The Awards Essay

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Oscars  are  awarded in a variety  of categories  to ensure inclusion of a variety of film genres and cinematic roles, including  Best Picture, Best Director,  Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Animated  Feature, Best Animated  Short Film, Best Cinematography, Best Costume  Design, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short,  Best Film  Editing,  Best Foreign  Language Film, Best Live Action  Short  Film, Best Make-Up and Hairstyling, Best Original  Score, Best Original Song, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best  Sound   Mixing,   Best  Visual   Effects,  Best Writing  (Adapted   Screenplay),  and  Best Writing (Original Screenplay). There have been other categories that have been discontinued—for example, Best Assistant  Director  or Best Original  Story.

There are also a number of special Academy Awards  voted  on by special committees,  including the Academy Honorary Award, Special Achievement Awards,  Academy  Scientific and  Technical  Award, Gordon E. Sawyer Award, Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award,and JohnA.Bonner Medal of Commendation. In addition, there are the Student Academy Awards, a  national student   film  competition held  by  the Academy  and  the Academy  Foundation. For these awards, colleges and  university  film students  present  their  work   in  the  animation, documentary, narrative, and alternative categories to compete for awards  and  grants.  These awards  are presented  in their own ceremony in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn  Theater.  In 1993,  an In Memoriam segment  was  introduced to  the  ceremony  to  honor those  who  had  made  a significant  contribution to the movie industry  who had died the previous year.

Eligibility And The Ceremony

There  are  a  number  of  criteria  for  a  film  to  be eligible for an Academy Award;  most notably, the film  must  have  opened  in  the  previous  calendar year and  must  have  played  for  seven consecutive days in Los Angeles to qualify (except for Best Foreign Language  Film). It must also be a feature length  film,  run  for  a  minimum   of  40  minutes (except for the short subject awards) and project in 35mm or 70mm film or in digital format  on 24 or 48  frames  per  second  with  a minimum  projector resolution of 2,048  by 1,080  pixels.

Members  of the Academy  vote for nominees  in December/January and then again for the winners in early February. For most  categories,  members  from each of the branches  of the Academy vote to determine the nominees in their respective categories, with some  exceptions;  for  example,  in  the  Best Picture category, all voting members are eligible to select nominees. Foreign films must have English subtitles, and  each country  can submit  only one film a year. The voting process, which has included electronic voting since 2013, is overseen by the global auditing company  PricewaterhouseCoopers, ensuring the integrity of all vote tabulations and confidentiality of the results.  Sealed envelopes  are used to reveal the names of the winners during the ceremony.

Usually held in late February or early March, the Academy Awards is seen as the finale to the awards season, which begins in November  of the previous year. The ceremony is an extravagant and elaborate event, with guests walking  up a red carpet  to enter the theater  and the attention of the world  press as much on the fashion choices of the guests as on the movies  they  are  there  to  represent.   The  Oscars became  well-known for  the  long  and  emotional acceptance  speeches of the winners;  to ensure that the ceremony could continue according to schedule, it was announced in 2010 that winners’ acceptance speeches should not last more than  45 seconds.

After   the   initial   ceremony   in  the   Roosevelt Hotel  in  1929,  the  Academy  Awards  then  alternated between the Ambassador Hotel on Wiltshire Boulevard  and  the  Biltmore  Hotel  in downtown Los Angeles between 1930 and 1943. The ceremony was  then  hosted  at  Grauman’s Chinese  Theatre from 1944 to 1946, followed by the Shrine Auditorium in  Los Angeles from  1947  to  1948. After a brief move to the Academy Award Theatre in Hollywood in 1949, it then moved to the Hollywood Pantages  Theatre  from 1950  to 1960. In 1961, there was another brief move to the Santa Monica   Civic  Auditorium in  California, and  by 1969,   it  had  moved  again  to  the  Los  Angeles County  Music Center, before finally moving to the Dolby  Theatre   (formerly   known   as  the  Kodak Theatre)  in 2002, where it has remained  ever since.

Global Reach

The  ceremony   was  first  televised  in  1953,   and the  first  show   in  color   was  televised  in  1966. The show was screened via the NBC network until 1960, when it was taken over by ABC, returning to NBC in 1970  and  back  to ABC in 1976,  where it has remained.  The show is now broadcast in more than  200  countries.  Canada, the United  Kingdom, and  Mexico  were  the  first  countries   apart   from the  United  States  to  show  the  ceremony,  but  by 1954,   this  list  had  expanded  to  include  Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France (often with condensed international editions).  By 1970,  the  rights  to  the Awards   were  sold  in  50  countries,   growing   to 76   by  1984,   including   countries   in  Asia.  The awards   ceremony  is  now  viewed  by  millions  of people across the globe, although the highest percentage  of U.S. TV viewers is believed to have been for the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970, when Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture, with a household rating of approximately 43.4 percent. Advertising is restricted  in the Awards, and no official Academy Award sponsors  can advertise during the aired show.

Movies And Money

For those involved in the movie industry, winning an Academy Award  is more  than  just recognition of achievement;  it also has potential economic benefits,  with  research   suggesting  that   the  Best Picture Oscar winner experiences a 22-percent increase  in box  office revenue  after  the  nominations   and   a   further   15-percent   increase   after winning.  Movie  companies  will spend  millions  of dollars  on marketing to Awards  voters to improve their  chances. However,  the Academy has rules to limit  overt  campaigning and  eliminate  excessive marketing in order to prevent the event from becoming  undignified  or  unfair.  An Awards  czar advises  members  on  what  is allowed  and  issues penalties  for  those  who  do  not  comply.  Despite this, movie studios spend millions of dollars to promote their films during  the Oscar  season.


As  with   all  movies   themselves,   the   Academy Awards is not without its critics. Some award  winners  themselves  have  boycotted the  ceremony  or refused   to   accept   their   awards.  For   example, Marlon Brando refused his award  for best actor in The Godfather (1972) for reasons surrounding the movie industry’s  discrimination and  mistreatment of Native Americans.  Criticism  of the Best Picture award  is that  the winners  and  nominees  are usually from  movies of a particular genre  (historical epics or biographical dramas)  and not fully representative of the film spectrum. Some argue that the Academy is disconnected from the audience and is favoring melodramas over movies that depict current, real-world issues and that acting prizes are not  always  awarded for  individual  performances but,  instead,  are  based  on  personal  popularity or presented  as a career honor.

The Academy Awards, or Oscars, has developed to become one of the most prestigious  events in the movie industry calendar, and examining the ceremony   and   award   winners   over   the   years provides  an  interesting  insight  into  the  development of the movie industry and the changing landscape  of movie production.


  1. Cosgrave, Made for Each Other:  Fashion and Academy Awards.  London:  Bloomsbury,  2008.
  2. Kinn, Gail and Jim Piazza. The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial   New York: Black Dog & Leventhal,  2008.
  3. Levy, Emanuel. All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards.  New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2003.
  4. Osbourne, Robert. 85 Years of the Oscar. New York: Abbeville Press, 2013.
  5. Pond, Steve. The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards.  New York: Faber & Faber, 2005.
  6. Rossman, Gabriel, Nicole Esparza, and Phillip Bonacich. “I’d Like to Thank  the Academy, Team Spillovers, and Network Centrality.” American  Sociological Review, v.75/1, 2010.

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