Oscar History

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« Hollywood: Oscar Nom Morning & CCMA Evening | Main | Jennifer Lawrence and the Youngest To... »

Best Actress Lineup Now Eligible for a Senior Discount

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.

Here's the full piece ! 

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).

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Reader Comments (16)

Sad that you cant be more happy, especially when you're wish if for a 50s actress to win (Bening!). I am curious how you would rank the nominees this year.

As for me, I actually thought Emma was just bad in Banks. Hanks was more special, but I just couldnt get it off my mind that what Emma was creating was a caricature. Way to undermine the very thing the movie is trying to go for: artistic subtlety. Not that the movie is any better than Thompson, bar Hanks.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

congrats on the article, nathaniel!

(I think I'll finally watch "the whisperers", so many people recommend it)

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

You're so good with this subject!

Blanchett must share the glory with Tennessee Williams. Basically, she's playing the greatest female character of all time, aka Blanche DuBois.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Nat's Best Actress list prediction:

1. Bree Larson - winner
2. Adèle Exarchopoulos
3. Greta Gerwig
4. Julie Delpy
5. Emma Thompson or Amy Adams or maybe another unknown indie actress

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngelasBasket

Was very pleased Thompson missed and thought ages ago Adams would get in,Thompson was playing at Travers not acting it,i knew what Emma was doing to be doing in the film by the trailers and i normally love her it was Hanks who was the soul of that film,if Streep could get nominated in 98,99 and 2008,2009 for mediocre turns this nom was always going to happen for the actors branch.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

38 Oscar nominations between this year's Best Lead Actress lineup.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Why people use her performance in "One true thing" as one of her worst nominated roles? Actually is more like:
1. Fernanda Montenegro in "Central Station"
2. Meryl Streep in "One true thing"
3.Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth"
4.Emily Watson in "Hilary and Jackie"
5.Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in love"

And with "Music of the heart":
1.Hilary Swank in "Boys don't cry"
2.Janet McTeer in "Tumbleweeds"
3.Meryl Streep in "Music of the heart"
4.Julianne Moore in "The end of the affair"
5.Annette Benning in "American beauty"

I'm not talking about mark specifically, but in general. If they're gonna pick one undeserved nomination, they should pick her turn in "Out of africa".

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Ooooh girl, Vanity Fair? Moving on up! Don't leave us behind!

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRahul

Me34, your ranking of the Bening is blasphemy. Your ranking of Blanchett is not much better. Still, I agree that those Meryl turns are underrated and Out of Africa is among her worst.

Nathaniel, love the article.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Great article, Nathaniel.

And I agree that Streep was by no means the weakest nominee in 1999. That distinction belongs to Bening.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

The only Meryl nomination that I find really undeserved is her turn in Doubt. Iron Lady and Out of Africa- you could make a little case for it, but certainly not my favorites. .. but all other 15 nominations are very much deserved, especially August: Osage County. I am in awe of that performance.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

It will never happen, but wouldn't it be ironic if Cate Blanchett lost to Amy Adams AND both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence won as well?!?!? I believe that would be the first time a film won actress and both supporting categories since Streetcar Named Desire, the film which Blue Jasmine is being compared to... Just a thought.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Jeff, please don't even joke about three acting Oscars for AH...that would rock the entire pop culture world to its very foundation.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

"american hustle" is a classic that will be known forever for its profound meditation on corruption and decadence. it would be fitting if it won all ten oscars, including the unprecedented four acting awards---

oh hell, i can't work up the energy for more of this satire. "ah" was the most enervating movie that i saw last year. when i hear people say they were "entertained" or "excited" or "energized" by the movie, i think only of the dull muddled patches that made me yawn or blink in bewilderment. i fear we're headed for another "crash" or "around the world in 80 days" or "greatest show on earth," where the scales will fall from people's eyes only after it wins, and history soon starts to say "wtf were they thinking?"

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterxander

xander, please don't give up the satire...you nail it everytime!

i actually know someone who fell asleep during AH...lucky bastard...he was spared watching this disaster.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Oh my goodness, there's sentiment out there that Streep didn't deserve to be nominated for Out of Africa and Bening was the weakest of '99? Say it isn't so!

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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