The Academy Awards are the most prominent film award in the United
States. The Awards are granted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences, a professional honorary organization which as of 2002
had over 6000 members.
Academy Awards are nicknamed "Oscars", which is also the
nickname of the statuette (the name is said to have been born when
Margaret Herrick - saw the statuette on a table and said: "It
looks just like my uncle Oscar!"). The awards were first given
at a banquet in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
on May 16, 1929 but there was little suspense since the winners of
the awards had already been announced three months earlier on February
18. To qualify, a film had to open in Los Angeles during the twelve
months ending on July 31 of the preceding year. The 1934 and later
awards have all been based on openings in the previous calendar year.
The 1932 - 33 awards were based on a 17 - month qualifying period. The
"opened in Los Angeles" clause allowed Charlie Chaplin to
win his only voted Oscar for Limelight - which was made in 1952,
but did not open until 1972.
The awards night
itself is an elaborate extravaganza, with the invited guests walking
up the red carpet in the creations of the most prominent fashion
designers (who usually loan them to the stars to gain publicity).
The awards ceremony is televised around the world.
process and criteria for the awards themselves is the subject of
much discussion. The Academy includes a preponderance of, as Charles
Taylor, film critic for salon.com describes it, "elderly and
(aesthetically) conservative" members. Certain genres of film,
such as historical epics (and specifically ones about World War
II), seem to appeal to the voters. There is also a wide belief that
awards are given for "political" reasons - for instance,
rewarding an artist whose career has included many good works but
has not thus far received an Academy Award. Less subjectively, it
is clear that movie studios spend large amounts of money on campaigns
to get their films Oscars - Miramax being the most widely - discussed
(and arguably successful) studio at this at present. Such influence
is nothing new - it is widely believed that early media mogule William
Randolph Hearst ran a campaign to ensure that Citizen Kane, a film
regarded by many as the greatest of all time - did not receive Oscars
(it received only one, despite nominations in nine categories).