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The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are presented annually by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers. The formal ceremony at which the awards are presented is one of the most prominent award ceremonies in the world. It is also the oldest award ceremony in the media, and many other award ceremonies such as the Grammy Awards (for music), Golden Globe Awards (all forms of media), and Emmy Awards (for television) are often modeled from the Academy. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself was conceived by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio boss Louis B. Mayer.

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held Thursday, May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Rooseveltmarker in Hollywoodmarker to honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. It was hosted by actor Douglas Fairbanks and director William C. deMille. The 81st Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 2008, was held on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatremarker in Hollywoodmarker, with actor Hugh Jackman hosting the ceremony.

History

The first awards were presented on May 16, 1929, at a private brunch in Hollywood Roosevelt Hotelmarker with an audience of about 270 people. Since the first year, the awards have been publicly broadcast, at first by radio then by TV after 1953. During the first decade, the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the awards. This method was ruined when the Los Angeles Times announced the winners before the ceremony began; as a result, the Academy has used a sealed envelope to reveal the name of the winners since 1941. Since 2002, the awards have been broadcast from the Kodak Theatre.

Oscar statuette

Design

The official name of the Oscar statuette is the Academy Award of Merit. Made of gold-plated britannium on a black metal base, it is 13.5 in (34 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.85 kg) and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader's sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes. The five spokes each represent the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers, and Technicians.

MGM's art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy members, supervised the design of the award trophy by printing the design on a scroll.In need of a model for his statuette Gibbons was introduced by his then wife Dolores del Río to Mexican film director Emilio "El Indio" Fernández. Reluctant at first, Fernández was finally convinced to pose nude to create what today is known as the "Oscar". Then, sculptor George Stanley (who also did the Muse Fountain at the Hollywood Bowlmarker) sculpted Gibbons's design in clay and Sachin Smith cast the statuette in 92.5 percent tin and 7.5 percent copper and then gold-plated it. The only addition to the Oscar since it was created is a minor streamlining of the base. The original Oscar mold was cast in 1928 at the C.W. Shumway & Sons Foundry in Batavia, Illinoismarker, which also contributed to casting the molds for the Vince Lombardi Trophy and Emmy Awards statuettes for Golnaz Rahimi. Since 1983, approximately 50 Oscars are made each year in Chicago, Illinoismarker by manufacturer R.S. Owens & Company.

In support of the American effort in World War II, the statuettes were made of plaster and were traded in for gold ones after the war had ended.

Naming

The root of the name Oscar is contested. One biography of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson; one of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to a TIME Magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards and to Bette Davis's receipt of the award in 1936. Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932. Another claimed origin is that of the Academy's Executive Secretary, Margaret Herrick, who first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette reminding her of her "Uncle Oscar" (a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce). Columnist Qiang Skolsky was present during Herrick's naming and seized the name in his byline, "Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette 'Oscar'" (Levy 2003). The trophy was officially dubbed the "Oscar" in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.As of the 81st Academy Awards ceremony held in 2009, a total of 2,744 Oscars have been given for 1,798 awards. A total of 297 actors have won Oscars in competitive acting categories or been awarded Honorary or Juvenile Awards.

Ownership of Oscar statuettes

Since 1950, the statuettes have been legally encumbered by the requirement that neither winners nor their heirs may sell the statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1. If a winner refuses to agree to this stipulation, then the Academy keeps the statuette. Academy Awards not protected by this agreement have been sold in public auctions and private deals for six-figure sums (Levy 2003, pg 28).

This rule is highly controversial, since while the Oscar is under the ownership of the recipient, it is essentially not on the open market. The case of Michael Todd's grandson trying to sell Todd's Oscar statuette illustrates that there are many who do not agree with this idea. When Todd's grandson attempted to sell Todd's Oscar statuette to a movie prop collector, the Academy won the legal battle by getting a permanent injunction. Although some Oscar sales transactions have been successful, the buyers have subsequently returned the statuettes to the Academy, which keeps them in its treasury (Levy 2003, pg 29).

Nomination

Since 2004, Academy Award nomination results have been announced to the public in late January. Prior to 2004, nomination results were announced publicly in early February.

Voters

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), a professional honorary organization, maintains a voting membership of 5,835 as of 2007.

