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Road to Hollywood Gold: The Oscar Choices

A report on this year's nominees for best picture and best music. Also, the history of the Academy Awards. Transcriot of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week -- the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents its yearly awards Sunday night in Los Angeles, California. We tell about the nominees for best picture and best music and a little bit of history.


Best Picture Nominees


The eighty-first Academy Awards ceremony takes place Sunday at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California. Hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world will watch the show on television. It is the most exciting event of the year for people who make movies and for people who love to watch them. Barbara Klein has more.


On Sunday, actors, directors, writers, producers and others will gather in Hollywood, California, the center of the American film industry. They will receive Academy Awards for the best acting, directing, writing, editing, music and other work on movies released last year.

These five movies are competing for best picture of the year.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, the most this year. It tells the unusual story about a man who is born old and gets younger as time goes by. Brad Pitt was nominated for best actor for his role as Benjamin Button.


"Mama, some days I feel different than the day before."

"Everybody feels different about themselves one way or another, but we're all going the same way. You're on your own road, Benjamin."

"Slumdog Millionaire" received ten nominations. It is about a poor young man in Mumbai, India, who competes in a popular television quiz show. This film is very different from most films nominated for best picture. It did not cost much money to film. Its actors are not well known in the United States. And some of the actors speak in the Hindi language. "Slumdog Millionaire" has already won several other awards in the United States.


"I went on the show because I thought she would be watching. She is my destiny."

"The Reader" was also nominated as best picture. It is based on a book by German writer Bernhard Schlink. It tells the story of a German woman who served as a guard at a Nazi death camp during World War Two. Years later, she has a sexual relationship with a teenage boy. Kate Winslet was nominated as best actress for her role in the movie.


"Have you spent much time thinking about the past?"

"It doesn't matter what I think. It doesn't matter what I feel. The dead are still dead."

Another nominee for best picture is "Frost/Nixon." It recreates television interviews that British performer David Frost held with former president Richard Nixon after he left office in nineteen seventy-seven. Frank Langella was nominated as best actor for his role as Richard Nixon.


"I shall be your fiercest adversary. I shall come at you with everything I've got, because the limelight can only shine on one of us."

The last nominated movie also tells about a real person during the nineteen seventies. "Milk" is about Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual man elected to public office in the United States. The film shows the early struggle for gay rights in San Francisco, California. It received a total of eight nominations, including best actor for Sean Penn as gay rights leader Harvey Milk.


"All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try you can never erase those words. That is what America is."

Academy Award History


Our listener question this week comes just in time. Hideki Saka in Japan wants to know more about the history of the Academy Awards.

A group of top movie industry professionals formed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in nineteen twenty-seven. The general aim of the organization was to support the growth of the movie industry. Its early projects included creating reports on movie technologies, training programs and a movie reference library. The group also decided to hold an awards ceremony to honor excellence in the movie industry.

The first Academy Awards were presented in nineteen twenty-nine during a private dinner at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. There were no great surprises that night because the winners of the awards had been announced three months earlier.

But the next year, the Academy decided to keep the names of the winners a secret until the awards ceremony. The nineteen thirty Academy Awards were also the first to be broadcast on live radio. The ceremony presented only seven awards: two for acting and one for best movie, director, writing, cinematography and art direction.

Over the years, more award categories were added. For example, in nineteen thirty-seven, the Academy added the awards for best supporting actor and actress.

The Academy made other changes over the years. When the awards ceremony grew too large, the Academy started holding the event in theaters. Nineteen fifty-three was the first year that the awards ceremony was broadcast on national television.

The official name for this famous prize is the Academy Award of Merit. But the award is better known by its nickname, Oscar. The Oscar is a small golden statue of a man standing on a reel of film. There are several stories about how the award received the name Oscar. One story says the Academy's librarian, Margaret Herrick, said the statue looked like her Uncle Oscar. But wherever the name for this golden statue came from, the award remains one of the biggest honors in the movie business.

Music Nominees


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also presents Oscars to the best movie music and songs. Faith Lapidus has our report on the nominees this year.


The movies nominated for best music are "Slumdog Millionaire," "Defiance," "Wall-E," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Milk."

Two of those films also received nominations for best original song. One is from "Wall-E."

(MUSIC: "Down to Earth")

Peter Gabriel wrote and sings "Down to Earth." He shares the nomination with the movie's music composer, Thomas Newman.

A. R. Rahman wrote the music for "Slumdog Millionaire." Rahman is not well known in the western world but he is very famous in his native India.

Rahman began writing for Indian television advertisements in the early nineteen nineties. He has been writing music for Indian "Bollywood" movies for many years.

Here is one nominated song, "O Saya." The British rapper Maya Arulpragasam, known as M. I. A., wrote the words.


Last month, A. R. Rahman became the first Indian to win a Golden Globe Award for the music in "Slumdog Millionaire." The award was presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We leave you with the final song nominated for an Oscar. A. R. Rahman shares this nomination with the Indian poet and song writer Gulzar. Here is "Jai Ho," from the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange, Shelley Gollust and Caty Weaver, who also was the producer. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.