Every year, late in February (or early March), the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences holds its annual awards ceremony, now officially known as The Oscars. Considered the pinnacle of the US Awards season for cinema, the Oscars have become an spectacle unlike almost any other – reviled, rejoiced and always drawing massive interest across the globe, the Oscars have kept us enthralled ever since the very first ceremony in 1929. But who is this mysterious “Academy” that bestows the highly prized statuette to “deserving” recipients? When the people receiving these awards thank “the Academy”, who are they talking to? Considering most people probably don’t know exactly how the Academy and the Oscars are run, we figured a little historical and technical lesson was needed, to bring you up to speed!
So, here is our idiots guide to the Academy Awards!
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences (henceforth known as the Academy) was formed in the late 20’s, when then-head of MGM, Louis B Mayer, wanted to create a governing body for the film industry to assist in resolving disputes, and form a united front for an industry still in its infancy within the US. Mayer arranged a banquet for a number of Hollywood people – actors, directors, producers, writers and technical staff – to attend, at which point they would become the founders of the original Academy. Membership to the Academy would be via invitation (and continues to be to this day, although now it also includes Oscar nominees and winners as well), and has now expanded from 5 branches, to 17.
At that time, 1927, the newly created Academy had no plans for an awards ceremony, but by the following year the concept of a ceremony honoring the best in the industry was not only mooted, but resolved and put into action. The very first Academy Awards was a banquet, un-televised, and held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929. The first ever recipient of an Academy Award was actor Emil Jannings, while the original Best Picture award went to Wings, directed by William A Wellman.
The term “Oscar” used as shorthand for an Academy Award has a variety of disputed origins, the most popular being Bette Davis’ claim that the statuette reminded her of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson. A number of other claims to the origin have been made, but to date there is no definitive answer.
The Oscar’s annual ceremony awards films from the previous calendar year – for example, the 2014 Oscars are given to films released between January 1st, and December 31st, 2013. To be eligible for an Oscar, a film must qualify thusly: a film must be feature-length, defined as a minimum of 40 minutes, except for short subject awards, and it must exist either on a 35 mm or 70 mm film print or in 24 frame/s or 48 frame/s progressive scan digital cinema format with native resolution not less than 1280×720.
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