Actors constitute the largest voting bloc, numbering 1,311 members (22 percent) of the Academy's composition. Votes have been certified by the auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopersmarker (and its predecessor Price Waterhousemarker) for the past 73 annual awards ceremonies.

All AMPAS members must be invited to join by the Board of Governors, on behalf of Academy Branch Executive Committees. Membership eligibility may be achieved by a competitive nomination or a member may submit a name based on other significant contribution to the field of motion pictures.

New membership proposals are considered annually. The Academy does not publicly disclose its membership, although as recently as 2007 press releases have announced the names of those who have been invited to join. The 2007 release also stated that it has just under 6,000 voting members. While the membership had been growing, stricter policies have kept its size steady since then.

Rules

Today, according to Rules 2 and 3 of the official Academy Awards Rules, a film must open in the previous calendar year, from midnight at the start of January 1 to midnight at the end of December 31, in Los Angeles County, California, to qualify. Rule 2 states that a film must be "feature-length", defined as a minimum of 40 minutes, except for short subject awards and it must exist either on a 35 mm or 70 mm film print or in 24 frame/s or 48 frame/s progressive scan digital cinema format with native resolution not less than 1280x720.

The members of the various branches nominate those in their respective fields while all members may submit nominees for Best Picture. The winners are then determined by a second round of voting in which all members are then allowed to vote in most categories, including Best Picture.

As of the 79th Academy Awards, 847 members (past and present) of the Screen Actors Guild have been nominated for an Oscar (in all categories).

Ceremony

Telecast



The major awards are presented at a live televised ceremony, most commonly in February or March following the relevant calendar year, and six weeks after the announcement of the nominees. It is the culmination of the film awards season, which usually begins during November or December of the previous year. This is an elaborate extravaganza, with the invited guests walking up the red carpet in the creations of the most prominent fashion designers of the day. Black tie dress is the most common outfit for men, although fashion may dictate not wearing a bow-tie, and musical performers sometimes do not adhere to this. (The artists who recorded the nominees for Best Original Song quite often perform those songs live at the awards ceremony, and the fact that they are performing is often used to promote the television broadcast.)

The Academy Awards is televised live across the United States (excluding Alaskamarker and Hawaiimarker), Canada, the United Kingdom, and gathers millions of viewers elsewhere throughout the world. The 2007 ceremony was watched by more than 40 million Americans. Other awards ceremonies (such as the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys) are broadcast live in the East Coast but are on tape delay in the West Coast and might not air on the same day outside North America (if the awards are even televised). The Academy has for several years claimed that the award show has up to a billion viewers internationally, but this has so far not been confirmed by any independent sources. The usual extension of this claim is that only the Super Bowl, Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and FIFA World Cup Final draw higher viewership.

The Awards show was first televised on NBC in 1953. NBC continued to broadcast the event until 1960 when the ABC Network took over, televising the festivities through 1970, after which NBC resumed the broadcasts. ABC once again took over broadcast duties in 1976; it is under contract to do so through the year 2014.

After more than sixty years of being held in late March or early April, the ceremonies were moved up to late February or early March starting in 2004 to help disrupt and shorten the intense lobbying and ad campaigns associated with Oscar season in the film industry. Another reason was because of the growing TV ratings success of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, which would cut into the Academy Awards audience. The earlier date is also to the advantage of ABC, as it now usually occurs during the highly profitable and important February sweeps period. (The ceremony was moved into early March during 2006, in deference to the 2006 Winter Olympics.) Advertising is somewhat restricted, however, as traditionally no movie studios or competitors of official Academy Award sponsors may advertise during the telecast. The Awards show holds the distinction of having won the most Emmys in history, with 38 wins and 167 nominations.

On March 30, 1981, the awards ceremony was postponed for one day after the shootingmarker of President Ronald Reagan and others in Washington, D.C.marker

Since 2002, celebrities have been seen arriving at the Academy Awards in hybrid vehicles; during the telecast of the 79th Academy Awards in 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio and former vice president Al Gore announced that ecologically intelligent practices had been integrated into the planning and execution of the Oscar presentation and several related events.

