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Oscars 101: A Guide To The Oscars Nominations & Academy Awards

Photograph of the blog post author, Alex Thompson

Alex Thompson


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To win an Oscar is the single most prestigious award any filmmaker, actor, or movie professional can dream of. 

the oscars logo

In this article, we will be taking you through every single little detail there is to know about the Oscars. Both past and present. From its beginnings as a private dinner party in Los Angeles. To its grandiose approach to the ceremony in the current day. 

We will also discuss how the Oscars has been focusing more on inclusivity and incorporating streaming. As well as becoming one of the most-watched and talked about television events of the year. 

Finally, we will also talk about the importance of music in the Oscars and run through some legendary winners of each award. 

Condensed for your reading pleasure in the Oscars 101 – A Complete Guide To The Oscars Nominations & Awards. 

What Are The Oscars? 

the oscars award

The Oscars, or as they are also referred to, The Academy, began in 1929.

It started when a group of around 270 people were invited to a private dinner party in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. And were awarded for their achievements in film. 

Little did they know in having this small celebration of talent, they would be creating a dream for many ambitious filmmakers to aspire to. Even now – nearly one hundred years later. 

Tickets to this prestigious event cost a whopping $5 a person. It also lasted a grand total of 15 minutes. A stark contrast to today’s ceremonies which can last for up to four and a half hours. 

Since these smaller beginnings, the Oscars, for better or for worse, have turned into a glamorous festival of the most successful and talented people in film.

Since that first ceremony, 3,140 Oscars have been awarded with now 24 Oscars up for grabs on each award night. Despite the nickname of “The Oscars” now being more popular than the true name of the event, “The Academy Awards”.

The Oscars got their name after Margaret Herrick, the Academy executive secretary. When she first saw the award in 1931, she said that the statuette reminded her of “Uncle Oscar”. And the rest is history. 

How To Watch The Oscars 

girl watching tv

The Oscars is a huge event. And despite usually beginning at 8pm PT (1am GMT) the program often starts long before that. Up to 3 hours earlier 5pm PT (10pm GMT).

This is to build up anticipation for the event and the world-famous red carpet beforehand. Where in an almost dystopian way, the world watches celebrities and judges them on their clothing, general appearance, and attitude for viewing pleasure. 

Here is often when the host begins to make some appearances. However, in the past two years, there has been no host. The year prior on purpose, and more recently due to Kevin Hart’s dismissal.

Without a host, the Academy has actually found a slight dip in viewership in their award ceremony. Mainly due to the lack of witty remarks and entertainment throughout the nearly four hours show. That is normally just enough to keep viewers in different time zones going between presentations. 

Some of the best hosts of all time have been Bob Hope. In his 19 times hosting, Hugh Jackman in his impressive solo effort in 2009 and Whoopi Goldberg four times.

In the UK, viewers can watch the Oscars on Sky Cinema, and in the US the event is shown on ABC as it has been for the last four decades. 

What Are The Oscar Categories? 

oscar winners

Best Actors

On the night of the Academy Awards, as previously mentioned, there are 24 awards given out across all aspects of the filmmaking process firstly, Acting. 

Here there are four awards, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

The Best Actor/Actress awards are typically saved until later in the night and are two of the most reported on stories of the night. 

In 2019 Joaquin Phoenix and Renée Zellweger however, in the past, this prestigious leading role Oscar has gone to various people. Such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, Denzel Washington and Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Best Directors & Writers

Next, we have the Directing and Writing side of the nominations. Here there is, Best Directing, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Often, a director is involved or solely responsible for the writing of the film if they are an auteur (The film’s author – in control of many aspects of it). 

An example of filmmakers with an auteur style who have won all of these awards would be the Cohen Brothers, for No Country For Old Men and also for Fargo. 

Best Filmmakers & Technicians 

Then, we have the filmmaking and technical awards. Which consists of cinematography, production design, editing, costume design, makeup and hairstyling, and visual effects.

These categories often shine a light on the unsung geniuses behind so many great movies. These are people who have played a huge and often unrecognized role in making it such an entertaining and masterful piece of art. 

