The Hollywood Academy Awards is usually referred to as the Oscars. The awards are a formal recognition of the best films, direction, scripts, costume, editing, sound and music from the film industry from the previous year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences oversees the whole process and has around 6000 members in total.
The first awards ceremony took place in 1929 with a ceremony at the Hotel Roosevelt. These were only given out in a small number of categories so things have changed a lot since then. There are now 24 different categories at the awards and these include best actor and actress, awards for supporting acting talent, best picture, best director, best music, best costume and best editing.
The ceremony is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the film-making industry. Viewers in more than 100 countries watch the ceremony as it is televised, trying to spot which designers the stars have opted to wear and to see who looks disappointed when the results are announced.
In order to qualify for a nomination at the Oscars, the film must have opened the previous calendar year within Los Angeles County although one exception is made for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Some film makers will go out of their way to make sure that their film is released in time to qualify. The film Silver Linings Playbook was only released in Los Angeles County at the end of December 2013, but this was time enough for it to qualify when the shortlisting took place. At the other end of the scale, in 2008 the William Hurt film, The Hurt Locker was released, but it was not shown in Los Angeles County until 2009. It actually won a best picture award in 2010.
Ballots are sent out to Academy members at the end of December. In most cases they will only be asked to vote for their peers, so directors will consider nominees only in the category of best director. However, there are special committees established for categories such as best foreign film and best documentary. All members get to have their say when it comes to best picture. A second voting round then takes place once a shortlist has been established. All members of the Academy can vote on these.
The person who has won the most Oscars is Walt Disney. During his time as a film maker he won 22 Oscars for his films and was presented with 4 honorary awards. Meryl Streep has the distinction of being the most nominated actor with a total (to date!) of 20 nominations. 43 different films have been nominated in the five top categories – picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay – but only three movies have managed to win all five. These are It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).