Cannes Snobbery

Some people think that Netflix is saving the movie industry. Others think it’s killing it. I think neither is true, that all Netflix is is the future. Or rather, Netflix is now. The movie industry is changing and has changed. Some directors insist that their art can only be experienced on a big screen, others are embracing the flexibility that comes with a Netflix carte blanche. But Cannes, a major French film festival, has inserted itself into the discourse, reluctantly agreeing to include two Netflix titles in this year’s lineup, but insisting that next year’s rules will be different and only movies intended for a theatrical release will earn slots in their programming.

Amazon also earned boos from critics at its Cannes screening, this despite the fact that Amazon does partner up to bring some of its titles to the cinema, like last year’s Oscar contender, Manchester By The Sea. This year Amazon brought Wonderstruck to Cannes by the acclaimed director of Carol, Todd Haynes. Of Amazon, Haynes noted “The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes who love movies and really want to try and provide opportunity for independent film visions to find their footing in a vastly shifting market. They love cinema.”

Netflix makes movies and series for its at-home audience who pay a subscription fee that includes original content. At TIFF 2016, I saw 2 Netflix films (Mascots and Blue Jay) and found them to be just as worthy as any other content on offer. At this year’s Oscars, Netflix garnered a nomination for Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, and a win for its short documentary, The White Helmets. Traditional or not, Netflix movies do hold up.

Cannes jury president Pedro Almodovar doesn’t like it and made his position clear with this opening statement: “I personally do not conceive, not only the Palme d’Or, any other prize being given to a film and not being able to see this film on a big screen. The size [of the screen] should not be smaller than the chair on which you’re sitting. It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that’s here.” Fellow jury member Will Smith clashed with him on this, defending the streaming service “In my house, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit. They get to see films they absolutely wouldn’t have seen. Netflix brings a great connectivity. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles of them. They get to find those artists.” And that’s true: Netflix is a boon to indie gems and hard-to-find documentaries. It also allows people who find the cost of theatre-going restrictive to watch movies at home for a reasonable price. Of course, Netflix just so happens to be the distributor of Smith’s next big-budget movie, Bright.

And that’s the thing about Netflix today: it’s going after the big guns. For its first-ever Cannes screening, Netflix chose Okja, a film by the South Korean director of Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho. Okja stars Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s no slouch. Of the controversy, Joon-ho was  typically humble: “I’m just happy he will watch this movie tonight. He can say anything—I’m fine. I loved working with Netflix. They gave me great support — the budget for this film is considerable. Giving such a budget to a director isn’t very common.” And Swinton was also quick to make light of the situation, saying “The truth is, we didn’t actually come here for prizes.” Okja received a four-minute standing ovation after its screening.

Later this festival, Netflix will screen the second of its two titles, Noah Baumback’s The Meyerowitz Stories, about a fractured family reuniting, starring Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Candice Bergen, Ben Stiller, and Netflix darling Adam Sandler.

 

 

 

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42 thoughts on “Cannes Snobbery

  1. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

    Great post. Surely it’s all about freedom of choice. I love the cinema and I love Netflix. As a consumer there’s so many ways to view films and TV and I welcome them all. As a low budget filmmaker I think a film obviously works better on the big screen but if you cannot afford to break the distribution monopoly getting your film online is a great way for people to see your story. The only slightly negative side for Netflix is films like ‘Beasts of No Nation’ deserved more awards and to be seen by more people on a big screen.

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Often Off Topic

    This argument would make sense some 10, 20 years ago, but home technology has come such a far way now that if you have enough money, you can have an excellent movie viewing experience at home. To boo a movie simply for a Netflix or Amazon logo is just childish!

    Liked by 5 people

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  3. drhumpp

    When I think movies, I’ll always think video store. That era is gone. Netflix puts a huge variety at your fingertips, but it makes things so different. When I used to rent a movie or two for the weekend, I was stuck with them. Even if it was bad, I would probably go through it twice before I brought it back. Now, the temptation is to watch a few minutes then switch to something else. I’m hesitant to say that one way is better than another, but I know that my kids’ experience with movies is different than mine was. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.

