Could “Animal Farm” Be Netflix’s First Attempt at an Academy Award?

Matthew Loffhagen
Distributors Corporation of America
(Photo: Distributors Corporation of America)

Netflix has acquired an upcoming movie adaptation of George Orwell’s allegorical novel “Animal Farm”.

As cute and fun as the title may sound, this is a novel by the same author as “1984”, and the result is a story that’s no less harrowing.

The book is technically about a farm of animals taking control of their own destiny without a farmer. It’s also one big extended metaphor for the Russian revolution and the rise of Stalin, because of course it is.

Apparently, this kind of thing is very much in Gollum’s wheelhouse, as Andy Serkis will be directing. Serkis is hoping “Animal Farm” will be an excellent vehicle to attempt to gain some prestige from various award bodies.

If Serkis can make audiences cry over the fate of Boxer the horse, then he’ll likely feel he deserves some kind of Academy Award.

The motion capture actor-turned-director is intent on taking all the credit for his CGI performances. He’s essentially ignoring the work of the dozens of artists and animators that do the hard part of turning him into a monkey or a horrible goblin. I suspect he’s hoping that an “Animal Farm” adaptation will help him in this goal.

All Movies Are Equal

All said, I’m not sure how successful Serkis will be with this now that Netflix is publishing the film.

Netflix is many things, but a purveyor of Oscarbait is not one of them.

Many awards bodies and film festivals, most notably Cannes, have essentially enacted a ban on streaming service content.

These movies are apparently not real movies. Real movies are released in theaters, where audiences must pay a high ticket price. If you’re not being fleeced whenever you try to buy popcorn, you’re apparently not actually watching a film.

Gollum
Source: New Line Cinema

This is, of course, utter nonsense. But awards bodies such as the Motion Picture Academy receive a lot of investment from traditional movie theater owners. Big chains in particular are particularly interested in controlling film distribution.

Thus, while Serkis may have lined up a potentially award-winning animated feature with an adaptation of “Animal Farm”, it’s probably going to be overlooked by the Academy simply because of its associations with Netflix.

Some Movies Are More Equal Than Others

This all feels vaguely poetic. Netflix has attempted to seize the means of movie production, and release films in a more egalitarian method that cut out the wealthy movie theater chains.

But the bright future that Netflix promises looks like it’ll be undone by backroom negotiations and underhanded politics.

It’s not a perfect metaphor for the plot of “Animal Farm”, but it is pretty close.

Heck, if Serkis’ movie ends up displaying a subtle moviemaking subtext, I’m really not going to be surprised.

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