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ON FEBRUARY 25, the annual Academy Awards of Merit in filmmaking will be held in Los Angeles. Celebrities will sparkle on the red carpet, that golden statuette named Oscar will share the spotlight with host Ellen DeGeneres, and movie buffs around the world will attempt to guess the Oscar winner for categories from Best Actress to Achievement in Sound Mixing. Given that film is an important art form with a powerful voice to transform our culture, we decided to dedicate this month’s Tuned In to the Academy Awards, as well as offer our own Mina Awards for notable 2006 films.

According to the official Oscars website (, the first 15 Academy Awards were handed out in 1929. Since then, more than 2,500 statuettes have been presented. But how does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences come up with nominations for each award? In December, nomination ballots were mailed out to the 5,722 academy members—individuals who have “achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures”—who select nominees in their respective branches (acting, directing, music, and so forth). Any potential nominee supported by 20 percent of the voters gets a nomination. Once the nominations were announced in January, academy members were able to vote again for the winners, the deadline for which is Feb. 20.

Early on, the names of winners were published in the newspaper on the night of the ceremony. In 1940, however, a Los Angeles paper published the winners before the awards were handed out, and the system changed. The following year, winners’ names were kept secret in sealed envelopes. After years of being broadcast on the radio, the first televised Oscars ceremony occurred in 1953, with Bob Hope as master of ceremonies.

The coveted Oscar trophy itself depicts a knight holding a crusader’s sword, standing on a reel of film with five spokes, which signify the original five branches of the academy: actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians. But when Margaret Herrick, former librarian for the academy, commented that the statuettes looked like her Uncle Oscar, the name stuck.

 Here at The Banner, our process of selecting the best movies of 2006 was a bit different. We asked our writers to nominate some of their favorite movies of 2006. Realizing quickly that 2006 had been a lean year in filmmaking excellence (due to deadlines, we couldn’t include end-of-year releases), we decided to allow new-to-DVD choices as well. We’ve kept our winners’ names in sealed envelopes in my basement since January, and to avoid breaking copyright on the Oscar name, we opted for a new name. We decided on the Mina Awards, since the phantom statuette I’m envisioning resembles my Aunt Mina, a faithful Banner reader since near the beginning of the Academy Awards. The Mina Awards for notable films of 2006 go to . . .

Did you know…
  • Three winners actually refused their awards for various political reasons, among them Marlon Brando in 1972.
  • The first Oscar to be handed out went to Emil Jannings for best actor in 1929.
  • The biggest academy award winner ever was Walt Disney, who won 26 Oscars from 64 nominations.
  • The biggest academy losers have been composer Alex North and art director Roland Anderson, who were both nominated 15 times without a win.
  • In nearly 80 years, only two women have been nominated for best director.

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