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Will the Babe Factor help Kate Winslet in a close Oscars contest with Meryl Streep?

February 18, 2009 |  8:44 am


"It wasn't calculated! I swear! You must believe me!" Kate Winslet gasped to Gold Derby late last year as we discussed her recent photo shoot with Vanity Fair. That bawdy gig had been a perfect way for her to begin seducing Oscars' voters as she unveiled "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader."

As every Oscarologist knows, voters have judged the lead and supporting actress races in recent years as if they were beauty pageants. Consider, for example, some of the gals who won best actress this past decade: Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon. Last year, when most Oscar pundits bet on 66-year-old Julie Christie ("Away From Her") to win, the younger, prettier contender pulled off an upset: Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose").


Only two women over the age of 50 have nabbed an Oscar over the past 15 years: Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love," 1998) and Helen Mirren ("The Queen," 2006). Mirren was still quite sexy at age 61 and had even done a nude scene in "Calendar Girls" three years prior.

And to demonstrate that she was still hot to trot, Mirren blatantly flashed her bra on the cover of Los Angeles Magazine that derby season and brazenly said racy stuff to journalists while bearing lots of cleavage on red carpets or backstage in press rooms.

Poor Kate Winslet, 33, needed to play it smart this year. After five previous defeats, she could end up tied with Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter as Oscar's biggest-losing actresses if she is snubbed one more time. Two years ago Mirren confessed to me that she deliberately cranked up the hootchie-cootchie as part of her campaign. This year  Winslet stressed to me that she did not do the same thing on purpose. The Vanity Fair gig, she claimed, just happened to have fortunate timing.

Even if that's true, Winslet was smart to showcase herself as a babe, especially in comparison to 59-year-old star Meryl Streep who portrays a grim nun in "Doubt." And it certainly helps Winslet that she's naked a big chunk of time in "The Reader."

The babe factor is not a recent phenomenon at the Oscars. A Pace University study of the years 1975 to 1999 revealed best actor winners were, on average, five years older than their female equivalents. And seven years separated male and female nominees. Though this age bias is less blatant in the category for supporting actresses, older women still triumph there only now and then. Before Dench won her supporting Oscar in 1998, it had been 11 years since 56-year-old Olympia Dukakis prevailed for "Moonstruck." And the last woman over 50  to win lead actress before Mirren had been Jessica Tandy ("Driving Miss Daisy") in 1989.

Consider all of these chaps north of the half-century mark who've triumphed during those same years: lead actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins as well as supporting players Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Chris Cooper, Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Gene Hackman and Jack Palance.

None of this is new, of course. Take the best actress matchup of 1951, for example. To most Oscar-watchers, it looked like a diva smackdown between two big-screen grande dames: Gloria Swanson ("Sunset Boulevard") versus Bette Davis ("All About Eve"). Davis had already won twice, so the graying Swanson, age 53, hoped she could finally nab her overdue Oscar at last, but the gold, alas, was snatched away by ingénue Judy Holliday, who portrayed a gum-snapping floozy in "Born Yesterday."

It just so happened that Swanson and 29-year-old Holliday were seated side by side at a nightclub in New York when they heard the news over the radio. A newspaper photograph captured the scene: flabbergasted Holliday looked spooked as her eyes bugged out of her pretty little head upon hearing that she'd won. She didn't seem to notice Swanson, who leaned in close whispering, "I'm very happy for you, dearie, but, ahem, couldn't you have waited till next year?"

Photos: Miramax, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Magazine

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Kate Winslet was nude in The Reader to win an Oscar?? Kate's been naked in almost every movie she's ever made (except for "Flushed Away"), and I've always enjoyed watching her get that way.

Kate a babe? Hardly. Her body is a rather square and her facial features rather flat. Look at the photo in this article. Notice how they have draped the black fur to create the illusion that she is thin in the middle? And how her hair is framing her face, to make it look less wide.

Who said Marion Cotillard was prettier than Julie Christie? She's younger of course but not prettier. Julie Christie is one of the most beautiful women on Earth (a few years back of course).

Meryl is a force of nature to recon with.

She didn't go out there saying I am "the best of my generation" which Winslet certainly is not, she put in the work, one classic performance after another and the world looked over and dubbed her THE GREATEST ACTRESS OF ALL TIMES!

The media may call her THE GREATEST LIVING ACTRESS but the world calls her the former and really loves this woman for her incredible talent, her love, her loyalty and sense of family and just because...

