Best Grown-up Love Story
James Garner and Gena Rowlands, The Notebook
Their embrace at the end of The Notebook may have unleashed more movie-theater tears than any scene since Leonardo DiCaprio sank slowly in the west in Titanic. This lifelong love story alternates seamlessly between a single couple's younger and older selves. The youngsters playing the roles (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) are sexy and pretty—but as the long-married couple fighting Alzheimer's, Garner and Rowlands are so compelling that we hate to leave them for even the shortest flashback.
Runners-up: Robert Redford/Helen Mirren in The Clearing…Dennis Quaid/Marg Helgenberger in In Good Company…Richard Gere/Susan Sarandon in Shall We Dance?
Best Director 50 and Over
Mike Nichols, Closer
Nichols has been dissecting the evil that men and women do to each other ever since his directing debut, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in 1966. But here, Nichols's lancet is sharper than ever, and he draws more blood—even though his characters are bloodless sexual opportunists. It's one ugly group, fashioned by Nichols from four of the cinema's most beautiful people: Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen. For Nichols, it's a virtuoso performance: he shows only the start and finish of each cursed relationship, jumps forward and backward in time without warning, yet never leaves us wondering where we are.
Runners-up: Clint Eastwood, getting gritty again with his boxing epic, Million Dollar Baby…Taylor Hackford, summoning a genius's ghost with Ray; Michael Mann, riveting as ever with Collateral…Martin Scorsese, returning to the bio-epic with The Aviator…Ousmane Sembene, at 81 showing why he's still Africa's top filmmaker with Moolaadé.
Best Screenwriter 50 and Over
Alvin Sargent, Spider-Man 2
He wrote for General Electric Theater in 1953. So how did Sargent, 77, end up penning what Roger Ebert calls "the best superhero movie since the modern genre was launched"?
"He explores humanity without being mushy or saccharine," Sony studio chief Amy Pascal said in an interview. "People tend to go with the newest, grooviest writer. But if someone is a good writer, he's a good writer."
Runners-up: Pedro Almodóvar for Bad Education, a searing study of childhood abuse…James L. Brooks for Spanglish, a domestic drama about people trying to fit in…Paul Haggis and F.X. Toole for Million Dollar Baby, a gutsy female boxing tale.
Lynn Redgrave, Kinsey
We timed it: Redgrave appears for just over two minutes and 50 seconds, yet after nearly 40 years of roles that barely touched on her skills, her soliloquy as a woman telling her story to the controversial sex researcher is so breathtaking and heartfelt she delivers what amounts to a benediction.
Runners-up: Tom Selleck, losing the mustache and gaining gravitas in Ike: Countdown to D-Day…Meryl Streep, vamping to Greg Kinnear's "Summertime" in Stuck on You.
Best Intergenerational Movie
Miracle, Directed by Gavin O'Connor
Even before we've bought our popcorn, we know the U.S. is going to beat Russia in this movie based on the 1980 Olympic hockey team. So it falls to Kurt Russell, as coach Herb Brooks, to provide the drama. "If we played them 10 times, they might win nine," he barks. "But not tonight. Tonight we skate!" Even without all that ice, you'd get the chills.
Runners-up: Baadasssss!: Mario Van Peebles's tribute to his dad, Melvin…Monsieur Ibrahim: An aging storekeeper passes his wisdom on to a troubled kid…The Five Obstructions: Director Lars von Trier puts his mentor, director Jorgen Leth, through a filmmaking ordeal…Spanglish: A woman realizes it's time to be a mother to her grown daughter.