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The Academy Awards: Oscar Salutes Grown-Up Women

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The big news of the 2010 Oscars was that for the first time in Academy Awards history, a woman was given the top award for "Best Director." Then her film, The Hurt Locker, went on to win "Best Picture." This was not just any woman, mind you. This was a real, genuine grown-up woman. A woman with close to six decades of personal history including a story line even Hollywood can't beat: she was up against her ex-husband, and won.

Hurray for my new hero, Kathryn Bigelow. But hurray, too, for all the grown-up women at the 2010 Academy Awards, and for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for not only providing the opportunity for women at midlife and beyond to walk the red carpet, but to finally arrive.

When I refer to these women as grown-ups, I'm not just referencing age. From the opening credits on, there was just the right mix of dignity and spunk, irreverence and self-respect that to my mind constitute the real definition of maturity. Above all, there was a rapport both between these vibrant women and with the other honorees of all genders and generations that spoke to who we can all be when we are at our very best.

I'm talking here about not just the grand moments, like Oprah introducing Gabourey Sidibe of Precious to the world in stunning, color-coordinated blue; but the little ones, as well. Like the glimpse of Susan Geston beaming proudly as her husband of over 30 years Jeff Bridges wins his award for Best Actor. And the subtle, unspoken moments, too. Didn't we all sense that Meryl Streep was holding back on purpose this year, graciously making room for Sandra Bullock to have her moment?

Who could resist the rapport between Meryl and Sandra all award-season long, from their kiss-and-tie at the Critics Choice Movie Awards to the delightful glimpse of awkwardness at the Oscar's as Meryl mistook the cue to hug Sandra while en route to the stage, with Meryl ending up semi-splayed half-way into the aisle on global TV. Is this any way for a 60-year-old to transport herself in public? Apparently, delightfully, yes!

In terms of hitting just the right balance between dignity and spice, the choice of the co-hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, certainly didn't hurt. This is a pairing that was birthed out of the duo's frisky, competitive pursuit of Meryl Streep in It's Complicated.

Meryl, herself, looked radiant in a Chris March draped white gown. In fact, all the vibrant women at the affair -- whether at the podium or in the audience -- looked gloriously, sexily and enthusiastically appropriate.

Helen Mirren in Badgley Mischka was stunningly clad in silver, a shimmery web of crystals accentuating her curves while modestly covering her arms. Kathryn's scoop-necked silver silk and embroidered gown provided a stunning backdrop for the golden statue she clasped to her bosom -- the best fashion accessory a 58-year-old woman could want.

Barbra Streisand, in a dramatic suit that looked to be made of black velvet and extravagant lace, and Oprah in a rich blue that drew attention to her cleavage have each over time learned how to turn flaunted her assets while having the good taste to hide just enough secrets to keep it intriguing.

And all of this is small beans, indeed, compared to the contributions vibrant women are making behind-the-scenes, as well. The documentary filmmakers, like 62-year old Judith Ehrlich, the make-up and fashion designers, the publicists, the producers. We didn't always get to see this magnificent cohort -- the class of 2010 -- on camera, and even when we did, we didn't always know who they were. But it is clear that this is one industry where women of a certain age are playing an already large and increasingly important role. Anybody else hear the news commentator's note without even a touch of irony that this award is Kathryn Bigelow's "big career break"?

That explosion of sound at the end of the Awards -- it wasn't just the women in the audience clapping wildly. It was one more age and gender glass ceiling crashing into a hundred, thousand bright, shiny stars. Now that the Oscar's are liberated, what's next?