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Although he never won an Oscar for any of his movie performances, the comedian Bob Hope
received two honorary Oscars for his contributions to cinema.
The Academy Awards, commonly known as The Oscars, are the most prominent film awards in the world. The Awards are granted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a professional honorary organization which as of 2003 had a voting membership of 5,816. Actors (with a membership of 1,311) make up the largest voting bloc. The most recent awards were the 77th Academy Awards.
The official name of the Oscar statuette is the "Academy Award of Merit." The Academy Award statuette was allegedly nicknamed Oscar when Academy librarian Margaret Herrick saw it on a table and said, "it looks just like my uncle Oscar!" The nickname stuck and is used almost as commonly as Academy Award, even by the Academy itself. In fact, the Academy's domain name is oscars.org and the official website for the Academy Awards is at oscars.com. The awards were first given at a banquet in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929 but there was little suspense since the winners of the awards had already been announced three months earlier on February 18. To qualify, a film had to open in Los Angeles during the twelve months ending on July 31 of the preceding year. The 1934 and later awards have all been based on openings in the previous calendar year. The 1932–33 awards were based on a 17-month qualifying period. The "opened in Los Angeles" clause allowed Charlie Chaplin to win his only voted Oscar for Limelight which was made in 1952, but did not open until 1972. The rules have changed since then so films more than two years old are not eligible.
The awards night itself is an elaborate extravaganza, with the invited guests walking up the red carpet in the creations of the most prominent fashion designers. The ceremony and extravagant afterparties, including the Academy's Governors Ball, are televised around the world.
The members of each branch determine the nominees in their respective category, after which the entire membership votes for the winner in all categories. The ballot itself contains just the title of a work – not the persons involved – for all categories except acting.
Less subjectively, it is clear that movie studios spend large amounts of money on campaigning for their films. Around nomination and voting time, film trade publications are filled with ads headed "for your consideration". Miramax has been the most widely discussed (and arguably successful) studio to use this technique. An award can give a film a huge boost at the box office and make an artist an industry "power player" overnight. In the past few decades, the advent of VHS and DVD have given Academy Awards a new level of importance, as the attachment of a win or even nomination in a prominent category can dramatically increase sales and rentals. The Academy has made a public effort to crack down on these campaigns, but the results have been mixed. Such influence is nothing new: for example, it is widely believed William Randolph Hearst ran a campaign to ensure that Citizen Kane – a film regarded by many as the greatest of all time – did not receive any Academy Award nominations. The film ended up receiving only one trophy despite nominations in nine categories.
Academy Award rules are reviewed annually. Recent rule changes include the following:
- For 2003, the category names for the writing awards were simplified. The "Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published" category was renamed the "Adapted Screenplay" category. The category of "Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen" was renamed "Original Screenplay."
- For 2002, a new category, Best Animated Feature, was established.
- As of 2001, a film cannot appear on the Internet before its theatrical release and be eligible for an Oscar.
- In 2000 (and again in 2003), rules were tightened to restrict Best Picture nominations and awards to producers who actually functioned as producers. Up to three producers are allowed per film. The 1998 Best Picture Oscar went to five producers for Shakespeare in Love.
The greatest number of Academy Awards won by a film is 11, this distinction is shared by 3 films: Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The "Academy Award of Merit" is given in many categories, including the following:
Special Awards, which are voted on by special committees, rather than by the Academy membership as a whole, include: