Academy Award, in full Academy Award of Merit, byname Oscar, any of a number of awards presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, located in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., to recognize achievement in the film industry. The awards were first presented in 1929, and winners receive a gold-plated statuette commonly called Oscar.
Categories and rules
Winners are chosen from the following 24 categories: best picture, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, directing, original screenplay, adapted screenplay, cinematography, production design, editing, original score, original song, costume design, makeup and hairstyling, sound mixing, sound editing, visual effects, foreign-language film, animated feature film, animated short, live-action short, documentary feature, and documentary short. The academy also presents scientific and technical awards, special achievement awards, honorary awards, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (for excellence in producing), and the Gordon E. Sawyer Award (for technological contributions), although these are not necessarily awarded annually.
To be eligible for an award in a given year, a film must be publicly exhibited for paid admission for at least one week at a commercial theatre in Los Angeles county between January 1 and midnight of December 31 of that year. Exceptions to this rule include foreign-language films, which are submitted by their country of origin and need not have been shown in the United States. Documentaries and short films have different eligibility requirements and are officially submitted by their producers, whereas music awards require the musical artist to file a submission form.
Only members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may nominate and vote for candidates for the Oscars. The academy is divided into various branches of film production, and the nominees in each award category are chosen by the members of the corresponding branch; thus, writers nominate writers, directors nominate directors, and so forth. The entire academy membership nominates the candidates for best picture and votes to determine the winners in most of the categories.
Aside from bestowing international recognition and prestige, an Academy Award can play a crucial role in the success of the major winners. The best picture award, for example, can significantly increase the box office earnings of the winning film. For actors and directors, the award often results in higher salaries, increased media attention, and better film offers.
When the academy was founded in 1927, the awards committee was only one of several that had been formed by the new organization. The idea of presenting awards was considered but not immediately pursued, because the academy was preoccupied with its role in labour problems, its efforts to improve the tarnished image of the film industry, and its function as a clearinghouse for the exchange of ideas about production procedures and new technologies. It was not until May 1928 that the academy approved the committee’s suggestions to present Academy Awards of Merit in 12 categories—most outstanding production, most artistic or unique production, and achievement by an actor, by an actress, in dramatic directing, in comedy directing, in cinematography, in art directing, in engineering effects, in original story writing, in adaptation writing, and in title writing.
The first awards covered films that had been released between August 1, 1927, and July 31, 1928. The awards were presented on May 16, 1929, in a ceremony at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The entire membership of the academy had nominated candidates in all categories. Five boards of judges (one from each of the academy’s original branches—actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians) then determined the 10 candidates with the most votes in each category and narrowed those 10 down to 3 recommendations. A central board of judges, which consisted of one member from each branch, selected the final winners.
By the time of the second annual awards ceremony, on April 3, 1930 (honouring films from the second half of 1928 and from 1929), the number of categories was reduced to seven, and the two major film awards were collapsed into one, called best picture. The academy has since continued to make frequent alterations in rules, procedures, and categories. Indeed, so many changes have been made through the years that the only constant seems to be the academy’s desire to remain flexible and to keep abreast of the industry’s evolution. Among the most significant changes have been the decision in 1933 to alter the eligibility period for award consideration to the calendar year and the addition of the supporting actor and actress categories in 1936.
Originally the names of the award winners had been given to the press in advance with the stipulation that the information not be revealed until after the awards presentation. However, the Los Angeles Times printed the names of the 1939 winners in an early evening edition before the ceremony, draining the event of all its suspense during one of the industry’s biggest years. Thus, since then, the winners’ names have been a closely guarded secret until the official announcement at the awards ceremony.
The Academy Awards were first televised in the United States in 1953, and since 1969 they have been broadcast internationally. By the late 20th century, the ceremony had become a major happening, viewed by millions. Notable hosts over the years included Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal. Red-carpet interviews also became an integral part of the event, with much attention focused on the attendees’ ensembles.
