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Movies for Grownups Awards 2003

Honoring filmmakers and performers who dare to create pictures for people over 17

Best Director (50 and Over)
Roman Polanski, The Pianist

In one of The Pianist's most horrifying scenes, a Jewish boy is killed while trying to escape the Warsaw ghetto. The chilling truth: At age seven, Roman Polanski barely escaped the Nazis in Poland. Sixty years later, he's drawn on that experience for perhaps his most moving film.

"Holocaust survivors need a long time to authentically express their experiences," says Raye Farr, director of the film and video archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Polanski's take, she says, is both authentic and powerful. His tears stain every frame.

Runners-up: Phillip Noyce, bemoaning cruel "progress" in Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Quiet American; Manoel de Oliveira, bringing 94 years of life to I'm Going Home; Martin Scorsese, giving a gritty history lesson in Gangs of New York; Steven Spielberg, thrilling with Minority Report and delighting with Catch Me If You Can.

Best Screenwriter (50 and Over)
David Hare, The Hours

They said it couldn't be done, but David Hare's script from Michael Cunningham's novel manages to capture the book's complex structure and simultaneously track three women in three eras. Says Cunningham, "David sat me down and wanted to know everything about the characters: their school, their first kiss. He knew that to understand a brief section of someone's life, and so they seem fully alive to you, you need a sense of their whole life."

Runners-up: Jay Cocks, capturing a not-so-Fun City in Gangs of New York; Christopher Hampton, channeling Graham Greene in The Quiet American; Ronald Harwood, casting the Holocaust as an intimate evil in The Pianist.

Breakaway Performance (50 and Over)
Richard Gere, Chicago

Who'd have thought that behind those American Gigolo eyes and that Officer and a Gentleman chin hid the soul of a song-and-dance man? He'll never make us forget Astaire—but we'll never think of Gere in the same way, either.

Runners-up: Maggie Smith goes Southern in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood; Christopher Walken sheds his psycho trademark in Catch Me If You Can; Robin Williams turns creepy in One Hour Photo.

Best Foreign Film
Monsoon Wedding

Directed by Mira Nair

The guests wear saris, but despite its Indian setting we've all been to this wedding, complete with family traditions and intrigues. The bride's father reflects on its universal themes: "If only their lives are happy...for that I am willing to take on every trouble, every sorrow in the world."

Runners-up: The Fast Runner (Canada), a hot-blooded Inuit family feud on ice; I'm Going Home (Portugal/France), an unblinking look at aging; Rabbit-Proof Fence (Australia), ancestry and its inevitable connection to the present.

Best Intergenerational Movie
Road to Perdition

Directed by Sam Mendes

Okay, so Perdition is the dark saga of a hitman (Tom Hanks) on the lam with his young son and marked for death by his virtual adoptive father (Paul Newman). But it's also a portrait of a dad trying to salvage his relationship with his son after his ugliest secrets have been revealed.

Runners-up: Antwone Fisher, the right mentor can change your life; The Hours, the ripples of our actions outlive us; My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the crazy/happy family syndrome.

Best Documentary
Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Directed by Paul Justman

Quick: Who made more number-one records than Elvis, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones combined? Meet the Funk Brothers, Motown Records' unsung studio musicians of the 1960s.

Runners-up: Bowling for Columbine, guns 'n' Bozos in America; Carnauba: A Son's Memoir, a septuagenarian tries to understand his dad; Rivers and Tides, fleeting time and mortality in the ice and sand sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy.

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