Academy Awards (Oscars) Origin and History, Categories, Rules and Facts

Every January, the entertainment community goes abuzz and film fans around the world turn their attention to the Academy Awards. Leading up to the Oscars telecast, interest and anticipations escalate when hundreds of millions of film lovers tune in to watch the glam ceremony and discover who receives what honor. Besides joining in the for the Oscars rave, how much do you really know about it? While the 91st Academy Awards is imminent, here is how the award which has become every Hollywood entertainers dream all began.

How It All Started: Origin and History

What is known today as the Academy Awards nicknamed Oscars all started in the home of Louis B. Mayer who was the studio chief of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M). He hosted some to dinner in his home and during the course of the outing, they conversed amicably about the need to have a global organization for the film industry. Shortly afterward, big shots in the various branches of the industry were invited to trash-out the founding of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 1927. Afterward, an Awards of Merit committee was set up who eventually saw the birth of the Oscars.

Of all names, Oscars tend to stand out as the most befitting for the Awards of Merits. On how the moniker came about, a version of the stories has it that an Academy librarian and eventual executive director, Margaret Herrick on sighting the trophy for the first time exclaimed that it looks like her Uncle Oscar. Another has it that Bette Davis named it after her ex-husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr. However, it wasn’t until 1939 that the Academy adopted the moniker. Whichever of the story version is true, we have come to know Hollywood’s most coveted Award as The Oscars and we are not letting go of the name anytime soon, that’s if ever we will.

Meanwhile, the AMPAS has also become the world’s foremost movie institution. The Awards comprises a set of accolades given out in recognition of artistic and technical excellence in the film industry the previous year. It also oversees every process leading up to the ceremony from the nomination to the voting through its over 8,000 members drawn from the cinema industry the world over.

Through Oscars, AMAPS aims to tender high approbation and honor for superb filmmaking accomplishments and ultimately, nurture excellence in all aspects of movie production. Additionally, it not only hopes to acknowledge and champion virtue in all aspect of the activities that have to do with the motion picture business but also to sustain it.

The first edition of award presentations was held on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and has since become an annual event. It was a private dinner affair, hosted by Douglas Fairbanks with only 270 people in attendance, and 15 statuettes presented. The ceremony ran for only fifteen minutes and was followed by a post-awards party at the Mayfair Hotel.

The Statuette

Yearly, at the award ceremony, the institution awards gold-plated statuettes officially called the Academy Award of Merit, Oscars colloquially, in a glittering and star-studded ceremony.

The Oscar was originally sculpted from a design sketch by Cedric Gibbons by George Stanley. Made of solid bronze, it is overlaid by 24-karat gold. The stylized figure is a 13½ inches tall knight that weighs 8½ pounds. He is holding a crusader’s sword and standing on a reel of film with five spokes, each signifying the original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers).

A total of 15 statuettes were presented in 1929 and since then, 3,072 Oscars have been handed out through the 90th ceremony.

The Voting Process

Every category has special voting rules, meanwhile, the Best Picture nomination is open to all voting members. Nonetheless, the regular awards for most of the categories are typically nominated by branch AMPAS members of the categories. Certain categories such as Foreign Language Film, Documentary and Animated Feature Film have special voting rules which shall be discussed later.

Nominations usually begin in late December and are done both manually with paper and online. They will then be gathered by PricewaterhouseCoopers after which the nomination results are announced in mid-January at a live televised press conference at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The final voting, which is also done via the same process (paper ballots or online voting) follows. At this point, all voting members can vote on all the categories and the results, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers. After the voting processes, the winners are privy to only two people from the company until it’s announced onstage.

When Is It Held?

It holds annually on either the 2nd or third month of a year. The first month of the year is usually when the craze for the Oscars set in with film enthusiasts and critics analyzing the previous year’s activities in the industry. People are found speculating on what movie, actor or actress deserves to get a thumbs up from the AMAPS.

The nominations usually come towards the end of the first month of a year and is followed shortly afterward by the main event. While the 90th Academy Awards ceremony held on 4th March 2018, the 91st will air live on ABC on February 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood & Highland Center which has been the presentation venue since 2002.

Academy Awards Categories

Since the Academy Awards inception, cinema has not only changed but the Awards categories as well have evolved with the passage of time. On its first outing, only fifteen statuettes were handed out but currently, 24 categories are presented. In addition to the Oscars, the Academy also presents other awards which has been branded as special award categories, though not presented on a consistent annual basis are handed out prior to the formal ceremony. New categories are, however, considered each year by the Board of Governors.

