NEW YORK -- The Oscars are back, and in Hollywood, the red carpet is being rolled out outside the Dolby Theater for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic struck just a few weeks after the 2020 Academy Awards.
As a result, the feeling of optimism around the awards show is as optimistic as its been in decades, with movies reflecting a wide range of human endeavors, a promotion that urges movie lovers to unite, and the diversity of the nominees being celebrated.
History is being made at the Oscars both in front of and behind the camera, with excitement surrounding the first trio of female hosts matched by the enthusiasm of the two producers behind the scenes.
"I don't even know how to dream bigger," producer Shayla Cowan said. "I didn't even know that this was possible for someone who looked like me and at the level of the industry that I am in, but to know that it is, I'm excited to be the one to do it."
She and producer Will Packer have been working together for the better part of two decades, making movies like "Girls Trip," starring one of the hosts, Regina Hall.
"Regina Hall is like a silent assassin when it comes to comedy," Cowan said.
Hall is matched beat for beat by the other two hosts, Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer.
"Wanda, she doesn't even have to open her mouth and you laugh because her energy is just so funny, right?" Cowan said.
Schumer, New York's own, is a force of nature in her own right.
"She loves to be able to say whatever she wants," Cowan said.
At the premiere of her new Hulu series "Life & Beth," what she wanted to say about Cowan was most complimentary.
"She's a really special producer," she said.
Just by their presence, the producers will make the show unique.
"Shayla Cowan and I have always said from the very beginning, how can we make sure that this show is a show that feels like it's for everybody?" Packer said.
So they looked outside of Hollywood to form an all-star band of Sheila E., Travis Barker and Robert Glasper. And unlike in previous years, presenters don't have to be part of the film world.
"We're celebrating the industry as a whole, correct?" Cowan said. "But we're also celebrating everyone who loves movies."
Hence the theme of this year's show: "On one night, movie lovers unite."
"To have those few hours to see people laugh and look great and to celebrate will be really, really rewarding," Cowan said.