    Of course, that’s not what you were talking about, but your posts always get me thinking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. tubularsock

    Tubularsock still believes that if it is not a silent film it should not be produced for the “big screen”!
    ONLY the big screen can give that majestic silence that majesty it deserves!
    Tubularsock knows that some will say that “talkies” will soon dominate the movie theaters but where is the honor of great film in that!

    And My God! Allowing “talkies” on your home movie channel! Shame!

    Why Cannes there not be SILENCE!

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. J.

    Incredible view, really. I can understand if there was no quality in the movies they’re producing, but they’re investing in film and allowing film makers the opportunity to have their work not only funded, but viewed by millions of movie enthusiasts. Guess it’s not great news for the traditional distribution networks or big picture houses, but it should be about the art. The artists. The filmmakers and those involved in bringing a vision together. Cinema was a way to catch films many, many years ago… now film is less ‘exclusive’.

    Great post, by the way (as always. I probably don’t say that often enough).

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, and I also think Big Cinema is a boy’s club. Female and minority film makers aren’t getting those big distribution deals, but they’re thriving on Netflix.

      Liked by 4 people

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  6. sati

    I gotta go with Almodovar. There’s magic to the big screen. Not that there is something wrong with Netflix but to me the cinema is just so special. And something like for example watching a movie on one’s phone is a travesty.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. The Vern

      If a movie is made for the sole purpose of being shown on a big screen I fully support that notion. If filmmakers want to reach as many people as possible with streaming, I respect that too. I think it all depends on the project that is being made.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Sean

    Since Jay bought me a new TV for Christmas, watching Netflix at home provides as good a viewing experience as going to the movie theatre. And we would not ever see a lot of these indie movies in Ottawa (and Ottawa’s pretty good as far as indie cinema goes), but a surprising number of our festival finds pop up on Netflix, and that’s a very good thing.

    Snobbery is the perfect description for how the Cannes jury president is reacting. As you said, Netflix is the present, and streaming brings independent film to a much wider audience than ever before. That is something that film festivals should be encouraging and rewarding, not excluding.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Jay Post author

      And some definitely are. In fact, as we’ve seen, some festivals are actually including TELEVISION (GASP!). But yeah, these streaming services really are bringing a lot of cool titles to people who would never otherwise see them.

      Liked by 1 person

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  8. fragglerocking

    I never go to the movies now, the seats are uncomfortable and I like a glass (bottle) of wine with a movie and the ability to rewind the bits I like, and go to the loo without missing a beat. I don’t have Netflix but do have sky movies and buy Blu-rays and watch it all on a huge TV, that Alamo guy sounds like he’s living in the past.

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    1. Jay Post author

      He is.
      And he’s being quite elitist too. Lots of people don’t have the option of going to the cinema for every movie.
      I like the VIP cinema because they offer booze and recliners
      I also like the drive-in because I can do both in my car, and more.
      But it’s also nice to stay at home and not wear pants!

      Liked by 2 people

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  9. Isey

    I love going to the movies as an event – but agree that there are a lot of movies I would never have bothered to see, talk about, share, discuss with friends, etc. without Netflix.

    Come to think of it, i don’t even know how films get paid by netflix. Is it a per view thing like music streaming?

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  10. Widdershins

    Just like publishing – ebooks and print, self-publish and trad-publish – it’s all about CHOICE, and if Pedro doesn’t get that, then he’s the dinosaur in the room. 🙂

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      1. Widdershins

        Wow, I’ve never been called a troll before. My whole point was that platforms like Netflix and Amazon are legitimate alternatives to viewing films on a big screen in a theater, just as they are legitimate alternatives to the traditional movie studio, of whatever size, system. So if you want to think I’m a troll for that opinion, then so be it.

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    1. Jay Post author

      The jury doesn’t see as many films as you’d think – they watch 3 day per max, which is only about half of what I see when I go to a festival.

