The 95th Academy Awards, held in the iconic, 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, will be broadcast live this Sunday – airing here at 7 p.m. on WLS-TV, Channel 7.

Emm and Gerry Hubbarth watch at the AMC Evanston 12 on Nov. 9, when the big screen came to life for the first time in two years. Credit: Richard Cahan

According to Nielsen ratings, last year the 94th Academy Awards attracted over 15 million viewers, which was more than a 50% increase from the 10 million who watched the (COVID-affected) year before. The broadcast hit its heyday in 1998, when over 50 million viewers turned on to watch Titanic sweep the awards.

Even if you don’t like movies, tune in for the music and the glamor! This year’s Oscar celebration will feature a performance by Rihanna. And lest we forget, it’s a live show and anything can happen! 

We all recall last year’s program when Will Smith took offense to a joke about his wife Jada’s alopecia and stormed the stage to slap Chris Rock’s face. That changed everything.

Bill Kramer, chief executive officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recently confirmed that an Academy Crisis Team was established following the slap in 2022. In a well-publicized statement last month, Janet Yang, president of the Academy, declared the board’s response to the slapping as inadequate, promising swifter, more decisive action in the future. 

Neither Smith nor Rock will attend this year’s ceremony. Soon after the slap, Smith was banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years. Just prior to that announcement, he resigned from the Academy.

As reported in Vanity Fair, Rock says he turned down an offer to host the 2023 Oscars, likening it to returning to the scene of a crime. He has made multiple references to what sounds like unresolved trauma and anger toward Smith in recent performances. TV host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel will host this year’s awards ceremony; he says he’s ready for anything. This will be Kimmel’s third time hosting.  

The Academy has also been under fire during the last several years for its underrepresentation of minority groups, women and racially and ethnically diverse artists.

In a study released March 1 by the USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative, nominations among underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and women have increased. In the eight years before 2018, only 8% of the nominations included diverse voices. In the seven years since, that number has more than doubled – to a still-disappointing 17%.  

Hollywood remains disproportionately white and male, but a change is in play. The Motion Picture Academy has taken steps to include more women, people of color and young professionals in their voting ranks. As the demand for more diverse representation gains momentum, this trend should continue.

While it’s true that streaming platforms have grown in number, they prioritize high-budget multiseason series to help retain subscribers. With that said, Oscars are only awarded to feature films. The entertainment value of watching a feature film at a Dolby Cinema like AMC Evanston remains irrefutable.

Going out to a movie serves our reach toward wellness in both obvious and mysterious ways. For example, a good film immerses us into a world of fantasy and provides a therapeutic escape from reality. Going to a movie with friends and family is a social outlet, and so is the collective experience of enjoying the film with a theater full of strangers.

The thundering sounds and larger-than-life visuals of the big screen heighten our stimulation and help us to surrender more deeply to the story. It’s easy to lose track of time in a dark quiet theater with no distractions.  Movies also teach us about diverse cultures and whet our appetite for art.

Anticipating new releases furnishes excitement and being first to see them can enhance esteem and add novel stimuli to an otherwise dull day.

And finally, movies teach us lessons about humanity. When we get lost in a film, we inhabit the lives of its characters, taking on their challenges and sadness, but also their subsequent resolutions and healing.  

These all seem like obvious reasons to go out to a movie, but sometimes the after effect of a film comes with more subtle benefits as well.

Have you ever wondered why horror films are so popular? Why the prevalence of horror films increased during the pandemic? Today, the horror film genre makes up more than 10% of all new releases.

According to multiple studies, the fright we experience when watching horror films temporarily changes our brain chemistry. It stimulates the amygdala, that part of our brains that deals with fear and stimulates a fight-or-flight response. This comes with a boost of adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine. When it’s all over and we have survived the horror, we enjoy a sense of relief and relaxation.

Watching comedies decreases stress hormones and blood pressure. According to a study by the University of Maryland, watching movies that make us laugh causes our blood vessels to dilate by 22%, thereby lowering blood pressure and our experience of stress.

So, next time you feel like your head might explode from life-in-specific, throw up your white flag and take a walk to our newly renovated Evanston 12 or the charming Wilmette theater for some relief. You will walk out changed.

Doris Popovich

Doris Popovich is a freelance feature writer for the Evanston Roundtable. Areas of concentration are ever-changing and include Arts, Culture, Nature, Spirituality, and Healthcare.

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  1. Very interesting article. Very insightful!I don’t normally watch the Academy Awards, but I’m intrigued now so I think I will.