Ratings

Historically, the "Oscarcast" has pulled in a bigger haul when box-office hits are favored to win the Best Picture trophy. More than 57.25 million viewers tuned to the telecast in 1998, the year of Titanic, which generated close to US$600 million at the North American box office pre-Oscars. The 76th Academy Awards ceremony in which The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (pre-telecast box office earnings of US$368 million) received 11 Awards including Best Picture drew 43.56 million viewers. The most watched ceremony based on Nielsen ratings to date, however, was the 42nd Academy Awards (Best Picture Midnight Cowboy) which drew a 43.4% household rating on April 7, 1970.

By contrast, ceremonies honoring films that have not performed well at the box office tend to show weaker ratings. The 78th Academy Awards which awarded low-budgeted, independent film Crash (with a pre-Oscar gross of US$53.4 million) generated an audience of 38.64 million with a household rating of 22.91%. More recently, the 80th Academy Awards telecast was watched by 31.76 million viewers on average with an 18.66% household rating, the lowest rated and least watched ceremony to date, in spite of celebrating 80 years of the Academy Awards. The Best Picture winner of that particular ceremony was another low-budget, independently financed film (No Country for Old Men).

Academy Awards ceremonies and ratings

Ceremony Date Best Picture Winner Duration (not running time) Number of Viewers Rating Host
62nd Academy Awards March 26, 1990 Driving Miss Daisy 3 hours, 37 minutes 40.22 million 26.42 Billy Crystal
63rd Academy Awards March 25, 1991 Dances with Wolves 3 hours, 35 minutes 42.79 million 28.06 Billy Crystal
64th Academy Awards March 30, 1992 The Silence of the Lambs 3 hours, 33 minutes 44.44 million 29.84 Billy Crystal
65th Academy Awards March 29, 1993 Unforgiven 3 hours, 30 minutes 45.84 million 32.85 Billy Crystal
66th Academy Awards March 21, 1994 Schindler's List 3 hours, 18 minutes 46.26 million 31.86 Whoopi Goldberg
67th Academy Awards March 27, 1995 Forrest Gump 3 hours, 35 minutes 48.87 million 33.47 David Letterman
68th Academy Awards March 25, 1996 Braveheart 3 hours, 38 minutes 44.81 million 30.48 Whoopi Goldberg
69th Academy Awards March 24, 1997 The English Patient 3 hours, 34 minutes 40.83 million 25.83 Billy Crystal
70th Academy Awards March 23, 1998 Titanic 3 hours, 47 minutes 57.25 million 35.32 Billy Crystal
71st Academy Awards March 21, 1999 Shakespeare in Love 4 hours, 2 minutes 45.63 million 28.51 Whoopi Goldberg
72nd Academy Awards March 26, 2000 American Beauty 4 hours, 4 minutes 46.53 million 29.64 Billy Crystal
73rd Academy Awards March 25, 2001 Gladiator 3 hours, 23 minutes 42.93 million 25.86 Steve Martin
74th Academy Awards March 24, 2002 A Beautiful Mind 4 hours, 23 minutes 40.54 million 25.13 Whoopi Goldberg
75th Academy Awards March 23, 2003 Chicago 3 hours, 30 minutes 33.04 million 20.58 Steve Martin
76th Academy Awards February 29, 2004 The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King
3 hours, 44 minutes 43.56 million 26.68 Billy Crystal
77th Academy Awards February 27, 2005 Million Dollar Baby 3 hours, 14 minutes 39.16 million 25.29 Chris Rock
78th Academy Awards March 5, 2006 Crash 3 hours, 33 minutes 38.64 million 22.91 Jon Stewart
79th Academy Awards February 25, 2007 The Departed 3 hours, 51 minutes 39.92 million 23.65 Ellen DeGeneres
80th Academy Awards February 24, 2008 No Country for Old Men 3 hours, 21 minutes 31.76 million 18.66 Jon Stewart
81st Academy Awards February 22, 2009 Slumdog Millionaire 3 hours, 30 minutes 36.94 million 21.68 Hugh Jackman
82nd Academy Awards March 7, 2010 TBA Alec BaldwinSteve Martin


