But “A Ghost Story” will be eligible for consideration in year-end movie awards in 2017 and “Tramps” won’t, because the prevailing definition of a film’s “release” is its theatrical release—even if that release is only in a single New York or Los Angeles theatre for a single week.
For instance, Netflix put Joe Swanberg’s latest feature, “,” online and gave it no theatrical release; the Adam Sandler vehicle “” was released solely on Netflix, last Friday; and the documentary “Casting JonBenet,” which I saw at the True/False Film Fest last month, will also be released on Netflix, next Friday (in this case, it will also have a weeklong run at Metrograph).
The decision to review them was easy: Swanberg is one of the best directors working today, and Leon’s previous film, “Gimme the Loot,” was sufficiently accomplished to make me curious about what he’d do next.
As long as that’s the case, it’s unlikely that the Academy will be changing its eligibility rules.
What is odd, however, is the deference of critics and editors to those interests.
I’ve had the pleasure and honor of contributing to several print and online publications’ year-end polls, and they all follow the Academy’s lead in determining eligibility in terms of theatrical release (with separate categories for “unreleased” or “undistributed” films); I confess that, when I put my year-end lists together, I generally follow the same guidelines, in order to maintain a clear basis of comparison with the choices of other critics and the state of the industry at large.