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 über 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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33 comments:

MrW said...

On a side note: The 'Crash'/'Hurt Locker'-situation isn't exactly new. Consider 'Casablanca', which is (according to the IMDb and just about every reference book there is) a 1942 film, but won Best Picture for 1943, because apparently it didn't open in LA until January.

Jose said...

I usually go with rewarding them for the year in which I saw them. After all what are awards if not self congratulatory reminders of our personal taste?

Andrew R. said...

Dang, MrW took what I was going to say.

I am not picky with this sort of thing. I just stick the movie where I feel it belongs.

jbaker475 said...

I usually try and go by the year of Oscar eligibility, even if it means that I don't get to see a good number of acclaimed foreign films until just after the Oscar ceremony. So for me, things like Certified Copy and Uncle Boonmee will go down on my 2010 list, even though odds are I won't get a chance to see them until their March 2011 release dates (at least that was the date last time I heard...). As it stands now, my foreign language film line-up is going to be terrible come Oscar night. :(

On a separate note, I can't help but be divided on whether to put Applaus in 09 or 10. I know with Julia, I put Tilda Swinton in my 09 line up, because that was when it actually got its theatrical release, but Applaus and Paprika Steen will likely go the other way. I wish I could be more consistent on this but...eh...

raguedes said...

The one that works best for me is go for the year it was released on its country of origin, because apart from a few "work in progress" exceptions like "2046" and "Enter the Void" they usually coincide with the year they are shown in festivals. As for american films the same idea applies, even if it was just a one week qualifier...

Edward Copeland said...

What I've always done is go by Oscar eligibility, whether or not I'm able to see it EXCEPT for foreign films. Unless they also got a release in the same calendar year, I count them as a release for the year they did get a U.S. release. Of course, unlike the Oscars, my awards never close and I always go back and revise as I see other things. Casablanca had its premiere in N.Y. in November 1942, but didn't open in L.A. until 1943. You can find some other older films that had similar situations. The really troublesome ones are if you try to do awards for old years. Take Rules of the Game for example. It premiered in 1939, but was brutally butchered to a shortened version. That version didn't open in the U.S. until 1950, however the restoration of the original cut that most people see now and know did not occur until 1959. So where does it belong?

Ryan said...

I just thank god for my Region 2 DVD player: without it i'd have never gotten to see FISH TANK, WHITE MATERIAL, I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS, LEAVING and my fav film of the year so far DOGTOOTH this past year.

However, part of my die-hard enthusiasm for the Film Bitch awards steams from discovering films I may have missed/ put on the back-burner. Don't get me wrong, I try to see everything, but for instance, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS & 3 DAYS had such a finicky '07 theatrical release that I wasn't able to screen it until the spring of '08... and it ended up being my #1 film of the year! Then again I was so glad HUNGER was placed in your '09 awards because, had it been an '08 contender, I would have gone nuts knowing a Film Bitch Best Picture/ Director nominee was unscreenable for several months. So it's tough either way. I know Nick Davis usually places his picks in their 'year of AMPAS eligibility' and I guess that makes the most sense to me.

Rebecca said...

I agree with the poster above who said Oscar eligibility except for foreign films. But, mostly, I think you should not worry about it too much, because it's so much fun to read your awards no matter what method you use.

Brady said...

My favorite method is to go by BoxOfficeMojo.com. They have a release date schedule. So things like The Hurt Locker IS considered a 2009 release and usually shifts foreign films to the next year. It makes the most sense to me because it actually targets when I'm supposed to see the movie. I picked up this method from the Filmspotting podcast and it works for me.

Roark said...

for the last ten years i've gone by U.S theatrical release, but as you suggest, that system is starting to feel a little out of date. i'm sticking to my system for now, even though a part of me really wants to just have Uncle Boonmee be my #1 movie of 2010 and leave it that.

as far as tracking film release dates, i go by the new york times database. occasionally they have films listed off their actual release dates due to festival or special screenings at a museum or something, but generally they're pretty reliable for that stuff.

Nick said...

I always go with whatever year is listed on IMDb, because if I went with when I saw them, or when they came out here in Des Moines things would get real f*cked up real fast.

Kurtis O said...

I saw "I Killed My Mother" at the Philadelphia QFest this past summer. I was under the impression it had already opened in NY & LA.

OtherRobert said...

