Arts & Culture

And the Oscar Goes to…

By: Ethan Lee ‘25

You have probably heard of or seen the Academy Awards, whether it be from Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock to Leonardo DiCaprio receiving his first Oscar for his performance in The Revenant. The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are televised globally in late February from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The award show honors the previous year’s most noteworthy films, giving out accolades in 24 categories, including best picture, actor, actress, and directing. The Oscars are the oldest of the four primary annual American entertainment awards; the Emmy Awards for television, the Tony Awards for theater, and the Grammy Awards for music. 3,140 Oscar statuettes have been awarded since the birth of the Academy Awards. 

So how did this globally recognized award ceremony start? The first Academy Award Ceremony was held at a private dinner hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929. The ceremony was first broadcast by radio in 1930 and later televised for the first time in 1953. The three possible origins of the moniker “Oscar,” which is given to the Academy Award statuette, are still up for debate. According to actress Bette Davis, the name came from her observation that the statuette’s backside resembled that of her husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson. Sidney Skolsky, a columnist, insisted that he was the one who gave the honor its nickname. The name has also been attributed to academy librarian Margaret Herrick, who proclaimed that the statuette looked like her Uncle Oscar. 

Regardless of the origin, the small golden statue is one of the most prestigious awards in entertainment you could receive and not just anyone can win an Oscar. It all starts with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which currently has around 9,900 members and consists of different branches of film production. Instead of applying, the Academy’s membership procedure uses sponsorship. Candidates must have two Academy members from the branch they are applying to sponsor them. Additionally, membership is automatic for Academy Award nominees and does not require sponsors. Only members of the Academy are allowed to nominate and vote for candidates for the Oscars. The nominees in each category are chosen by the members of the corresponding branch, although the entire academy selects the candidates for best picture and votes to decide the winners in most of the categories. 

But despite its prestige, The Academy Awards have had their fair share of controversies. In 2015 the #OscarSoWhite movement took Twitter by storm. April Reign, an activist, created the hashtag in response to the 20 acting nominations for the Academy Awards that were all given to white actors. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the larger American film industry have a history of lacking racial and ethnic diversity in award recognition and representation, which has been brought to light by the hashtag’s popularity. Shawn Edwards, a Black film journalist and movie critic, said the hashtag campaign is one of the greatest Twitter activist campaigns ever, saying, “It really picked up steam in 2016 because the academy did the same damn thing the very next year.” The issue was brought up again in 2020 when Cynthia Erivo, who portrayed Harriet Tubman in Harriet, was the only nominee of color in any of the acting categories. Nevertheless, there has been progress, with the monumental win of Parasite in 2020, Lupita Nyong’o’s win for Best Supporting Actress in 2014, Chloe Zhao’s Best Director win in 2021, and Jordan Peele’s Best Original Screenplay win in 2018. In addition to that the current president of the Academy is Janet Yang, the first Asian Female in her role. Less than 18% of the actors in the 2015 Academy Awards were non-white. The numbers have increased since then, rising to just above 40% in 2016 and 2018 and are increasing more today. 

The 2023 Oscars are set to take place on March 12th with some outstanding nominated films such as Top Gun: Maverick, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and The Fablemans. Aside from imparting prestige and international recognition, an Academy Award can be vital to the financial success of the major winners. The Best Picture Award, for instance, can significantly boost the winning movie’s box office revenue. Who knew that the little golden man could mean so much? 

Categories: Arts & Culture, Opinions

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