The Last King of Scotland rules as the best movie—but this year it's the women who reign supreme.
Forest Whitaker's ferocious performance as Ugandan despot Idi Amin dominates Scotland, winner of our coveted Best Movie for Grownups award. But for the first time a quintet of top actresses vied for the Best Actress 50 and Over trophy in five riveting leading roles, a clear sign that Hollywood is softening in its longtime relegation of 50-plus actresses to supporting parts.
It's all part of a steadily evolving attitude shift, one that Hollywood is just beginning to take note of, says Susan Seidelman, writer-director of this year's nominated Boynton Beach Club: “There are a lot of people over 40 or 50 who would go to the movies, but they want to see a movie that reflects their experience as an older person. That's a tough sell for your average Hollywood movie executive, a fetus in a suit.”
Best Movie for Grownups from 2006
The Last King of Scotland, directed by Kevin Macdonald
As the 1970s Ugandan strongman Idi Amin, Forest Whitaker smiles a thousand-watt grin, reaches out with teddy bear arms—then goes all grizzly on us. Even though we know the hellish depths to which Amin is going to drag his country, as an audience we are buying whatever Whitaker is selling. With his wide, childlike eyes, his blazing grin framed by lips as red as blood, he radiates the charisma of Satan himself—a commodity all too available in all too many corners of the modern world.
The story is told through the eyes of a young Scottish doctor (James McAvoy), who arrives with no particular passion for Uganda or its people. Looking for adventure, he gets it—and how—when he happens upon Amin after a motorcade accident. He treats Amin's injured hand and finds himself serving as the newly minted dictator's personal physician.
The easy route would have been for director Macdonald to show the stacked bodies, the burning villages, the reputed episodes of Amin’s cannibalism. By the time the tyrant's brutality is finally, graphically portrayed near the end of the film—and those scenes aren’t for the faint of heart—Macdonald has allowed Amin’s unique blend of evil, madness, and genius to blossom, a lovely flower morphing into a Venus flytrap.
Runners-up: Aurora Borealis Hands down, this intimate portrait of a devoted older couple is the most life-affirming movie featuring a suicidal Parkinson's patient you'll ever see…Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima Amid the carnage in these two movies, director Clint Eastwood (Winner, Best Director 50 and Over) discovers the shared humanity of World War II foes…The Illusionist Steeped in early 20th-century atmosphere, this magical mystery about a performer (the haunting Edward Norton), his lifelong love (a radiant Jessica Biel), and the cop investigating her murder (a bemused Paul Giamatti) unfolds with the deliberate patience of a confounding card trick…Little Miss Sunshine Also the funniest movie of the year (see Best Comedy)…The Queen Powered by Helen Mirren's performance (see below), there's something terrifically authentic about this slice-of-royal-life glimpse at what happens behind closed throne-room doors.
Best Actress 50 and Over
Helen Mirren, The Queen
As the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren takes on the toughest of acting assignments: revealing the emotions of the outwardly emotionless, the passions of the passionately reserved. When we meet her in the days surrounding the 1997 death of Princess Diana, the queen faces increasing pressure to publicly share in the nation's outpouring of emotion. But there's one problem: members of the royal family display their emotions as readily as they hang their laundry out the windows of Buckingham Palace. It takes a good deal of coaching from touchy-feely prime minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) simply to get the sovereign to address the nation.