It's a tricky situation, as NYC showings often feel tacked on for the one week releases (like, NYC gets one screen, LA county gets four+). I stand by Oscar eligibility for my own lists with two exceptions, one glaring.

Glaring: if a film was pulled from theatrical release because of studio stupidity (let's go with Trick'r'Treat, as it's one of the better known examples, where the studio pushed it backed, then pushed it back, then pushed it back, then pushed it back, then pushed it back, then printed it on DVD because of the Saw films), I will count it eligible for awards the year of the DVD release even if it never made it to theaters. Why punish the filmmakers for studios not knowing which way is up?

I'd also count films that didn't get to finish out their one week release for whatever reason (bad example: the I Spit on Your Grave remake released nationwide but was pulled before it's opening weekend was up thanks to crazy parents complaining about the unrated film they brought their kids to).

Arkaan said...

Go with the year you see them, Nataniel (in a regular theatrical release).

If you go by the full release, you may never honour the film.

If you go by the "one week" qualifier bullshit, you're playing by their rules.

If you go by the imdb/international debut, you may never get the chance to honour the film because you didn't see it in time. The Hurt Locker and Tilda Swinton/Julia were both 2008 films, for example.

So just go by the year you see it.

NATHANIEL R said...

but going by the year you see them, is sort of opening yourself up to laziness right? Like, if you don't happen to attend any festivals that year, or if a screener doesn't make it to you, you might be f***ed. and going by the year it was released in its home country is impossible for films that have published awards like mine.

I don't go back and revise. they're meant to be like my own Oscars and once i've given them out, i can't ask for them back ;)

the main problem is if i go by the year i see them (which does seem smart) then i have a problem later if their real year of release becomes a big deal (like in the case of The Hurt Locker) and I've already honored or not honored them.

CONFUSING.

Applause is causing me lots of drama right now because I saw it in 2010 months ago. But they're not releasing it in NYC until 2011. but that stupid one-week qualifier in LA. argh.

nothing would make me happier than the abolishment of the one week qualifier rule (i think it would make release schedules much more stable if they didn't allow for cheating like that :) ) but i suppose that will never be abolished.

Arkaan said...

That's when you break the rules. Especially if it's clear it WILL get a real release.

Example: Secret Sunshine (Korean film from 2007) is getting released by IFC this year. On December 24th. Do you honour it?

Nathaniel, I agree, it does seem lazy. I can accept that in my own rankings, though. I'm fine with it in yours if that was the way you went

Your other option? Do like the IMPAC Literary prize and wait two years after the year to give your awards.

Seems odd - doesn't it?

Amir said...

i think if you get a change to watch a film in a festival or at a special screening of some sort, you should include it in your awards.
that's what i do personally anyway. like i watched certified copy at a special screening, and ffor me it counts as 2010, because now is when it's in conversation.
not that talking about it next year takes away anything from it's worth, but it's nice to hear and talk about while all the critics are doing it.
so if you've seen the likes of certified copy and unclee boonmee, who cares if they weren't released wide. why not include them in the conversation?

Robert said...

I think if I were in your shoes I'd probably go by Oscar eligibility with perhaps a list of movies on your radar but you didn't get to see (with a chastening for any that missed out due to too late a run. Since it's the Film Bitch Awards, no one minds you being a little bitchy (especially when you're right)).

Then 6 months later or so, when you've gotten around to seeing the remainder do a list of "Film Bitch Could have been Nominees" in any and all categories, that don't officially alter the previous year's FB awards but give you a chance to recognize the films you've caught up with.

Keeping up with the ridiculous pace of movie hype is nearly impossible and something I think we all struggle with. No one would blame you for lending some voice to our collective frustration.

remy said...

I also go by the boxofficemojo method.

NATHANIEL R said...

arkaan -- well, previously i've had a rule that if it's more than two years old it just doesn't count. so secret sunshine being eligible in 2010 three years after I first saw it seems i-n-s-a-n-e.

cal roth said...

It's your awards show, Oscars be damned. If you live in New York, count only the movies released in your city, period, even if there's a big delay. You don't have to match Oscar's eligibility list, and, as a NYer, you shouldn't care about what opens in LA for your awards.

Keep it local. Keep it yours.

(I am excited to see Jeon Do-Yeon winning your gold medal!!!)

Glenn said...

It's even worse when you're outside Australia. Some major movies get released over 6 months into the new year so it feels silly ranking them amongst films from the previous year just to make sense for the majority of the internet discussions that go by whatever year they were released in America.

