The Academy Awards
According to its website, the Academy is “dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures.” The 87th Academy Awards will take place on Sunday February 22nd 2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, which has a capacity of 3,300 seats on Oscar Night. The Academy Awards are also known as the Oscars.
Officially named the Academy Award of Merit, an Oscar is given in recognition of the highest level of achievement in movie making. (The Academy adopted the nickname ‘Oscar’ in 1939, but no one is quite sure where its name originated – there are a few different theories!)
Although it weighs 8½ lbs, measures 13½ inches high, and has a diameter of 5¼ inches, the Oscar statuette stands tall as the motion picture industry’s greatest honour.
MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed the statuette: a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword. It was modelled after director and actor Emilio Fernandez, who posted nude for the design. George Stanley then sculpted Gibbons’ design.
The five spokes of the film reel represent the original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. The original statuettes were gold-plated solid bronze, but in today’s Oscar the bronze has been replaced by gold-plated britannia metal. R.S. Owens and Company manufactures the statuettes in Chicago, who spend 3-4 weeks creating 50 statuettes in preparation for the awards ceremony.
What is the voting process?
The ‘race’ to be nominated consists of attempts by studios, independent distributors and publicists to make sure that each of the nearly 6,000 voting members of the Academy sees their film. It means special screenings for Academy members, free admission to commercial runs of a film, and the mailing of DVDs.
The Academy aggressively monitors Award campaigning and has issued regulations that limit company mailings to those items that actually assist members in their efforts to assess the artistic and technical merits of a film. This year, an Original Song nomination for ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ was rescinded when the Academy discovered that the composer emailed 70 members of the Music Branch of the Academy to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period – during which information about the composer and lyricist is to remain anonymous. The composer, Bruce Broughton, breached of the Academy’s promotional regulations, the goal of which is to ensure that “the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner.” It was the fifth time an Oscar nomination has been rescinded.
The awards are voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nomination ballots are mailed to the Academy’s active members in late December. Members from each of the branches vote to determine the nominees in their respective categories – actors nominate actors, film editors nominated film editors, and so on. However, within the Animated Feature Film and Foreign Language Film categories, nominations are selected by vote of multi-branch screening committees. All voting members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees.
The members fill out the ballot in preferential order (though they are not required to list more than one), and are sent back online (or by mail if requested) to PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international accounting firm, in January. The votes are then counted by hand to prepare a list of nominees. Regular awards are presented for outstanding individual or collective film achievements in up to 25 categories, usually with 5 nominees in each category (up to 10 in the Best Picture category). The nominees are announced each January at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, located at the Academy’s Headquarters in Beverly Hills. This year, directors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and actor Chris Pine announced the nominations on Thursday, 15th January 2015.
Final Balloting Process
Final ballots are delivered to voting members in late-January and are due back to PricewaterhouseCoopers the Tuesday prior to Oscar Sunday for final tabulation.
The Academy’s entire active membership is eligible to select Oscar winners in all categories, although in five – Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, and Foreign Language Film – members can vote only after attesting they have seen all of the nominated films in those categories.
For all the other awards the winner is the person or film with the most votes, but the winner for Best Picture is the first film to get over 50% of the votes. Like in the system that is used in the nominations, voters rank their choices in preferential order and the films are then eliminated in the same manner that is used for the nominations. Each movie gets its own pile — the film that appears most frequently as a first-place choice will have the largest stack, the movie with the next-most first-place votes will have the second-largest, and so forth. Then each stack is counted.
If one nominee garners more than 50% of the first place votes, it will win Best Picture. If, as is more likely, no nominee reaches this threshold, the tabulators go to the smallest stack remaining, eliminate that movie, remove that stack and go down those ballots to voters’ next-highest choice (of a movie that’s still in the running, of course) and redistribute the ballots across the piles once again. This process of elimination and reapportion continues until one film reaches at least 50% + one vote.
After final ballots are tabulated, only two partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers know the results until the famous envelopes are opened on stage during the Academy Awards presentation. If a wrong name were to be called, it would be immediately corrected by one of the partners, who would go to the microphone and announce the actual winner.
Who can win an Oscar?
