On Monday, the 89th Academy Awards will be telecast live to more than 225 countries and territories worldwide. While the Oscars might not be as important as the next global summit of world leaders, for the millions who tune in the ceremony can offer a welcome respite from talk of civil unrest, deportations and ‘fake’ news.
A brief look back over the history of the Oscars reveals that, while many successful films of the past 90 years comment on the times in which they were made, the opposite is also true.
More than 70 years before Alec Baldwin’s Saturday Night Live Donald Trump impersonation became an internet sensation, audiences laughed nervously as comic genius Charlie Chaplin parodied Hitler. While Chaplin’s The Great Dictator used humour to reflect on tyranny, cinemas also offered moviegoers the chance to escape from worldly concerns with The Wizard of Oz.
Neuropsychologist Gary Solomon is the author of The Motion Picture Prescription and Reel Therapy. Along with other mental health professionals, Dr Solomon suggests movies can help individuals cope with issues that might be too difficult to face in real life. He advocates the use of movies to speak about difficult topics such as alcoholism, childhood abuse and relationship breakdown. The cathartic impact of watching an emotional movie can enable people to exorcise pent-up feelings and begin to deal with unresolved issues.
Psychotherapist Birgit Wolz also believes that what she refers to as ‘popcorn’ therapy offers an important respite from reality, allowing people to recharge mentally and emotionally.
This year, among the nine movies vying for the coveted Best Film Award, seven are described by critics as ‘heart-warming’, ‘inspirational’ and ‘empowering’ – words rarely heard in the current daily news cycle. Moviegoers are queuing up to watch a son reunite with his mother in Lion, find inspiration with women who literally reached for the stars in Hidden Figures or to hum along to the musical fantasy of La La Land.
A quick poll in our office identified a few go-to movies as favourites. The Shawshank Redemption, The Sound of Music, Lost in Translation, The Lion King and Finding Dory all got a mention.
For this week’s Friday Forum, what movies would you recommend to someone looking for inspiration or a pick-me-up?