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Chronic Consumption and the Seventh Art: Where the Oscars, Netflix and Local Cinema Converge

Simone Bélanger

Arts & Culture Editor

Source: C.R.A.Z.Y. - Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

The year 2023 marks a historical first: media said “numerical” will overtake traditional television in time spent daily by American adults in consuming video content, according to a study published by Insider Intelligence. The industry’s leviathans, platforms such as Netflix, TikTok, and YouTube, are some of the most notorious culprits for this societal shift. On average, video consumption on non-traditional media will reach up to 3 hours and 11 minutes a day; the study only targets adults, a very alarming prospect, especially when we consider how minors tend to develop serious addictions to numerical content consumption.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon operates to the detriment of more pertinent and local cinematographic works. The future of indie cinema, and particularly homegrown films, is far from bright. The declining attendance in movie theatres and overall lack of interest in Quebec cinema, an even stronger tendency among the youth, are symptoms of an endangered seventh art. The film industry condemns both the challenge of reaching out to the younger demographic and the general lack of education regarding our own filmmaking. Julie Ravary-Pilon, a cinema teacher at l’Université de Montréal, describes how the level of exposure to one’s local culture at a young age directly correlates with the media consumed throughout adulthood. As consumption habits closely reflect the cultural education one received as a child or adolescent, we must take a stance swiftly in order to rekindle our local film industry.

Cinema student Lily Maheu describes how the Quebec film industry has been dominated by the same producers, directors, and actors for years, while also targeting a much older audience. The issue of diversity in Quebec cinema has become critical. “We keep making the same boring movies and series with the same overdone tropes for the same small audience. We are playing it safe,” states Lily. “The industry lacks directors willing to take risks and experiment. You really have to dig to discover emergent filmmakers.”

As boomers still shepherd the industry, the appeal is limited for the younger generation, unable to genuinely connect with the marketed films. Lily denotes the importance of going out to appreciate local indie cinema and recommends attending festivals such as Cinemania, Fantasia, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, and Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal (RIDM). She emphasizes the necessity to “broaden our cultural horizons,” especially for younger, less educated people. Moral of the story: cultivate youth interest in Quebec cinema before it’s too late. And despite the problematic and outdated aspects of the Quebec film industry, Lily still expresses a genuine pride for an art form that evolves and is our own.

Furthermore, the Americanization of our media consumption can be traced to a major upcoming event: The 2023 Oscars. Fellow cinephile Marie-Laurence Rondeau believes that the nominations, particularly for best picture, echo our consumption habits. She expresses how “American, high-budget productions are predominant, and certain films like Top Gun: Maverick were nominated in multiple categories a ridiculous number of times.” She also raised her concerns regarding the diversity within the jury panel and the rightfulness of its verdicts.

Indeed, controversy arises every year following the Oscars nominations for various distinctions; the Academy’s selections are often questioned, to say the least. Correspondingly, Lily Maheu defines the established organization as an “archaic, macho institution”; a boys’ club to put it simply. For instance, no Black actors were included in leading actor categories, and this year’s nominations for best director entirely consisted of men. This absence of female directors mirrors a history of sexism allegations, sparking a hostile response channeled by the hashtag #OscarsSoMale. Lily also confides that hardcore cinephiles typically disdain the ceremony, an overrated event that reflects American cinematography and Hollywood over-the-top productions.

But how exactly does the selection process function? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts encompasses nearly 9,500 eligible voters as of 2022, divided into 17 branches (actors, cinematographers, costume designers, directors, documentaries, editors, makeup artists/hairstylists, music, producers, production design, short films/feature animation, sound, visual effects, and writers), each branch voting with respect to their expertise as well as for best picture. Anyone holding feature film credits can apply; the candidature has to be approved by the branch’s executive committee before being submitted to the board. Such a process based on voluntary applications (and taking place in the U.S.) is undeniably propitious to Western-centrism. “Yet we cannot forget that the Oscars are an American ceremony for Americans, and the nominations must appeal to the audience,” reckons Marie-Laurence.

Whether the Oscars nominations are astute or not exceeds our jurisdiction. But as cinema consumers and enjoyers, we are not utterly powerless. While Netflix pushes addictive yet very limited cinematography to us, the dilemma to watch or not to watch is yours to solve. Collectively, are we ready to inform ourselves to elevate what we consume and adopt the habit of supporting independent, local theatres and our own homegrown art? Or will we keep staring at Netflix’s “Are you still watching?” like soulless sheep?


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