Vocabulary Spotlight on: The Oscars / The Academy Awards!

(Photo by lincolnblues)

In this post you’ll learn what the Academy Awards are and vocabulary you may hear while watching the ceremony.




What are the Academy Awards?

The 85th Academy Awards will take place on Sunday February 26, 2012 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. The Academy Awards are also known as the Oscars. Oscar is the name of the statuette (a small statue) that is given to each winner. (No one is quite sure how the statuette got the name Oscar. There are many different theories!)

The awards are voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. According to its website, the Academy is “[d]edicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures … ” (A motion picture is what we now know as a movie or a film.)

Who can win an Oscar?
The awards recognize and celebrate outstanding achievement in movies from the previous year. This year’s awards celebrate the best in movies of 2011. They celebrate not only actors and specific movies but also the people who do all the behind-the-scenes work (the work that you don’t see!): directors, producers, writers, composers, costume designers, lighting and sound technicians, editors, etc.

There are usually 5 nominees in each category. The nominees are the people or films that have been chosen to compete for the award. There are 24 categories of awards that are handed out during the ceremony, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. The nominees are chosen by Academy members in their field: actors choose the nominees for the acting awards, directors choose the nominees for Best Director, etc. Once the nominees have been chosen, all members of the Academy vote for the winner.

The Academy Awards Ceremony
The hosts of this year’s show are actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Each award, however, is handed out by a presenter. The presenter is usually another actor or actor. The presenter announces the category and then usually says, “And the nominees are . . .” The presenter will then read the names of the nominees. (Presenters read their lines from a teleprompter – an electronic device that shows the words to read; it is next to the camera so the presenters look like they are talking directly to the TV audience.)

Once the presenter has finished announcing the nominees, he/she then says, “And the Oscar goes to . . .” or “And the Academy Award goes to . . .” and opens the envelope to read the name of the winner. The envelope is sealed so that no one knows the winner until that moment! The winner then comes to the stage to accept his/her award and make a short acceptance speech.

The final award of the night is always Best Picture. Last year, the Academy changed the format of this award: there are 10 nominees for Best Picture instead of 5! This was done with the hope that more people will watch the ceremony on TV. For all the other awards, the winner is the person or film with the most votes. The winner for Best Picture, however, is chosen by a preferential voting system. Voters rank the films from 1-10 (1 being the best). If no film gets 50% of the vote, the film with the least votes is removed from competition and its votes are redistributed based on the number 2 choice. The first film to get over 50% of the votes wins.

The Red Carpet
One of the most anticipated and exciting parts of the show is watching the stars (famous people) arrive at the ceremony and walk down the red carpet. People watching at home want to see which stars are attending the event, what they’re wearing, and who they’re with. Most men attending the Oscars wear a tuxedo, and women wear extravagant, elegant dresses. There are several shows on TV before the Oscars even begin that show you what’s happening on the red carpet.

Sometimes you will also see or hear the expression ‘Oscar buzz.’ Here, buzz means ‘what people are talking about.’ Oscar buzz means ‘what people are saying about the Oscars’ – who will win, what film will win, etc.

What are your Oscar predictions? Who do you think will win Best Actor? Best Picture?

More information:
The official Oscar website
The list of nominees

Follow The Academy on Twitter!

This year the Academy Awards begin at 5:00pm Los Angeles time (PST). Check your time zone here.


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