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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 17:50 GMT
Film awards season's main events
There are a huge number of organisations handing out awards in the run-up to the Oscars in late February, but who are they - and why do they matter?

Here's our pick of the key events taking place in the Hollywood prize-giving calendar.

ACADEMY AWARDS

The Academy Awards, or Oscars as they are more commonly known, remain the most prestigious of the world's film prizes.

The annual ceremony has been held in Hollywood, the centre of US film-making, since 1929.

The winners are decided by more than 6,000 film professionals from all over the world, who are members of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Membership of the Academy is by invitation, with Oscar winners automatically invited.

The original 13 categories for awards have expanded to more than 20, including best picture, director, actor and actress, as well as prizes for screenplay (adapted and original), music, visual effects, sound and make-up.

BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

The most significant film awards in the UK are handed out by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

The British Academy Film Awards, or Baftas, were previously awarded in a ceremony held some time after the razzmatazz of the Oscars.

The 2001 shift to a date just after the Academy Award nominations - but ahead of the actual ceremony - has dramatically boosted the Baftas' international profile.

Arguably the awards now influence the ultimate choice of Oscar voters.

An increasing number of Hollywood stars make the trip to the London ceremony, many of them hoping to give their films a final push for Oscar glory.

The first Baftas were given in 1948, in three categories, but the event has grown to include 24 categories, with special categories for British film.

The main awards are voted for by Bafta's 6,500-strong membership, the majority of whom are hand-picked from within the film, television and video games industries.

GOLDEN GLOBES

The Golden Globes are seen as a reliable indicator of which films will go on to Oscar glory.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which presents the awards, has identified the best picture Academy Award winner 12 times since 1990.

The HFPA divides its best picture and main acting prizes into separate drama and musical or comedy categories, thereby offering two Oscar contenders - but it is the best drama winner that generally goes on to further success.

The first awards were given out in 1943 after the HFPA (then the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association) was formed by eight Los Angeles-based overseas journalists, led by the correspondent for the UK's Daily Mail.

The organisation now has more than 80 members, all international journalists, representing 55 countries.

Now in their 64th year, the annual awards - which also honour the global television industry - are presented in Hollywood and broadcast live on US televison.

GUILD AWARDS

The film awards season includes honours handed out by individual US unions representing film professionals, which are often seen as accurate predictors of Oscar success.

The Directors Guild of America's annual feature film directing award, for example, is a near-perfect indicator of the subsequent destination of the best director Academy Award.

Since the union, which represents almost 13,000 film and TV workers, began issuing annual awards in 1948, the Academy has only six times disagreed on the year's best director.

The Producers Guild of America introduced its Golden Laurel Awards in 1990. Eleven of the 17 winners of its motion picture producing award have later scooped the best picture Oscar.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards have been one of the major Hollywood events since their introduction in 1995. About 120,000 union members drawn from the acting community in the US decide the winners, from a shortlist chosen by 4,200 randomly selected members.

Prizes for film and television acting recognise both individuals and the entire casts.

Among the final awards to be announced ahead of the Oscars, last year the guild gave its highest award to the ensemble cast of Crash, which went to become the surprose winner of the best picture award at the Oscars.

CRITICS' AWARDS

The many critics groups that hand out honours during film awards season often favour more alternative, offbeat films, compared with the conservative works typically honoured by the Academy.

The key groups in the US include the National Society of Film Critics, made up of 55 writers across the country, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle.

The London Film Critics' Circle, comprising more than 80 members, issues awards recognising British and international film talent.

In recent years, the Broadcast Film Critics Association has aspired to usurp the status of the Golden Globes, with a televised ceremony of the unashamedly populist Critics' Choice Awards.

Founded in 1995 the association is the largest film critics' organisation in the United States and Canada, representing 199 television, radio and online critics.

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS

Founded in 1984, the Independent Spirit Awards are given to films made outside the traditional Hollywood studio system.

The honours are awarded by Film Independent, a non-profit US organisation that promotes independent film-making, based on the votes of more than 6,000 members.

The ceremony is traditionally held in Los Angeles the day before the Oscars, with the Independent Spirit Awards seen as the alternative to the mainstream.

Although there is usually some crossover among nominees, it is rare to find major winners in common.

US NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW

The US National Board of Review issues the first major prizes of the film awards season in early December.

Alongside key acting and directing awards, the body also shortlists its 10 best films of the year.

The organisation comprises film professionals, teachers, historians and students, and has no commercial ties to the industry.




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