The Oscars and the Agers

Posted on February 28, 2014



Life in the Boomer Lane doesn’t know about you, but she is pretty darn excited about the impending Academy Awards Spectacle on Sunday. It marks the 39th anniversary of the year that LBL spent watching the 47th Annual Academy Awards, pacing up and down in her living room, in front of the TV, being in labor. The result of all this was that The Godfather Part II won the Oscar for Best Picture and LBL acquired a first-born. For those of you who are wondering, LBL did not name the baby either Oscar or Michael Corleone.

This year marks an interesting occurrence in Oscar history. First, LBL is not pregnant. Second, the age of Oscar nominees is now taking center stage. Bucking the Youth Trend, is the fact that, according to AARP Magazine, “Pop-culture analyst Martin Belinkie averaged the ages of Oscar winners…and found an overall upward trend…” Let us boomers now pause and pat ourselves on the back for doing absolutely nothing. Now let us continue.

So what did Martin find? From 1954-1958, the average age of female Oscar winners was 33.2. From 2009-2013, it was 38.2. The difference in men’s ages was even more dramatic. From 1954-1958, the average age of male Oscar winners was 36.6. From 9009-2013, it was 50.4.

Belinkie speculates that “now movies that are made to win Oscars are designed for an older audience.” He cites “the growing gulf between award-winning prestige pictures and crowd-pleasing popcorn flicks.” LBL personally thinks this statement is flawed, misleading, and downright irresponsible. It implies that one cannot purchase quality popcorn at theaters that show high-caliber films. LBL can personally attest to the procurement of some of the finest vats of buttered popcorn she has ever inhaled at theaters showing foreign films (you know they are good even if you have no idea what is going on), Sundance winners (if Redford likes it, that’s all that matters), and films in which there are no car chases, explosions, or Nicholas Cage.

Belinke also notes that the age of Oscar voters is rising, as well. In 2012, the median age of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was 62. This, in itself, would be reason enough for older actors to be taken more seriously.

Before you start jumping up and down and shouting for joy at this plethora of positive news (not the least of which is the ability to eat high quality popcorn while you are watching a high quality film), LBL will now glue your feet to the floor and bring up a point that the article conveniently avoids. Look at those numbers again. The numbers mean that from 1954-1958, the age gap between leading men and leading ladies was 4.4 years. It is now 17.2 years. So we are accepting older and older men in leading roles (applause odometer rockets into the positive zone), but we are moving very slowly upward for leading ladies (applause odometer stops, looks around sheepishly and skulks away).

LBL has done some research on this year’s nominees, and she will happily tell you that she will now remove the Crazy Glue from the soles of your feet: The average age of this year’s line up in the Best Actress category is 55. Amy Adams, at 39, is the baby. The others actresses range from Cate Blanchett (44) to Judi Dench (79). The median age of actors nominated for Best Actor is 47.

Now, we are cookin’ with gas. It might be a fluke, but it’s one that LBL will happily wallow in. LBL sees this as a win-win-win. Older actresses being acknowledged. A first-ever shift of leading women who are decidedly older than leading men. And LBL not about to give birth this year.

So, come Sunday evening, go pop some popcorn (inferior supermarket variety, but, hey, we can’t have it all) and have a seat on the couch.