On Sunday night, Cate Blanchett won her second Academy Award and her first for Best Lead Actress for Blue Jasmine (the previous being for Best Supporting Actress in 2004’s The Aviator), beating out a talented group of actresses consisting of the old greats, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench, as well as other frequent nominees Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock. In her acceptance speech, Blanchett thanked the writer/director of the film, Woody Allen, but also highlighted the many extraordinary performances by women.
Blanchett took a moment in her acceptance speech to address women in film, saying there are many people in the film industry who wrongly believe that films “with women at the center are niche experiences.” She said, “Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money.” When looking at the box office numbers from 2013, Blanchett’s statement rings true. Given substantial roles, actress will deliver and audiences will come.
Of the Best Picture nominees, Gravity rocketed past the other nominees bringing in more than $270 million domestically, almost doubling the next film on the list, American Hustle, which made more than $146 million. Of course, Gravity starred Best Actress nominee Sandra Bullock, who was alone on screen for the majority of the film, and American Hustle earned four acting nominations, two of which were for stars Amy Adams and Best Supporting Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence.
When comparing the crop of Best Actors to Best Actresses, the women tower over the men, in large part again to the massive success of Gravity. The total domestic gross for the female nominees was over $522 million, while the men tallied a total of $354 million, each field boasting two films over the $100 million mark.
Frozen won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which has made more than $388 million and continues in 2014 to appear on the box office top 10 list. The animated feature stars two women leads voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel.
But the greatest evidence to support Blanchett’s assertion in her acceptance speech that women earn money and are a widespread draw is the second film in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, starring Jennifer Lawrence. Catching Fire was the top grossing film of 2013, edging out Iron Man 3 and earning almost $424 million (Frozen was the third highest grossing film). This is very significant because it has been 40 years since a female led film was the top grossing of the year. Back in 1973, The Exorcist, starring Ellen Burstyn, scared audiences but also drew them in.
Blanchett also thanked Woody Allen, which was a story on its own due to his recent trouble in the media, but for this article’s purposes his career will be the focus. Allen has a history of writing great female characters. Eighteen actors have received nominations from the Academy for their performances in an Allen film. Twelve of those nominations were for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress, including Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine. Six of the nominated actresses won, including two wins for Diane Wiest. While Hollywood could still use more high-profile female directors (Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to win Best Director, for 2009’s The Hurt Locker), it is safe to say that the extraordinary female performances nominated at this year’s Academy Awards, capped off by Blanchett’s win, show a balance in the acting profession.
By David Tulis