Oscars diversifying — barely

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Soon to turn 89, the Academy Awards are starting to reflect a bit more of America. Considering more than 200 countries tune in (at least in part), Hollywood’s golden moment has a broader cultural impact than mere fodder for film buffs.

Did I say “golden?” I meant it literally. The current value of the 24-karat gold-plated Oscar statuette is nearly $700. The current value of a 30-second commercial during the Academy Awards? Two million.

Cash intake isn’t necessarily the mark of a winning film; some of the lowest-grossing were winners, including “The Hurt Locker,” ($17 million) and “The Artist” ($45 million). In 2016, “Finding Dory,” “Zootopia,” and “Captain America” each grossed more than a billion.

Back to diversity, for the first time, African-American actors are nominated in every acting category. That’s only six; more than 70 percent of Oscar nominees in the past several years remain white males. The first African-American to get an Oscar (for Best Supporting Actress) was Hattie McDaniel in 1940 for “Gone with the Wind.” Yes, she played a servant, but we’ve come a long way since those stereotypes. Two decades later came Sidney Poitier’s Best Actor win in 1964, “Lilies of the Field;” in 2002 and 2010, winners included Halle Berry (actress, “Monsters Ball”) and Lee Daniels (director, “Precious”). Daniels also directed the 2013 film, “The Butler,” which was well-reviewed and among the highest grossing, but not nominated.

The Oscars — so named when an Academy staffer remarked the statuette looked like her uncle Oscar — have also been aging. That makes sense since the over-60, movie-going demographic is growing. Mature themes are gaining ground (thank you, Boomers) and Oscar winners’ average ages have made a rocky climb since 1937. In 1937, the best actress was 30 and best actor, 42 (best

supporting were 44 and 48, respectively). Last year, the best actress was 41 and best actor, 47 (best supporting were 37 and 53, respectively).

Note that gender gap? Regardless of age progressions over the last near-century, that gender gap has been consistent. A woman pretty much has to be a decade younger than a man to win. Judging by all the Botoxed faces and knife-tightened necks, they probably feel they need to look 20 years younger.

Cheers to most-nominated record-holder Meryl Streep, for giving the rest hope. I’ll stick to wrinkles, pizza, and lack of notoriety while you hold the fort.

•••

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who prefers detective novels to actors and Oscars. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com if you can relate.

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