What you should know about the Oscars

by Claire Carter | editor-in-chief

For those of you about to embark on a night of sitting in the living room with family or friends who are ever so seasoned in the film industry, but have no idea what the word “cinematography” means, don’t worry, I will uncover the mystery that is the Academy Awards.

What is the difference between the Oscars and the Academy Awards? There is no difference. Don’t be fooled by the two different names. The awards are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but was officially rebranded Oscars in 2013.

Best Picture: This category is comprised of the biggest hits of the previous year. For this years show, the nominees are “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Selma,” and “Whiplash.” If you don’t recognize the names of these films, you will surely struggle through the awards ceremony. What you need to know is that each film recognized is full of strong acting, set design, and costumes that are also awarded in the show, and that this category is the most prestigious and is hence saved for the last award of the night.

Actors and Actresses: There are four total categories honoring actors and actresses. Best Actor and Best Actress feature the lead characters of films. This year Bradley Cooper, Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore, and many others are nominated here. Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress feature the characters who did not have lead roles, but showed true talent in supporting roles of films. This year J.K. Simmons, Mark Ruffalo, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and many others are nominated here.

Animated Feature: These films are family friendly and often easily recognizable by their theme songs and cartoons. Last year, “Frozen” took home the Oscar (see what I mean?). And this  year nominees include “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “The Boxtrolls,” “Song of the Sea,” “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” and “Big Hero 6.” This category will give you, and everyone in the room, a break from the depressing, heart wrenching topic covered in the documentaries awarded.

The prized award features a gold man clutching a wreath.


Documentary Feature and Documentary Short: The difference between the two would lie in how long the films are. Feature films would be longer, the average length of movies. And shorts would be short films (see, it’s simple guys). As many nominees are hard to seek out and view yourself before the film is you aren’t an A-lister who lives in Los Angeles, take your best guess when filling out your own ballot. Having seen “The Reaper “La Parka,” “Our Curse,” and “White Earth,” “I will say that each documentary touches on a controversial or serious topic and features lives of people going through a Struggle.”) This year’s topics range from veteran counseling to life as a slaughterhouse worker, and are typically accompanied with subtitles, as many are not produced in America.

Foreign Language Film: Speaking of subtitles, another category that requires complete guessing for your ballot selection, is the Foreign Language Film nominations. This year, film are from Poland, Russia, Estonia, Argentina, and Mauritania. If you are like me, and have never heard of the final country above, don’t worry, this is a common struggle of the Oscar viewers across America.

Cinematography: This category deals with “the art of making motion pictures,” which essentially refers to the lighting and camera work put into making the films which are nominated. This year, nominees include “Unbroken,” “Birdman,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Ida,” and “Mr. Turner.”

Original Song: Nominations in this category feature outstanding songs that were written for a movie. This year, nominees include “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie,” “Glory” from “Selma,” and many others. Last year, if you can believe it, “Let it Go” from “Frozen” took home the Oscar. And, if you can’t believe it, I’m not sure you know enough to enjoy the Oscars.

Sounds, Effects, and Makeup: If you are wondering why there is a category called “Sound Editing” and another category called “Sound Mixing,” you are not alone. Editing would have to deal with the breaking up of sounds, and Mixing the putting together. These categories typically feature Sci-Fi films that carry with it a series of odd noises that are highlighted in the film. For example, “Interstellar” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” are nominated this year.  “Gravity” won both categories last year. Visual Effects nominations include ‘super hero’ or Sci-Fi films that require special attention to the added effects of explosions and fictional powers. And lastly, Makeup and Hairstyling often features films which required extra measures in the dressing room due to old-fashioned or unrealistic transformations of characters to the big screen.

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