The Midlife Gal’s Guide to the Oscar Movies

Happy Academy Awards, ladies! Isn’t it fantastic how many films in the past year starred women over 40, sometimes way over 40? Here are my picks for Best Actress—none of these women has actually been nominated, but who cares. I say it’s never too late for a write-in campaign to acknowledge their contributions to these acclaimed films. Every one of these splendid thespians should win this Sunday!

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Page Leong in "Argo"

Argo tells the true-life tale of how the Canadian Ambassador’s wife, Pat Taylor, graciously and heroically hid six Americans in her home for three months in l979 during the hostage crisis in Iran, while letting her husband Ken think it was his idea. Leong’s Pat is a model of quiet dignity and grit through her entire three minutes of screen time and two lines of dialogue.

Olivia Williams in "Hyde Park on Hudson"

This biopic is about First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, set during one weekend when the dim-witted, dour King and Queen of England visit her and the President at their country home. Go to see, and cheer, as Eleanor, stuck in upstate New York with an obnoxious mother-in-law and a womanizing boozehound husband whose idea of a sexy thing to do is show girls his stupid stamp collection, manages to not run screaming into the Hyde Park night.


As if this weren’t achievement enough, Eleanor also shows the pallid Royals a good time, thereby paving the way for the British-American alliance in World War II. Williams shines as the shrewd, long-suffering First Lady.


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Sally Field in "Lincoln"

Speaking of First Ladies—walk, don’t run, to see Field in Lincoln, which, incredibly, is the other movie this year that is all about a president’s spouse. Don’t you just love Field? How she hangs in there, doing fine work decade after decade while Meryl Streep gets all the parts she goes up for? I love the depth and poignancy Field gives to Mary Todd Lincoln, and I love how she had to fight and fight for the role because she was considered too old-looking. “Daniel will look old and worn and thin and I will look old and worn and fat, and that's what they were,” Field pointed out to director Steven Spielberg when she auditioned. You tell him, sister!

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Geraldine Chaplin in "The Impossible"

The Impossible is a terrifying but very moving film about how an old woman survives the Asian tsunami and passes along her words of wisdom to a young boy while sitting on a big boulder and looking at the stars. The first sight of the Old Woman (that’s her name in the credits) takes your breath away—she’s very aged, even wizened, but absolutely beautiful, with piercingly intelligent blue eyes and a kind of luminosity that surrounds her like a halo. She looks familiar, but you can’t put your finger on it—until you realize, with a gasp, that it’s Geraldine Chaplin, only much, much older than you remember her. It’s a thrilling moment, during which you see your future self as an extremely wrinkled person who somehow manages to look excellent.


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Helena Bonham Carter in "Les Miserables"

The movie version of the hit musical is a hilarious look at the life of a slatternly middle-aged innkeeper. As played by Bonham Carter, the innkeeper has let herself go, but in a funny way. Her character is also very resourceful, surviving the grim post-French Revolution years by making some very clever financial deals. Sequel, please!

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Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook"

Though billed as an uplifting romance between two bipolar singles, Silver Linings is actually a touching, bemused look at the life of a kind-hearted woman whose husband and grown child are both insane and eat her out of house and home. Weaver plays the leading role with forbearance and endless good humor.

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Frances McDormand in "Moonrise Kingdom"

McDormand plays a wife, mother and lawyer who escapes the mind-crushing boredom of spending her summer vacations cooking and cleaning for her strange husband and thankless children by having sex with the cute local sheriff, which women everywhere will find inspiring.


Looking for something to watch while you wait to see your favorite pick up her statue? Consider renting or streaming Disney’s classic Mary Poppins, about how much Glynnis Johns is able to get done once she hires a babysitter, or any of the James Bond movies, which, as we all know, are really about the incomparable Moneypenny, who represents mature womankind at its brilliant, foxy, irresistible best.

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Next: Love Over 50: Our Favorite Onscreen Couples


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First Published Tue, 2013-02-19 14:48

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