Friday, March 10, 2023

Honoring Movies Meant for Grownups

As award season culminates with the presenting of the Oscars on March 12, I’m reminded of another awards event. The AARP Movies for Grownups Awards were instituted by the editors of AARP’s magazine. Their goal: to encourage Hollywood to produce more films by and about people over age 50.  All winners and nominees must have hit the half-century mark, so johnny-and-jane-come-latelys like youthful Oscar nominees Paul Mescal (Aftersun) and Ana de Armas (Blonde) are out of luck .

 There was a time when the American Association of Retired Persons put out a magazine called Modern Maturity. As a bookworm who’d read just about anything, I checked it out at my grandparents’ apartment, finding it incredibly dry and dull. But 2002 was a big year for the group: Modern Maturity metamorphosed into a chatty lifestyle bi-monthly called AARP The Magazine, which has 37 million readers, making it one of the largest-circulation publications in the U.S. Since senior citizens often have discretionary income, their clout at the box office can be considerable. If, that is, they’re willing to leave their living rooms and head for the cineplex.

 So—what projects and performers have been deemed worthy of AARP recognition? The top award was selected from a familiar group of films that include Elvis, Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Fabelmans, Tàr, The Woman King, and Women Talking. Most of these are Best Picture Oscar nominees, but their appeal to the AARP editors seems clear: they  reflect long-ago eras and (by extension) the distance between the past and the present. I wasn’t surprised to see Baz Luhrmann honored for directing Elvis, a film about the king of entertainment at a time when some of us were young. And it seemed only fitting that the magazine’s top award should go to Top Gun: Maverick, an action flick whose message seems to be that you’re never too old to save the world.  It was lovely to see 87-year-old Judd Hirsch beat out Ke Huy Quan and others for his powerful though brief supporting performance in The Fabelmans, and also 71-year-old stage and screen veteran Judith Ivey recognized for her ensemble work in Women Talking.  Among the Best Actor and Best Actress candidates, I delighted in the inclusion of Tom Hanks (A Man Called Otto), and Lesley Manville (Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris). These films are squarely about what it means to get older. But the winners, inevitably, were Oscar favorites Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once).

 There are several unusual categories that don’t make it on the Oscar list. The sadly overlooked movie Till (about civil rights martyr Emmett Till and his grieving mother) here nabs an award for Best Intergenerational Movie. Elvis has been given the Time-Capsule Award, for returning some of us to the days of our youth. I adore the idea of a Best Grownup Love Story. Notably, the nominees are mostly unfamiliar to me, and I’m still waiting for a chance to see the AARP winner, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. How nice that AARP recognizes, as Hollywood mostly does not, that oldsters too can fall in love. And who can argue about a career achievement award for the ageless Jamie Lee Curtis?

 There’s one category, discontinued in 2017, that I’d like to see reinstated: AARP Movies for Grownups Award for Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up. The winners were movies intended for the younger set that seniors still enjoyed, like Spirited Away and School of Rock. How I’d love to have seen the brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse so honored.


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