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This week, like a couple eagerly awaiting their wedding, Netflix sent out a “save the date” notice. It comes in the form of a sizzling hot reel, whose soundtrack is Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” and presents glimpses of all the big movies the streaming service will release this year. . Is it ok? Like, sure, I’ll watch it Exploit a sequel in which Chris Hemsworth throws an ax, and that one features Eddie Murphy and Jonah Hill with really terrible hair. Maybe it’s Zack Snyder’s sci-fi stuff. But other than that, these movies don’t come across as inspiring, as good as Rebecca Alter put it for Vulture“they all feel the same than generic somehow, like the Kirkland film versions.
Is this completely bad? No. Action movies and romantic comedies are fun! Netflix doesn’t have as many franchises as Disney, so it has to fill its wave with movies that are likely to entice people to love and subscribe. So, B-movies start with A-list stars—Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher in a quirky film by the writer of 27 dresses (Your location or mine)! What is Gal Gadot doing? Salt Thing (Heart of stone)! Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the sequel to murder mystery (Murder Mystery 2)! (You are forgiven for not remembering to have the first part above that last one.)
When you’re Netflix, though, you’re setting the tone, creating the cultural artifacts of the time. Sure, every studio needs to produce a few sure-fire movies each year, but one of Netflix’s early promises — and that of widespread streaming — was that it would provide a platform for indie movies, for villains and weirdos. Yes, those movies still exist on Netflix, somewhere, but they’re not the ones that are heavily advertised in hot reels. If these are the must-see movies of 2023, the ones that viewers have to put their watch on, it’s already shaping up to be a pretty good year.
Watching the Netflix trailer feels even clearer this week. Not because this is the week that Reed Hastings step down as co-CEO of Netflix, but because it marked the beginning of Sundance Film Festival. In previous years, Netflix and Amazon have come out with their checkbooks ready to go, ready to hand out top dollars to the next independent darling. There’s still some of that—Amazon pick up In My Mother’s Skin the words mom director Kenneth Dagatan ahead of this year’s festival — but Netflix has switched to using the festival as a premiere venue for its own films, just as it did with the Taylor Swift documentary Miss America.
Of course, part of this is the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a time when Sundance and other festivals had to greatly limit or cancel their live events, where the movies—as well as their creators and stars—have the elusive buzz needed to attract attention. of streaming services. But now film festivals are resuming live screenings and will back to their independent roots, the focus seems to have shifted at Netflix. Coupled with similar changes at HBO Maxit looks like the streaming feature is continuing to lose its edge—at a point where it can really make a splash.