Tonight: The Academy Awards!

How did the Academy Awards Start?

How to watch or stream

Once again tonight’s 92nd Academy Awards will be host-free, and proves to be an entertaining event, with a star-studded line-up of nominees, including such Hollywood legends as Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Brad Pitt, Renée Zellweger, Scarlett Johansson, and many more.

The film Joker, the dark origin story of Batman’s titular nemesis, is nominated for many awards, and its lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix, is a favorite for winning, despite the tough field.

In a year when the event’s commitment to diversity has been questioned, Cynthia Erivo is the only woman of color nominated for Best Actress in Harriet, the riveting biography of the Underground Railroad’s Harriet Tubman: a former slave who risked her life to lead others to freedom in the ante bellum south.

History of the Event

The Academy Awards (officially rebranded as “The Oscars” in 2013) originated in 1929, as a means to acknowledge outstanding achievement in the motion picture industry.

There was a small, private dinner ceremony on May 16, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California—under 300 people attended. An after-party at the Mayfair Hotel followed the main ceremony. Fifteen artists, directors and film-industry professionals were honored, but in contrast to later ceremonies, the winners had already been announced to the press three months earlier.

The tradition of the surprise reveal started with the second awards ceremony, in 1930, and the sealed envelope was introduced in 1941, after a newspaper leaked the news prematurely (the papers were given winning names early, with the agreement that they wouldn’t publish until 11:00 pm the night of the big event.)

The first Best Actor award went to Emil Jannings, for “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh.” It’s interesting to note that the early awards were given for all the work done by the recipient during the qualifying period, unlike modern awards, which are typically given for one specific film project. Life time achievement awards are one exception to this modern trend.

Another difference of interest to film enthusiasts pertains to the Foreign Film category. Foreign films were honored with special achievement awards until 1957, at the 29th Academy Awards Ceremony, when the Foreign Film Category was added to the repertoire.

To date nearly three thousand Oscar statuettes have been awarded to a wide range of film professionals and personalities.

While the Oscars honor outstanding achievement in motion pictures, the following major awards honor outstanding achievement in other entertainment and media venues:

  • Grammy Awards – Music industry
  • Emmy Awards – Television
  • Tony Awards – Stage Performance