Academy Awards

On March twenty-fourth, 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 Steve Ember. The Academy Awards is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.


Sunday 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, sound, 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 in the Academy Awards this year. Five movies were nominated as best foreign language film. They are from France, Norway, India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Argentina. The film from France, "Amelie," was nominated for four other awards. It is about a young woman who brings happiness to other people.

For the first time, an Oscar will be given for best animated feature film. Three movies are competing. They are "Shrek," "Monsters, Inc." and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius."

A movie based on a famous series of books by British writer J.R.R. Tolkien received the most Academy Award nominations. The movie, "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," is a story about a struggle to save the world from the forces of evil. Good creatures called hobbits and elves battle against evil creatures. The movie is competing for thirteen Oscars, including best motion picture. Peter Jackson was nominated as best director. Ian McKellen was nominated as best supporting actor. Two more movies in the "Lord of the Rings" series will be released this year and next.

"A Beautiful Mind" received eight nominations, including one for best motion picture. It is about a famous American mathematician, John Nash. He suffered from severe mental illness. Yet he shared the Nobel Prize for Economics in Nineteen-Ninety-Four. Russell Crowe was nominated for best actor for playing John Nash as he struggles against the disease. Jennifer Connelly received a nomination for best supporting actress for playing Nash's wife, Alicia. The movie's director, Ron Howard, also was nominated for an Oscar.

An unusual movie musical called "Moulin Rouge" also was nominated for eight awards, including best motion picture. It is about a famous night club in Paris, France around the year Nineteen-Hundred. Yet it uses modern popular music to tell the story. Nicole Kidman was nominated for best actress for playing a singer and dancer at the Moulin Rouge.


Two other movies were nominated for Academy Awards for best motion picture of the year. "Gosford Park" is a murder mystery that takes place in a rich country home in Britain in Nineteen-Thirty-Two. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Its director, Robert Altman, was nominated as best director. Two actresses in the movie, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith, were nominated for best supporting actress.

The movie "In the Bedroom" received five nominations, including best motion picture. It is a tragic story about parents who seek to punish the killer of their twenty-one-year-old son. Three of the actors in the movie also were nominated to win Oscars. They are Tom Wilkinson for best actor, Sissy Spacek for best actress and Marisa Tomei (toe-MY) for best supporting actress.

Several other people were nominated for Academy Awards as best leading actor or actress. Renee Zellweger was nominated for her part in "Bridget Jones's Diary." Judi Dench was nominated for playing the British writer Iris Murdoch in the movie "Iris." And Halle Berry received a nomination for her performance in "Monster's Ball."

The other nominations for best leading actor are Sean Penn for "I Am Sam," Denzel Washington for "Training Day," and Will Smith for playing boxer Muhammad Ali in the movie "Ali." This is the first time in thirty years that three African American actors were nominated for leading acting awards. They are Halle Berry, Denzel Washington and Will Smith.

Three people will be honored at the Academy Awards ceremony. Sidney Poitier will receive a special award for his performances in more than forty movies and for representing the motion picture industry. He is the only African American actor who has received an Oscar for best leading actor. Robert Redford will be honored for his work as actor, director, producer and supporter of independent movies by young filmmakers. And director Arthur Hiller will receive an award for his humanitarian efforts.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars each year. About six-thousand people who work in the movie industry belong to the organization. It was established in Nineteen-Twenty-Seven to support the 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 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 they do. 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 will be held in its new home, the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Important people in the movie industry are invited to the ceremonies. The presentation is called Oscar Night.

On Oscar night, crowds of people always line the streets. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive for the ceremony. 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 the theater.

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 act surprised. They thank all the people who helped them win the award.

Only a few hundred invited guests can attend the awards presentation. But millions of people in the United States and other countries watch the Academy Awards show on television. A total of about one-thousand-million people watch the show around the world. Thousands of Americans in almost forty cities will attend Oscar Night parties to re-create the excitement of the Academy Awards. These parties raise money for local aid organizations.

Sunday will be the seventy-fourth Academy Awards presentation. The American film industry will honor some of the best in their industry. These winners will go home with a golden Oscar.


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember. 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.