could find it because it wasn’t under the “New Releases” section.

So I still go to the movies traditionally but I use streaming to catch up on films I missed or films that didn’t end up playing near me because they didn’t do well enough to justify a wide expansion. Those that fall under the latter category tend to be the kind of films that don’t get backing from larger studios. As a result, they don’t get much exposure and end up buried on streaming where they still have trouble finding an audience.

That being said, I don’t think Netflix is a threat to the traditional theater going experience. But I do think that if audiences crave originality, they should make the effort to seek it out when it comes out in theaters in the midst of today’s tentpole climate where Hollywood keeps pissing away millions of dollars on sequels, reboots, and reimaginings that audiences didn’t ask for. We are seeing progress in that regard. Especially after last year when films like Alice Through The Looking Glass, Star Trek Beyond, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, X-Men: Apocalypse, Ben-Hur, and Warcraft drastically underperformed stateside.

But this summer, we have opportunities to prove our thirst for original, non-superhero, non-animated, non-sequel content with films like It Comes At Night, Atomic Blonde, Baby Driver, Rough Night, My Cousin Rachel, The Big Sick, The Book Of Henry, Menashe, Dunkirk, and A Ghost Story on the horizon. I may be at risk of sounding like a broken record but we have to actually PAY to see them. Don’t watch them illegally or wait for them to appear on Netflix. Go out and buy a ticket. Because of the different films I just listed, the “there are no original films out there” excuse is void.

That was the end of my mini-rant. But I would love to hear your thoughts. What stance do you have on the Netflix dilemma? Please be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!
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