The Academy Awards, commonly referred as the Oscars, are the highest recognition for those working in the movie industry. Held in Los Angeles, Calif. since its inception, the Academy Awards bestow its superlative trophies to the best of the best in cinema each year. Before we begin discussing the elite standards of the Academy any further, which contribute to the cultural significance of the awards, let’s begin with a history of the ceremony that grants the Oscar and a few important events that have occurred along the way.
A brief history of the Oscars
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began doling out its first Oscars on May 16, 1929 with the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room as the setting. Douglas Fairbanks was the Academy President at the time of that first ceremony, which wasn’t even broadcast. The Academy Awards quickly gained popularity, however, with a growing audience after its inaugural year and was broadcast from then on. The year 1953 marked the first television broadcast, which was seen by millions in Canada and the U.S.
Over the years, Academy presidents have come and gone, and the list of hosts have included a who’s who of actors and comedians, all who have contributed to making the Academy Awards ceremony the global celebration of film that we know today.
Other notable events in the life of the Academy Awards
- There have only been three times that the awards ceremony was postponed:
- in 1938 due to extreme flooding in the Los Angeles area;
- in 1968 as the ceremony was to take place on the same day as the funeral for Martin Luther King, Jr.;
- in 1981 after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
- The show went on as planned in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq, but the red carpet was limited.
- The best foreign language film category began honoring movies from abroad in 1957.
- The In Memoriam segment was instituted in 1993
- Animated feature film started being recognized in 2001, which awarded Shrek with the Oscar
These details in the history of the event are pointed out as examples that have cultural significance. The significance of the Academy Awards to culture has two parts: the nature of the award and the ceremony.
The nature of the Academy Award
The Academy has high standards for what is considered the cream of the crop in film-making. As a result, the movies that are produced for Oscar consideration are in direct correlation with this lofty standard. Typically, movies that are dramatic and have historical significance are granted the Best Picture distinction.
Movies are a way of documenting societal history; therefore, the Academy Awards are a record of this history. The list of notable events above serves as a reminder of the ceremony’s significance because of its connection to the current events that happen around it.
Additionally, the Oscars document changes to the craft of movie making. For example, the acknowledgment of digital animation with its own category chronicles this form of movie as part of cinema history.
Many of the leading award shows in other mediums worldwide are modeled after the format of the Academy Awards.
The red carpet ceremony
A casual, whimsical significance is denoted in the world’s fascination with celebrity. A large portion of the Academy Award viewing audience tunes in to answer the much-hyped question about movie star attire: Who are you wearing? The glamor of the red carpet cannot be denied as being part of the reason for global television and online viewership, nor can it be denied for its part in the creation of iconic, Hollywood imagery.
In short, movies are culturally significant because flipping through any catalog of movies past is akin to getting a glimpse into what society was like at the time. Oftentimes, the Academy Awards are representative of the intertwining of worldly events with the pomp and circumstance of its beloved ceremony.