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Quirky Categories Spice Up AARP’s Movies for Grownups Awards

Variety logo Variety 2/6/2017 Geoff Berkshire
© Provided by Variety

The AARP’s Movies for Grownups Awards includes all the standard categories you expect to see on a list of film kudos: lead and supporting performances, director, screenplay, best picture. But how many groups also have an award for intergenerational film? Grownup love story? Time capsule?

AARP The Magazine critic Bill Newcott walks us through six of this year’s awards unique to the grownup honors.

Grownup Love Story

Richard Jenkins and Margo Martindale, “The Hollars”

“My sentimental favorite,” says Newcott. “That [award] goes back to the earliest days of doing this back in 2002. We were trying to find love stories of people 40 and over that were not Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus — not these frigid frozen people who might have once had a life, but don’t anymore. They were hard to find at one time, and now they’re not that hard to find.”

Case in point, this year’s honoree: “We really liked that relationship between Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins; it’s very textured. Sometimes [we pick] stories about people who have just met and fall in love, and sometimes they’re people in long relationships and still very much in love. The characters are cumulative, they’ve lived a life and their experiences have brought them to a point where we’re meeting them.”

Intergenerational Film

20th Century Women

Writer-director Mike Mills based the ‘70s set film on his relationship with his single mother. As Newcott explains, “Annette Bening’s character is the center of the wheel for other generations; they all relate to her and through her to each other. The mother-and-son relationship is inevitably intergenerational, but also her relationship with the two younger women [Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig] at different stages of their lives. She presents her accumulated wisdom to them, but also learns from them. That two-way street is what we look for.”

Buddy Picture

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”

“They’re not normal people,” Newcott says with a laugh in describing the iconic British TV characters who made the leap to the big screen last year. “We wanted to find films that celebrated friendship in older life. This is a crazily dysfunctional relationship, they go way back,” he adds of Lumley and Saunders’ Patsy and Edina. “They know each other’s flaws and quirks and shortcomings intimately, and yet the friendship persists; it’s probably the only thing keeping them in one piece. It’s a quirky choice when you’re trying to celebrate friendship, but it was almost the no-brainer of the year for me.”

Time Capsule

Jackie

“Every year people make movies set in the past,” Newcott says. “It’s one of the great thrills of the movies — to go and be able to relive a period. [AARP] members were there when these movies are set, so we have the final say as to whether or not the filmmakers are capturing the authenticity of that time. Not just getting the cars or the fashions right but capturing what it felt like to live at that time.

“‘Jackie’ captured what it felt like to breathe the week of Nov. 22, 1963. They capture the air of it in an uncanny way. It’s an immersive experience. When they seamlessly go between newsreel and new footage, even the sun seems right in the sky. For anyone who was alive in ‘63 the film is undeniably authentic.”

Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up

Kubo and the Two Strings

“Some people say it’s our animation category, and it’s really not,” Newcott stresses. The selection of Laika’s stop-motion delight had to do with both the visuals and the narrative. “For one thing it’s the look of it,” Newcott says. “It’s so imaginative and evocative of the place and time they’re trying to depict.

“It’s also a story where someone learns hard lessons. If you go with your children or grandchildren, you’re going to have something to talk about after besides how funny it was. It’s not a film where there’s an overlay of cynicism the older audience would want and silliness the kids would want. It tells the same story to everybody. That makes it unique this year and uniquely appropriate for us.”

Breakthrough Achievement

Robert Mrazek, “The Congressman”

“We don’t give it every year,” Newcott says. “We like to encourage people 50 and older to find a new direction, don’t just stay in your slot your whole life.

“Robert Mrazek is a five-term congressman from Long Island. He’s 70 now. Two years ago he decided to make a film inspired by his time in Congress. For a first-time director, it’s pretty darn good. For a director behind the camera for the first time at age 70, it’s rather remarkable. It reflects what Movies for Grownups is all about.”

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