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Will Netflix Dominate the TV Movie Category at the 2018 Emmys?

In this week’s Awards Tracker Jalal Haddad takes a look at the massive slate of original films at Netflix and makes the argument for the streaming giant to dominate the TV Movie race at the Emmys.

Last year Netflix made the surprising announcement that the streaming giant planned on releasing 80 films throughout 2018. The announcement made a major splash with the internet buzzing with endless questions. Since then Netflix has released major festival hits like Mudbound and Okja as well as massive genre blockbusters like Bright and Cloverfield Paradox. With Netflix drastically changing the way films are released on a global level now is the perfect time to wonder what this means for Netflix and the Emmys. `

Netflix has become the network to beat at the Emmys in just about every major category. Last year, the streaming giant raked in a total of 91 Emmy nominations. The groundbreaking streaming service has even found ways to revamp the dying TV Movie category at the Emmys with nominations for Christmas specials like A Very Murray Christmas and the singled out Black Mirror episode San Junipero. Still why doesn’t Netflix use the wide open Emmy race to bring a spotlight to one of their many original films that were not destined for Oscar glory?

Netflix has submitted two of their original films in the past but neither was nominated. In 2016 the Ricky Gervais comedy Special Correspondents was an Emmy possibility but was plagued by disappointing reviews. Last year The Most Hated Woman in America starring Melissa Leo was submitted but failed to gain any traction. Even without putting their full weight behind a more traditional TV movie at the Emmys the innovative streaming service did win their first major program award last year in the same category for San Junipero, the standout installment of Black Mirror. It might be possible that Netflix wants to continue to reshape the category and continue their winning streak with another Black Mirror installment but as more traditional networks abandon TV movies there is more than enough room for the streaming service to completely control the category. After all this is the massively popular streaming network that was able to pull off three out of the seven drama series nominations last year in an insanely competitive race.

(Photo: Netflix)
Proving a Point to Hollywood

Netflix has made major strides in convincing audiences to  look at their films the same way they do any other movie with a more traditional distribution method. Mudbound picked up a couple of major awards and ended Oscar season with four nominations. No other argument is stronger than the “Mudbound is Cinema” speech director Dee Rees gave at the Indie Spirit Awards. One of the huge benefits of a distributor like Netflix is the spotlight it shines on female and POC filmmakers.

Still,as their slate of original films quickly grows the streaming service likely won’t give a major Oscar push to each of their films especially if they stay true to their promise of 80 2018 films. Just last year Netflix picked up the Sundance Grand Jury winner I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore and quickly made the film available online. As quickly as audiences were able to stream the indie film it was soon forgotten. Netflix never really gave the film an awards push throughout Oscar season. Imagine if Netflix chose to instead sell the Sundance sensation as a TV film and gave it a proper Emmy push. This would have certainly brought even more attention to the film and first time director Macon Blair.

In other categories and awards groups Netflix has no problem blurring the lines between cinema and television. Mudbound competed as feature film with every major awards group except at the Hollywood Makeup Artists & Hairstylist Guild where it competed as a TV Movie even though another Netflix film, Bright, competed as a feature film. The streaming service also has a long history of double dipping their award winning documentaries at the Oscars and Emmys. The Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special category at the Emmys has been filled with Netflix Oscar nominees lately including 13th, What Happened, Miss Simone?, Virunga, and The Square. Last year’s Oscar winner for Documentary Short Subject The White Helmets went on to be nominated at the Emmys in the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking category as well as Oscar nominee Winter on Fire.

(Photo: Netflix)

In the second half of last year Netflix debuted two films that received pretty strong reviews from critics especially for their leading women with To The Bone and Our Souls at Night. Simultaneously as both films were available nationwide to stream they were also available for an extremely brief run at the iPic theater in LA. Neither film made a dent throughout awards season and as long as the Emmy rules remain vague Netflix should take the opportunity and submit both as TV movies. The Jane Fonda & Robert Redford vehicle Our Souls at Night is a perfect Emmy contender for both leads. Lily Collins devastating portrayal of a young woman with an eating disorder in To The Bone deserves more attention and is extremely worthy of a proper Emmy campaign.

Throughout 2018 Netflix has multiple high profile releases that are bound to receive a major Oscar push including new films from Martin Scorsese, Tamara Jenkins, Noah Baumbach, and Paul Greengrass that are bound to receive an Oscar push so it only makes sense that Netflix should submit some of their other films as TV movies. Netflix has the rare opportunity of modernizing HBO’s unique approach to releasing and bringing accolades to smaller movies.

(Photo: Netflix)
Netflix’s Best Prospects

Some of the most high-profile Netflix releases were genre films with not-so-great support from critics like The Cloverfield Paradox, Bright, and Mute. Critical support is not the only barometer in terms of Emmy likelihood but with Netflix refusing to release viewership numbers  the critics are the only hint of a Netflix film’s success. Based off of Metacritic score’s most of this year’s releases have a score in the 20s and 30s but there are also plenty of original films that critics and the Awards Daily TV has rallied behind.

The Netflix Original with the highest Metacritic score is Gerald’s Game, a Stephen King horror adaptation about a woman trying to escape from being handcuffed to bedposts after her husband dies on top of her mid sex. The film received a cumulative score of 77 from critics with Stephen King himself praising the film. In the past a horror thriller like Gerald’s Game would have had a hard time commanding respect from awards groups but in recent years Netflix has made huge strides to change that with Emmy hits like Stranger Things and Black Mirror.

Critics singled out Carla Gugino’s role as a “career-defining performance.”  Carrying the film virtually solo and chained to a bed for the vast majority of the two-hour film Gugino delivered by far one of the most compelling performances that might be eligible in the upcoming Lead Actress in a TV Movie or Limited Series race and hopefully she and the film will receive a major awards push. After 30 years in Hollywood she certainly deserves it.

The Maya Forbes directed comedy The Polka King received favorable reviews from critics (65) and is filled with comedic talent including Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jacki Wever, and Vanessa Bryant. The true-crime comedy tells the story of a Polish-American polka player who went to prison in 2004 for running a Ponzi scheme. In many ways the film feels almost David O. Russell-esque and has the potential to be an interesting Emmy contender.

Readers, what do you think? Is this the year Netflix dominates the TV Movie race at the Emmys? Which of their films should they submit for consideration?