The Academy Award Category includes:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Animated Feature Film
  • Best Animated Short Film
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Documentary Feature
  • Best Documentary Short Subject
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Best Live Action Short Film
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Original Song
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Original Screenplay

The special category is voted on by special committees, rather than by the entire Academic membership and are grouped under three headings: Governors Awards, Scientific and Technical Awards, and Student Academy Awards. Nine in number, only three of them are presented annually: Academy Honorary Award, the Technical Achievement Award, and the Student Academy Awards. Others given from time to time include:

  • The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
  • The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
  • Academy Award of Merit
  • Scientific and Engineering Award
  • Gordon E. Sawyer Award
  • The John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation
  • Special Achievement Award

The Rules

There is about 26 rule that guides The Academy Awards of Merit. For details, would give you the needed compass. The rules are, however, as follows:

  1. Awards Definition
  2. Eligibility
  3. Awards Year and Deadlines
  4. Submission
  5. Balloting and Nominations
  6. Special Rules for the Acting Awards
  7. Animated Feature Film Award
  8. Cinematography Award
  9. Costume Design Award
  10. Directing Award
  11. Documentary Awards
  12. Film Editing Awards
  13. Foreign Language Film Award
  14. Makeup and Hairstyling Award
  15. Special Rules for the Music Award
  16. Best Picture Award
  17. Production Design Award
  18. Scientific and Technical Award
  19. Short Film Award
  20. Sound Editing Award
  21. Sound Mixing Award
  22. Special Rules for Visual Effects Award
  23. Writing Award
  24. Governors Award
  25. Special Achievement Award
  26. Scientific and Technical Special Awards

According to rule 2, a film must be feature-length (defined as over 40 minutes) except for short-subject awards to qualify for Oscar consideration. Also, it must open in the previous calendar year from midnight at the start of 1 January to midnight at the end of 31 December, in Los Angeles County, California, and play for 7 consecutive days, to qualify (except for the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Documentary Short Subject).

In addition, producers must submit an Official Screen Credits online form, which includes the production credits for all related categories before the stated deadline otherwise, the film will be ineligible for Academy Awards in any year. They are then checked and put in a Reminder List of Eligible Releases.

A Foreign Language Film does not need to be released in the US but must be submitted as its country’s official selection to qualify for the Award. As per nominations, the film added to Documentary and Animated Feature Film categories are nominated by special committees made up of members across the Academy.


Facts – Everything Else to Know About the Academy Awards

The prestigious Academy Awards ceremony was first broadcast on radio a year after its inception, in 1930 and televised for the first time in 1953.

The pioneer winners of the Awards were declared three months in advance. Following up, the results were given to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m., at the night of the awards. However, after the Los Angeles Times ruined the system by announcing the results before the beginning of the ceremony in 1940, it has been concealed in an envelope and the winners revealed on Oscar Night since 1941.

The first Oscar for Best Actor was won by German tragedian Emil Jannings (for ‘The Last Command’ and ‘The Way of All Flesh’). As he had to return to Europe before the ceremony, he requested the Academy to give him the award prior. His request was granted, making his statuette the very first Academy Award to be ever presented.

The first award for Best Actress was snagged by Janet Gaynor, for three films: Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise.

The Academy won’t know how many statuettes it will hand out until the envelopes are opened in the ceremony. Though the number of categories is known in advance, the possibility of ties and of multiple recipients sharing the prize in some categories makes it impossible to predict the exact number of statuettes to be awarded.

Walt Disney holds the record for the person with the : 26 (22 for his films and 4 honorary awards).

Edith Head has received more Academy Awards than any other woman, with 8 Oscars (all for Costume Design) while Katharine Hepburn is leading the actors/actresses with 4 Oscars.

While has won only three times, she is the most nominated actor/actress, with 17 nominations.

Although all Oscar categories are desired, five of them are the most coveted Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay (adapted or original). Only three films have ever clinched all. They are It Happened One Night  (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Tatum O’Neal was 10 when she won the Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon (1973) making her the youngest person to ever win an Oscar. The oldest in the acting category is  — he was 82 when he won for Beginners (2010).

All Academy Awards ceremonies have ended with the Academy Award for Best Picture since 1973.

In line with the Oscars tradition, the previous year’s winner for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor present the awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress and vice versa.

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