Editor’s note: Welcome to the ninth of a multi-part series dissecting the 2008 Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every weekday leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category (or more) of the Oscars (there are 24 in all). To read any other posts regarding this event, please just click on the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Matt of The Spoon.
Predicting the Best Actress Winner
Cate Blanchett, Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard, Laura Linney, and Ellen Page all turned in strong performances in 2006-7. At least, that’s what I’ve heard since I managed to miss every single one of their Academy Award-nominated roles — which is something you probably don’t want to hear from the guy offering his analysis on the Best Actress category. Fortunately for us all, a small thing like complete and utter ignorance is nothing new to me and won’t get in the way of my 100% guaranteed prediction for this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner.
Before we get busy, refresh yourselves with single-sentence recaps of each stars’ nominated performance which I liberated from various media outlets. Click on the link for the accompanying film review.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Cate Blanchett as “Queen Elizabeth … faces pressure [from] Spain’s rebellious King Philip II, … [a] jealous Mary Queen of Scots, [and] plans [of a] hostile takeover.”
Away From Her: Julie Christie stars as Fiona, an “Ontario woman succumbing to Alzheimer’s… [who takes] an interest in another [nursing home] patient” who is not her husband of forty-four years.
La Vie en Rose: Marion Cotillard is “troubled singer [Edith Piaf], whom she portrays from her late teens to her death at a ravaged 47.”
The Savages: Laura Linney plays “a struggling playwright doing odd jobs in Manhattan and diddling a married man… [who, with her brother, must care for] the father who neglected them as kids and now needs all their attention, what with dementia knocking.”
Juno: Ellen Page stars as Juno who is “hip-smart, witty and mature beyond her age… [and] finds herself pregnant after a sexual encounter with her best friend.”
Now brace yourselves for my uninformed yet inexplicably statistics-heavy analysis of this year’s Best Actress nominees.
Eighty actresses have won an Oscar for Best Actress during the award’s seventy-nine year history (Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Streisand tied in 1967). Examining the conditions of previous winners from the first, 1928’s Janet Gaynor, to the most recent, 2006’s Helen Mirren, unmasks several trends that make predicting 2008’s Best Actress winner easier than peeing in the dark.
Based on my exhaustive Wikipedia research, 68% of all Best Actress winners have been American. The last five years reflect a break in this trend but even with recent winners from Britain (Helen Mirren), South Africa (Charlize Theron), and Australia (Nicole Kidman), Americans still account for 40% of the winners in the past five years and 70% in the last ten.
Based on this information, Marion Cotillard (French), Ellen Page (Canadian), Julie Christie (British) and Cate Blanchett (Australian) can be voted off the figurative Oscar Island.
That leaves Laura Linney as the lone American nominee and most likely Best Actress winner.
But let’s say the Nationality method is too reliant on bigoted worldviews for your taste. Fair enough. Here’s a breakdown of the nominees from an age-ism perspective.
The youngest winner for Best Actress was Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) who was twenty-one years old when she received her award in 1987. The oldest winner was Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) who was a tidy eighty years old at her 1990 win.
Ellen Page will be twenty-one during this year’s Academy Awards on February 24th. However, only 5% of all Best Actress winners have been younger than twenty-five which makes Ellen Page an unlikely candidate to win this year’s Oscar.
A closer inspection of past winners also reveals that 90% of all Best Actresses were less than sixty years of age at the time of their victorious award ceremony, which would make Julie Christy (66) another statistically unlikely winner.
This leaves Cate Blanchett (38), Marion Cotillard (32), and Laura Linney (44) as the remaining actresses who fall within the more common age range of previous Best Actress winners. At first glance, all three actresses have very similar chances to win based on their relative youth. However, a second examination once again offers a differing perspective.
Age-ism’s wrinkled claw tends to brush off actresses in their 40s as only 15% of past winners can be found in this range while a pinkly robust 39% of previous winners were in their 30s.
Recent history reflects this successful trend for younger actresses. With the exception of Helen Mirren, all previous Best Actress winners were under forty years of age going back to 1995 when Susan Sarandon (50 at the time) won for Dead Man Walking.
In fact, the list of recent winners clearly shows a shift for especially young actresses. Once again with the exception of Helen Mirren, all Best Actress winners since 1996 have been thirty-five years of age or younger, though all winners were older than twenty-five.
Of the 2008 nominees only Marion Cotillard fits this criterion (excluding Ellen Page for her extreme youth).
So there you have it. This year’s winner for Best Actress will be Marion Cotillard… and Laura Linney? Perhaps my statistical analysis was not as definitive as I had expected. Hopefully my breakdown still managed to teach you a few new tidbits about the Best Actress category and proved once again that no matter what perspective you use, I’m always an idiot.