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Academy Award is, in full Academy Award of Merit, by name 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 award, a gold-plated statuette, is bestowed upon winners in the following 24 categories: best picture, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, directing, original screenplay, adapted screenplay, cinematography, art direction, editing, original score, original song, costume design, makeup, 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 the Los Angeles area 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 quickly results in higher salaries and increased media attention. A long-term advantage is that award winners tend to be offered better pictures and thus receive more acclaim for that work.
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 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.
The Oscar Award from 2006
Best Picture: The Departed
Best Director: Martin Scorsese for The Departed
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren for The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson forDreamgirls
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Lives of Others
Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine
Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan for The Departed
Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro for Pan’s Labyrinth
Art Direction: Eugenio Caballero (art direction) and Pilar Revuelta (set decoration) for Pan’s Labyrinth
Original Score: Gustavo Santaolalla for Babel
Original Song: “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth; music and lyrics by Melissa Etheridge
Animated Feature Film: Happy Feet, directed by George Miller
Honorary Award: Ennio Morricone
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Director: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Counterfeiters
Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody for Juno
Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men
Cinematography: Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood
Art Direction: Dante Ferretti (art direction) and Francesca Lo Schiavo (set direction) for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Original Score: Dario Marianelli for Atonement
Original Song: Falling Slowly from Once; music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Animated Feature Film: Ratatouille, directed by Brad Bird
Honorary Award: Robert Boyle
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Sean Penn for Milk
Best Actress: Kate Winslet for The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Health Leader for The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Foreign-Language Film: Departures
Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire
Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt (art direction) and Victor J. Zolfo (set decoration) for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Original Score: A.R. Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire
Original Song: Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire; music by A.R. Rahman and lyrics by Gulzar
Animated Feature Film: Wall-E, directed by Andrew Stanton
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz forInglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Secret in Their Eyes
Original Screenplay: Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker
Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore for Avatar
Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg (production design) and Kim Sinclair (set decoration) for Avatar
Original Score: Michael Giacchino for Up
Original Song: The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart) from Crazy Heart; music and lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Animated Feature Film: Up, directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Honorary Award: Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, Gordon Willis
Best Picture: The King’s Speech
Best Director: Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech
Best Actor: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale for The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo for The Fighter
Best Foreign-Language Film: In a Better World
Original Screenplay: David Seidler for The King’s Speech
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network
Cinematography: Wally Pfister for Inception
Art Direction: Robert Stromberg (production design) and Karen O’Hara (set decoration) for Alice in Wonderland
Original Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network
Original Song: We Belong Together from Toy Story 3; music and lyrics by Randy Newman
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich
Honorary Award: Kevin Brownlow, Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach
2012 Oscar Winners (Announced in 2012 but intended for 2011)
The Artist’ sweeps 5 Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score and Best Costume Design. Hugo was not far behind and also managed to bag 5 Oscars.
Best picture: The Artist.
Best director: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist.
Best leading actor: Jean Dujardin in The Artist.
Best leading actress: Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Best supporting actor: Christopher Plummer in Beginners.
Best supporting actress: Octavia Spencer in The Help.
Best foreign language film: A Separation (Iran).
Best animated feature: Rango.
Best original screenplay: Midnight in Paris.
Best adapted screenplay: The Descendants.
Best original score: The Artist.
Best original song: Man or Muppet from The Muppets.
Best art direction: Hugo.
Best cinematography: Hugo.
Best costume design: The Artist.
Best documentary feature: Undefeated.
Best documentary short: Saving Face.
Best film editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Best makeup: The Iron Lady.
Best short animated film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore.
Best short live action film: The Shore.
Best sound editing: Hugo.
Best sound mixing: Hugo.
Best visual effects: Hugo.
Most Oscars won
The Artist – 5
Hugo – 5
The Iron Lady – 2
Beginners – 1
The Help – 1
Midnight in Paris – 1
The Descendants – 1
A Separation – 1
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – 1
Undefeated – 1
The following nominated films failed to win any awards: