Know all you need to know about the Academy Awards. You will get all the information about It’s history, purpose, its relevance and more …


“To Warner Brothers, for producing The Jazz Singer,’ the pioneer talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry.” These were the prophetic words that accompanied the presen- tation of a special Award of the then nameless statuette at the first Academy Awards banquet on May 16, 1929. They sounded the death knell of one Hollywood era and, at the same time, signalled a rebirth to even greater heights. Some of the people connected with the world of the silent screen would survive- but others, so many others, would fade into obscurity.

One man, who more than any other exemplified the magic of the silent silver screen, the peerless comedian Charlie Chap- lin, was also honored with a special Award by the fledgling Academy for “his genius and versatility in writing, acting, di- recting, and producing ‘The Circus .’ ” This was the only Award that the great Chaplin ever won.

Though the origin of the Award dates back to 1929, the name “Oscar” was officially introduced in 1939 and the Ceremony was originally called the Academy Awards. The concept was conceived by the MGM American Film Studio head Louis B. Mayer. It was he, who was one of the founders of the AMPAS two years earlier, along with other film-production executives and the heads of the Hollywood film studios.

During the first decade the results were released to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the awards. This method was given up when the Los Angeles Times played spoilsport by announcing the winners before the ceremony began.

The Oscars:
The Oscars (earlier known as The Academy Award) is the main cinematic award in the United States and one of the most prestigious awards in the world. It is the oldest award in the world in the mainstream media, but it still remains one of the most significant awards in the world of cinema. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) award it annually at the ceremony, which traditionally takes place in late February or early March at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles (United States).

Oscar statuettes:

The Oscar statuette is the symbol of the Academy Awards. A few facts regarding these statuettes.

  • The original design of “Oscar” was by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons. He came up with a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword. The Academy commissioned the Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley to create the design in three dimensions.
  • It was presented for the first time at the initial awards banquet on May 16, 1929 to Emil Jannings, named Best Actor for his performances in “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh”.
  • Since then, 2,947 statuettes have been presented.
  • The new golden statuettes are cast, moulded, polished and buffed each January by RS Owens & Company, the Chicago-based awards manufacturer retained by the Academy since 1982.
  • Oscar stands 13½ inches tall and weighs 8½ lbs.
  • The film reel features five spokes, signifying the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. Although the statuette remains true to its original design, the size of the base varied until 1945, when the current standard was adopted.
  • Officially named the Academy Award of Merit, the statuette is better known by its nickname, Oscar. While the origins of the moniker are not clear, a popular story has it that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy didn’t adopt the nickname officially until 1939.
  • The statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years the bronze was abandoned in favour of Britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy which is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, 24-carat gold.
  • Due to a metal shortage during the Second World War, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones.
  • The Academy is not certain how many statuettes it will hand out until the envelopes are opened on the night of the ceremony. Although the number of categories are 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. Any surplus awards are housed in the academy’s vault until the following year’s event.

Who Votes For The Academy Awards? How The Winners Are Chosen?

There are no judges at the Academy Awards.  The winners are chosen democratically using ballots.  There are around 6300 eligible voters.  They are members of the Academy and they are essentially the types of people you see in the room during the awards. They are actors, actresses, directors, producers, sound editors, makeup artists, animators, writers, special effects artists, etc.  There are 17 branches of members.

To become a member of the Academy, there are three paths.  Anyone that receives an Oscar nomination is eligible, anyone that receives a recommendation from two members of a branch, and anyone that receives an endorsement from a branch membership committee.  There are eligibility requirements for each branch.  For example, actors must have at least three significant credits.

An important thing to understand about Oscar voting is that although all 6300 members can nominate and vote on the Best Film award, the respective branches nominate the other awards.  That means directors nominate the five candidates for best director, costumers nominate the candidates for best costuming, actors nominate the candidates for best actors.  All members can then vote on all categories of the final ballot.

Membership is for life.  That is why the average age of a member is 62.


India at the Academy Awards –

As of 2015, India has sent 88 films for the competition, with most of them being Hindi movies. However so far, only three Indian films—Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988) and Lagaan (2001) —have been nominated for the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film. Mother India lost by 1 vote to Italian director Federico Fellini’s The Nights of Cabaria (his second Best Film win after La Strada, 1956).

The reason why Indian films have a mountain to climb before they can win an Oscar –

We might think that being the largest film industry in the world qualifies Bollywood to win an Oscar but it actually works against it.

-The Process

  1. The Film Federation of India (FFI) chooses one film as India’s official entry to the Academy for “Best Foreign Language Film”. Since 2011, the FFI only nominates the National Award winner. So, if you are wondering why your favorite Bollywood film didn’t make the cut, it perhaps didn’t cross this first hurdle.  There have been years where not a single film was nominated by FFI, because they felt that no movie qualified for the competition.
  1. The chosen film, with English subtitles, is sent to the Academy, where they are screened for the Foreign Language jury. Jury has to be present in person to vote.
  1. Each member selects 5 films in a secret ballot.
  1. A shortlist of 9 films is produced.
  1. A smaller 30-member committee meets for 3 days of screenings to produce the final shortlist of 5.

The winner is chosen in a final vote to be revealed on Award Night.

 -The Criteria

The Academy members are mostly Americans (as mentioned earlier). You have to learn to play the game. What is the American pattern of selection?

Out of the 67 Awards handed out by the Academy since 1947, 55 have gone to European films, 6 to Asian films, 3 to African films and 3 to films from America.

Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini directed four Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award–winning motion pictures during his lifetime, a record that remains unmatched as of 2015 (if Special Awards are taken into account, then Fellini’s record is tied by his fellow countryman Vittorio De Sica).

The most awarded foreign country is Italy, with 11 awards won, 3 Special Awards and 28 nominations, while Israel being the foreign country with the largest number of nominations, 10, without winning an award. Portugal has the largest number of submissions (30) without a nomination. – Quoted from the web.

What can you glean from this data?  That no way was Fellini going to lose to Mehboob Khan (Who directed Mother India). Yes, but why?  Was it a bias for Fellini or was it intimidation by Fellini’s reputation and track record?  If Fellini wasn’t chosen, would the “Hollywood” Americans come under criticism for not understanding Fellini – and by extension European high-brow cinema? In other words, was there an inferiority complex at work?  Maybe not.  But you can understand how this kind of analysis puts Bollywood in perspective.

 What kind of film wins?

How might the Academy be judging Bollywood?  Bollywood already has a reputation for being loud, crass, over-the-top, in other words, its best films are just like Hollywood. Does a Hollywood-like film stand a chance?  No. The Foreign Language jury wants to believe it is a cut above Hollywood.

What kind of film then? A film like Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A SEPARATION’, which won the Foreign Film award in 2012. Now that is a safe bet. If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It has great acting, great direction, great editing and above all, great character development. Plus it has great global appeal and is seen as a reward to Iran’s fledgling film industry, which is under tremendous scrutiny, by the clerics. Another such movie is Pakistan’s BOL (2011) which may not have been submitted to the Academy, but if it had, it might have made it to the final five – a well-made feminine-issue film from a struggling film industry which is under constant strictures from the maulvis.

These are the kinds of movies that the Foreign Language jury would love to nominate.