Net­flix and Ama­zon el­bow their way to the table


TORONTO — When it comes to choos­ing film projects, Lily Collins tries to look at the story, not the dis­tri­bu­tion plat­form.

“I make sto­ries be­cause I think that they’re go­ing to tell some­thing im­por­tant and have an open con­ver­sa­tion about things,” says the Golden Globe-nom­i­nated ac­tress.

And what a con­ver­sa­tion her lat­est film, Net­flix’s newly re­leased Okja, has started.

Be­sides the is­sues touched on in di­rec­tor/co-writer Bong Joon-ho’s fa­ble of a South Korean girl and her ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied pig, the film has also sparked de­bate about video stream­ing ser­vices like Net­flix and Ama­zon Stu­dios mak­ing a big­ger push into the film world.

When Okja screened at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in May, it was in com­pe­ti­tion for the Palme d’Or top prize in a field that also in­cluded an­other Net­flix film, The Meyerowitz Sto­ries. It was Net­flix’s first time hav­ing films in com­pe­ti­tion at Cannes and some, par­tic­u­larly in the French film com­mu­nity, weren’t happy.

Jury pres­i­dent Pe­dro Almod­ovar said he didn’t want the Palme d’Or to go to a movie that wouldn’t be shown the­atri­cally. The fes­ti­val also changed its rules so that, be­gin­ning next year, all com­pe­ti­tion films must com­mit to a the­atri­cal re­lease in France.

“I would love to see (Net­flix), part­ner with the­atri­cal, be­cause I think it’s hard to ap­prox­i­mate the magic of what it means to go some­where and ... see some­thing mag­i­cal on the screen,” says Gabriela Cow­perth­waite, di­rec­tor of the new film Me­gan Leavey.

“That said, I am a huge Net­flix fan and I trust them cre­atively to give me an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in my home.”

“I think the more op­por­tu­ni­ties film­mak­ers have to make their movies, the bet­ter; and the more peo­ple will­ing to take risks by giv­ing film­mak­ers money to make their movies, the bet­ter,” says Seth Ro­gen, whose new se­ries Preacher is into its sec­ond sea­son on AMC.

NEW YORK — Rush­ing to his in­ter­view seat, Tom Hol­land trips but re­cov­ers quickly and then plops him­self down ready to chat at a Man­hat­tan ho­tel. It’s a rare mis­step — lit­eral or fig­u­ra­tive — for the en­er­getic Bri­tish ac­tor and dancer who is the new Spi­der-Man.

The 21-year-old suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced him­self as the web-slinger in last year’s Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War. Now Hol­land is the head­liner in the much an­tic­i­pated Spi­der­Man: Home­com­ing with a lit­tle help from his friend Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man.

The great re­spon­si­bil­ity is not lost on him.

“I had to re­mind my­self when I first took on this char­ac­ter that Tobey Maguire’s Spi­der-Man had such a huge im­pact on me as a kid,” says Hol­land. “I’m go­ing to have that same im­pact on kids of the younger gen­er­a­tion. I re­ally wanted to do them proud and to be a solid role model.”

“That be­ing said, I love go­ing to the movies. I think the shared ex­pe­ri­ence of go­ing to the movies is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant. I don’t think only big, vis­ual ef­fects-driven movies are the types of movies that are im­por­tant to see in large groups of peo­ple.”

Net­flix paid a re­ported US$60 mil­lion to ac­quire the rights to the Brad Pitt-pro­duced po­lit­i­cal drama War Ma­chine, mak­ing it one of the stream­ing ser­vice’s most am­bi­tious projects yet. And its up­com­ing sci-fi cop thriller Bright, star­ring Will Smith, has a re­ported price tag of $90 mil­lion.

To­pher Grace, who stars along­side Pitt in War Ma­chine, feels Net­flix fills a void.

“It’s the kind of film that Hol­ly­wood used to be able to make that they’re not able to make any­more and I think ev­ery­one is re­ally grate­ful that there’s a place like Net­flix that’s will­ing to,” says Grace. “...I think ac­tors are all re­ally ex­cited be­cause it’s more good work.”

Net­flix is a more con­tentious plat­form in the film in­dus­try than

In the stand­alone ad­ven­ture, teen Peter Parker (Hol­land) is still ex­cited by his Spi­der-Man ex­pe­ri­ence with the Avengers de­fined by the Cap­tain Amer­ica movie. In the af­ter­math, he is back at home with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and re­sum­ing life as a nerd high school stu­dent.

Un­der the oc­ca­sional tute­lage of men­tor Stark, Parker im­merses him­self in his Spi­der-Man role as the friendly neigh­bour­hood crime fighter but soon finds him­self con­fronting the con­niv­ing Vul­ture (Michael Keaton).