      Liked by 2 people

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    2. Jay Post author

      I think Amazon on Netflix are providing a vital service. Cinemas are getting to be so expensive that they’ve left a segment of their audience behind. Netflix makes movies more affordable, and more accessible. I go to the theatre all the darn time but I also have a disability, and often my back pain is such that I just can’t bear sitting in a crowded theatre. Further, as a movie reviewer, I’m often given screeners, movies intended for me to watch at home. No matter the size of the screen, a movie affects you or doesn’t. Theatres aren’t the be all and end all.

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. Liz A.

    Why does it have to be either/or? You’re right, it’s just the new thing. The current thing. In a few years, there’ll be something new that the establishment will pooh-pooh just because it isn’t the way “we’ve always done things”.

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    1. Jay Post author

      There’s a museum in Paris called L’Orangerie. It has curved walls built specifically to showcase Monet’s huge water lilies paintings. If you can see it that way, it’s the very best. BUT, only a tiny fraction of people can do that. For the rest, seeing it reproduced on a coffee mug is at least some exposure to his art. Is it what Monet intended? Of course not. But it does get his paintings to the masses.

      Liked by 1 person

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  12. Brittani

    I love going to the cinema and that will always be my preferred choice of viewing, but there’s no need for him to get snobby over Netflix. Netflix is a life saver. When I live in a city with no other family members, I can’t always get a baby sitter, so a movie premiering on Netflix or VOD is perfect for my family sometimes. Tallulah premiered on Netflix last year and was better than a good chunk of the films I saw in theaters. Okja is one of my most anticipated too.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. tarmac492

    Nice write up, here. I happen to think Amazon and Netflix are doing great things giving outlets for indie filmmakers. You mentioned Baumbach and I would add the excellent I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore by Macon Blair. Even Hal Hartley directed a few episodes of the Amazon original Red Oaks. You get the good with the bad, but I say let the streaming continue.

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    1. fexxonji

      Exactly! I don’t feel at home in this world anymore is a terrific film that otherwise I wouldn’t have seen. I don’t get why one thing has to exclude the other. I still go to the movies when there is a specific film that I want to see and experience it on the big screen. But I am very happy that I pay Netflix because I can watch many movies when I have time off work. It’s the same thing with e-readers and books. I love reading books but if I didn’t have a Kindle I would be buried under piles of books by now.

      Liked by 1 person

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  14. Sarca

    Re: Cannes, I think they need to loosen their grip on theatre film vs Netflix. There is plenty of good film being made out there – who cares if you can watch it in the theatre? TBH, a lot of films don’t get shown in the theatre depending on where you live. I can tell you the pocket I live in in the GTA, all 5 theatres are showing the SAME damn commercial movies. And if you go up to Sudbury, I am positive they don’t get too much variety up there, having one Silver City movie theatre. Point being, people probably will end up watching that Cannes flick on Netflix anyway!
    As for the changing landscape of watching online – it’s here, it’s happening. But things are very different in Canada vs US. Our Netflix can be paltry at best and doesn’t have half the fare that the US version has. And as for cutting the cable cord, I’d love to (and the hubs works in TV for a major Canadian network, so that’s saying something), but unfortunately, one channel has us hog-tied – the one that airs the Blue Jays games. You can’t stream them for free, and it only airs via a “cord”.

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  15. Lloyd Marken

    Change can be hard, I’ve recently gotten streaming services and am very happy with them. TV was free but video rentals were not. The money I pay for streaming no doubt is more cost effective but if a handful of companies get control of the market there will be less options for us all. I like to think there will be continuing disc sales and cinema distribution. I miss the experiences of walking around my local blockbusters for 30 minutes and I will miss sitting in a cinema a hell of a lot more. But I am sick and tired of paying $50 to see a movie for two with some snacks, I’m sick of sitting to the side so that I don’t have to worry about people behind me making noise, bumping my chair or talking on their phone. So where does that leave us? I don’t know but Netflix ain’t going anywhere.

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