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Fun facts for fans of film's finest

Academy Awards Q&A: Brush up on Oscar basics


(CNN) -- Can Tom Hanks snag a third best actor Oscar? Will Whoopi Goldberg ever get the host gig again? Why do celebrities actually speak to Joan Rivers?

These are questions we can't answer, but if you need a little grounding on Oscar basics, that's another story. Here's a primer:

Why is it called Oscar?

Nobody knows for sure, but legend has it that an employee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought the statuette looked a lot like her Uncle Oscar. The nickname stuck, and became official in 1939.

What's Oscar made of?

The 13.5-inch, 8.5-pound statuettes are alloy britannium, plated in copper, nickel silver and 24-karat gold. During World War II, the conservation-minded Academy used plaster figurines.

This is Steve Martin's first shot as Oscar host. Who holds the record for emceeing the event?

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Bob Hope is the leader, followed by Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson, who once described the ceremony as "two hours of sparkling entertainment spread over four hours."

Has the Oscar ceremony ever been postponed?

Yes. Torrential rains forced the 1937 to be postponed for a week. The 1968 ceremony was delayed when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, as was the 1981 event after President Reagan was shot.

When was the Academy Awards ceremony first televised?

The film industry initially didn't much care for TV, but in 1953, the Academy agreed to televise the event. The first color broadcast came in 1966.

Who votes on the awards?

The Academy's 5,700 members, about a quarter of whom are actors, cast the ballots. Nominations in most categories come from members of the related Academy branch -- directors, for example, choose nominees for best director. Everyone chooses the final winners.

I'd like to vote. How do I join?

It's as simple as directing "Citizen Kane" or "Bridge on the River Kwai." Achieve distinction in the movie industry, then find as sponsors two members of the branch for which you're aiming. Your name will be submitted to the Board of Governors for approval.

What happened to those accountants who used to come on stage?

Those guys got the hook. Price Waterhouse, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, has overseen the balloting since 1935. Viewers used to see them deliver the envelopes, but now the handoff happens offstage. Those sealed envelopes, incidentally, were introduced in 1941 after media leaks revealed the winners before the ceremony.

Academy announces Oscar nominations
February 13, 2001
Fine-tuning the Oscars broadcast
March 21, 2000

The 73rd Annual Academy Awards
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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