Oscars - cinema's Golden Night: The ultimate bluffer's guide to Hollywood's big night

The nominations! The history! The speeches! The trivia! Starring David Randall and Heather Clark who would like to thank their parents and their colleagues for making it all possible

Best Film

Amour Michael Haneke's French-language drama about an elderly couple, Anne and George, retired music teachers with a daughter who lives abroad, whose lives start to fall apart when Anne has a stroke. Only the fifth film to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Film.

Argo Political thriller, directed by Ben Affleck, dramatising a 1980 joint CIA and Canadian secret service operation, when six fugitive diplomatic personnel attempt to escape Iran by posing as a film crew.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild American fantasy drama, in which six-year-old Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, battle for survival in the town of Bathtub.

Django Unchained Quentin Tarantino's homage to the American epic Western. A freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a plantation owner with the help of a German bounty hunter.

Les Miserables In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, a prisoner, breaks his parole and seeks redemption by caring for the recently orphaned Cosette. The first musical to be nominated for Best Film since Chicago in 2002.

Life Of Pi Film of Yann Martel's Booker-winning novel about a young boy who is the sole survivor of disaster at sea. He endures thirst, hunger and loneliness, and forms a connection with his only companion aboard his lifeboat: a Bengal tiger.

Lincoln Partial biopic of the American President struggling to emancipate slaves while fighting dissent from within his own cabinet.

Silver Linings Playbook Romantic drama about a former teacher trying to reconcile with his ex-wife after being released from a mental institution. This is the first film since Warren Beatty's 1981 Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories as well as Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.

Zero Dark Thirty The story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his death at the hands of a US Navy Seals team in May 2011.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day Lewis – Lincoln

Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables

Joaquin Phoenix – The Master

Denzel Washington – Flight

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty

Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva – Amour (first-time nominee)

QuvenzhanÉ Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild (first-time nominee)

Naomi Watts – The Impossible

Best Director

Ben Affleck – Argo

Michael Haneke – Amour

Ang Lee – Life of Pi

David O Russell – Silver Linings Playbook

Steven Spielberg – Lincoln

Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin – Argo

Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master

Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln

Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams – The Master

Sally Field – Lincoln

Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

Helen Hunt – The Sessions

Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook'

The first Oscars

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on 16 May 1929 in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Tickets cost $5, and 270 people attended.

Some 15 Oscars were presented, and none was a surprise – the winners had been announced three months before.

There were two odd awards that year. First, a talkie, 'The Jazz Singer', won a special Oscar, since films with a soundtrack had been ruled ineligible for the main awards. The second was the Oscar won by Joseph Farnham, for Best Title Writing – a category that talkies soon rendered obsolete.

Oscar records

Most male-dominated winning film David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is the only Best Film winner to include not a single female speaking part. The most prominent female in the movie is a camel named Gladys.

Longest film to win In 1968, the Best Foreign Picture went to War and Peace. The film lasted seven hours 11 minutes.

Briefest performance to win an acting Oscar Beatrice Straight won Best Supporting Actress in 1976 for her part in Network. She was on screen for all of five minutes and 40 seconds.

Briefest performance to win Best Actor David Niven won the top gong in 1958 for his 15 minutes and 38 seconds of acting in Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables.

The only loser to win and winner to lose Maggie Smith was nominated in 1978 for her role in California Suite, where she played an Oscar nominee who loses. She won. By contrast, in 1954, Judy Garland was nominated for playing an Oscar winner in A Star Is Born. She lost.

Most decorated films Three movies have won 11 Oscars: Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). West Side Story (1961) won 10.

Most decorated British film Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, which won eight Oscars in 1982.

Most decorated individual Walt Disney, who was nominated 59 times, and won 22 competitive Oscars, and four honoraries, bringing his total to 26.

Most acting nominations Meryl Streep, with 17. Only on two of those times was she successful – a Best Supporting in 1979 for Kramer vs Kramer, and Best Actress in 1988 for Sophie's Choice. Jack Nicholson is the most nominated actor, being up 12 times, and successful on three.

Longest gap between wins Helen Hayes, who won for The Sin of Madelon Claudet in 1932, and then again in 1971 for Airport.

Longest gap between first and last nomination Katharine Hepburn was first nominated (and won) in 1933, for Morning Glory, and 48 years later, in 1981, when she won for On Golden Pond.

Oldest winner Christopher Plummer was 82 when he won Best Supporting for Beginners last year.

