The 2014 Best Actress Nominees: Older and Wiser?

The nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role this year are really old. Okay, they’re not all gray-haired grandmas, but they’re definitely much more experienced than recent crops of nominees. I don’t know about you, but Best Actress is one of my favorite awards. I’m all about celebrating talented women, and I love that the winner of this statuette is just as celebrated, if not more so, than her male counterpart. However, this year I have mixed feelings towards the nominations.

Let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of a lot of this year’s Best Picture nominees as actresses, and that I really love a lot of the work they did. Cate Blanchett literally killed the whole “delusional and on the extreme cusp of a major mental breakdown” thing in Blue Jasmine (see above GIF), and I’d be lying if I said I’d never referred to Meryl Streep as the queen of everything (sorry, Beyoncé). I think my main beef with the nominations is just the age factor. Last year, the nominees were Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhané Wallis and Naomi Watts. Emmanuelle Riva was a bit of an outlier, but the group’s average age was about 33. This year, Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep are nominated. By my calculations, these women’s ages average out to about 54. Every single one of the 2014 nominees is older than last year’s average age, and their group is approximately 21 years last year’s senior! Furthermore, before last year's Academy Awards, none of the 2013 nominees had an Oscar, while this year's group already has 6 statuettes between them.

The Academy Awards are all about honoring accomplishments in spectacular films, and I know that many people believe actors and actresses shouldn’t win Oscars until they’ve done a vast amount of really great work. A lot of Oscars fans were outraged when both a 22 year old and a nine year old were nominated last year, because they felt that neither Jennifer Lawrence nor Quvenzhané Wallis “deserved” an Oscar at such young ages. However, nowhere in the Academy Awards bylaws (is this a real thing or did I just make it up?) does it stipulate a specific number of films you must have starred in to “earn” your Oscar nomination. The Academy Awards are based on talent, and I’m glad the Academy proved its age-blindness last year.

That being said, where is that this year? I like to celebrate women my own age or close to it who are doing amazing things, and the closest 2014 nominee to my generation is Amy Adams, who is 39. I guess not as many young women starred in Oscar-worthy movies this year, but this just brings up another issue—where are all the Best Actress-y roles for young women? In all honesty, I’m a huge fan of this year’s nominees. Each of the five women has definitely earned the award and I’ll be pleased no matter whose name is in the envelope this Sunday. In the end, I just wish that young actresses were taken more seriously: by being given more challenging and powerful roles, and then by being rewarded with the Academy Awards nominations they deserve.