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The Academy Awards

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Roll out the red carpet for the Hollywood event of the year, the Academy Awards. Most people readily recognize the fanfare and hoopla associated with the ceremony, as TV specials, entertainment programs, and magazines show and discuss the actors and actresses, the year's movies, and the tuxedos and elaborate designer dresses. As the stars arrive and walk the red carpet, they wave, shake hands, and conduct short interviews about the night's expectations. There is the statue, too, known as the Oscar, which gets awarded for notable achievements in the previous calendar year.

The Academy Awards began in 1929, and honored outstanding film achievements for 1927 and 1928 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The very first ceremony recognized the best actor, actress, director, technician, and movie, as well as a few other important areas of the film industry. It also presented a special honorary award, which went to Charlie Chaplin for acting, writing, directing, and producing The Circus.

In the more than seventy years since the first ceremony, there have been some changes at the Academy Awards. For example, the Academy typically hands out the Honorary Award to celebrate a person's achievement during his/her entire life, as opposed to just the past year. Numerous categories have also been created to honor almost every aspect of movies. A few awards have been discontinued, too, such as Best Dancing Direction and Best Original Story.

The members of the Academy choose the notable works in film each year. There are currently more than 6,000 members who belong to one of fifteen branches, which represent important areas of movie making. There is a Directors Branch, a Film Editors Branch, and a Writers Branch, just to name a few examples. Each branch first selects nominees in a respective category. In other words, members of the Directors Branch choose five noteworthy directors of the past year, and the Writers Branch selects writers. In a second round of voting, all members vote on the best of the best in all categories. Several rules apply to the selection criteria, most important being the film's release date. For a movie to be considered, it must have been released between midnight of January 1st and midnight of December 31st of the previous year.

Some controversy follows the Academy Awards, though. Hollywood studios lobby strongly for members to consider particular films. As a result, some people believe that the best movies don't always get nominated. Several previous winners have not stood the test of time, while other historically and critically approved movies were never even nominated. Citizen Kane, for example, which many film historians and critics unanimously regard as the best movie ever, wasn't even nominated at the Academy Awards.

The history, the fashion, and the annual buzz all make the Academy Awards a huge event. In fact, it's claimed that over one billion viewers worldwide tune in to the program each spring, which makes it the most watched event on the planet. Will you tune in this year?


Step 1: You will listen to an article about the Academy Awards. The article is a little more than five minutes long. Listen only, and don't worry about understanding everything.
Step 2: Read and understand the questions, then listen again. As you are listening, try to answer the questions in your head. Don't write the answers yet. Next, listen again and write the answers this time. Check your answers with a partner.
Step 3: Read the article. Check in your dictionary any unknown words. Now listen again. Can you understand more?
Step 4: Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen to the article on the train or in your free time. Each time you listen, you will slowly improve!

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