The awards honour achievements in cinema from the previous year (2014), from on-screen actors to everyone behind-the-scenes. These are the categories:
Actor in a Leading Role
Actress in a Leading Role
Actor in a Supporting Role
Actress in a Supporting Role
Animated Feature Film
Documentary Short Subject
Foreign Language Film
Makeup and Hairstyling
Music (Original Score)
Music (Original Song)
Short Film (Animated)
Short Film (Live Action)
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Red Carpet
One of the most anticipated and exciting parts of the show is watching the stars arrive at the ceremony and walk down the Red Carpet. People watching at home want to see which stars are attending the event, what they’re wearing, and who they’re with. Most men attending the Oscars wear a tuxedo, and women wear extravagant, elegant dresses. The Red Carpet at the Dolby Theatre is 500 feet long, and is flanked by 700 fan bleacher seats which are allocated through an online global lottery. There are several TV shows and live online reports that show you what’s happening on the red carpet. Check out the printable ‘Red Carpet Bingo’ at the end of this post!
Sometimes you will also see or hear the expression ‘Oscar buzz.’ Here, buzz means ‘what people are talking about.’ Oscar buzz simply means ‘what people are saying about the Oscars’ – who will win, what film will win, etc. On Twitter, #Oscars is used.
The Academy Awards Ceremony
Far from the eagerly anticipated and globally televised event it is today, the first Academy Awards ceremony took place out of the public eye during an Academy banquet at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Two hundred seventy people attended the May 16, 1929 dinner in the hotel’s Blossom Room; guest tickets cost $5. The first recipient of the statuette was Emil Jannings, who was named Best Actor for his performance in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. However, there was little suspense when the awards were presented that night, as the recipients had already been announced three months earlier.
That all changed the following year, however, when the Academy kept the results secret until the ceremony but gave a list in advance to newspapers for publication at 11 pm on the night of the Awards. This policy continued until 1940 when, much to the Academy’s surprise, the Los Angeles Times broke the embargo and published the names of the winners in its evening edition – which was readily available to guests arriving for the ceremony. That prompted the Academy in 1941 to adopt the sealed-envelope system still in use today. Since 2011, Marc Friedland has designed the envelopes and announcement cards bearing the names of each Oscar recipient.
The host of this year’s show is Neil Patrick Harris.
Each award is handed out by a presenter. The presenter is usually another actor. They announce the category and usually say, “And the nominees are…” The presenter will then read the names of the nominees from the Teleprompter.
There is also an In Memoriam segment which honours those who died during the previous year. A committee made up from the Academy weigh in a lot of factors when deciding on who features in the tribute – in particular, their contribution to and achievements in the film industry. The list is passed on to the producers who then commission the commemorative reel. Last year the tribute was presented by Glenn Close, followed by a performance by Bette Midler.
Once the presenter has finished announcing the nominees, he/she then says, “And the Oscar goes to…” or “And the Academy Award goes to…” and opens the envelope to read the name of the winner. The envelope is sealed so that no one knows the winner until that moment! (Only two partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers know the results beforehand.) The winner then comes to the stage to accept his/her award and make a short acceptance speech.
The final award of the night is always Best Picture.
For the full list of this year’s nominations:
For the full list of this year’s presenters:
Want to play Red Carpet Bingo?
Want to predict the winners?
Sources used in composing this guide: oscars.org, oscar.go.com, englishteachermelanie.com, latimes.com, ew.com.
Images: natedsanders.com, Mashable.com.
In this scheme, students revise their knowledge of Shakespeare’s life, the theatre, letter writing, and article writing.
The Learning Designer
Developed by the London Institute of Education, the Learning Designer is essentially an online tool to help create a lesson plan or scheme of lessons through a series of teaching and learning activities (TLAs). One of its useful features is the pie chart which shows how the time is divided in the lesson to the different types of activities (categorised as Acquisition, Collaboration, Discussion, Inquiry, Practice, and Production).
Past Exam Questions (By Category)
- 2002, Text 2: Drawing on the detail in the text, and its accompanying illustration, draft the text of an advertisement that offers the home and its contents for sale.
- 2013, Text 2: Your class has decided to produce a book about “un-heroic” or ordinary people as a fund-raiser for a local charity. Write the text for the introduction of this book, in which you explain the purpose of the book and why your class thinks it is important to celebrate ordinary people.
- 2013, Text 3: Write an opinion piece, for inclusion in a series of newspaper articles entitled Must-see Attractions for Tourists, in which you identify one place or public building in Ireland that, in your opinion, tourists should visit and explain your choice.
- 2012, Text 3: Your school’s Student Council is currently discussing the issue of school outings, educational trips, theatre visits, etc. Write a persuasive article for your school website supporting or opposing such events.
