by Julie Hampton
The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, is an annual event held by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, or AMPAS. The sizzle of Hollywood movie stars, the red carpet and the golden Oscar statuette are staples of the formal award show. The event recognizes achievements in the film industry with awards given to actors, directors, writers and others. The show is televised and shown globally in late February; in 2009 the Academy Awards were viewed internationally in over 90 countries. If you're curious about this glamorous event, take a look at the Academy Awards guide below.
History: AMPAS is a nonprofit organization which formed in 1927. The group created an awards ceremony to recognize excellence in the movie industry. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The event was a banquet and 275 guests attended the sit-down dinner and awards ceremony, although the recipients had been announced nearly three months earlier. Starting in 1941, winners' names were sealed until the live ceremony announcements, which is the concept still in use today.
Significance: Winning an Oscar greatly boosts an actor's or director's credibility in the film industry. The golden statues are recognized as "the best of the best" in the movie industry in a 12-month time frame prior to the awards. Awards are given in categories from acting and directing, but categories including visual effects and sound mixing are also recognized. The most notable achievements include "Best Picture" and "Best Actress or Actor."
Voting: The Academy is made up of nearly 6,000 voting members. Ballots are mailed to members after nominee announcements are made and due back within several weeks. To become a member of the Academy, a person must be nominated by two supporting members. The nominee must have achieved distinction in the arts of motion pictures and sciences, according to the Academy.
Time frame: The nominees for the Academy Awards are announced six weeks prior to the live, televised event. Announcements are generally made in late January. Movies must have premiered during the previous calendar year, with a running time over 40 minutes for consideration as a feature film.
The statue: The golden statue, or Oscar, has been the symbol of the Academy Awards. The statue's official name is "The Academy Award of Merit." Designed by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons, and later sculpted into a three-dimensional design by artist George Stanley, the statue resembles an art deco-style knight. The knight is positioned on a film reel gripping a sword. Each spoke of the reel signifies the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. The naming of the statue as an "Oscar" is not widely known. A popular story includes AMPAS librarian Margaret Herrick commenting the statue resembled her uncle Oscar. The Oscars are made of pewter-based britannia metal and then layered with copper, nickel, silver and 24-karat gold.