Earlier today, the nominations were announced for the 86th Annual Academy Awards, and, by and large, there weren't too many surprises. However, one of the nominees could change the face of the Oscars forever. The Netflix original documentary The Square became the first Oscar-nominated film for the streaming service, which has already shaken up the TV establishment with Emmy and Golden Globe wins for their first original TV series, House of Cards.
The documentary was acquired by Netflix in November, after a limited theatrical run in October, along with The Short Game. The story follows the freedom fighters who took part in the Egyptian Revolution back in 2011, as two governments toppled while young citizens fought to reclaim their freedom. Director Jehane Noujaim has received plenty of critical acclaim before the Oscar nod, winning the People's Choice Award in the documentary category at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and an Audience Award for World Cinema documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film is going up against The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars and 20 Feet from Stardom in the Best Documentary category.
However, this isn't the first time an online film has succeeded at the Oscars. Last year, Inocente, a Kickstarter-funded film, won Best Documentary Short, beating out two other projects which received funding from the crowd-sourcing platform, King's Point and Buzukashi Boys.
It remains to be seen how Netflix's push into the Oscar race will affect eligibility requirements in the future. Oscar rules state that a film must be released, "for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County, for a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days." The Square was acquired after brief theatrical runs, making it eligible for the awards. However, since Netflix is already shaking the foundation of TV to its core, by debuting conventional programming in an unconventional method, who's to say they might not do the same thing in the movie industry? If they continue to acquire more films such as The Square and The Short Game, they will have to be screened in a traditional theater in L.A, at some point during the calendar year, to be eligible, under the Academy's current rules. Of course, Netflix could always rent out a theater in L.A. for one week and show their films there to meet the eligibility requirements.
Netflix's TV shows have already proven it can beat primetime network contenders in major awards, with House of Cards star Robin Wright winning a Golden Globe last week for Best Actress in a TV Drama, beating out network heavyweights such as Scandal's Kerry Washington and The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies. Kevin Spacey and Corey Stoll were also nominated from the hit series, which became the first web-only series to win an Emmy award last fall, taking home the award for Best Directing in a Drama series. Orange Is the New Black's Taylor Schilling and Arrested Development's Jason Bateman also scored Golden Globe nominations for Netflix.
Netflix subscribers can watch The Square starting Friday, January 17. CLICK HERE to visit the streaming service's page for the documentary. It's also worth noting that three of The Square's four competitors for the Best Documentary Oscar (The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer and Dirty Wars), are currently available to watch through Netflix's streaming service.