Dustin Hoffman (Director, Quartet)
It's hard to believe that the consummate movie actor had never before directed a film. His sensitive portrait of the residents of a home for retired classical musicians makes us wonder what took him so long. Of course he had the good sense to enlist a cast that includes Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon. But Hoffman doesn't just cut his cast loose; he guides them through a minefield of possible missteps to create a film bursting with sentiment, yet stubbornly dry-eyed.
Best Grownup Love Story
Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock)
He's the public face of their combined genius; she's the devoted wife who overlooks his peccadilloes. True, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock bicker in both the living room and the editing room, and at times we wonder what she sees in him. But above all, the two settle into each other with reassuring comfiness. In one thrilling scene, as the two labor over the infamous Psycho shower sequence, we see them in their element: best friends and gleeful partners in crime.
Best Intergenerational Movie
The world already conspires to keep generations from understanding each other; throwing mental illness onto the pile just doesn't seem fair. Still, in this gritty-but-warmhearted story of a Philadelphia family in crisis, parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) and their grown son (Bradley Cooper, who plays opposite a much-nominated and winning performance by Jennifer Lawrence) bravely grasp for each other, defying the odds. In practical terms, they don't stand a chance. But this is family, and in the end, of course, they do.
Searching for Sugar Man (directed by Malik Bendjelloul)
Surely you remember that '70s Detroit rocker named Rodriguez, don't you? Well, maybe not, but two of his biggest fans in South Africa sure did. Deeply touched by reports that the singer, down and out, had committed suicide while performing onstage, the pair decided to get to the bottom of their hero's sad story. The discovery that changed their lives is an inspiration for anyone who's ever asked, "Whatever happened to …?"