Why is Helen Mirren the only over-50 lead actress Oscar winner in the last 15 years?
While Annette Bening is a front-runner for the lead actress nomination, history is not working in her favor. Over the last 15 years, Helen Mirren is the only woman older than 50 to have won a lead actress Academy Award. Not Meryl Streep, who in that same period was nominated five times but has always lost out to her younger competition, including Sandra Bullock last year and Gwyneth Paltrow, who beat her in 1998 for her role in "Shakespeare in Love." Not Julie Christie, who lost out twice -- to Marion Cotillard in 2007 and Helen Hunt in 1997. And not Judi Dench, who was beaten by Reese Witherspoon in 2005 and also by Hunt in 1997.
Perhaps Annette Bening, 52, will be able to reverse this unfortunate trend this year with her performance in "The Kids Are All Right." As a likely nominee, she'd probably go up against such other younger actresses as Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence. We all know how it worked out for Bening in her last two outings: She lost out in 2004 and 1999 to Hilary Swank.
These kind of voting patterns don't seem to happen in the lead actor Oscar race. Jeff Bridges, at age 61, dominated last year, after a late-in-the-race release in December with" Crazy Heart," while Jack Nicholson beat out Matt Damon in 1997.
Bridges had been anointed with the lucky "it's his time" clause that Oscar voters love to throw around when choosing an actor for his career rather than for a specific role. It wouldn't be hard to imagine Bening fulfilling the "it's her time" clause, after being overlooked for her parts in "American Beauty" and "Being Julia."
But with "Black Swan" coming on strong at the box office and Natalie Portman in the ether with both her personal life and a slew of new movies ("No Strings Attached," "The Other Woman," "Your Highness" and "Thor"), an "it's her time" win is not a given for Bening.
— Nicole Sperling
Photo: Annette Bening. Photo credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.