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Amazon and Netflix Set Their Sights on Oscar Nominations

Amazon Studios Golden Globes CelebrationAmazon Studios Golden Globes Celebration
Actress J. Smith-Cameron, director Kenneth Lonergan and Amazon Chairman/CEO Jeff Bezos attend Amazon Studios Golden Globes Celebration at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Joe Scarnici—Getty Images for Amazon

Awards season is already in full swing in Hollywood, but the industry’s signature event is still more than a month away. This week, we’ll get a better idea of which stars will have a shot at winning an Oscar when this year’s Academy Awards nominations are announced on Tuesday morning.

After setting a new record with seven Golden Globe wins, the modern musical La La Land is a clear favorite for the most Oscar nominations. Along with La La Land, the dramas Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea make up the trio of films most often mentioned by forecasters as the leading candidates to win for Best Picture. In the end, it will likely come down to whether Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members prefer a movie that many think reinvents the movie musical genre, or a devastating drama about loss and guilt (Manchester by the Sea), or a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale about a young gay black man (Moonlight).

Regardless of which movie ultimately wins, the inevitability of Manchester by the Sea earning a nomination on Tuesday is a huge milestone for Amazon. The e-commerce giant’s streaming video arm spent $10 million buying rights for the movie at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and co-distributed the film with independent studio Roadside Attractions. Over the past year, the movie has received a lot of buzz as a possible award winner, including winning Amazon its first Golden Globe earlier this month (for lead actor Casey Affleck) even if the film ultimately lost out for best drama to Moonlight.

The film is virtually a lock for a Best Picture nomination and Affleck will almost certainly be nominated for his performance, while co-stars Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges could also score their own roles. Kenneth Lonergan is also likely to be nominated for directing and for writing the film’s screenplay.

Like its streaming rival, Netflix, Amazon reportedly spends billions of dollars annually on original content, has been especially keen on increasing its production and distribution of feature films over the past few years. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made no secret of his ambitions to win an Oscar as a major (if mostly symbolic) return on the company’s movie investments. Simply put, an Oscar win would solidify Amazon’s standing as a major disrupter in Hollywood while ensuring that the company can continue convincing top talent (directors, actors, writers) to participate in its productions.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only streaming service hoping to hear its name called during Tuesday’s Oscar nomination announcements. Netflix has a very good shot at earning a nomination (again) in the documentary category. It has two feature documentaries that the Academy put on a shortlist of 15 films that will compete for five nomination slots. They are The Ivory Game, about the practice of elephant poaching, and 13th, a look at the history of U.S. racial inequality that was directed by Ava DuVernay, who directed the Oscar-nominated drama Selma in 2014.

 

 

In the past, Netflix has been attached to Oscar-nominated documentaries such as 2014’s The Square, about the Egyptian Revolution, and 2015’s What Happened, Miss Simone?, about legendary singer Nina Simone. But the company has struggled at times to attract top feature film Oscar contenders, partially due to the site’s reluctance to give films extended theatrical releases.

For both Amazon and Netflix, Tuesday’s nominations announcements will shed more light on their respective chances of taking home their first Academy Award.

The 89th annual Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 26 in Los Angeles. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel will host the event, which will air on ABC.