It's been a banner year for older Americans who like to go to the movies and "AARP The Magazine" is honoring films by, about or for mature adults. AARP, which serves the needs and interests of people over 50, has announced the winners of its annual Movies for Grownups awards, which recognize directors and actors in that age group.
Over the past eight years, many of the AARP winners have gone on to Oscar glory and that record seems likely to continue. The Movies for Grownups Awards, the Golden Chairs, are presented in 16 categories. Some are found only on "AARP The Magazine's" list of the year's best, such as Best Grownup Love Story and Best Movie for Grownups who Refuse to Grow Up. Others are familiar: Best Actor, Best Director and, of course, Best Movie.
"This year we selected the film, 'Invictus,' which is a Clint Eastwood film," says Bill Newcott, an editor at "AARP the Magazine" who is the awards spokesman. "It's a wonderful film about the end of the apartheid in South Africa and how Nelson Mandela used a rugby match to try to draw his country together. It's wonderful historical drama, very inspirational, but it's a wonderful drama as well. And Clint Eastwood pulls probably the best performance of Morgan Freeman's career out."
However, Morgan Freeman did not capture the award for Best Actor 50 and Over. That went to Jeff Bridges for his moving portrayal of Country singer Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart".
"He plays a Country Western singer who is down in his luck. He used to be a big star but now the alcohol got the best of him," Newcott says. "We kind of meet him at the bottom and see the little pieces of his life that are falling into place, including his love of a good woman who helped him to find himself. Jeff Bridges' performance, including his acting, of course, but also his singing as well. He pulls off those Country Western songs really quite nicely. It's really fine performance. I think he will win an Oscar as well as ours. I'm glad we got him first."
Helen Mirren was named Best Actress 50 and over for her performance as Sofya Tolstoy, the love-starved wife of Russian author Leo Tolstoy in "The Last Station".
For Best Director 50 and over, the Golden Chair went to Kathryn Bigelow, who has already received wide acclaim and other awards for her work on "The Hurt Locker".
"It's a war movie and is really one of the most powerful movies of the year. I'm hoping she will win an Oscar for that as well because she put together, really, a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat," says Newcott.
The Movies for Grownups Awards are also known for their more unusual categories, such as Best Grownup Love Story.
"My favorite love story of the year was from "Julie and Julia", with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child and Stanly Tucci playing her husband," says Newcott. "Their performances are just wonderful. What they bring into it is you can sense the history of those two people had together, the wonderful long life that they shared. You can tell that they're so comfortable together. It kind of lets you wish, 'Gosh, I hope when I'm older and I've been with the same person for that many years and I'm comfortable and I'm just that happy with that person.' It's just really sweet performance. I loved every minute of it."
"It's Complicated," also starring Meryl Streep, captured the Best Comedy for Grownups award. "Blind Side," starring Sandra Bullock, was the Audience Choice Award winner. And this year's winner of the Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up: "Star Trek".
"For one thing, there is an intergenerational connection between people my age remember from the 1960s with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and the new generation, which is actually telling the story of those characters before the series starts," Newcott says. "It's a prequel to the show. Leonard Nimoy himself turns up in the film, which is really a nice touch."
Each year, the editors at "AARP The Magazine" choose the movies deserving of a Golden Chair. Newcott says when they started presenting the awards in 2002, the challenge was to find enough movies by, about or for mature adults to nominate in every category. Now, he says, they are facing the opposite challenge.
"This year it has become more difficult than ever to pick a winner because there were many, many grownup films and for the first year also, there were grownup films in a wide variety of genres," he says. "You had comedy, you had sports films, you had historical drama, all made with a grownup audience in mind. That's quite something, not something we used to see very much. What we're doing, I believe, is raising the profile of the grownup movies. Hollywood has always known there is an audience for the grownup movies, but we've been able to galvanize it, crystallize it a little bit so they can identify it."
"AARP The Magazine" editor Bill Newcott says he hopes the impact of the Movies for Grownups Awards will continue to grow as more filmmakers explore and present more interesting stories that appeal to audiences 50 and over.