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THIS IS AMERICA - March 17, 2003: Academy Awards - 2003-03-14



On March twenty-third, actors, directors and other filmmakers will gather in Los Angeles, California, for the seventy-fifth Academy Awards ceremony. It is a night of excitement for people who make movies and for people who watch them. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. The Academy Awards is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.



Sunday will be the most important day of the year for hundreds of people in the movie industry. Filmmakers will receive Academy Awards for the best acting, directing, writing, editing, music and other work on movies released last year.

The winners will receive an award called an Oscar. It is shaped like a man. It is made of several metals covered with gold. The statue is only about thirty-four centimeters tall. It weighs less than four kilograms. But the award can be priceless to the person who receives it.

Winning an Oscar can mean becoming much more famous. It can mean getting offers to work in the best movies. It also can mean earning much more money.


Movies from the United States and several other countries are competing to win Academy Awards. Five movies were nominated as Best Foreign Language Film. They are from Mexico, China, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands.

For the first time, actors and filmmakers from Spanish-speaking countries received several Academy Award nominations. Filmmakers from Mexico and Spain received ten nominations, including Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay.


The movie musical “Chicago” received the most Academy Award nominations. “Chicago” received thirteen nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director.

“Chicago” is a version of a Broadway musical play of the same name. It takes place in that city during the nineteen-twenties. It is about two female performers who are sent to prison for murder. But it is not a serious movie. It has lots of exciting music, singing and dancing.


The movie “Gangs of New York” is also competing for Best Picture. It received ten nominations. It is a violent story about ethnic conflict in New York City during the eighteen-sixties.

A film called “The Hours” received nine nominations, including Best Picture. It is based on a book about one day in the lives of three women during different periods of the twentieth century. Two American women deal with illness and the demands of family and friends. Their lives are linked with the life and work of the famous British writer Virginia Woolf.


“The Pianist” is the fourth movie nominated for Best Picture. It received six other Academy Award nominations. The film tells the true story of the survival of a Jewish musician in Warsaw, Poland, under Nazi occupation during World War Two.

The last movie nominated for Best Picture is “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” It is a story about a struggle to save the world from the forces of evil. It is the second of three movies in the “Lord of the Rings” series. These are based on the books by British writer J-R-R Tolkien about an imaginary Middle-earth. The movie is competing for six Academy Awards.


A small movie studio called Miramax Films was extremely successful last year. Miramax is based in New York City, unlike the large studios that are based in Hollywood. Miramax produced or co-produced several of the top movies last year. These include “Chicago,” “The Hours,” and “Gangs of New York.”

Films produced by Miramax received a total of forty Academy Award nominations. This is the most for any film studio since nineteen-forty.



Last year was also an important year for actresses. Critics say movies had many more strong performances by women than in other years.

Julianne Moore became the first performer in ten years to receive nominations in two categories. She was nominated for Best Actress for her role as a woman who discovers a secret about her husband in “Far From Heaven.” She was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in “The Hours.” She plays a wife and mother who struggles with feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Nicole Kidman was nominated for Best Actress in “The Hours.” She plays writer Virginia Woolf who battles mental illness while writing one of her most famous books.

Mexican-born Salma Hayek also received a Best Actress nomination for portraying a famous person. She plays the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the movie “Frida.” Another Best Actress nominee is Renee Zellweger, who sings and dances in “Chicago.” And Diane Lane was nominated for playing a wife who has a sexual relationship with a younger man in the movie “Unfaithful.”

Actress Meryl Streep also made history last year. She received her thirteenth nomination, the most of any performer in American motion picture history. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing a real-life magazine writer in “Adaptation.”


Jack Nicholson received his twelfth acting nomination, more than any other male actor. He was nominated for Best Actor in the movie “About Schmidt.” He plays an insurance salesman whose life changes when he retires from his job and his wife dies.

Michael Caine was nominated for Best Actor for playing a British reporter in Vietnam in the movie “The Quiet American. Daniel Day-Lewis received a nomination for playing a violent gang leader in “Gangs of New York.”

Nicholas Cage was honored for playing a troubled movie screenwriter and his twin brother in “Adaptation.” And the young actor Adrien Brody is the fifth Best Actor nominee. He plays the Jewish musician who hides from the Nazis in Poland during World War Two in "The Pianist."



The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars each year. About six-thousand people who work in the movie industry belong to the organization. It was established in nineteen-twenty-seven to support the film industry. The Academy began presenting awards in nineteen-twenty-nine. At that time, films were just starting to have sound.

The awards were not called Oscars until much later. In nineteen-fifty-one, a woman who worked in the Academy library said the statue looked like a family member -- her Uncle Oscar. A reporter heard this story and wrote about it. Some people said the reporter and the librarian named the statue Oscar.

But actress and former Academy president Bette Davis disputed this. She said she named the Oscars in honor of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson.


The process of choosing award winners begins with members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. These people work in thirteen different professions. They nominate candidates for Academy Awards. The members choose among people doing the same kind of work they do. For example, actors nominate actors. Directors nominate directors. Designers nominate designers. All Academy members vote among those nominated to choose the final winners.

The awards are presented every spring. The ceremony on Sunday will be held in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Important people in the movie industry attend the ceremonies. Crowds of people wait outside the theater. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive for the ceremony. Camera lights flash. Actors and actresses smile for the photographers and television cameras. Some movie stars make statements to waiting reporters. Others hurry inside the theater.


During the Academy Awards ceremony, famous actors and actresses announce the names of the winners. Then the winners walk up onto the stage to receive their Oscars. Their big moment has arrived. They cry. They laugh. They thank all the people who helped them win the award.

Only a few hundred invited guests can attend the awards presentation. But hundreds of millions of people in the United States and other countries watch the Academy Awards show on television.

Thousands of Americans in almost forty cities will attend Oscar Night parties to re-create the excitement of the Academy Awards. These parties raise money for local aid organizations.

Sunday will be the seventy-fifth Academy Awards presentation. The American film industry will honor some of its best. These winners will go home with a golden Oscar.



This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann.


And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.