Quentin Tarantino, Anne Hathaway, and Chritoph Waltz deliver their acceptance speeches at the 85th Academy Awards after being nominated by their peers; they were voted on by all members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). / Photo Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

First awarded in 1929, The Oscars are the oldest media award. Similar awards such as the Grammys, Tonys and Emmys were all modeled after the film industry’s award ceremony. The Academy Awards officially changed its name to The Oscars this year, perhaps in an attempt to stay fresh to a younger crowd. After 85 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) relented to the nickname bestowed on the little golden man handed out annually. But what is this Academy that everyone thanks on stage as they clutch their statues, and who comprises it?

The Academy consists of roughly six thousand members, all of whom are tied to the film industry. Directors, make-up artists, actors, set designers and editors are a few examples of the jobs these people hold. Membership into the Academy is granted when an already existing member nominates someone in the industry or someone who has made a significant contribution to it. The Academy’s Board of Governors must then extend an invitation to said person if they deem him or her worthy. The largest portion of the Academy is actors, but even then they only number about a thousand, or around twenty percent. So the Academy is not run entirely by the famous faces of the movies; the people who sweat and toil behind set have their say too.

The Academy consists of roughly six thousand members, all of whom are tied to the film industry.

Inside the Academy are sixteen branches, and each branch consists of all the members who specialize in a certain aspect of films. The nominees for each category are selected by Academy members in that branch. Therefore, actors vote for actors, directors for directors, editors for editing, etc. The animated feature film and foreign film categories are nominated by certain combinations of these branches and the Best Picture nominees can be voted on by anyone. When the nominees are selected, a second round of voting commences. In this round, all Academy members can vote on every category and not just the one they specialize in. The results are broadcast live annually at the award ceremony.

The selection for the best picture award is tricky, and is based on a preferential voting system. Voters list their picks for Best Picture in order. For example, there were nine movie nominees for Best Picture this year. One ballot ranks these nine nominations from one to nine. Next, the ballots are distributed into piles based off the films voted number one. Assuming each movie receives at least a single vote in the number one spot, there will be nine piles. If one of these piles has over 50 percent of the vote, it wins. If not, the pile with the lowest number of ballots, or the movie with the least amount of number one votes, is eliminated. The ballots from this eliminated pile are then re-distributed, but now based off their number two selection. This process continues as such until one pile, meaning that movie, has over 50 percent of the votes. And the Oscar goes to that movie.

The Oscars are awarded based on the opinions of a select group of people inside the film industry.

Almost as soon as it began, the Academy has been criticized for a variety of reasons. The usual complaint revolves around the show being promotional and not a sincere entity. The second being that the Academy has a tendency to play it safe, and does not award the edgier or more modern films. The most recent case of the latter being The King’s Speech beating The Social Network for Best Picture. The former argument, that The Oscars are nothing more than self-congratulations inside the industry or advertisements for non-blockbuster films, is both cynical and understandable.

Ultimately, The Oscars are awarded based on the opinions of a select group of people inside the film industry. And no, they are not going to agree with everyone’s selections. Some people watch just to see the stars walk down the red carpet, while some might want to see the host poke fun at the gathered crowd. Others may be cheering for their favorite film or actor of the year. But with the huge audience the show draws annually, The Oscars are not stopping anytime soon.