Winners of these awards before include Roger Deakins (Cinematography), Dante Ferreti (Production Design), Paul J Franklin (Visual Effects) and Angus Wall (Editing). 

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Best Music & Sound

After this, there are the music and sound categories. Which consist of Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

This plethora of awards demonstrates music’s importance to the film industry, as it has been for the 90+ years that the Oscars have been running for.

Many excellent songs have won the award for best original song over the years, including music industry greats like Shallow, My Heart Will Go On, Let It Go, and Skyfall. 

These categories mean that many musicians dream of winning Oscars too, as well as filmmakers. Which is what makes these awards the biggest in the arts. As they offer recognition to almost every medium that may be involved with film. 

In 2020, the winner for Best Original Song was (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again – by Elton John. Taken from the hit biographical movie Rocketman. 

Best Picture 

Then, of course, we have Best Picture and best foreign film! How could we forget, in 2020, Parasite won both of these awards. Becoming not only the first film to do so, but the first international language film to win the best picture.

Throughout history, The Best Picture category has seen winners such as Gladiator, Titanic, American Beauty, The Deer Hunter, and Gone With The Wind. 

The winner of this award is often immortalized as the most critically acclaimed award of each year. However, this is also normally the most controversial category. The Green Book (2018) being a particularly polarizing choice. 

Best Alternative Film

Finally, we have the alternative and genre film categories. Here there is Best Animated Feature Film, Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary (Short Subject), Best International Feature Film and Best Live Action Short Film. 

Though overlooked, the best short film categories can often shine a light on the filmmakers of tomorrow. Those who are beginning to emerge as recognisable names within the industry. 

An example of this is Martin McDonagh who won the Best Live Action Short category in 2006 with Six Shooter. Little did the audience that night know, he would go on to be nominated for best picture twice, for In Bruges and the particularly hard-hitting – Three Billboards Over Ebbing, Missouri. 

Who Decides The Winner?


The short answer is, the members of the academy, of which there are around 6000. The long answer though, is a little more complicated. 

The Academy is made up of film industry professionals from all of the disciplines available in the world of movies.

When a film is nominated, all of the members that work as part of that category can vote on their pick to win the Oscar. 

For example, all directors in the academy could vote for the Best Director winner. But a Hair and Makeup Stylist would not be able to vote for The Best Director category. 

For non-specific categories like Best Foreign Short, academy members have to go through a gruelling application process to be able to be allowed to vote. In every category, voters must also have seen the work/film of every single entry so as to not have uninformed or unbalanced decisions. 

How To Find Out The Nominations

oscar award

The first thing to note in regards to next year’s 2021 ceremony is that there will be a new date for the awards show. It has been moved from 28th February to the 25th April. 

This means a couple of things for the films entering for nomination and for the viewers at home.

Firstly, this means that the deadline for entry has been extended from the 31st of December to the 28th of February. Meaning movies can now submit themselves almost two months later for an award.

They will now occur on the 15th of March.

In the past, this event has been live-streamed on YouTube by the Academy themselves and this year will be no different. 

If you don’t have access to YouTube, the Oscars should also be live on their website!

That Has Been Our Guide to The Oscars! 

We hope you learned a thing or two from this article!

Over the years of the Oscars, there have been so many great tales of underdog winners and of rags to riches. 

Watching that live – or your favourite film win an award – is a great feeling and seems like a personal victory as well as a collective one. 

Movies are a uniting presence in the world, sparking thousands of conversations a day. Helping people break the ice, being first date entertainment, or just fun for a family night in. 

Films are a true testament of our creativity and productiveness as people. And the Oscars are the place where we can see that creativity deservedly rewarded. If they make the right choice!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about the Oscars! Whilst you’re here why not check out some of our recent articles about films such as, our picks of The Best Christmas Movies Of All Time, The Best Film Schools and The Best Movies In 2019.

Are You An Artist?

If you’re interested in the crossover between music and film, take a look at our article on music supervisors. With our concierge and service and extensive music library, allow us to help you find music for your film. Sign up free for Мusic Gateway now!

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