Academy Awards

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

And I’m Barbara Klein. Today, we tell about the seventy-seventh Academy Awards ceremony which takes place on Sunday in Los Angeles, California. It is an exciting event for people who make movies and for people around the world who watch them.

On February twenty-seventh, actors, directors and other filmmakers will gather in Hollywood. It is 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 “As It Is in Heaven” from Sweden, “Downfall” from Germany, “The Sea Inside” from Spain, “Yesterday” from South Africa and “The Chorus” from France.

The five films nominated for best motion picture are all from the United States. “The Aviator” received eleven Academy Award nominations -- the most of any film this year. These include nominations for best motion picture, best director and best actor. “The Aviator” tells the story of a famous American, Howard Hughes, during the nineteen thirties and forties. Hughes directed Hollywood movies. He designed and flew airplanes. He later suffered from mental illness.

Two other movies received seven Academy Award nominations each, including best motion picture. “Million Dollar Baby” tells about a young woman who becomes a successful boxer but later faces a tragedy. “Finding Neverland” tells the story of Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie. He created Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to grow up.

A movie about musician Ray Charles, called “Ray,” was nominated for best picture and five other awards. And a comedy called “Sideways” was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture. It tells about two middle-aged men who travel to an area in California where wine is made. They taste different kinds of wine and meet two women.

“The Aviator,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Ray” and “Sideways” also received nominations for best director. The directors are Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Taylor Hackford and Alexander Payne. British director Mike Leigh also was nominated for the film “Vera Drake” about a family in England during the nineteen fifties.

Four men received nominations for best actor in a leading role for portraying real people. Leonardo diCaprio was nominated for his role as Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.” Johnny Depp portrayed J.M. Barrie in “Finding Neverland.” Jamie Foxx was Ray Charles in “Ray.” Foxx was also nominated as best actor in a supporting role for the movie “Collateral.” He is only the third man to be nominated for both awards in the same year.

Don Cheadle was nominated for his role as Paul Rusesabagina in the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” He was the hotel manager who sheltered more than one thousand people during the mass killings in Rwanda in nineteen ninety-four.

And Clint Eastwood was nominated for his role as the boxing trainer in “Million Dollar Baby.”

Five women were nominated for best performance by an actress in a leading role. Hilary Swank was nominated for playing the boxer in “Million Dollar Baby.” Annette Bening portrayed a famous British actress in the nineteen thirties in “Being Julia.” Columbian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno starred in “Maria Full of Grace.” She played a young woman who brings drugs illegally into the United States.

Imelda Staunton portrayed “Vera Drake,” a British woman who secretly performed illegal operations to end the pregnancies of poor young women. And Kate Winslet was nominated for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” She played a woman who tries to have memories of her boyfriend removed from her mind.

More than twenty Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, in addition to acting and directing. The best documentary or true story will be honored. The people who designed the best costumes, makeup and special effects will receive awards. So will the people who wrote the best screenplay and did the best film and sound editing.

Three movies are competing for the best animated feature film of last year. They are “The Incredibles,” “Shark Tale” and “Shrek Two.” “Shrek Two” was also the most popular American movie of last year.

Oscars also are awarded for the best music in movies and the best song. Five songs are nominated as best original song. A song from “Shrek Two” is one of them. Here is “Accidentally in Love” by the group Counting Crows.

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.

Members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences begin the process of choosing award winners. 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 is the second year that the ceremony is being held in February instead of March. It will be held in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Important people in the movie industry attend the Academy Awards ceremony.

Crowds of people wait outside the theater. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive for the ceremony. The women wear beautiful dresses and costly jewelry given to them by famous designers. Camera lights flash. The actors and actresses smile for the photographers and television cameras.

During the Academy Awards ceremony, famous actors and actresses announce the names of the nominees and the winners. Then the winners walk up onto the stage to receive their Oscars. Their big moment has arrived. 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 Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English.