Best Actress: A victory for older actresses

Congratulations to Meryl Streep and Judi Dench. But where are the great new actresses on the rise?

The best actress field at this year’s Academy Awards feels a bit like an international delegation of the English-speaking world’s top stars, or a dream team assembled for an acting Olympiad. Judi Dench (“Philomena”), Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”), Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) and Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”) have between them six Oscars, and semi-surprise fifth nominee Amy Adams (“American Hustle”) has four previous nominations. Things might have gone differently, but not that differently: widely predicted fifth nominee Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”) has two Oscars on her mantel.

What’s particularly striking about this field is not merely the nominees’ vast experience of acceptance speeches but their ages. Amy Adams, the youngest nominee, is 39; Blanchett is 44; Bullock is 49; Streep is 64; Dench is 79, and would be the second-oldest winner ever (after Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy), were she to win.

The field is a vindication for the much-discussed Hollywood Reporter piece from 2013 that argued older actresses dominate their field; and, indeed, the success of Streep and Bullock’s entire recent filmographies (from “The Devil Wears Prada” to “Julie and Julia” and from “The Blind Side” to “The Heat”) as well as “Philomena’s” surprisingly strong take argue in favor of the audience’s desire to see all different sorts of people on-screen.

But in the age of the superhero movie marketed to young boys, young actresses seem to get less to do than ever. Kristen Stewart’s movie-star career seems to have been derailed by tabloid scandal. Mia Wasikowska is going to play Alice in Wonderland again. Amanda Seyfried hasn’t gotten a substantive chance to show off her comic chops since “Mean Girls.”

Rest at the source

Mia is only doing the Alice sequel because it's in her contract. Otherwise you know she'd be avoiding this at all costs. Also surprised there isn't a Judi Dench tag.