There's a vicious moment in August: Osage County wherein Violet Weston (Meryl Streep), who hasn't tasted enough blood for the day, humiliates her daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) who has recently entered her 40s that she's losing her looks. A less vicious but still hurtful joke follows later in the film when Barbara (Julia Roberts) tells her sister Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) "You can't move to New York. You're almost 50, you'll break a hip.". The Weston women, tearing each other down and using their advancing age as just one of the weapons with which to do so, probably wouldn't take comfort in the maturity of this year's Best Actress race but the rest of us should.
Even if it's not our dream lineup (my own happens to skew much younger this year), it's a good push back against Oscar's frequent preference of youth over accomplishment... particularly in this category.
I didn't mean to become the "age" guy but I salivate at the prospect of digging into Oscar statistics each year so I couldn't pass up the chance to write about the Best Actress shortlist, when Vanity Fair asked me to write about the relatively advanced age of the group. Their average age is 55. I'd already prepped my Jennifer Lawrence piece on "The Youngest Actors To _____ " when they contacted me so that's two in a row. But I hope y'all take it in the vein it was intended: to celebrate the glories and mysteries of Oscar stats and the breadth of talented people, male and female, from fresh faces (in both senses of the word with JLaw) to accomplished veterans that show up for Oscar honors.
Due to turnaround deadlines with Oscar nomination articles, many of them are written in advance. One of my favorite things about reading other sites on Oscar nomination day is noticing where the seams are wherein they've clearly had to edit something out or shove something in quickly. I had two versions of this Vanity Fair piece ready due to the great January wars of "Will it be Amy or Meryl?" and then they both made it. Goodbye Emma! *sniffle*
One thing I noticed in researching this piece and writing about the topic over the years is that people tend to think of past Oscar lineups as older than they actually were. I believe this is just a human tendency to age up anything that came before us. If you first fell for Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, for example, she is probably an "old" actress to you. But when she first became a sensation with the release of the Oscar winning blockbuster Kramer vs. Kramer, she had only just turned 30 or, in modern terms, was roughly the age that her put upon assistants Emily Blunt & Anne Hathaway are right about now. Fasten your seatbelts for this bumpy take-away truth: Bette Davis was younger than ALL of this year's Best Actress nominees (save Amy Adams) when she headlined All About Eve (1950).