"I can't go on! No food, no water! It's All My Fault. We're done for! It's got me. I can't stand it! No food, nothing! No food, no water! No food! HAHAHAHAHA!!"
Here on the internet, people usually think of the awards presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as "that thing where Billy Crystal does a musical medley, runs overtime and has even made a cliche of lampshading that fact, snubbed Citizen Kane, Star Wars, and Pulp Fiction for best picture, gave that award to only one of the The Lord of the Rings films, and thought Tron was 'cheating' by using CGI.
First of all, that implies that "True Art Is Nerdy", and we shouldn't go there. Second of all, there is a lot more to the Academy Awards than that. Of note though, Before Star Wars at least four of the five nominees for Best Picture were in the top ten grossing pictures of that year. The auteur movement of the 1970s caused a separation of 'art' and 'popular'. Though Star Wars WAS still nominated for Best Picture, it lost the Oscar to Annie Hall. From then on, it was only rarely that a top-grossing film was also a nominee. Notable Exceptions were Rain Man in 1989, Forrest Gump in 1994, Titanic in 1997, the The Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2001-2003, Avatar in 2009, and Toy Story 3 in 2010.
Admittedly, the award, known as The Oscar, seems like just a way for Hollywood to suck up to itself, but its purpose was originally to encourage better filmmaking as well as promote the industry. The Academy is not actually a school, but a collection of people in the film industry that is dedicated to the advancement of films. Again, The Oscar was meant to help that along.
It's just that from the beginning, everyone knew the prestige it would hold, and the various forms of Oscar Bait almost immediately followed.
The BAFTA Film Awards, Britain's version of the Oscars, is traditionally held as a good indicator for the winners of the Oscars.
For films, actors, and directors that won one or many Academy Awards, see Category:Academy Award.
Some specific historical retrospectives concerning certain practices of the Academy
- The first Oscar ceremony involved quite a bit of Early Installment Weirdness.
- There was no "Best Picture Award" given, but instead, two oddly redundant awards--Most Outstanding Production, which went to Wings, and Most Unique and Artistic Quality of Production, which went to Sunrise. After that first ceremony the Unique and Artistic Quality award was discontinued and a single Best Production Award was instituted, with the name later changed to Best Picture. Wings is often listed as the sole "Best Picture" winner at the first ceremony. (Both categories are included in the list below).
- Winners were announced in advance, for the only time.
- Two Best Director awards were given, one for drama and one for comedy. Starting with the second Oscars only one directing award was given out.
- For each of the first three Academy Awards, the Best Actor and Best Actress awards were given for the best body of work within a year, rather than for an individual performance. The industry was very different then, and a successful actor or actress would be expected to have appeared in many works each year.
- In the 2009 Oscars, the late Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight, proving that True Art is Psychopathic and that Dead Artists Are Better. Ledger was only the second actor to win a posthumous Oscar; the first being Peter Finch for Network. Curiously, both actors were Australian.
- As evidenced by The Return Of The King's sweep, the Academy is willing to give a serious look to non-mundane films as worthy of the Academy's highest honors in writing and directing in addition to the technical awards which such films can usually garner (although the fact The Lord of the Rings had such a significant pedigree before being adapted probably didn't hurt matters much).
- Animated works have also undergone a major transformation. Back when studios still had theater cartoons, the Animated Short Subject feature was an award which studios clamored for. These days, animated works are most likely to be avant-garde subjects which most people are unlikely to ever see (unless, of course, the studio that produced them later becomes very famous) aside from the festival circuit. The inauguration of a Best Animated Feature Film for the 2001 ceremony onwards was seen as both a recognition of the strength of animated productions, or as a way to compensate the award snub suffered by Beauty and the Beast in 1991 and for the constant exclusion of animated films for decades - although some people have called the Best Animated Feature Film award an excuse to not nominate animated works for Best Picture. Even so, there are constant complaints of Award Snub on this category, as Disney and Pixar have received a disproportionate amount of awards — as of 2021, of twenty awarded films, only six were not produced by either Disney or Pixar.
- Since 1945, the Best Picture Oscar has gone to the film that simply received the most votes; starting with the 2010 Academy Awards, the Academy will return to the original voting format: voters will rank the nominated films from best to worst, and then the votes will be tallied up to determine which film wins the award. One could argue that this was done to ensure that all of the nominated films will be on a level playing field and (along with the extra five nominations) help to placate the people who complained about the Best Picture snubs from the 2009 awards.
- This USA Today article with an interactive graphic explains the voting procedure perfectly.
- The award for Best Documentary Feature has also suffered from having a rather strange definition - documentaries can be disqualified for airing on TV too soon as well as for involving the use of too much archival footage. This says nothing about the fact that until Bowling for Columbine won in 2002, it was fairly rare for any Academy Award-winning documentaries to be available to the common public at all. Five of the six winners before Bowling for Columbine all involved Jews being killed as a result of antisemitism. Not That There's Anything Wrong with That (the films that is, not antisemitism), but people would raise eyebrows if this were the topic of the Best Picture nominee with that kind of frequency. Before that, there was the Hoop Dreams snub of 1994. Since Bowling for Columbine, though, the award has come under the same scrutiny as most other major categories, and most winners, while not all are as famous as An Inconvenient Truth or March of the Penguins, can usually be found
at your local video storeon one or another of your local streaming services.
- The Foreign Language film category is also notorious for extremely complicated rules and a country can only submit one film to the Academy for nomination consideration. It's also subject to the rules about television airings; Japan wanted to submit Shall We Dance? in 1997, but it had already had a TV airing in its home country and was disqualified. (They submitted Princess Mononoke instead; it didn't get a nomination.)
- Until 2010, no woman had ever won the Best Director award. Kathryn Bigelow was the first, winning for The Hurt Locker -- beating out her ex-husband, James Cameron (for Avatar) in the process. Both the Animation Age Ghetto and Sci Fi Ghetto were ignored this year, as Up, Avatar and District 9 were all up for best picture. That said, the "blockbuster rule" prevailed: Avatar only won three technical awards, while The Hurt Locker became the lowest-grossing movie to ever win Best Picture.
- It was noticed in 2015 that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at the time being substantially made up of white males, tended to nominate white actors for awards. Activist April Reign pointed this out on Twitter by using a then-brand-new hashtag, "#OscarsSoWhite", and the matter was met with humorous replies. When the nominees were exclusively white in 2016, use of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag changed from humorous to activist. This caused the Academy to look for non-white members; in 2020 they announced that they had surpassed their goal, with their press release stating Academy membership had risen to "36% underrepresented ethnic/racial communities". However, only one non-white actor had been nominated for an award in that year. There's a detailed article about this at britannica.com
- As of 2020 not one African American has won the Best Director award, and only six, John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood), Lee Daniels (Precious), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) have been nominated. Despite Common Knowledge, Spike Lee was not nominated for Best Director until 2019.
- It wasn't until 2020 that a non-English-language movie won Best Picture — South Korea's Parasite.