In general, to be eligible in most categories, the film must be released in a motion picture theater in Los Angeles County that is open to the public for at least seven consecutive days within the calendar year. This means that the final day to release an eligible film is Christmas Day, which is exactly seven days before the end of the year. The one notable exception is the Foreign Language Film Award, which has its own specific criteria, including being officially submitted from the home country, but need not be released in the U.S.
Many of the categories have their own specific rules. In the acting categories, for example, Academy voters are on their own to decide whether a performance is best suited for Leading or Supporting nominations. This is the same with the Cosmos, but with one important exception: unlike the Cosmos, which allow for dual nominations, the Academy has special rules to determine which category an actor will be nominated for if he or she received enough nomination votes for both. In addition, the Academy, unlike the Cosmos and the Golden Globes, only allow actors a single nomination per category. The Academy recognizes voice-over performances, like for animated features, but an actor whose entire dialog is dubbed over by another actor (as opposed to just their singing) is not eligible. So for example, had Darth Vader been nominated for the Star Wars films, the nomination would have gone to James Earl Jones, who voiced Darth Vader's dialog, rather than David Prouse who provided the physical movements. The Academy also apparently doesn't allow for acting nominations in documentaries, also unlike the Cosmos.
We mention this because the Cosmos use the the Academy's list as a general basis for our eligibility, but with some flexibility. If a film only appeared in the film festival circuit but then was available on DVD, we'll allow it to be considered. If it was technically released in L.A. in time for the Oscars, but our voters didn't have a legitimate chance to see it, we might push its eligibility to the following year.
Some interesting stats about the Academy's list of eligible films:
- 288 films meet the Academy's general eligibility requirements
- 22 films (probably all documentaries) did not have an eligible acting performances
- 8,352 different actors had an eligible performance (though Security Guard #3, while technically eligible, is never going to get an Oscar nomination)
- Of the eligible actors, over 91% (7,620) only appeared in a single eligible film
- Only two actors (Douglas M. Griffin and Terrence Howard) appeared in seven eligible films.
- Three actors (Han Soto, James Franco, and Joe Chrest) appeared in six eligible films. Twelve actors appeared in five eligible films, 34 in four films, 129 in three films, and 551 in two films.
So check out the Academy's reminder list, but just know that we'll have our own vetted list available before our nominations begin.