When the Movies for Grownups Awards air March 28 on PBS, the winners will include career achievement honoree George Clooney, who turns 60 this year and whom AARP exec Tim Appelo described as “a slam dunk argument against ageism.”
Hoda Kotb will host the event on “Great Performances,” the fourth time that the annual awards have aired, always on PBS.
The winners were announced March 4. AARP entertainment editor, film and TV critic Appelo tells Variety that the COVID isolation encouraged them to break tradition by announcing winners in advance for health reasons.
There is another innovation this year, with television categories being included for the first time, with four. Appelo said it was fitting, since most of us saw everything on television this year, but the expansion had been planned long before the pandemic.
The show will have a dual emphasis: To honor great work of the past year made by and for older people, and to continue spreading AARP’s message that combats negative images of older folk.
“We’re trying to change minds, fighting ageism every day,” says Appelo. “We need to change the conversation: Getting older is about opportunities, not decline.”
This year’s Oscar race is filled with over-50 artists, including Glenn Close, David Fincher, Anthony Hopkins, Frances McDormand, Gary Oldman, Paul Raci, Aaron Sorkin, Thomas Vinterberg and Yuh-Jung Youn, to name a few.
“I’d like to think it’s a trend,” says Appelo, “and I like to think we’ve had a little to do with it.”
The AARP awards, voted on by a panel of judges, spread honors wide. With 13 winners in 14 categories, the only double winner is Aaron Sorkin, who was named best director and writer, both for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Hulu’s Lee Daniels film “The United States vs Billie Holiday” took AARP’s prize for top film.
As for being seen as an Oscar bellwether, Appelo says, “We don’t worry about it but we’re heartened when they second our opinion.”
There is still ageism and a terror of growing old in Hollywood, says Apello, but “The suits are paying attention” because the over-50 crowd constitutes one-third of the population, and they tend to be more frequent filmgoers than younger demographics. And as for TV watching, he laughs, “We’re champion couch potatoes!”
He adds that the org is seeing a growing de-stigmatization of aging. He says it’s now less horrible to admit that you’re over 50 and “it’s no longer a career killer.” He adds, “Don’t be afraid; face reality. It’s not that scary; 50-plus is not bad.”
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older, with nearly 38 million members. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP Magazine and AARP Bulletin.
AARP The Magazine started in 2002, publishes six times a year under editor-in-chief Robert Love.