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The Changing Categories of the Academy Awards

January 15, 2015

Oscar nominations were announced today. Here’s a look at how some of the categories have evolved over time.

Facts About the OscarsProduction Design

An Oscar for Best Production Design has been awarded since 2012. The award is given to both a film’s art director as well as its set decorator, as both departments combine to create the physical look of a film (not including costumes). Prior to 2012, the award was called Best Art Direction, but was changed when the Art Directors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences renamed itself the Designers branch. (In the early years of film, separate awards were given out in the category to color and black-and-white productions.)

Best Picture

The most prestigious award has had a lot of different names. Since 1962, it’s been, simply “Best Picture.” From 1941 to 1961, it was once Outstanding Motion Picture, and then Best Motion Picture.

Best Director

At the first Academy Awards in 1928, two direction awards were given: one for Dramatic Direction and one for Comedic Direction. The categories were combined in the next year, and ever since, with Best Director recognizing the best achievements in directing regardless of film genre. (However, comedy directors have won less than a dozen times. The most recent: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist in 2012.)

Best Original Musical

Many Oscar categories have been discontinued over the years, and for good reason (such as the silent-era “Best Title Writing”) and it would seem like this one has been eliminated, too, because it hasn’t been awarded since 1984. But it’s technically still viable; there just aren’t enough musicals released each year for it to be a viable, competitive award. Awarded to the score writers, stage-score adapters, and songwriters, the last winner was Prince, for Purple Rain, beating The Muppets Take Manhattan and Kris Kristofferson’s Songwriter. Past winners include All That Jazz, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story.

Want more? Here is some additional facts about the Oscars.

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