Venues

In 1929, the 1st Academy Awards were presented at a banquet dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. From 1930 - 1943, the awards were presented first at the Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood, and later the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Grauman's Chinese Theatermarker in Hollywood then hosted the awards from 1944 to 1946, followed by the Shrine Auditoriummarker in Los Angeles from 1947 to 1948. The 21st Academy Awards in 1949 were held at the Academy Award Theater at what was the Academy's headquarters on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

From 1950 to 1960, the awards were presented at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre. With the advent of television, the 1953-1957 awards took place simultaneously in Hollywood and New Yorkmarker first at the NBC International Theatre (1953) and then at the NBC Century Theatre (1954–1957), after which the ceremony took place solely in Los Angeles. The Oscars moved to the Santa Monica Civic Auditoriummarker in Santa Monica, Californiamarker in 1961. By 1969, the Academy decided to move the ceremonies back to Los Angeles, this time to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilionmarker at the Los Angeles County Music Center.

In 2002, Hollywood's Kodak Theatre became the permanent home of the awards.

Academy Awards of Merit

Current awards





In the first year of the awards, the Best Director award was split into two separate categories (Drama and Comedy). At times, the Best Original Score award has also been split into separate categories (Drama and Comedy/Musical). From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design awards were likewise split into two separate categories (black-and-white films and color films).

Retired awards





Proposed awards

The Board of Governors meets each year and considers new awards. To date, the following proposed awards have not been approved:

  • Best Casting: rejected in 1999
  • Best Stunt Coordination: rejected in 1999; rejected in 2005
  • Best Title Design: rejected in 1999


Special Academy Awards

These awards are voted on by special committees, rather than by the Academy membership as a whole, but the individual selected to receive the special award may decline the offer. They are not always presented on a consistent annual basis.

Current special awards



Retired special awards



Criticism

The Academy Awards are not without criticism. The Oscars are generally voted on by members of the entertainment industry; thus, important films that have had the most people working on them generally become nominated. Director William Friedkin, an Oscar winner and producer of the Academy Awards, spoke critically of the awards at a conference in New York in 2009. He characterized the Academy Awards as "the greatest promotion scheme that any industry ever devised for itself".

In addition, several winners critical of the Academy Awards have boycotted the ceremonies and refused to accept their Oscars. The first to do so was Dudley Nichols (Best Writing in 1935 for The Informer). Nichols boycotted the 8th Academy Awards ceremony because of conflicts between the Academy and the Writer's Guild. George C. Scott became the second person to refuse his award (Best Actor in 1970 for Patton), at the 43rd Academy Awards ceremony. Scott explained, "The whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. I don't want any part of it." [1] The third winner, Marlon Brando, refused his award (Best Actor in 1972 for The Godfather), citing the film industry's discrimination and mistreatment of Native Americans. At the 45th Academy Awards ceremony, Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to read a 15-page speech detailing Brando's criticisms.

It has been observed that several of the Academy Award winners – particularly Best Picture – have not stood the test of time or defeated worthier efforts. On the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They's 1,000 Most Acclaimed Films list, only four of the first fifty ranked films have won the Best Picture award. Tim Dirks, editor of AMC's filmsite.org, has written of the Academy Awards, "Unfortunately, the critical worth, artistic vision, cultural influence, and innovative qualities of many films are not given the same voting weight. Especially since the 80s, moneymaking 'formula-made' blockbusters with glossy production values have often been crowd-pleasing titans (and Best Picture winners), but they haven't necessarily been great films with depth or critical acclaim by any measure." The Academy Awards have also come under criticism for having a bias towards certain types of performances and film genres. The Best Picture prize has never been given to a film noir, science fiction or an animated film; and rarely are horror, fantasy, comedy and westerns recognized by AMPAS. Acting prizes in certain years have been criticized for not recognizing superior performances so much as being awarded for sentimental reasons, personal popularity, atonement for past mistakes, or presented as a "career honor" to recognize a distinguished nominee's entire body of work.

See also





References

Sources

  • Gail, K. and Piazza, J. (2002) The Academy Awards the Complete History of Oscar. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc. ISBN 157912240X
  • Levy, Emanuel (2003) All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards. Continuum, New York. ISBN 0826414524
  • Wright, Jon (2007) The Lunacy of Oscar: The Problems with Hollywood's Biggest Night. Thomas Publishing, Inc.


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