When it comes to the Academy Awards, there is always plenty of speculation about which films and actors will win the year’s big awards. While the awards ceremony is almost always full of usual Hollywood glitz and glamour, the history of the Oscars shows us that that the ceremony almost always has a few unexpected surprises. Here are some facts about the Academy Awards, its history, and the movies that have been major winners in the past.
No Sci-Fi Here:
No science fiction films have won the Academy Award for Best Picture. A handful of critically-acclaimed and popular films such as Star Wars (1977) and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) have been nominated, but they were beat out by other films.
Horror Need Not Apply
Horror films, like their sci-fi counterparts, aren’t typically nominated for Best Picture. In 1992, Silence of the Lambs’ (1991) Best Picture win was the first for any horror film. Until that point only one other horror film, The Exorcist (1973), had been nominated in that category.
Almost Eternal Glory
From Here to Eternity (1953) was the last film to receive nominations in all four acting categories. However, only the Best Supporting Actor and Actress nominees (Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed, respectively) ended up winning their categories.
King of the World…in a Tie
Titanic (1997) was… well, a truly titanic film in the history of the Oscars. It is tied with All About Eve (1950) for receiving the most Oscar nominations at 14 nominations. It also has the most Oscar wins with a total of 11, which puts it in a tie with Ben-Hur (1959) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). It is also the second Best Picture Award winner to prominently feature the sinking of the Titanic (the first being Cavalcade from 1933).
The 22nd Time is a Charm?
The unluckiest nominee is actually a thing. Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell is known as the unluckiest nominee in the history of the Academy Awards for being nominated 21 times with no wins. He is nominated this year for the Best Sound award for his work on Hacksaw Ridge (2016) – we’ll have to wait and see if he snags it this time.
History Repeats Itself
Historical biopics and characters tend to do really well at the Oscars. Three separate portrayals of both Queen Elizabeth II and Henry VIII have each been nominated for an Oscar. Depictions of over a dozen of other historical characters have garnered nominations.
It’s Who Ya Know
Want to go to the Oscars award ceremony? You better know the right people! The only way to be a “seat-filler” (i.e. a non-celebrity) at the event is to know someone who works at the Academy or to be an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm that tallies the votes and prepares the sealed envelopes.
Even the Oscars Have Leaks
The winners used to be announced before the official ceremony began, but that practice ended when someone spilled the beans. The winners were announced before the ceremony with the condition that the press not publicize the winners before 11 PM of the night of the ceremony. In 1940, the Los Angeles Times published the results publicly before the ceremony began, which resulted in the tradition of keeping the winners secret until the ceremony itself.
Who’s This Oscar Guy Anyway?
The award statuette has been called the Oscar since the 1930s, according to common legend. The Academy’s librarian, Margaret Herrick, commented the statuette looked like her uncle Oscar. The name stuck and has been used by the Academy officially since 1939.
Oscar is Heavy
The statuette itself is bigger than you think! It is 13.5 inches tall and weights 8.5 pounds. To give you an idea of how much that weighs, its pretty close to the weight of a gallon of water. It is usually made with gold-plated britannium but during World War II, the statuettes were made of plaster to support the war effort and conservation of metal.
What does the Oscar statuette actually depict? According to the statuette’s designer, Cedric Gibbons, it is a figure of a knight with a down-turned sword that is standing on a film reel.
What it Takes to Qualify
How do films qualify for an Academy Award nomination? Firstly, the must be at least 40 minutes long. They also have to be released theatrically in Los Angeles County for at least seven consecutive days. They also can’t have debuted anywhere but in a theater, so any film that had a TV or straight-to-streaming/DVD/VHS release was automatically ineligible.
Stuff Those Ballot Boxes
How are films nominated? Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are sent ballots, where they can write in their top five choices for each award category. However, they are only allowed to nominate people and films within the realm of their field- so cinematographers do the nominations for the best cinematography, directors nominate the best directors, etc. Then once the nominee votes are tallied, final ballots are sent out to all members. And every member can then vote for the final winner of every category, irrespective of their own expertise.
The longest film nominated for an Oscar is this year’s documentary nominee OJ: Made in America (2016). The shortest Oscar nominee is the short film Guacamole, clocking in at just one minute and 40 seconds. The shortest feature-length film nominated is Best Picture-winner Marty (1955), at only 90 minutes long.
No Miniskirts Allowed
Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head banned miniskirts from the 1967 Academy Awards ceremony. In her position as special adviser to the Academy that year, she commented that “even the most beautiful legs…look better when the kneecap is covered” and to that end, banned all attendees from wearing miniskirts.
Clothing Not Optional
On the note of clothes, only one person has appeared naked at an Academy Awards Ceremony. Robert Opel appeared naked onstage at the ceremony in 1974 but not as a nominee or presenter- he was just a streaker. Hopefully Edith Head wasn’t present at that particular Oscars.
Thanks but No Thanks
A few Oscar winners have famously refused to accept the award. The first to refuse was screenwriter Dudley Nichols, who refused the award for Best Screenwriter in 1936 due to a rift between the Screen Writers Guild and the Academy. The second was George C. Scott, who won Best Actor for his depiction of General Patton in the film Patton (1970). When we learned that he had been nominated, he blasted the awards for being “offensive, barbarous, and innately corrupt.” He didn’t attend the ceremony and never accepted the award. The last time an award was publicly refused was in 1973, when Marlon Brando famously refused to accept the award in-person and sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead. Brando sent Littlefeather as a proxy to deliver a speech about the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee, and to protest Hollywood’s depictions of Native Americans on film. However, she was quickly ushered off stage before she could finish her speech. The incident resulted in the Academy refusing to allow proxy acceptances in the future.
Hope Conquers All
Oscar hosts are chosen by the Academy and the producers of the ceremony. This year’s hosts is Jimmy Kimmel, and its his first time hosting the award. Bob Hope hosted an impressive 19 Oscars ceremonies. The second most prolific host is Billy Crystal, who hosted the ceremony nine times over the course of the course of the past three decades.
Katie Blank is a Content Moderator and staff writer for Sporcle. She is also a PhD student studying South Asian history. Her guilty pleasures include binge-watching The Office and going to every metal concert she can.