Academy Awards: The Night When the Stars Come Out in Hollywood

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. Today, we tell about the seventy-ninth Academy Awards ceremony, which takes place Sunday in Los Angeles, California. It is the most exciting event of the year for people who make movies and for people who love to watch them.


On February twenty-fifth, actors, directors, producers and other filmmakers 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.

The winners will receive an award called an Oscar. This statue is shaped like a man. It is made of several metals covered with gold. The Oscar is only about thirty-four centimeters tall. It weighs less than four kilograms. But the award is extremely valuable for the people who receive it. People who win an Oscar can become much more famous. They can get offers to work in the best movies. They can also earn much more money.


The musical "Dreamgirls" received eight Academy Award nominations, the most of any movie released last year. "Dreamgirls" is a film version of a Broadway musical play. It tells about a group of three female singers who became famous during the nineteen sixties. The film's nominations include three for best song and two for acting.

However, many people were surprised that "Dreamgirls" was not nominated for best motion picture. Five others were. They are "Babel," "The Queen," "The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Little Miss Sunshine." The directors of the first four of these movies also received Academy Award nominations.

"Babel" received seven nominations. It tells three powerful stories that take place in Morocco, Mexico, the United States and Japan. The actors speak five languages. "Babel" shows the terrible results of people not being able to communicate with each other. It was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

"The Queen," directed by Stephen Frears, received six nominations. It combines fact with fiction to tell the story about how the British royal family reacted to the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, in nineteen ninety-seven.

"The Departed" was also nominated for best picture. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it tells a violent story about men divided by power and loyalty. Some of the characters are criminals and others are members of the police force.

"Letters From Iwo Jima" tells about the Japanese soldiers, and their commander, who tried to defend the island from the invasion by United States forces during World War Two. Clint Eastwood directed the Japanese actors, who speak in their native language in the film. Eastwood also directed a movie in English about the American forces fighting on that same island.

"Little Miss Sunshine" is the fifth nominated movie and is the only funny one. It tells about six members of a family with many problems. They travel from Arizona to California so that the seven-year-old daughter can compete in a beauty contest. The members of the family learn to support and trust each other along the way.

A movie about the September eleventh terrorist attacks on the United States, called "United Ninety-three," was not nominated for best picture. But its director, Paul Greengrass, did receive a nomination.

Five actors were nominated for best performance in a leading role. Forest Whitaker was nominated for playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." Leonardo DiCaprio played a man searching for a rare gem in Africa in "Blood Diamond." Ryan Gosling was a teacher with a drug problem in "Half Nelson."

In the movie "Venus," Peter O'Toole played a very old actor interested in a very young woman. And Will Smith was a homeless father who gets a job in the financial industry in "The Pursuit of Happyness," a movie based on a true story.

Five actresses were nominated for best performance in a leading role. For Meryl Streep, it was her fourteenth nomination. She is the most-nominated actor ever and is a two-time Oscar winner. She played a demanding magazine editor in "The Devil Wears Prada."

British actress Helen Mirren was nominated for her role as Queen Elizabeth in "The Queen." Two other British actresses were also nominated. Judi Dench played a teacher in "Notes on a Scandal." Kate Winslet was a woman who has a sexual relationship with a neighbor in "Little Children." And Spanish actress Penelope Cruz was nominated for the Spanish-language movie "Volver." She played a woman dealing with some unusual family crises.

A total of twenty actors and actresses were nominated for leading and supporting roles. Among them are five black actors and actresses, two Hispanic actresses and one Japanese actress. Experts say this is the most ethnically diverse group ever nominated for Academy Awards.

In addition, critics highly praised three directors from Mexico. Their movies received a total of sixteen nominations. They are Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who was nominated for directing "Babel," Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron.

Del Toro directed the Spanish-language film "Pan's Labyrinth," which received six nominations. It deals with the political situation in Spain after that country's civil war. And it shows a young girl's fearful adventures with magical creatures. Cuaron directed "Children of Men," a frightening vision of the future where women are unable to have babies.

All three movies deal with serious subjects in creative ways. The directors are very good friends and often work on each other's movies. One critic called the three directors "the future of movies."


Five movies were nominated for best documentary feature, a movie about real people or events. They are about serious issues that have gotten a lot of media attention. Former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," was one of the movies nominated.

Two of the others are about the war in Iraq: "My Country, My Country" and "Iraq in Fragments." Another nominated documentary is "Jesus Camp," a close-up look at a summer camp for Christian children. And the last nominated documentary is "Deliver Us From Evil." It is about a former priest found guilty of sexually abusing children.

More than twenty Academy Awards will be presented Sunday night.

The people who wrote the best screenplays and did the best film and sound editing will receive awards. So will the people who designed the best costumes, makeup and special effects. The composers who wrote the best song and music from a movie will also be honored.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars each year. Almost six thousand people who work in the movie industry belong to the Academy. They nominate candidates for Academy Awards from their own professions.

For example, actors nominate actors. Directors nominate directors. Designers nominate designers. All Academy members vote to choose the final winners.

The Academy Awards are presented in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Important people in the movie industry attend the ceremony. Crowds of people wait outside the theater. They watch the famous movie stars as they arrive.

The women wear beautiful dresses and costly jewelry provided by famous designers. Camera lights flash. The actors and actresses smile for the photographers and television cameras.

During the Academy Awards ceremony, famous actors and actresses announce the names of the nominees and the winners. Then the winners go up onto the stage. They thank all the people who helped them win their golden Oscar. Hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world will watch them on television Sunday night.


Our program was written by Shelley Gollust and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. You can read our scripts and download audio on our Web site, Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.