Academy Awards

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.

And I’m Phoebe Zimmermann. Today, we tell about the seventy-sixth Academy Awards ceremony which takes place on Sunday. It is a night of excitement for people who make movies and for people who watch them.

On February twenty-ninth, actors, directors and other filmmakers will gather in Los Angeles, California. It will be the most important day of the year for hundreds of people in the movie industry. Filmmakers will receive Academy Awards for the best acting, directing, writing, editing, music and other work on movies released last year.

The winners will receive an award called an Oscar. It is shaped like a man. It is made of several metals covered with gold. The statue is only about thirty-four centimeters tall. It weighs less than four kilograms. But the award can be priceless to the person who receives it. Winning an Oscar can mean becoming much more famous. It can mean getting offers to work in the best movies. It also can mean earning much more money.

Movies from the United States and several other countries are competing to win Academy Awards. Five movies were nominated as best foreign language film. They are “The Barbarian Invasions,” a film from Canada; “Evil,” from Sweden; “The Twilight Samurai,” from Japan; “Twin Sisters,” from the Netherlands and “Zelary,” from the Czech Republic.

This year, there are many more Academy Award nominees from countries outside the United States and Britain than in years past. Some examples are the nominees for best acting awards. They include Keisha Castle-Hughes from New Zealand, Shohreh Aghdashloo from Iran, Ken Watanabe from Japan and Djimon Hounsou from Benin.

A movie from Brazil, “City of God,” is nominated for four Academy Awards. A French-Canadian director, Denys Arcand, is nominated for best original screenplay. And “The Triplets of Belleville,” from France, is nominated for best animated feature film.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” received the most Academy Award nominations. It received eleven nominations, including best motion picture of the year. It is a story about a struggle to save the world from the forces of evil. It is the third of three movies in the “Lord of the Rings” series. These are based on the books by British writer J-R-R Tolkien about an imaginary place called Middle-earth.

An adventure film that takes place on a British battleship in the eighteen-hundreds is nominated for ten Academy Awards. The nominations for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” include best motion picture of the year.

“Seabiscuit” is also nominated for best picture. It is about a famous American racehorse in the nineteen-thirties. The movie is nominated for seven Academy Awards. “Cold Mountain,” a love story that takes place during the American Civil War, is also nominated for seven awards. But, surprisingly, it did not receive a nomination for best picture.

“Mystic River” is another film nominated for best picture of the year. It is about three friends and the tragic events in their lives. The last nominee for best picture is “Lost in Translation.” It is about two Americans who meet in Tokyo. One is a famous movie star and the other is a lonely young woman.

“Lost in Translation” was directed by Sofia Coppola. She is only the third woman in Academy Award history to be nominated for best director. She is also the first American woman to get the nomination. Her father is the famous movie director Francis Ford Coppola.

The other best director nominees are Clint Eastwood for “Mystic River,” Peter Jackson for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and Peter Weir for “Master and Commander.” Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles was nominated as best director for “City of God.” The film is about the violent lives of young people in a poor area of Rio de Janeiro.

Other important Academy Awards are given for the best performance by an actor in a leading role. Sean Penn is nominated for his role in “Mystic River.” Bill Murray is nominated for “Lost in Translation.” The other nominees are Jude Law in “Cold Mountain,” Ben Kingsley in “House of Sand and Fog,” and Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

There was one surprise among the nominations for best actress in a leading role. Thirteen-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes from New Zealand was nominated for her performance in “Whale Rider.” She is the youngest person ever nominated for this award. Other nominees are Diane Keaton for the comedy “Something’s Gotta Give” and Samantha Morton for “In America.” Charlize Theron was nominated as best actress for the film “Monster.” And Naomi Watts was nominated for “Twenty-one Grams.”

Oscars also are awarded for the best music in movies and the best song. Five songs are nominated as best original song. Two of them are from the movie “Cold Mountain.” One of these is “The Scarlet Tide” written by Henry Burnett and Elvis Costello. Alison Krauss sings this song.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars each year. Almost six-thousand people who work in the movie industry belong to the organization. It was established in nineteen-twenty-seven to support the film 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. Some people said this is how the statue got its name: In nineteen-fifty-one, a 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.

But actress and former Academy president Bette Davis disputed this version. She said she named the award Oscar in honor of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson.

The process of choosing award winners begins with members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. These people work in thirteen different professions. They nominate candidates for Academy Awards. The members choose among people doing the same 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. This year, the ceremony is being held one month earlier than usual. It will be held in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Important people in the movie industry attend the ceremonies. Crowds of people wait outside the theater. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive for the ceremony. The women wear beautiful dresses given to them by famous designers. Camera lights flash. Actors and actresses smile for the photographers and television cameras.

During the Academy Awards ceremony, famous actors and actresses announce the names of the winners. Then the winners walk up onto the stage to receive their Oscars. Their big moment has arrived. They cry. They laugh. They thank all the people who helped them win the award.

Thousands of Americans in forty-six cities will attend Oscar Night parties to re-create the excitement of the Academy Awards. These parties raise money for local aid organizations.

Hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world will watch the Academy Awards show on television Sunday. The American film industry will honor the best movies, actors and technicians. These winners will go home with a golden Oscar.

Our program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English.