Like most of the Mar­vel movies, hu­mour is mixed with state-ofthe-art spe­cial ef­fects ac­tion. Un­like the other Spi­der-Man pic­tures with Maguire or An­drew Garfield in the leads, the high school back­drop has more play.

“The ques­tion that (di­rec­tor) Jon Watts and I asked our­selves is, ‘If you gave a 15-year-old su­per pow­ers, wouldn’t he have the time of his life?’” says the ac­tor. “When I made this movie, I had the time of my life, so it re­ally comes across on Ama­zon be­cause it re­leases movies di­rectly onto its ser­vice, which up­sets theatre com­pa­nies. Ama­zon, by con­trast, will re­lease a film in the­atres be­fore mak­ing it avail­able to its sub­scribers. Ama­zon landed a huge hit last year when its ac­qui­si­tion Manch­ester by the Sea picked up six Os­car nom­i­na­tions and won two awards, in­clud­ing best ac­tor for Casey Af­fleck.

“They (at Ama­zon) re­ally, re­ally re­spect the the­atri­cal re­lease,” says Ku­mail Nan­jiani, star and co-writer of the new film The Big Sick.

“For a movie like ours, which is about com­mu­nity and con­nect­ing with peo­ple, watch­ing it with a bunch of peo­ple who you don’t know is part of the ex­pe­ri­ence. And what Ama­zon is do­ing is they’re al­low­ing movies to be made, idio­syn­cratic point-of-view movies ... and they’re also al­low­ing them to be in the the­atres, which is very, very ex­cit­ing.”

While some theatre chains feel threat­ened by Net­flix’s push into big bud­get films, Cana­dian com­edy star Dan Aykroyd doesn’t have much sym­pa­thy for them, or the big screen.”

That’s thanks mostly to the spunky Hol­land. He made his Lon­don West End de­but in Billy El­liot the Mu­si­cal as Billy’s best friend in the sum­mer of 2008, and a few months later he took over the ti­tle part to rave reviews.

In 2013, he co-starred in the Os­carhonoured The Im­pos­si­ble with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGre­gor and two years later earned praise for por­tray­als in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea and BBC’s Wolf Hall se­ries. When it was an­nounced in June of 2015 that Hol­land would be the new Spidey, it changed ev­ery­thing for him.

“I’ve been so lucky in my ca­reer,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been in the right place at the right time in ev­ery turn. I’ve got to work with those who I would con­sider to be the best of the best and learn from all kinds of peo­ple.”

That’sespe­cial­lytrue­ofDowneyJr. who spent ex­tra time with Hol­land be­fore the Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War shoot and again with Spi­der­Man: stu­dios up­set with the trend.

“Aw, too bad, poor lit­tle film in­dus­try. Aw, they didn’t see it com­ing, they didn’t see dig­i­tal com­ing, they didn’t see the plat­form com­ing. Too bad, sorry,” says Aykroyd, who re­cently nar­rated the doc­u­men­tary se­ries The World With­out Canada on His­tory.

“Net­flix has got all kinds of money, cre­ative peo­ple who want to take bold chances and give cre­ators what they need, the re­sources and the scope that they need to make their shows.”

Aykroyd says the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion is chang­ing things for the bet­ter.

“It opens things up and it takes it off the table of the elite seven sis­ters — (like) Warner Broth­ers, Paramount, Dis­ney. It gives them real chal­lenge and it makes them step up and hope­fully get their game up to a bet­ter qual­ity and open­ing up to new tal­ent where they’re not just re­ly­ing on what they think are sure-things like tent­poles.”

The Cana­dian Press Home­com­ing. Their re­spect and af­fec­tion for each other shows on screen and off.

“The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two of us is more in­ter­est­ing from this movie’s point of view be­cause he sud­denly has some­one to think about other than Tony Stark,” Hol­land says. “Tony re­ally cares about Peter, and that’s one of the rea­sons why he doesn’t want Peter to be­come an Avenger — he doesn’t want the re­spon­si­bil­ity of some­thing hap­pen­ing to Peter on his con­science.”

On the funny side of the in­ter­play, both char­ac­ters con­tinue their snappy pat­ter rou­tines. “It’s a fun back and forth just like a big brother/lit­tle brother or dad/son type sit­u­a­tion,” Hol­land says.

Whether fans will see them to­gether in other Mar­vel films is the fod­der for spec­u­la­tion both true and false. The two­some do show up next year in the Mar­vel cross­over which fea­tures the Avengers and the Guardians of the Gal­axy crew in Avengers: In­fin­ity War.

And based on early reviews and box-of­fice pre­dic­tions, there will be an­other Spidey ex­trav­a­ganza.

“I’m still get­ting over the first one,” says the ac­tor of the se­quel con­jec­ture. “I haven’t thought about the sec­ond one yet.” bthomp­son@post­

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