The Oscars

Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter
The Academy Awards, or Oscars, are generally considered the most prestigious awards in American cinema. First held in 1929, the Oscars are the oldest movie awards ceremony. They are given for achievement in nearly every level of filmmaking, from the well-known acting, directing, writing, music, and best picture awards to technical awards such as makeup and sound mixing. There are also special awards handed out occasionally for reasons such as lifetime achievement, humanitarianism, and technological innovation. Foreign films are recognized as well as American o­nes.

The Oscars are awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which consists of thousands of members of the motion picture industry, such as actors, directors, writers, producers, editors, animators, makeup artists, and more. Academy members vote for the films they think are best in each category. Thus the awards are given to filmmakers by filmmakers, and the Academy as a body is capable of appreciating every aspect of cinematic production. This gives the Oscars a broader perspective than other awards programs, such as the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Joan Fontaine and Gary Cooper
In recent years, nominees for each category have been announced in February, and the winner declared in March. The ceremony announcing the winners has long been the greatest event of the Hollywood calendar and o­ne of the world's most visible awards ceremonies. Precisely for this reason, the Oscars have attracted much criticism. The Academy is sometimes accused of overlooking certain genres, such as comedy, fantasy, and science fiction. Film historians have noted the times when the Oscar went to a movie that is now largely forgotten, or when the Academy bypassed a film now considered a classic. Nonetheless, after over eighty years, the influence of the Academy Awards is still strong, and winning an Oscar is seen as the pinnacle of a Hollywood career.