“I made the movie independently, and I shot it on super-16. I designed it to be put into theaters as I make all my movies and expect all my movies to play that way,” said Noah Baumbach while discussing his new film “The Meyerowitz Stories” with press and industry at the 2017 New York Film Festival (watch above). “I think it’s an unbeatable and, I think, undying experience. Netflix acquired it in post, and they’ve been great, but I think like many filmmakers, this is the way you’re supposed to see it, [on the big screen].”
Online streaming distribution has been controversial of late, with Netflix especially blurring the line between cinema and online entertainment. That controversy came to a head earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival where “Meyerowitz” and another Netflix original, “Okja” by director Bong Joon-ho, were entered in competition to the consternation of many purists who didn’t want streaming films to compete at the prestigious fest. Cannes ultimately decided to keep “Meyerowitz” and “Okja” in the lineup but stipulated that all future festival entries must commit to distribution in French theaters — streaming-only movies will no longer be allowed.
This debate can be felt throughout the movie industry, with Oscars also facing the challenge of streaming. In 2015 Netflix released “Beasts of No Nation” in a limited Oscar qualifying release the same day it was made available online, and it was snubbed entirely by the Oscars. But Amazon’s “Manchester by the Sea” (2016) opted for a more traditional theatrical roll-out before it became available to stream, and it fared much better, winning Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan).
This comes at the same time when TV is undergoing a similar revolution — perhaps even faster. Just this month the Emmys made history by awarding their first streaming programs Best Drama Series (Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Best TV Movie (Netflix’s “Black Mirror: San Junipero”). But the marriage of television and streaming may be a little smoother since TV and streaming are both similar forms of home entertainment and therefore don’t disrupt the traditional business model quite as much.
So how will “The Meyerowitz Stories” do on the awards scene? It stars Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Elizabeth Marvel as dysfunctional adult siblings still struggling with the scars left by their father, a self-involved sculptor (two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman). Baumbach himself is a past Oscar nominee for his original screenplay for “The Squid and the Whale” (2005), and he’s also known for critically acclaimed films including “Greenberg” (2010) and “Frances Ha” (2012). “The Meyerowitz Stories” will be released on October 13.
Baumbach had much more to say about “The Meyerowitz Stories” at NYFF. Follow the links below to see more.
Working with Randy Newman on the score: “If you can work with Dustin Hoffman and Randy Newman in a lifetime let alone one movie, it’s a knock-your-socks off kind of experience.”
On whether his films are improvised: “People ask me a lot if my movies are improvised and I always take it as an insult — come on, I’ve been working on this thing, trying really hard — but I’m trying to take it as a compliment. The dialogue is highly stylized … I’m going for total artifice here.”
On mixing familial angst with humor: “With this one, sure there’s anger in it, but I felt it’s a hopeful story in some ways about how parents define things for children … There is a kind of deprogramming that goes on for adults.”
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