Academy Awards

By Jerilyn WatsonOn March Twenty-Fifth, actors, directors and other filmmakers will gather in Los Angeles, California, for the yearly Academy Awards ceremonies. It is a night of excitement for people who make movies and for people who watch them. I'm Sarah Long.And I'm Shirley Griffith. The Academy Awards is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

((CUT ONE: MUSIC FROM "GLADIATOR" AS BRIDGE))Next Sunday will be the most important day of the year for hundreds of people in the film industry. The Academy Awards will be presented in Los Angeles. More than fifty people will receive awards for the best acting, directing and other work on films released last year.

They will receive an award called an Oscar. It is shaped like a man. It is made of several metals covered with gold. It is only about thirty-four centimeters tall. It weighs less than four kilograms. But to the person who receives an Oscar, the statue can be priceless. Winning an Oscar can mean becoming much more famous. It can mean getting offers to work in the best movies. And it can mean earning much more money.Films from the United States and several other countries are competing for awards. International interest in the awards has increased. For example, forty-six countries entered movies to be considered for the best foreign-language film. That is the largest number ever. The five movies that were nominated are from Mexico, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Belgium and France.An American movie about ancient Rome called "Gladiator" received the most nominations. It is competing for twelve Oscars, including best film. Its director, Ridley Scott, is nominated for best director. Russell Crowe is nominated for best actor. He plays a former Roman general who is captured and forced to fight for his life against other slaves.

A Mandarin-language film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" won ten nominations. That is the most nominations ever received by a foreign film. It is competing for best movie and best foreign-language movie. Taiwanese director Ang Lee directed this beautiful and unusual film. He was nominated for best director. "Crouching Tiger" tells a magical story about female Chinese warriors who can fly through the air. It has earned more money from ticket sales in American theaters than any other foreign film in history."Traffic" is an American film about the illegal drug trade and how it affects young people in the United States. It received five Oscar nominations, including best picture. Benicio Del Toro was nominated for best supporting actor in "Traffic." He plays a policeman in Mexico who fights the illegal drug trade. He speaks most of his lines in Spanish. Steven Soderbergh was nominated for best director of "Traffic."

Mr. Soderbergh was also nominated for directing another film, "Erin Brockovich." This film is based on a true story about a woman in the state of California who becomes an environmental activist. "Erin Brockovich" is competing for the best picture Oscar. Its famous star, Julia Roberts, is competing for best actress.The fifth movie nominated for best picture is "Chocolat." It is about a woman who owns a chocolate shop in a small village in France. She changes the lives of everyone in the village. French actress Juliette Binoche was nominated for best actress for "Chocolat."

Three other women were nominated for best actress. Joan Allen plays a vice presidential candidate in "The Contender." Ellen Burstyn plays a woman who becomes dependent on drugs in "Requiem for a Dream."And Laura Linney plays a woman who has problems with her brother in "You Can Count on Me."

((CUT TWO: MUSIC BRIDGE FROM "CHOCOLAT"))A famous Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, was among the five men nominated for best actor. He plays the real-life Cuban poet and writer Reinaldo Arenas in the movie "Before Night Falls." It tells the story of how Mr. Arenas was jailed by the Cuban government for his writing and for being a homosexual. "Before Night Falls" is presented in both English and Spanish.

Three others are competing for best actor. Tom Hanks plays a man who must survive alone on an island after a plane crash in "Cast Away."Ed Harris plays the famous modern American painter Jackson Pollock in "Pollock."And Geoffrey Rush plays the eighteenth century writer, the Marquis de Sade, in the movie "Quills."

Academy Awards also are given to the best song and the best music from a movie. This year composer John Williams received his thirty-ninth Oscar nomination. He was nominated for writing the music for the movie "The Patriot."

((CUT THREE: MUSIC BRIDGE FROM "THE PATRIOT "))The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars each year. About six-thousand film workers belong to the organization. It was established in Nineteen-Twenty-Seven to support the movie industry.

The Academy began presenting awards in Nineteen-Twenty-Nine. At that time, films were just starting to have sound. The awards were not called Oscars until much later. In Nineteen-Fifty-One, the woman who worked in the Academy library said the statue looked like a family member -- her Uncle Oscar. A reporter heard this story and wrote about it. Some people said the reporter and the librarian named the statue.

But actress and former Academy president Bette Davis disputed this. She claimed she named the Oscars in honor of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson.The process of choosing award winners begins with Academy members. These people work in thirteen different professions. They nominate candidates for Academy Awards. They choose among filmmakers doing their kind of work. For example, actors nominate actors. Directors nominate directors. Designers nominate designers. All Academy members vote among those nominated to choose the final winners.

The awards are presented every spring in Los Angeles. Important people in the film industry are invited to the ceremonies. The presentation is called Oscar Night.

On this night, crowds of people line the streets. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive for the ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium. Camera lights flash. Actors and actresses smile for the photographers and television cameras. Some popular movie stars make statements to waiting reporters. Others hurry inside.Only a few hundred invited guests can attend the awards presentation. But millions of people in the United States and around the world watch the Academy Awards on television. As many as eighty-million people in the United States watch the show. As many as one-thousand-million people watch it in one-hundred foreign countries.

During the ceremony, famous actors and actresses announce the names of the winners. Then the winners walk to the stage to receive their Oscars. Their big, dramatic moment has arrived. They cry. They laugh. They act surprised. They thank all the people who helped them win the award.The Academy Awards show often includes surprises. For example, in Nineteen-Seventy-Four, a man ran across the stage wearing no clothes. In Nineteen-Ninety-Two, actor Jack Palance (PAL-ance) did push-up exercises on the floor in reaction to being named best supporting actor. Two years ago, Italian director and actor Roberto Benigni (Beh-NEE-nee) jumped on a chair to show his surprise and happiness at winning the award for best actor.National crises and bad weather have delayed the Academy Award ceremonies three times over the years. But the Academy Awards have never been canceled. Sunday will mark the seventy-third awards presentation. On that night, we will watch as some of the world's best filmmakers are honored by the film industry. These lucky people will go home with a golden Oscar.

((MUSIC FROM "CHOCOLAT" INSTEAD OF CLOSING THEME))This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Dave Bodington. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.