Youngest winner Tatum O'Neal, won Best Supporting in 1973 at 10 for Paper Moon. This year's Best Actress candidate, Quvenzhané Wallis, is the youngest ever female nominee, at nine.

Oscar misses

Biggest let-down on an Oscars night Those involved with both The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) turned up with high expectations on the night. Each film had received 11 nominations, yet failed to win in a single category.

Most frequent runners-up Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole were nominated seven times for acting awards, but never won. O'Toole later had the consolation of an honorary Oscar. Of the actresses, Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter both had six nominations, but no gongs. Albert Finney has had five near misses.

Biggest directorial omissions Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman all failed to win the Best Director Oscar.

Actresses who never won an Oscar Rita Hayworth, Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner, Natalie Wood, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow.

Actors who never won an acting Oscar Steve McQueen, Charlie Chaplin, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Orson Welles, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift, W C Fields.

Speeches at the Oscars

Longest speech by a winning actress Greer Garson in 1943, who, having won for playing the title role in Mrs Miniver, banged on for seven minutes. She was nominated the following two years, but, perhaps because the Academy feared a re-run of her monologue, she didn't win.

Longest winner's speech never delivered Marlon Brando, Best Actor winner in 1973 for The Godfather, declined to attend the ceremony, and sent along a Native American rights campaigner called Marie Cruz, aka Sacheen Littlefeather, to be there in his stead and read a 15-page statement. She was told she would be removed from the stage if she spoke for longer than 60 seconds, and so she spurned the statuette and made an impromptu speech about the notorious massacre of American Indians, as they were then called, at Wounded Knee.

Shortest speech by a winning director Alfred Hitchcock who, when he was handed his honorary Oscar in 1968, simply said: "Thank you".

Most Thank Yous By an Actress Gwyneth Paltrow's famous blub-fest of a speech in 1998, when, after winning Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love, used the phrase no fewer than 23 times before mercifully bringing her emotional oration to a close.

Best special effect after an acceptance speech Jack Palance, winner of Best Supporting Actor for City Slickers in 1992, was 73 at the time - and, to show he was still full of vim and vigour, broke off his speech to perform three press-ups.

Statuette facts

The man who designed the statuette, Cedric Gibbons, won 11 awards for art direction, having been nominated 39 times

The statuettes were originally gold-plated solid bronze, but are now made of Britannia metal, plated in copper, nickel silver, and 24-carat gold

Oscar Hammerstein II, who won Best Song in 1941 for 'The Last Time I Saw Paris' and in 1945 for 'It Might As Well Be Spring', remains the only person called Oscar to win an Oscar

In 1996, Steven Spielberg paid $550,000 for Clark Gable's 1934 Best Actor Oscar for 'It Happened One Night'

Since 1929, some 2,809 Oscars have been presented

During the Second World War, the statuettes were made of plaster, so no one could complain that metal vital to the war effort was being frivolously used for actors' gongs

Oscar firsts

First posthumous nominee Jeanne Eagels, Best Actress, in 1928 for The Letter. She died following eye surgery, although alcohol and heroin, both of which may have been given to her after her treatment, were found in her body.

First X-Certificate film to win Best Picture The Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman vehicle Midnight Cowboy in 1969.

First winner to boycott an awards ceremony Dudley Nichols, who was voted writer of the Best Screenplay in 1936 for The Informer but declined to show up on the night because of some now-arcane dispute between the Writers' Guild and the Academy.

First actor to win two years in succession: Spencer Tracy, in 1937 for Captains Courageous and 1938 for Boys Town. Tom Hanks has matched his record with wins in 1993 for Philadelphia, and Forrest Gump the following year.

First to win Best Actress two years running Luise Rainer, who won in 1936 for The Great Ziegfeld and the following year for The Good Earth. She later studied medicine. Katharine Hepburn equalled her feat in 1967 and 1968 with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Lion in Winter.

First African-American acting winner Hattie McDaniel, as Best Supporting Actress in 1939's Gone With the Wind. She was the daughter of a slave, and, knowing how virulently racist prewar Georgia was, did not attend the Atlanta premier of the film.

First African-American Best Actress nominee Dorothy Dandridge in 1954 for Carmen Jones. She died of an overdose in 1965. There was just $2 in her bank account. It would take until 2001 for a black performer to win Best Actress, with Halle Berry's victory for Monster's Ball.

First colour film to win Best Picture The still-classic four-hour-long Gone With the Wind in 1939.

First sisters to be in competition with each other for Best Actress In 1941, Olivia de Havilland was up for Hold Back the Dawn, and Joan Fontaine for Suspicion. Joan won.

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