by Michele Elyzabeth
On March 2, 2014, all eyes will be on the Academy Awards. Champagne will flow and diamonds will shine all over the Red Carpet where the ultimate question will be, “Who are you wearing?” It has proven to be the most important day in the life of a gown designer. But let me take you back in time and give you a quick history on OSCAR.
This is how it started. During dinner at the home of M-G-M’s studio chief Louis B. Mayer, Mayer and three of his guests (actor Conrad Nagel, director Fred Niblo and producer Fred Beetson) began talking about creating an organized group to benefit the entire film industry. They planned another dinner for the following week, with invitees from all the creative branches of the film industry.
The year was 1927 when 36 people met for dinner at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to hear a proposal to found the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (“International” dropped from the name soon after). Attendees included many of the biggest names in the industry at the time: Mayer, Mary Pickford, Sid Grauman, Jesse Lasky, George Cohen, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, Cedric Gibbons and Irving Thalberg. The group supported the concept and things came together quickly. By mid-March of that year, articles of incorporation were presented and the first officers were elected, with Douglas Fairbanks as president.
It went rather quickly. On May 11, 1927, a week after the state granted the Academy a charter as a non-profit organization, an official organizational banquet was held at the Biltmore Hotel. Of the 300 guests, 230 joined the Academy, paying $100 each. That night, the Academy also awarded its first honorary membership to Thomas Edison. Initially five branches were established: producers, actors, directors, writers and technicians.
The Academy rented a suite of offices at 6912 Hollywood Boulevard as temporary headquarters for the first few months. In November 1927, headquarters moved to office space on the mezzanine level of the Roosevelt Hotel at 7010 Hollywood Boulevard. By April 1929 the Academy had installed screening facilities in the Roosevelt’s Club Lounge, equipping the space with Vitaphone, Movietone and other sound systems, which set the stage for the Academy to host advance screenings of not-yet-released motion pictures (held mainly for key opinion-makers of the day, including church and educational leaders).
One of the first Academy committees was Awards of Merit. The seven person committee suggested to the Board in 1928 that awards be presented in 12 categories. The first Academy Awards were officially presented at a black-tie dinner at the Roosevelt on May 16, 1929, honoring achievements between August 1, 1927 and July 31, 1928.
By 1941, the Academy library had gained acclaim for having one of the most complete motion picture-related collections in the world.
In 1946, the Academy purchased the Marquis Theater building at 9038 Melrose Avenue as its new headquarters. The building had a 950 seat theater (the site of the 1948 Academy Awards) and space for staff offices and the ever-growing library holdings. In 1975, they moved their headquarters to 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills where they still remain to this day. And the rest is history. What a vision and a great creation.
Like the 40+ million who will be watching on March 2, 2014, myself, Pamela, Otis and Deb have chosen the film that we each believe will take home the golden statuette for “Best Picture of the Year.” Here they are.
Michele: 12 Years A Slave
“12 Years A Slave,” in my opinion, is definitely the best film of 2013 and the most deserving of the Oscar. I loved the story. This American historical drama film is a brilliant adaptation of the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, The actors (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupina Nyong’o Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti) and director Steve McQueen have done a remarkable job.
Otis: Captain Phillips
My choice for Best Picture is “Captain Phillips.” I thought the movie was engrossing from the very beginning and the performances of Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips and Omar Berdouni as Nemo, were outstanding. The entire cast was excellent and it was based on a true story, which makes the plot of the movie even better. It actually happened.
Pamela: Dallas Buyer’s Club
When I think back on all of the films I saw this year (and there were a lot), “Dallas Buyer’s Club” always comes to mind first. For a film that took over 20 years to make, the finished product was memorable, from the story based on Ron Woodroof’s life, to Jean-Marc Valle’s direction, and the acting by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. One of the most important and best aspects of filmmaking is that it gives the public an opportunity to see true stories come to life on the silver screen. Stories that teach us about moments in time that made or changed history. “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is one of those tales. McConaughey gave one of the best performances of his career, and Jared Leto’s portrayal of a transgender woman left me speechless. It is a powerful and impactful movie. For all of these reasons, I believe that “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is the best picture of the year.
Deb: 12 Years A Slave
I am voting for “12 Years a Slave.” At other award shows, where it looked like “12 Years a Slave” would walk away empty-handed, it did score Best Picture wins. The film has everything: A-list cast, A-list producer, beautiful cinematography, locations, costume design (and the costume designer is up for an Oscar, too), sex, violence, love, lust and slavery. “Roots” is still remembered from however many years ago, and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” also about slavery, is still reverberating long past the Oscars.