- 2011, Text 1: Write a feature article for a travel magazine about a place you have never been to but would like to visit. In your article explain what you find fascinating about this place and why you would like to go there.
- 2008, Text 2: Students in your school have been invited to contribute articles to the school website on issues relevant to young people. This week’s issue is “We are what we wear”. Write an article for the website expressing your views on the topic.
- 2001, Text 2: In the text, Mary Robinson refers to the importance of “the local community”. Write a short article (150-200 words) about a project or activity in your local community, which you admire or condemn.
- 2011, Text 3: Imagine you are Sarah, the young girl in Text 3. Based on your reading of this extract, write two diary entries, one shortly before and one shortly after your journey to Dublin.
- 2008, Text 2: Write two diary entries: one written by Alexander, recalling his encounter with Eva in Tompkins Square Park and the second by Zach, giving his thoughts on hearing that Eva has purchased the violin.
- 2006, Text 1: Imagine that, in an attempt to control his feelings, the boy in Text 1 writes into his diary an account of the incident and his reactions to it. Write out his diary entry.
- 2005, Text 1: Write three diary entries that Margaret Ann might have written over a series of Saturday evenings. Your writing should relate to her experience as described in the passage.
- 2003, Text 3: Write three or four diary entries that record the details of a disastrous holiday (real or imaginary) that you experienced.
- 2001, Text 4: Choose one of the people pictured in Text 4 and write four short diary entries that your chosen person might write on one important day in his/her life. You should indicate clearly the person you have chosen and you should write the diary entries as though you were that person.
- 2010, Text 1: Imagine yourself fifty years from now. You have achieved great success and public recognition in your chosen career. Write the text of an interview (questions and answers) about the experiences and influences in your youth that contributed to your later success.
- 2007, Text 1: Imagine you are running for the position of Student Council President in your school. Compose an informative election leaflet encouraging students to vote for you. It should outline your own leadership qualities and the changes you would like to introduce into your school.
- 2014, Text 3: Inspired by Seamus Heaney’s essay about the importance of objects from the past, your class has decided to organise an exhibition celebrating the significance of objects from childhood in the lives of well-known people. Write the letter you would send to a well-known person, inviting him or her to contribute an object from his or her childhood and a written explanation regarding its personal significance. In your letter, you should explain the inspiration for the project and include, as an example, a piece you have written about an object from your childhood that is of significance to you.
- 2012, Text 1: Write a letter to Margaret Laurence, in response to Text 1, commenting on what you find interesting in the extract, and telling her about your home place and its impact on you.
- 2010, Text 2: Write a letter (dated June 2010), intended to be read by future generations, in which you express your hopes for planet Earth in the year 2050.
- 2009, Text 3: Imagine your art teacher is compiling a photographic exhibition to reflect the lives of young people today. She has asked students to suggest images they would like included. Write a letter to your art teacher proposing five images that you believe should be included and give reasons for your decision in each case.
- 2008, Text 1: Imagine your art teacher is compiling a photographic exhibition to reflect the lives of young people today. She has asked students to suggest images they would like included. Write a letter to your art teacher proposing five images that you believe should be included and give reasons for your decision in each case.
- 2007, Text 3: Imagine you have a friend in another country which is considering the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places. Write a letter to your friend advising him/her either to support or not to support the proposed ban. In giving your advice you may wish to draw on the recent experience of the smoking ban in Ireland.
- 2006, Text 2: Write a letter to a famous writer or celebrity or sports personality of your choice offering your services as a ghost writer for a future book. In your letter you should outline the reasons why you believe you would make a successful ghost writer for your chosen author.
- 2005, Text 2: Write a letter to a photographic magazine in which you propose one of the four images for the award “Best War Photograph of the Year.”
- 2004, Text 3: Write a letter to one of the people from the collection of visual images in this text, indicating what appeals and/or does not appeal to you about the work which that person does.
- 2003, Text 1: Imagine that you have discovered a time capsule containing a number of items from the distant or more recent past. Write a letter to a local or national newspaper announcing your find and describing the items contained in the capsule.
- 2002, Text 1: Choose one of the visual images in this text and, in a letter to Carl Sandburg, write your response to its inclusion in the exhibition of photographs entitled The Family of Man.
- 2005, Text 3: Imagine that as a reporter for a local newspaper you plan to interview a celebrity of your choice. Write a proposal/memo for the editor of your newspaper in which you explain why you want to interview this celebrity and giving an outline of the areas you hope to explore in the course of the interview.
