The History of the Oscars: Celebrating the Best in Cinema

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The History of the Oscars: Celebrating the Best in Cinema

In its 92-year history, the Academy Awards (also known as the “Oscars”) have been the pinnacle of success in the film industry. This annual event honors cinematic achievements, both historic and modern, and celebrates the actors, directors, and filmmakers that make cinema into an art form. It’s a night of glamor and prestige that has history that runs deep.

From its inception in 1929, to the controversy-laden shows of the 21st century, the awards have grown to be one of the most enduring and well-known institutions in the entertainment industry. Join us as we take a look back at where the Oscars began and how they continue to be one of the most celebrated nights of the year.

Overview of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards are presented each year by the academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) on the first Sunday in March. The awards celebrate the talent and achievements of 20 distinct categories in film production and acting. The awards are generally given out in the following order:

  1. Best Picture
  2. Best Director
  3. Best Actress/Actor
  4. Best Supporting Actress/Actor
  5. Best Original Screenplay
  6. Best Adapted Screenplay
  7. Best Cinematography
  8. Best Film Editing
  9. Best Art Direction
  10. Best Animated Feature Film
  11. Best Documentary Feature Film
  12. Best Visual Effects
  13. Best Costume Design
  14. Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  15. Best Sound Editing
  16. Best Sound Mixing
  17. Best Original Score
  18. Best Original Song
  19. Best Foreign Language Film
  20. Best Documentary Short

In addition to the awards, there are also several honorary awards, such as the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

The Origins and Early History of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards were first held on May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California. This event, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was originally created to honor artistic and technical merit in the film industry.

Members of the academy were encouraged us to submit nominations in the 15 award categories, including recently-established awards for Best Director and Best Picture. At the time, there was no ceremony and the winners were simply announced.

The first televised Academy Awards was in 1953 on NBC and hosted by Bob Hope. This event came about as the popularity of the awards show was starting to grow and the demand for the event to be broadcast to a wider audience was high.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, many of the most memorable Academy Awards ceremonies occurred, with musicals and other genres of movie taking home the top rewards. This was also when some of the most iconic moments in Oscar history occurred, such as Cecil B. Demille, who presented the first Oscar to Emil Jannings in 1929 being made an honorary award winner in 1953.

Evolution of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards has undergone many changes since it was first established. For example, in 1968, the Oscars switched over from black-and-white to color broadcasts, which offered viewers a more vibrant viewing experience.

In 1974, the Academy Awards moved to the iconic Dolby Theatre. The new Dolby Theatre had an impressive array of new technologies, such as a multi-format film projection system, stereophonic sound, and a state-of-the-art film editing suite.

In 1977, the first female host was brought in to preside over the awards: comedien, writer and actress, Ellen Burstyn. She was the first of a long line of female hosts, such as Whoopi Goldberg, Jodie Foster, and most recently, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

From the 1980s onwards, the Academy Awards saw a shift in focus from traditional “Hollywood” movies to more independent films, as well as a growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion in both the nominations and winners.

The Most Memorable and Controversial Oscar Moments

In the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, there have been some unforgettable and even shocking moments on the red carpet. Here are some of the most memorable and controversial moments in Oscar history.

  1. The Presentation of the First Oscar
    To kick off the first official Academy Awards, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles was the official venue. The first Oscar was awarded on the evening of May 16, 1929, to the silent movie classic “Wings”.

  2. The “Blind” Audience
    In 1954, the Academy Awards ceremony was broadcasted with the audience in complete darkness. This was to prevent any potential award winners from being seen in the audience and influencing the vote.

  3. The Streaker

In 1974, when actor David Niven was presenting the award for Best Picture, he was interrupted by a television streaker running across the stage. He handled the situation with complete poise and humor, famously quipping, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen. But isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

  1. The Stonewall Riot
    In 1979, the nominees for Best Picture included the controversial “Midnight Cowboy”, which focused on the underground gay culture of New York City. In a move that shocked the audience, the rioters from the Stonewall Inn intruded the ceremony during the presentation of awards for best direction and writing, to protest for equal representation for LGBT+ voices in cinema.

  2. The 2020 Academy Awards of “No Host”
    In 2020, the Academy Awards ceremony decided to forgo a host, due to the unpredictability of the television industry. As the Oscars continued without a formal host, the show stayed closely focused on the nominees, the acceptance speeches, and the performances.

The Role of Technology in Modern Academy Awards

As the Academy Awards has evolved over the years, technology has played an increasing role in making the event more accessible to viewers around the world. In 2005, the Academy inaugurated an online system for submitting votes, which allowed members to cast their votes remotely.

In 2017, the Academy Awards also made headway with its Academy Award Live! app for mobile devices. This app gave users access to watch the ceremony online, to comment on their favorite parts of the show, and to make predictions about who the winners will be.

Additionally, the Academy Awards have also experimented with virtual reality, allowing the audience to feel as if they’re in the ceremony itself, like when a 360-degree view of the Dolby Theatre was streamed online in 2018.

The Academy Awards have been an enduring and influential part of the entertainment industry for almost a century. It’s been a platform for celebrating the extraordinary achievements of Hollywood’s most talented individuals, and a source of entertainment for millions of viewers across the globe. As technology continues to grow, we can only imagine what the future of the Oscars will look like. But one thing’s for sure: the ceremony will hold its place as one of the most important nights in the entertainment industry.

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