The History of The Oscars

Blair StoverThe 86th annual Academy Awards, popularly known as the “Oscars,” was held recently, with 12 Years a Slave winning “Best Picture,” Matthew McConaughey named “Best Actor” and Cate Blanchett named “Best Actress.” While most of us at least nod in the direction of the Oscars each year and a few of us are glued to our sets, few people really know the history of the Academy Awards or how they came to be. Since they have been going strong now for 86 years, perhaps it is time to educate ourselves about this fascinating American film staple.

The Beginnings

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927 as a way to promote harmony between film studios and unions. Today, the Academy has grown to promote excellence in the film industry. The academy is composed of 6,000 filmmakers from the United States and around the world, and routinely gives money in the form of scholarships and other financial incentives to upcoming filmmakers.

The first Oscar awards were given on May 16, 1929, to 15 people who achieved special things in the motion picture industry. The ceremony lasted approximately 15 minutes, and the winners had been announced in advance to the media. Clearly, the very first awards from the Academy were quite different from those of today!

How The Oscars Are Decided

Most people have voiced, at some point or another, disappointment with the Oscar choices in one category or another. There are currently 24 awards given, covering many of the aspects of the film industry. There are also five special categories for awards in chosen areas. A film must be a feature film of at least 40 minutes and must have opened no earlier than January 1 of the previous year in order to qualify for consideration.

Some people claim that the Oscars are simply a money-maker for the film industry. Others complain that the voting representatives either pay too little attention to critically-acclaimed films or focus on “artsy” films that the public does not like. Further, some actors have refused to accept their Oscar awards because of various personal or political beliefs.However, the Oscars continues to fascinate most of us and will probably do so for the future, as well. Ultimately, the Oscars represent a snapshot of the film culture at any given time in American history.

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