Women of a Certain Age

Meryl Streep (l) and Mo'Nique (r), two women of a certain age surfing the awards tsunami.

Here are some numbers. Can you guess what they represent?

64, 60, 45, 42 and 36.

They are the ages of the most-nominated actresses of this awards season. In descending order: Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Mo'Nique (Precious) and Vera Farmiga, (Up in the Air), all women of a certain age.

This is news because 20 years ago the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) found, to its horror, that actresses over 30 were underemployed and underpaid compared to their actor colleagues. In 1990, females constituted only 29 per cent of the lead roles in movies. The SAG report also noted that "after the age of 10, men consistently make higher average earnings...than women do." That state of affairs prompted Streep, then 40 and hitting a cinderblock ceiling in Hollywood, to quip, "From birth through age 9, actresses can make a pretty fair living." She advised, "Little girls, hold out for the big money, invest wisely and investigate other carers, because after fourth grade, it's all downhill." Good for Mirren, Mo'Nique et al for showing that women of a certain age have box office viability and vitality.

Here are some other numbers. Can you guess what they represent?

$379 million, $315 million, $150 million, $118 million and $16 million. They are the world-wide box-office grosses for some of the most comercially successful and acclaimed films of 2009 -- all directed by women. In descending order, they are: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (directed by Betty Thomas, 61), The Proposal (Anne Fletcher, 33), It's Complicated (Nancy Meyers, 60), Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron, 68) and The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 58).

This is business news, testament to the viability and vitality of women filmmakers, who in 2008 represented only 9 per cent of directors. This is artistic news because Bigelow stands a strong chance of being the first woman director ever to win an Oscar. (Only three have previously been nominated: Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties),  Jane Campion (The Piano) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation).

You go, ladies. Your thoughts?