Comparing Meryl Streep to Kate Winslet is like telling a really good joke to a drunk audience!

Kate certainly is deserving. It surprises me the amount of backlash she's received for being honest. She's not whining about not winning - she's answering the same question every reporter asks her a million times.

brainypirate: Sarandon was 49 when she won best actress for "Dead Man Walking" back in March of 1996. She turned 50 that following October.

Meryl Streep should get the Oscar this year. It amazed me that Cate Blanchett was overlooked. Booo!!!!!!!!!Kate Winslett should have been nominated for Rev. Road. along with Leo. GO MERYL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

kate winslet has been oscar-begging for years (extras episode), but especially this last season.

it's disingenuous of her to make us believe that she hasn't been working to get an oscar at all costs. we're nobody's fool to believe otherwise because in fact:

1. she publicly complained about getting nominated so many times and losing as many times;

2. she said so herself that she's desperate for an oscar;

3. with the backlash against her "fake cry" and "i love you so much, leo" golden globe speeches, she immediately went into damage control and crisis management ----she attended later premieres/events with her husband/family and tried unsuccessfully to talk calmly at the sag;

4. knowing who her closest competitor is, she tried to steal meryl streep votes during the oscars luncheon by offering a feigned open "thank you" to meryl for raising the standard for actresses and paraphrased meryl's SAG speech to sound smart;

5. she studied voters and voter behavior, that's why she's naked in "the reader" and in her vanity fair photos;

6. she has paraded herself endlessly around the campaign circuit, courtesy of that harvey weinstein.

tricky is as tricky gets. crass is not class...

i hope winslet wins and get what she wishes for. i hope the cuba gooding-halle berry principle will apply to her too...

I do believe that the actress that gets the most magazine covers usually win the Oscar. And the actress who gets the most magazine covers will likely be young and beautiful.

Yes Kate is a babe and in my opinion one of the most beautiful women in the world. But she can also act! And consistently act well in many different types of movies with different types of characters. Unlike some of the other "babes" who've won this in the past...Halle Berry anyone?

Sure, she's young, beautiful, and sexy, but let's not forget that most people aren't consciously thinking that when they vote for her. They think that she is overdue and a consummate actress in one of the year's best films and most challenging roles.

The "babe factor" undoubtedly helps, even in an upset, but it's not like she isn't going in as the absolute frontrunner!

And the sexiest leading performances rarely win. E.g. Michelle Pfeiffer lost to Jessica Tandy.

I hope to God that Meryl Streep wins Best Actress. She doesn't have to lower herself and sex herself up to win. Kate is desperate, she has admitted it. She will win one day, but not this year.

Go Meryl!

How old was Sarandon when she won? Right at 50?

Kate was amazing in both the Reader and Revolutionary Road and should win the Oscar.

She could show so many different kind of emotions on her face without uttering a single word.

It's true at the young end of the scale as well. According to the official Academy database's stat page, there have been many, many Best Actress winners under 30 (the 10 youngest are all under 27), the youngest being Marlee Matlin (21 years, 218 days). OTOH, the only Best Actor winner ever under 30 was Adrien Brody, and not by much (29 years, 343 days).

the fact is kate winslet has been making films for 15 years, she doesnt take her clothes off to win awards ...she won her first bafta and sag award at 19 years old!!!
kate is the most incredible actress we have and the fact that she is also extremely beautiful is a definate plus!
the pics were paying homeage to a previous shoot and in no way were they made to be sexy they were beautiful and extremely sophisticated, the fact some ppl think that taking your clothes off means slut is laughable.

"After five previous defeats, she could end up tied with Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter as Oscar's biggest loser if she is snubbed one more time. "

Isn't Peter O'Toole "Oscar's biggest loser" having been nominated 8 times and lost every time? Or were you just talking about actresses?

It so sad that for an actor to win the Oscars, he/she should do these awful campaign. Whatever happened to winning because you made a memorable and excellent acting performance?
Commercialism everywhere!

Meryl Streep will win it she does not have to pose nude or show her body to win. She can win with just acting with her face which she did in Doubt!

Thanks for putting up that pic of Kate Winslet ... now can you buy me a new flat-screen monitor? Mine just melted ...

Speaking of the '50s, the Babe factor was alive & well back then, too ! Pretty young Winners in the 10 years from 1952 thru 1961 included Gloria Grahame, Donna Reed, Audrey Hepburn, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, Dorothy Malone, Joanne Woodward, Shirley Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Moreno and Sophia Loren !!!



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