And the Winner Is…

The 91st Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, will take centerstage on Sunday, February 24, in Hollywood, California. Deemed to be the highest honor given for artistic and technical merit in the film industry and popular for their extravagant ceremonies, the Oscars create a yearly buzz around the nominees and show. Most recently, the Academy has come under scrutiny for a lack of diversity and inclusion (#oscarssowhite), perceived overemphasis on independent films, and a mangled major presentation when LaLa Land was announced as the best picture of the year in 2017 when Moonlight was the actual winner.

Richard Smith, professor of theatre

For more than 40 years, Richard Smith, professor of theatre, has taught film studies at Hope College in his “Art of the Cinema” class. A specialist in scenography, Smith’s insights go beyond technical artistry as he can address trends, controversies and favorites when it comes to the Oscars such as,

  • How do certain actors and actresses, designers and directors, writers and craftspeople rise to the level of “best” in a certain category when so many films are released each year?
  • What happened to celebrating the “science” part of films? It is, after all, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that bestows these awards.
  • Does this year’s more diverse nominee slate mean the Academy is on the right track toward more inclusion, or do they have more work to do?
  • Will the Academy make another attempt to save ratings and relevancy and rethink that “Best Popular Picture” category they proposed but reneged on in 2018?
  • And, why hasn’t Meryl Streep won seven Oscars after 21 nominations, instead of three? Or, why does Leonardo DiCaprio have 11 noms and just one win? And what about Spike Lee, who after 30 years directing notable films, finally received his first best director nomination for BlacKkKlansman? Hard luck? Politics? Or, is it really just an honor to be nominated?!

Random Acts of Kindness and the Superhero Effect

Practicing random acts of kindness is emotional nourishment and elevates both the giver’s and receiver’s psychological health. When we practice random acts of kindness, we just feel better about ourselves as do the recipients of our acts which then makes them more likely to be kind and helpful to other people, too. That’s the pay-it-forward effect, and it turns out viewing images of superheroes can actually contribute to it.

And what better time to think about helping, heroic or otherwise, than during Random Acts of Kindness Day on Sunday, February 17 and Random Acts of Kindness Week which begins Monday, February 18.

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology

New research by Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology, several Hope College students, and colleague Dr. Jeffrey Green of Virginia Commonwealth University have found that when people are exposed to images of superheroes, they were more likely than others to engage in altruistic behavior. The findings of their study were recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, and it reveals that even subtle activation of superhero stimuli increases prosocial intentions and behavior.

Van Tongeren conducts research on the social motivation for meaning in life, the function and nature of religious beliefs, and the relationship-enhancing features of virtues, such as humility and forgiveness. His Meaning, Religion and Virtues Lab at Hope investigates why people search for meaning and how that search may, or may not, result in moral behavior.

 

Valentine’s Day and the Scholarship of Romantic Relationships

Valentine’s Day will soon be here, the day in which people celebrate love and romance with candlelit dinners, Hallmark cards, love letters, red roses, and sentimental presents given to spouses and partners.

But how exactly do those spouses and partners come to choose each other in the first place? And what are some of the things that keep them together?

Dr. Carrie Bredow, associate professor of psychology

Dr. Carrie Bredow, associate professor of psychology, focuses her research on the development and maintenance of adult romantic relationships. She seeks to better understand why people select the life partners that they do and to identify ways to help people avoid “bad choices.” For example, her article entitled “Chasing Prince Charming” in Personal Relationships investigated how holding unrealistic standards for a spouse has partnering consequences. Most recently, Bredow’s scholarly work has looked at how unmarried individuals’ criteria for a long-term partner change or remain the same over a certain period of time in the mate selection process.