The Academy Awards (The Oscars)

Natasha Harmer
   10 Dec 2012


  We’ve all heard of the Oscars, and a lot of us tune in once a year to root for our favourite films, but how did it all start?

  Well, The Oscars is an informal name for The Academy Awards; a set of awards for cinematic achievement first held in 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. It was founded by an organization called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which was conceived by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio executive Louis B. Mayer. The awards were then initiated by the Academy to award industry practitioners for their cinematic achievement.

The Academy Awards are now televised live in more than 100 countries every year, and it has been the model for many other awards ceremonies including the Emmy and Tony Awards.

The first ever Academy Awards were given on the 16th of May 1929 in front of a small audience of around 270 people. Films are voted for by a voting membership of over 5,000 people. The membership is divided into different branches, each one representing a different discipline in film production.

To become a member, the board of governors must invite people to join, and member eligibility is achieved either by nomination, or another member submitting a name based on the persons significant contribution to the film industry. In late December, before the awards, ballot papers and copies of the Reminder List of Eligible Releases are sent to members, who then vote to determine nominees. However it was announced in 2011 that the Academy would be implementing an online voting system in 2013.

There are many rules with regards to nominating and voting. For example, a film must open in the previous calendar year, between midnight at the start of the 1st of January to midnight at the end of the 31st of December. Any film nominated must be feature length (40 minutes or more) to qualify, except for any awards defined as being specifically for short films.

The question is, however, is the Oscars relevant today? It has failed many attempts to entice a younger audience in recent years, and still maintains the “us and them” divide. It has been observed that perhaps Oscar nominations are a turn-off for filmgoers, with nominations from last year like The Artist and War Horse making less at the box office than one would imagine. The term “Oscar nominated” does often make young people turn their noses up, assuming the film will be pompous and overrated. Perhaps the Academy Awards have had their time.

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