Have you seen this year’s Oscar nominees? Probably not!
According to a new Morning Consult poll, more than half of the country has not seen any of the films up for Best Picture this year. (Maybe everyone is too busy being captivated by Sean Spicer’s press briefings to make time for the movies?) Would-be moviegoers are reportedly swayed more by the actors and trailer quality than they are by love from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But if you had seen any of the nominated films, you still wouldn’t have seen many people old enough to know, from personal memory, if the Trump/Russia situation is this generation’s Watergate.
Another new study, this one out of USC Annenberg, found that characters aged 60 and over “are scarce in Best Picture-nominated movies.” (Perhaps not a surprising stat considering the famously ageist attitude of Hollywood.) The study, titled “Over Sixty, Underestimated: A Look at Aging on the ‘Silver’ Screen in Best Picture Nominated Films,” found that most of those AARP-card-carrying stars are white and male: Of all the senior characters, 77.7 percent were men and only 22.3 percent were women. Only four senior characters were women of color, and all four were black.
Over the past three years, only two leading characters over the age of 60 were featured in all of the 25 Oscar-nominated films, and they were both played by the same guy: Michael Keaton. If you say his name three times, he will appear at your computer right now to explain himself to you.
Skewing the study a bit is the fact that the ages of relevance here are those of the characters, not the actors who play them. For instance, Denzel Washington is 62 years old, but his Fences character is a spry 53. Also excluded are characters who are considered as part of an “ensemble,” and therefore aren’t leads, like 67-year-old Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water and the 60-year-old Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures.
“The lead character is the major force attempting to accomplish the story’s purpose,” Dr. Katherine Pieper, one of the study’s co-authors, told Deadline. “Typically, but not always, the lead is also the protagonist.”
As co-author Professor Stacy Smith writes, though there’s been plenty of public pressure — and rightly so — on the Academy, and the entertainment industry at large, to address its consistent exclusion of women and people of color, “ageism is still an accepted form of exclusion in cinematic storytelling.”
Though most Americans haven’t flocked to the theaters yet, there’s still evidence of an Oscar bump: As Vanity Fair pointed out, last year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight, got a 140 percent boost in ticket sales after taking home an Academy Award, raking in $1.8 million the weekend following the awards. Maybe a cool way to encourage audiences to see the Oscar movies before the Oscars is to not release all of the Oscar movies in the same two-month span at the very end of the year?