The design for the award statuette—a knight standing on a reel of film and holding a sword—is credited to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) art director Cedric Gibbons. Sculptor George Stanley was commissioned to create the original statuette based on Gibbons’s design. For many years the statuettes were cast in bronze, with 24-karat gold plating. During World War II the statuettes were made of plaster because of metal shortages. They are now made of gold-plated britannium. The design, however, has remained unchanged, with the exception of the pedestal base, the height of which was increased in 1945. The statuette stands 13.5 inches (34.3 cm) tall and weighs 8.5 pounds (3.8 kg).
The origins of the statuette’s nickname, Oscar, have been traced to three sources. Actress Bette Davis claimed that the name derived from her observation that the backside of the statuette looked like that of her husband Harmon Oscar Nelson. Columnist Sidney Skolsky maintained that he gave the award its nickname to negate pretension. The name has also been attributed to academy librarian Margaret Herrick, who declared that the statuette looked like her Uncle Oscar. The true origin of the nickname has never been determined.
Hollywood produces dozens, if not hundreds, of movies annually. Although a significant part of them is meant solely for entertainment and possess little-to-no artistic value, there are also movies in which actors’ performance, plot, camera work, atmosphere, and other components are so brilliant that they deserve to be awarded. In the beginning of the 20th century, such an award had been established; nowadays known as the Oscar Award, it has become a mass culture event year by year throughout almost a century.
The Oscar Awards ceremony was initiated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), formed in 1927 with the goal to honor talented actors, directors, cameramen, and other people involved in the cinema industry. The first president of the Academy was Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., a famous actor back then, and the first ceremony of awarding was held on May, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Surprisingly, the initial ceremony was a rather private event, with only a little over a hundred people being invited, and with the price for tickets equaling only $5. Originally, there were 12 categories and two special honors, and there was no intrigue in the ceremony itself: the names of all the winners were announced in advance, and the ceremony itself served only for handing out the awards and for the banquet. The first actor who received an Oscar statue was the German actor Emil Jannings; the first best actress was Janet Gaynor, who acted in such films as “Sunrise,” “Seventh Heaven,” and “Street Angel” (Awards & Shows).
The award itself—meaning the statue, which the Oscar event is usually associated with—does not look impressive. To start with, its name is not Oscar; officially it is called “The Academy Award of Merit,” and “Oscar” is a nickname. It is 13.5 inches tall, and weighs about 8.5 pounds. The statue stands on five spokes, which symbolize the basics of the Academy: screenplay writers, producers, technicians, actors, and directors. Initially, the statuettes were made of solid gold-plated bronze, and a bit later, from the alloy of nickel, copper, and 24-karat gold, known as britannia metal; during the years of World War II, statuettes were even made of painted plaster, but this only lasted for three years. Nowadays, the Oscar is traditionally made of gold-covered metal (Oscars.org)
At the same time, despite its cultural value, an Oscar statue is incredibly cheap—it costs only $1. If an actor or another award nominee wanted, for some reason, to sell his or her Oscar statuette, they are obliged to sell it only to the Academy, for the estimated price of $1. Such practice has been enabled since 1950, and every winner announces whether he or she wants to keep or to sell the statuette. In 1989, the heirs of a producer Mike Todd wanted to sell the Oscar statuette he received for his movie “Around the World in 80 Days,” but the Academy successfully blocked the deal. However, those Oscars that were awarded before 1950 can be sold and bought freely; for example, the statuette received by Orson Welles for “Citizen Kane” was sold in 2011 for $861,542 (The Hollywood Reporter).
The Academy Award of Merit, most often referred to as an Oscar, is a sign of acknowledgement of actors, directors, and other people related to the process of producing a movie, for their contributions and talents. The ceremony originated in 1927, when it was a private event for the chosen few; however, it has gradually become one of the main annual events in world culture. The statue itself is made of gold-plated metal, and despite its cultural value, it can be sold for only $1 due to the rules established by the Academy. Despite this selling price, the Oscar is the most highly recognized award in film.
“Oscar History.” Awards & Shows. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
“Oscar Statuette.” Oscars.org. N.p., 25 July 2014. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
“Oscars Statuettes: 5 Things You Didn’t Know about ‘the Man'” The Hollywood Reporter. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
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