ABC News: Oscar Themes – 2

Page 1 2 3 Oscar Themes, Past and Present Oscar Themes, Past and Present
February 2009
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2008: Female Screenwriters Have Their Day

Another 2008 shocker? Four nods for female writers in the best screenplay and best adapted screenplay categories. Who could forget Diablo Cody’s irreverent acceptance for her winning “Juno”?

“That’s very rare — that was certainly a breakthrough last year,” O’Neil said. “Like directing, screenwriting is still a closed category that seems to shut out women. Very few women get nominations at all. But I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Everyone thought that this year, Mandy Walker, the woman who shot ‘Australia,’ would be the first woman to get a nod of cinematography. But she didn’t. So there’s still a terrible gender bias against women in Hollywood.”

Also of note: Only one woman — “Frozen River” screenwriter Courtney Hunt — received a nomination in either writing category this year. Still, Karger said, “for four out of 10 of those writers to be women, it was really exciting. And hopefully, it is a sign of things to come.”

2007: The Grand Dame Reigns

Who says there are no parts for older women in Hollywood? If 2007’s Oscar race for best actress is any indication, that old lament can be debunked. The category saw nods for Meryl Streep, then 57; Dame Judi Dench, then 72; and Helen Mirren, then 61, who took the trophy that year for her turn in “The Queen.”

Walter said the trend reflected a real cultural moment for older woman. Hillary Clinton had just thrown her hat into the presidential ring, while cutesy Katie Couric had taken on a meatier move to hard news.

“It would be stretching it to say those were all interrelated, because I don’t think they were,” Karger said. “But I think that it was just a happy coincidence. And I’d love to tell you that it was a trend that has continued to this day, but really, with the exception of Meryl Streep, most older actresses these days don’t have their pick of great, juicy roles.”

According to a Boston University study, the trend could also be a throwback to Oscar’s golden age. From 1927 to 1990, it seems the academy favored veteran actors. In fact, Dench has seen six nods and one win in the last decade of her career, while Mirren was 50 when she received the first of her three nominations.

This year, though, Streep, nominated best actress for her turn in “Doubt,” is the only actress older than 50 in a race that includes for Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway and Melissa Leo.

“I would love to be proven wrong, and see Meryl Streep win for her best role since ‘Sophie’s Choice,'” O’Neil said. “But the babe factor, as I like to call it, comes into play here. It will be Kate Winslet for ‘The Reader.’ She’s in a Holocaust movie, she ages dramatically, she has a foreign accent and she’s always naked! The babe factor makes her invincible here.”

He points to Oscar’s more recent history to prove his point.

“In the past 15 years, only two women over the age of 40 had even won an Oscar in lead or supporting roles,” he said. “And that was Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. To win that year, Helen Mirren really played up her sexier, bawdier side, showing off the assets on magazine covers, swearing like a longshoreman on late-night talk shows. It’s what got the attention of the academy voters who judge these women as they do a beauty pageant — shamelessly, and I think insultingly.

“It’s usually a parade of lovelies — Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron. Sure, they’re good actresses, but come on,” O’Neil added. “Last year, everyone was rooting for Julie Christie, but who won? It’s the babe factor again. The youngest, prettiest one. It was suspiciously consistent of this trend perpetuated by an academy of mostly old guys who seem to be lusting after those young gals. It’s perfectly OK for men with wrinkles all the time — they do. But not for the women.”

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