Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Eligibility Requirements. Your Input Please

In the past only NYC theatrical releases have been eligible for this site's own Film Bitch Awards and I've also considered making "one week qualifiers" ineligible even if they open in NYC on account of "do they really belong to that year?"... but more and more I wonder if any of the old rules should apply -- how to even keep track of them if they do -- and whether I'm too strict? It can sometimes take two years for a great festival film to find release if it ever does.

Recent or current confusions to illustrate

Calendar Straddlers
  •  Frankie & Alice is getting a 2010 Oscar qualifying release but initially people thought of it as a 2009 qualifying release because it was listed as one with Oscar (they print the "qualifying" lists before the deadline is up and some films don't behave as announced, release wise.)
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Certified Copy, will probably forever be regarded as 2010 films by the sheer weight of critical conversation and festival prizes they received during the year. Yet both films are technically aiming to be 2011 releases (in the US.)
  • Applause, a must-see Danish film from 2009, is getting one of those ├╝ber annoying "one week in LA only releases" in 2010 before it supposedly opens in January 2011. (I say supposedly because we all know some films abandon their real release if the qualifying week doesn't perform miracles.) So which year does it belong to? It's straddling three of them!
  • If you count festival or IMDb dates as actual dates than you have to take back the Best Picture Oscars won by both Crash and The Hurt Locker and the surprise Oscar nominations for City of God (among others) which all started the circuit the year before Oscar kissed them and in 50 years when baby cinephiles are making the lists, they'll probably consider them films of 2004 and 2008 and 2002, respectively, thereby erasing them from their Oscar years.
  • Some films announce US release dates and then later you're like "wait. did that open?" Xavier Dolan's debut I Killed My Mother was submitted for the foreign language Oscar in 2009 but didn't emerge in US theaters. Then, it was slated to open in 2010. I personally don't recall that ever happening. Did I miss it? While waiting for his first to arrive, I saw his second (Heartbeats a.k.a. the much less generically titled Les Amours Imaginaires) on the 2010 festival circuit. What the hell is going on? Do his films exist at all or are they the collective figments of the film festival imagination?
To make a long story short (TOO LATE!) it's becoming harder and harder to track which films actually come out in any given year. Even if you just use the IMDb's "premiere" dates and say "US release date anywhere is good enough for me" you might end up getting a random event/festival date rather than an actual release date. Theatrical release can sometimes feel like a entirely stealth move or a self-sabotaging purposeful secret (one week without advertising on one screen somewhere and not always where you'd think to look) or sometimes something is on DVD before you can register that it hit theaters or skipped release entirely.

Trying to keep track of miniscule release strategies has become a full time job... especially when it comes to subtitled releases. What's your take on "eligibility" for awards, here and otherwise? Do you believe in festival premieres as the actual year? Do you wish I'd just use Oscar's calendar even if it means "one week LA only releases" (My arch-enemy due to the arrogant elitism of "one theater in one city counts!")? Do you favor the system some critics use where they have multiple top ten lists depending on the calendar peculiarities? Do you think one week anywhere in the US should count? I'm trying to decide if I should change my rules for this new decade at the Film Bitch Awards.

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