Forget tired jokes (pun intended) about arthritic winners too stiff to climb up on stage, or audience members too feeble to help them — the 15th Movies for Grownups Awards show, which will be held Feb. 8 at the Beverly Wilshire, promises to be a star-studded and lively event.
This year’s edition honors Lily Tomlin and Bryan Cranston as lead actress and actor for their work in “Grandma” and “Trumbo,” respectively, with the supporting actress award going to Diane Ladd for “Joy” and the supporting actor to Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies.”
And while the Oscars snubbed Ridley Scott and David O. Russell, Scott will receive the director award, and Russell is the screenwriter winner for “Joy.” Michael Douglas will be presented with the Career Achievement Award.
In a crowded awards season, “our show is unique in honoring the best in films with particular relevance to a 50-plus audience,” says Robert Love, editor in chief of AARP the Magazine. “And we absolutely believe that we’ve made a big difference in bringing Hollywood’s attention to our demographic. We can deliver an audience by putting a movie star on our magazine’s cover, and I believe that we’re also the only mission-driven organization that holds such a high-profile and glamorous event.”
AARP entertainment director Meg Grant says, “I tell people in the industry, it’s our version of the Oscars. We have many of the same categories — the only difference is that the individual actor winners have to be over 50, and the movies have to speak to the 50-plus audience.”
Awards season darling “Spotlight,” which won best picture, “not only has an over-50 director in Tom McCarthy, and some over-50 cast members,” she notes, “but more importantly deals with themes that spoke directly to our audience, who will have remembered when the whole scandal was uncovered by the Boston Globe.” Grant adds that she attended an early screening, “full of older people, where several of them openly wept. It really touched our audience.”
|“We absolutely believe that we’ve made a big difference in bringing Hollywood’s attention to our demographic.”|
Cranston’s win for his acclaimed turn as blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo similarly benefited “from an older audience who’re far more familiar with him and the story than a younger audience,” Grant says. “Same thing with Mark Rylance in Spielberg’s spy thriller. He’s a fabulous over-50 actor, and then he’s also in a story that our audience largely remembers and are familiar with.”
Hardly surprisingly, mature actors playing their age in relatable, everyday roles also appeal greatly to the AARP audience. “Our audience loves Lily Tomlin — and performances that are intergenerational, like this, where she’s dealing with a younger person,” Grant says. “People 50 and over really relate to that aspect.”
Grant goes on to note that “Joy’s” Diane Ladd — also ignored by other awards ceremonies this year — “was probably our big surprise this year. She also played the grandmother, but she was such an inspiring force in the film, with her message of ‘You can do anything. You should follow your dreams.’ And she was also the movie’s narrator. She was a perfect choice for us.”
As for feting the 78-year-old veteran director Scott for his critical and commercial hit “The Martian,” “it was such a no-brainer for us,” admits Grant. “We loved the film even more than ‘Gravity,’ because Ridley and his whole team were so good with the science of it all. It’s serious and yet funny, and it’s truly an adult film and yet so entertaining for everyone. We wanted to recognize that.”
Additional honors go to Nancy Meyers’ hit “The Intern” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway for comedy, the Icelandic sibling bonding pic “Rams” for foreign-language film and “The Last Man on the Moon,” a portrait of astronaut Eugene Cernan, for documentary.
Two-time Emmy- and Grammy-winning comedian Kathy Griffin will host the evening for the second time. “She hosted two years ago and she was fantastic — and hosting this show is very tricky,” Grant says. “It’s one thing to have Ricky Gervais poking fun at the HFPA all night, but you don’t want a host making old-people jokes all evening, and Kathy found just the right balance. She was funny, and made jokes about herself and her own age, and she brought her mother, who’s coming again this year. But she was also hugely respectful, kept the show moving along, and was the perfect host.”
Beyond the glamour and laughs, the awards also have a serious side — raising funds for AARP Foundation, the affiliated charity. “We work with over-50s who are low-income and struggling and we try to create and advance solutions by working in the interconnected areas of hunger and housing, income and isolation,” says foundation president Lisa Marsh Ryerson. “There are millions of older people living in poverty, and it’s a stubbornly persistent problem as they’re often invisible in society.”
This marks the third year that the awards have raised such funds, and the initiative is also supported by Chase Card Services and its commitment to donate up to $1.1 million to AARP Foundation in 2016 through a cause-marketing campaign with the AARP Credit Card. Looking ahead, Love predicts that the annual awards will continue to grow “both in importance and in its influence. Don’t forget — the young kids today will all turn 50 one day, and it’s very cool to honor your elders.”