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Will Ageism Be the Last Hollywood “ism”?
A new study tackles an old bias, Roman Polanski’s attorney gets busy, and red-carpet fashion gets some welcome new players.
t’s Friday, there are five days left of Oscar voting, and it seems like a good weekend to cram on the nominated films we haven’t seen. (I’m looking at you, shorts categories.)
Hello from Los Angeles, where we’re feeling grateful for Isabelle Huppert, accepting Fox’s apology, and coveting Ashton Sanders’s leather jacket.
MICHAEL KEATON CAN’T DO IT ALL
As baby-boomers age, and have the disposable income and free time to go to movie theaters, Hollywood seems uninterested in courting them, relying instead on tentpole movies that sell toys and theme-park tickets. The group that came of moviegoing age during what is arguably the greatest decade in American cinema—the 1970s—is given little incentive to keep up their ticket-buying habits. You would think one category of films would be immune to this ageism: best-picture nominees. After all, the average film Academy member is in his early 60s, according to L.A. Times research published in 2014.
But a new U.S.C. study called “Over Sixty, Underestimated” suggests that even Oscar movies leave older actors and audiences out. And when they do include them, it is often with derogatory comments about their age. Researchers found that only 11.8 percent of the speaking characters among recent best-picture nominees were over 60, even though they represent 18.5 percent of the population. When a best-picture nominee’s lead or co-lead is over 60, he’s nearly always a white guy—in fact, the group is so narrow, it’s basically just Michael Keaton roles (Birdman and Spotlight). As the researchers write, “From #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale to outrage over derogatory comments about Asians made during the televised awards ceremony, the focus on Hollywood’s diversity problem has been unrelenting. Yet one group has not been at the center of public anger and advocacy: senior citizens.”
It’s not nominated for an Oscar, but my favorite 2016 movie featuring a lead over 60 is director Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come, starring Isabelle Huppert as a philosophy professor who is just past middle age and couldn’t care less what you think about that. Huppert’s performance in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is the one that earned the French actress her first Oscar nomination this year, but Things to Come is, in my opinion, her better film. It has a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a scene of Huppert stomping barefoot on a muddy beach, and can be rented on Netflix.
FAKE NEWS: HOLLYWOOD EDITION
Well, this almost never happens—a movie studio mea culpa! Twentieth Century Fox is sorry for the fake-news marketing campaign it deployed as a stunt to promote Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness. “In raising awareness for our films, we do our best to push the boundaries of traditional marketing in order to creatively express our message to consumers,” Dan Berger, a spokesman for the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio, said in an e-mail to The New York Times. “In this case, we got it wrong.” The stunt, which was first exposed on BuzzFeed, involved creating fake news sites and stuffing them with false, clickbait stories on subjects like Lady Gaga, Donald Trump, and vaccinations.
Roman Polanski’s lawyer is laying the groundwork for the Polish director to return to the U.S., according to Agence France-Presse. Polanksi’s attorney, Harland Braun, told the A.F.P. he has reached a plea deal in the case that would keep Polanski out of prison, after nearly 40 years as a fugitive. “Braun has written to Los Angeles county superior court judge Scott Gordon to unseal a secret transcript of the testimony of the prosecutor in the case, which he believes will confirm the deal,” the A.F.P. reports. Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge of “unlawful sex with a minor,” then 13-year-old Samantha Gailey—now Samantha Geimer— in a 1977 encounter at Jack Nicholson’s house.
In 2013, I interviewed Geimer, who expressed her desire to see the case put to rest and peculiarities in the way it was handled by prosecutors investigated. “I wish somebody would step up and say, ‘Time served, case dismissed,’ and investigate the misconduct,” Geimer told me.
THE TINY MOVIE TAKING ON LA LA LAND
Amid the crop of original-song nominees from popular musicals, there is one quiet contender, Sting and J. Ralph’s “The Empty Chair,” from a documentary about an American journalist killed by ISIS, Jim: The James Foley Story. I spoke with the songwriters just after they learned from the Oscar producers that Sting will perform the song at the telecast. “It’s lovely to be acknowledged, but we’re not there to get an award,” Sting told me. “It’s not interesting for me anymore to write love songs. I’d like to shine a light on Foley.”
STYLE HERO NO. 1: ASHTON SANDERS
Men’s red-carpet style can be awfully boring—how many ways can you wear a black suit? But the team from Moonlight, including Oscar-nominated director Barry Jenkins and supporting-actor nominee Mahershala Ali, has delivered this awards season’s greatest sartorial moments. One of the movie’s young style heroes, Ashton Sanders, who plays Moonlight’s protagonist as a teen, spent the Golden Globes with a leather jacket slung over his tux and the Gotham Awards rocking a brown Louis Vuitton three-piece. spoke with Sanders, who is the son of a fashion designer, about his look. Yohana Desta
STYLE HERO NO. 2: COLLEEN ATWOOD
Costume designer Colleen Atwood collected her 12th Oscar nomination for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in which she clothed J.K. Rowling’s newest characters in 1920s garb. spoke with Atwood about adding all the wizarding touches—including secret pockets for Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander. Julie Miller
That’s the news for this rainy Friday in L.A. What are you seeing out there? Send tips, comments, and secret pockets to rebecca_keegan@@thatrebecca.. Follow me on Twitter