But then Australia also gets some movies early, some go direct-to-dvd (like, major titles I mean) and so forth.

In the end I basically go by a mix of rules. If a film received the majority of its international release in 2010 (like, say, Lebanon) despite being a 2009 film then I'll include it amongst my 2010 lists. I dunno. It's very tricky, but since I don't really publish my individual category lineups anymore (I used to, but not now) it doesn't bother me as much.

I make my top ten and if I'm happy with it then I'm happy. Can't spend too much time worrying "but this movie wasn't released in two cities in 2010 despite being a 2009 festival film and going direct-to-DVD in 2011" or whatever.

mrripley said...

Nat, go with what the oscars do,even if i consider a performance lead and oscar considers it support i only submit it in the category that oscar does like jake in bbm is support even though i feel he is lead.

cal roth said...

Don't do what Mr. Ripley said! It's YOUR prize.

Cal said...

Loving the Clue reference!

I always go with the year of release in any country because it saves confusion - especially with regard to older films. Obviously it means that The Hurt Locker goes as 2008 etc. even though it didn't come out here (or in the U.S.) until 2009, and then you have to amend lists of previous years, but I just think it's a fairer and clearer way of doing things.

NATHANIEL R said...

cal -- in some ways I wish i could do that. I realize it's cleaner. But that would ruin the awards process which is such a fun yearly ritual :(

Robert said...

What if the solution is expanding eligibility instead of limiting.

So a film would be eligible from the year of it's initial release (in any country or festival) until the year of it's wide US release, but once it's been nominated for a FB award obviously that's the only year that it counts for.

It may be cheating but when I think about it, it sounds like a reasonable rule. A film's release date is a fluid thing that everyone tries to make black and white, but it just doesn't work that way.

amir_uk said...

AHHHH! Thanks for bringing this topic up Nathaniel! My bête noire of the whole awards setup! You see, I go by Oscar's rules (so my own awards always have that consistent comparison point) - ergo a film's year, for me, is defined by when it gets a one-week theatrical run anywhere in the US.

Which obviously proves frustrating seeing as I'm London-based. It means I can never do my top ten/twenty film lists at the end of the calendar year like I do, for example, with albums and songs. I always have to wait till about March, by which time (almost) everything will have been released and screened. Even then, you always get stragglers (off the top of my head: Secretary, a 2002 film, got its cinema release here in May 2003) - which means some minor revisions sometimes have to happen at a point in time when you've really stopped caring about the previous year's lists.

Also, it means, for example, I couldn't have Fish Tank in my top 5 last year, despite wanting to rave about it (it will appear in this year's list). Nowhere Boy's supporting actresses will likely be lost in the shuffle. Certified Copy, another sure-to-be top 5-er, will have to wait till 2011's list. Grrr....

And I just hate HATE it when Baftas and Oscars don't sync.

amir_uk said...

But yes, I wish you'd not be so snobbish about the one-week LA qualifying run. Embrace it. It's the only point at which you diverge with Oscar re: qualifying rules - and I think it's just a little bit of east coast reverse-snobbery, right?...

Rapha said...

maybe the best is really to award titles in the year that you saw them if they were released anywhere (home country or not). It sounds fair.
And then there is no need to go back and amend in the future.
In case you only catch up with a title later a rave review is in some ways a good consolation, and then there is no reason to leave great 2010 titles out of the awards because they have an unsure US release...

Peter Nellhaus said...

I surprised that Applause is in the running. I saw it at the Starz Denver Film Festival last year. A Family, which came out this year, was better.

RC said...

i go with Oscar usually - although it'd be fun if instead of LA they through a dart at a map and the film had to open in that city for it to count.

That'd be sweet!

NATHANIEL R said...

RC --that would be fun. I just don't see why AMPAS, who is always worried about relevancy, won't listen to my brilliant idea about eligibility requirements: you have to open in the top ten markets.

Instantly you've made yourself more relevant to anyone who goes to the movies. (and really those are the only people you should worry about anyway - stop trying to court people who have no interest whatsoever. Miley Cyrus has nothing to do with the movies!)

that one little change would solve so much about the "i've never heard of that movie. waaah waaaah" that the populist media is always doing. and really, who can blame them. you only have to show on one screen in LA? so silly/elitist/echo chamber of them.