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Predictions for tonights Supporting category wins point to Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer. In the first part, we spoke about the difficulty of determining a supporting performance; screen time, age and experience play a tricky part. Here comes the age concerns.
There is well-documented ageism in the Academy; possibly explained through the idea that experience brings award-winning performances, but continuously disproved since acclaimed performers have gone the majority of their careers (if not all) without the Oscars. Gary Oldman, as an example, just broke his circle this year but notable names without nominations include Errol Flynn, Marylin Monroe and Donald Sutherland. However, the trend is more so in the Leading categories than in the Supporting ones, and interestingly enough, also more so for men than women.
To take an example, the youngest winner for Leading Actor was Adrian Brody, age 29, for ‘The Pianist‘. The youngest winner for Supporting Actor was Timothy Hutton, age 20, for ‘Ordinary People’. For actresses it was Marlee Matlin, age 21, winning Leading Actress for ‘Children of a Lesser God’ and Tatum O’Neal, age 10, winning Supporting Actress for ‘Paper Moon’. There is a significant discrepancy between the two categories, and sexes, to suggest that it’s easier to be recognized by the Academy as a young supporting performer than as a lead performer.
When looking strictly at nominations, the age range in the top 10 of youngest actors range from 9 years of age to 27 for the top listed in a leading performance, youngest nominee being Jackie Cooper. But for Supporting Actor, the range is noticeably smaller, with Justin Henry receiving a nomination at age 8 for ‘Kramer vs. Kramer‘ and the age of the top 10 only ranging between 8 and 10. That’s 18 years difference for youngest leading actor and just 2 years for the supporting actor. For the women, it’s nine years difference in the top 10 youngest lead actresses and 4 years for supporting actresses.
The ageism thus applies most to the Leading male category.
It may be a little contrived to break down Academy statistics to determine pattern, but it is obvious that an undefined but recurring set of rules apply for the supporting categories; almost anything goes in terms of screen time and age and in the eyes of a hardcore cynic, the supporting nominations are a motley mix of scene-stealing performances and foundlings which the Academy feel uncomfortable placing anywhere else.
Why was Zach Galifianakis not nominated then?
Maybe some divine truth completely alluded me, but even if I enjoyed myself tremendously watching Kristen Wiig give the bridal party acute diarrhea, I am having a really tough time swallowing that an obscene performance, including pooping in a sink, is Oscar worthy. I see the arguments for it; how refreshing it is to have the Academy come down from their high-brow chair and throw a bone to a fart joke. But does that make you respect the Academy more?
Over and over again, I was coaxed to not miss ‘Bridesmaids‘ because “it’s like The Hangover, but for chicks.” And it truly is; a tale of the battle that friends of the bride — or groom — have to go through. So why was Zach Galifianakis not nominated? Melissa McCarthy is in all her glorious being, basically playing his female counterpart; socially awkward tag-along from the weird side of the family. She mysteriously got the nod, but like Bérénice Bejo, she will not win.
Finally, the nomination of Jonah Hill. His performance in Moneyball was to me flat and bewildered. The whole movie eluded me for meaning and purpose and the nomination of Hill seems to be the annual ‘funny guys does a serious role; shocking! Oscar!’ -case.
The Academy left out an incredible performance by Albert Brooks over Hill? Every ‘The Sitter’ movie he will make for the rest of his life will be “starring oscar nominee Jonah Hill.” Academy, look what you’ve done.
The show is only minutes from starting and we will know the outcome by the end of the night. Winners have already been selected, but no matter what, I hope the people you have rooted for will win.
Image Courtesy of Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.