- 2014, Text 1: Imagine that the story of the disappearance of Dell Parsons, outlined in Text 1, has captured the public’s imagination. You are a reporter with a national radio station. Write the text of a news report, on the Dell Parson’s story, to be delivered on the station’s main evening news bulletin. In your report you should communicate the facts of the case as known (based on Text 1) and further speculate as to Dell’s whereabouts and possible developments in the story.
- 2012, Text 2: Write a proposal, to be submitted to the relevant authority (e.g. local council or national body), suggesting one event or person you believe should be commemorated. Explain why you feel this person or event should be commemorated and suggest what form this commemoration might take.
- 2006, Text 3: There is much discussion as to whether or not young people are being exploited by advertisers. Write a short report to the Advertising Standards Authority outlining your views on the matter.
- 2004, Text 2: Imagine that Mr Pappleworth is asked, on the basis of Paul’s first day at work, to write a report giving his impressions of Paul Morel as an employee. Write the text of his report.
- 2009, Text 1: Imagine you are making a cartoon film (featuring animals as characters) either to promote or oppose zoos. Write the script of a scene (in dialogue form) between two of the animal characters.
Speeches and Talks
- 2014, Text 2: The text is based on a series of public lectures delivered by various writers on the topic of influence. Young people today are subject to many influences. Write the text of a talk you would deliver to your class in which you consider some of the positive and negative influences on young people’s lives today and how they respond to these influences.
- 2013, Text 1: You have been asked to give a talk to your class entitled: Television and radio in the lives of young people today. Write the text of the talk you would deliver to your class in which you consider the role of television and radio in the lives of young people today.
- 2011, Text 2: Write a talk, to be delivered to your School Book Club, on the enduring appeal of the mysterious in books, films, etc. You might refer to some of the following aspects of the mystery genre in your answer: setting, tension, suspense, dialogue, characterisation, atmosphere, music, special effects, etc.
- 2010, Text 3: Write the text for a short radio talk where you explain the importance of books in your life and in today’s world.
- 2009, Text 2: Write a short speech in which you attempt to persuade a group of parents that older teenagers should be trusted to make their own decisions.
- 2007, Text 2: Imagine your local radio station is producing a series of programmes entitled “Changing Times”, in which teenagers are asked to give their views on the changes they welcome in the world around them. You have been invited to contribute. Write out the text of the presentation you would make.
- 2004, Text 1: You have been asked to give a short talk to a group of students who are about to start first year in your school. Write out the text of the talk you would give.
- 2003, Text 2: You have been asked to give a short talk on radio about an interesting journey you have made. Write out the text of the talk you would give.
- 2002, Text 3: You have been asked to give a short talk on radio or television about a fundamental human right that you would like to see supported more strongly. Write out the text of the talk you would give.
- 2001, Text 1: Imagine your job is to welcome a group of foreign students to Ireland. Write out the text of a short talk (150-200 words) in which you advise them how best to get along with the Irish people they will meet.
- 2001, Text 3: Imagine your local radio station is producing a programme entitled Comic Moments in which a person from the community introduces his/her favourite comic moment from the world of radio, television, or live performance. Write the text (150-200 words) of the presentation you would like to make.
A game I created with Scratch to test some knowledge of characters in the novel. Click the image below to open the game.
MadelineMiller.com: The ‘find out more’ section includes character glossaries, a reader’s guide, a slideshow and commentary about the author’s trip to Troy, and essays.
Interviews and Articles
‘Q&A with Madeline Miller‘, MadelineMiller.com.
‘Live webchat with Madeline Miller’, The Guardian, 30 August 2013.
‘The Song of Achilles’, UCL (Department of Greek and Latin), 24th November 2012.
‘The Saturday interview: Madeline Miller, Orange prize winner’, The Guardian, 22 June 2012.
‘An Old Song with a New Melody: An Interview with Madeline Miller’, Ancient History et cetera, 21 June 2012.
‘Paperback Q&A: Madeline Miller on The Song of Achilles’, The Guardian, 1 May 2012.
‘Gregory Maguire interviews Madeline Miller!’, HarperCollins Library, 22 December 2011.
‘Interview with Madeline Miller’, roarings20s, 14 December 2011.
‘I would like to hear Achilles sing‘, Histo-Couch, 7 December 2011.