Do Oscar nominations matter in the age of streaming?

Being an Oscar completist this year will probably depend on how many streaming services you pay for

Brad Keefe
"CODA"

This week’s Oscar nominations arrived with the least amount of fanfare I can remember.

The pandemic is the most obvious reason for the lack of enthusiasm, since it has accounted for a seismic (and, dare I say, irreversible) shift in the movie industry in terms of shared theatrical experiences.

Factor in last year’s unusual and forgettable Oscar telecast, as well as the disarray around the Golden Globes, which led them to forgo a broadcast at all, eliminating the usual hype the Globes bring to Oscar nominations.

Which has all led me to ask: Do the Oscars still matter?

In a typical year, the Oscar nominations would at least be a boon to the more underseen nominees at the box office, and that’s still likely to be a bit of a factor.

But this year only two of the films nominated for Best Picture are still exclusively in theaters (“Licorice Pizza” and “Drive My Car”). So this year’s nominations won’t provide much of a box office boost.

Of course, the nominees also reflect a years-long trend of the big streaming services pushing to be viewed as serious contenders. My top film of 2021, “CODA,” remains tragically underseen as an Apple TV+ exclusive. (“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is also on the service, but it still has some theatrical screenings.)

So being an Oscar completist this year will probably depend on how many services you subscribe to (or, in some cases, your willingness to rent digitally).

For example, if you have all the primary streamers, you can watch four of the five movies that boast nominees for Best Actress (“The Lost Daughter” on Netflix, “Being the Ricardos” on Prime, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” on Hulu and HBO Max, and “Spencer” on Hulu).

Still, some films will get far wider audiences on streaming services than they would have in theaters because of the Oscar bump. Best Picture nominee “Nightmare Alley” is already on HBO Max and Hulu after a December theatrical run. A wider audience could give it a boost (though it’s still a long shot).

Meanwhile, “Flee” — which made history for nominations in Best Documentary, Best Animated Feature and Best International Film — just dropped on Hulu after a short theatrical window. It’s a must-see.

Also a must in the documentary category, Questlove’s “The Summer of Soul” has long been on Hulu, but now it’s coming to Disney+ and airing on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 20. It’s an unprecedented move to show a nominated film on broadcast TV.

And, of course, Netflix’s widely streamed “Don’t Look Up” landed one of the worst Best Picture nominations ever. There’s no way the Academy was not going have Leo, Jen and Meryl in the audience. I still hate that movie, and I hate this nomination.

As streaming continues to change the way we view “the movies,” it will be yet another odd year at the Oscars. And time will tell whether they ever carry the same cachet again.