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How to Win an Oscar

Febbraio 2005
La cerimonia più glamour dell’anno è alle porte: nella sua massima autocelebrazione, Hollywood continua ad affascinare il mondo nonostante tutto.

di John Rigg

File audio:

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron

Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

The 77th edition of the Academy Awards takes place on Sunday, February 27th. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrates another year of magic and invention in the cinema. Actors and actresses hope it will be the  year they win an Oscar. What is an Oscar? It is a gold statue of a man, originally named an Award of Merit. An Academy librarian, Margaret Herrick, saw the first statue in 1926 and remarked, “Oh! It looks like my uncle Oscar!” The name remained, though it didn’t become official until 1939.

What is so special about the Oscars?


In 2004, Sean Connery opened the ceremony with these words: “For 100 years movies have fascinated the world. They are more than entertainment. They are the common link that touches the humanity of all of us.” Here is another point of view from the director Frank Capra. In 1936 he said: “The Oscars are the most valuable and least expensive form of worldwide public relations.” He was right: 70 years later and about 50 million Americans watch the ceremony every year.

What is it like to win an Oscar?

“It’s a fairy tale, a dream come true,” said F. Murray Abraham on winning Best Actor for Amadeus in 1984. The fairy tale world of the cinema attracts us all, of course. Here is a quote from Alec Baldwin, another actor living in a fairy tale: “One day you’re working as a waiter, and the next you’re nominated for an Oscar. This business is crazy.”


 Halle Berry certainly thinks they are important. She gave this speech on receiving her Oscar in 2002: “This moment is much bigger than me. This Oscar is for every nameless woman of colour for whom the door is now open.” She was the first black woman to win the Best Actress category for her part in Monster’s Ball, and she saw her success as a step in the emancipation of African Americans in the United States.

How do people win an Oscar?

First you must be nominated. The members of the Academy vote to choose the nominees in each category. Actually, the members can only make nominations in their own category. So actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors and so on. However, all members can vote for each final award. There are about 25 categories which include best film, best actor and best actress, then there is best director, best sound, best original screenplay etc.
All the nominees are then invited to an annual luncheon where actors and other nominees answer journalists’ questions, pose for photographs and receive an Academy Nominee Certificate. After this the serious voting begins.
Global company Pricewaterhouse Coopers organise the voting: they send out ballot cards to the 5,803 members and count the votes. Only the partners of this company know the results before the ceremony. The winners’ names are inside sealed envelopes which are not opened until the moment when, with cameras running,  the winners and losers learn their fates.

Is it possible to influence the choice of the members?

The major studios certainly think so. It is common practise to release films in the last months before the ceremony or to re-release the film in the Los Angeles area in that period. They also spend large amounts on advertising campaigns for their films. They send their actors to the major television talk and entertainment shows.
Another common tactic is to send copies of the films to members. This has caused some problems recently. One Academy member, actor Carmine Caridi, “gave” 40 pre-release copies to a “friend,” a certain Russell Sprague from Illinois. Mr Sprague allegedly copied and distributed the films, and he now faces eight years in prison and Mr Caradi faces a heavy fine.

Is it worth the big film studios’ investment of time and money?

It depends on the film involved. A film like The Lord of the Rings can gain very little because the box office returns are already very high, but a small or medium-sized film can increase earnings by 15 to 20 per cent.
Finally, one winner at this year’s Academy Awards is already certain: Sidney Lumet will receive an honorary Oscar. The 80-year-old director of more than 40 films, including 12 Angry Men and Serpico, will receive the award for his “brilliant services to screenwriters, performers and the art of the motion picture.”

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librarian - bibliotecaria.

uncle - zio.

common link - filo conduttore.

valuable - preziosa.

fairy tale, a dream come true - fiaba, un sogno che si avvera.

quote - citazione.

waiter - cameriere.

crazy - pazzesco.

speech - discorso.

nameless - scono­sciuta.

step - passo.

to choose - scegliere.

actually - in realtà.

directors - registi.

screenplay - sceneggiatura.

luncheon - pranzo.

they send out ballot cards - spediscono schede per votare.

sealed envelopes - buste sigillate.

with cameras running - davanti alle telecamere.

allegedly - a quanto pare.

faces - rischia.

a heavy fine - una pesante multa.

box office returns - incassi al botteghino.

can increase earnings - può aumenta­re i guadagni.

screenwriters - sceneggiatori.

motion picture - cinema.