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15th Annual Movies for Grownup Awards

Last year Hollywood got real: Among our choices, a third feature stories ripped from the headlines

  • Courtesy Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films

    Best Movie for Grownups

    Spotlight (Directed by Tom McCarthy):  It’s 2001, and you won’t find a tweet or an blog in this patiently paced yet thrilling drama about the hard-nosed Boston Globe investigative-reporting team that peeled back the layers of deceit surrounding the Catholic archdiocese’s pedophilic priests. After knocking on doors and wading through boxes of records, reporters played by Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James and Rachel McAdams desperately want to go to press with their scoop; luckily, the grownup in the room, their editor (Michael Keaton), refuses to print the story until they get it just right.

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  • Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media

    Best Actor

    Bryan Cranston in Trumbo:  As played by Cranston (and by most accounts accurately so), Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is a callous, self-absorbed hellion who ignores his family, alienates his friends and infuriates his movie-studio bosses. Yet, as the noose of 1950s anti-communist mania tightens around Trumbo’s neck, Cranston is able to strip away his bluster to reveal a man who is surprisingly vulnerable, delightfully resourceful … and ultimately committed to those he loves. You might not want to be friends with Trumbo, but in Cranston’s hands, he’s got undeniable charm.  

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  • Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

    Best Actress

    Lily Tomlin in Grandma:  For the first 20 minutes of the movie, as a woman trying to help her granddaughter deal with a problem pregnancy, Lily Tomlin seems to be working overtime to alienate her audience. She bristles with self-righteousness, lobs insults like Molotov cocktails and barks indiscriminately at strangers. As the story unfolds, though, Tomlin reveals her character’s softer side — her devotion to family, her affection for friends — all without letting down her scrappy exterior. It’s a masterful work of screen-acting alchemy that makes for the best performance of Tomlin’s 50-year career.

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  • Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

    Best Supporting Actor

    Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies:  As the Russian spy at the center of Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama, Rylance — whose acting restraint was apparent this year as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall — nearly steals the movie from star Tom Hanks, who plays his reluctant lawyer. But Rylance’s character is so compelling, so mesmerizing in his Zen-like composure in the face of a possible death penalty, he adds essential dramatic urgency to his attorney’s efforts to save him. It’s what supporting acting is all about. 

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  • Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

    Best Supporting Actress

    Diane Ladd in Joy:  In a film where ambition and family rivalries drive much of the plot, Diane Ladd brings a crucial — and delightful — sense of pure, unqualified love to the role of the title character’s grandmother. Even after Ladd’s character disappears from the narrative, her broad smile, lyrical voice and tender manner continue to guide Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) — and help sustain the audience’s desire to see her succeed.

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  • Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

    Best Director

    Ridley Scott for The Martian: Think of Ridley Scott as Dad, driving the family sedan, and his audience as the kids in back, wondering where he is taking them next. From Alien to Gladiator to Black Hawk Down, we are never quite sure where the Scottmobile is headed. In The Martian, his most successful film ever, the director convincingly lands us on the red planet, scavenging for air and food along with his hero, Matt Damon. Virtually eschewing computer animation, Scott creates an environment of such immediacy and draws us so close to the amiable character at his film’s center that when the lights go up, we’re surprised we’re not still 140 million miles from home. 

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  • Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

    Best Screenwriter

    David O. Russell for Joy: As he did in recent classics such as Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Russell takes the raw ingredients of personal dysfunction and mismatched protagonists to create something thoroughly touching and often uproarious. Joy may be the story of the exceptional woman who invented the Miracle Mop — but the heartstrings Russell plucks are universal.   

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  • Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    Best Comedy

    The Intern (Written and Directed by Nancy Meyers):  A comic scribe for her generation, Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give) continues with her uncanny deconstruction of boomers in this timely story of a bored retiree (Robert De Niro) who becomes an intern to a hard-charging young Internet executive (Anne Hathaway). Of course, there’s lots of intergenerational hubbub, but The Intern doesn’t settle for cheap laughs. Rather, the more these two learn about each other — flaws and all — the more they like and respect each other.  

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  • Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    Best Intergenerational Film

    Creed (Directed by Ryan Coogler): Generously layered with cross-generational bonds between the main character (Michael B. Jordan), his mother (Phylicia Rashad) and his mentor (Sylvester Stallone), this Rocky sequel also benefits from the collaboration of Stallone and the film’s young up-and-coming writer-director, Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station).

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    Best Buddy Picture

    Learning to Drive (Directed by Isabel Coixet):  For a while, it appears the relationship between a harried Manhattan writer (Patricia Clarkson) and her Sikh driving instructor (Ben Kingsley) is headed for typical rom-com territory. But director Isabel Coixet and writer Sarah Kernochan have much more in mind in this story of two lost souls whose friendship helps each find their way. Here is an anti–When Harry Met Sally moral: Men and women really can develop profound bonds without surrendering to a passionate clinch at the fade-out.

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  • Courtesy of Mark Stewart Productions

    Best Documentary

    Last Man on the Moon (Directed by Mark Craig):  More than 40 years after NASA’s final lunar mission, astronaut Eugene Cernan and NASA itself remain haunted by the might-have-beens and what’s-nexts for U.S. space flight. Cernan’s recollections of his trip to the moon are compelling; his insight into what we may yet accomplish is inspiring. 

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  • Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

    Best Foreign Film

    Rams (Iceland) (Directed by Grímur Hákonarson): By turns comic and tragic, this captivating film, set in the stark splendor of rural Iceland, follows two sheep-raising brothers who have not spoken to each other in 40 years. Their tangled story is an eccentric reflection on the universal intersection of family and tradition.  

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  • Courtesy of Focus Features

    Best Grownup Love Story

    5 Flights Up  (Directed by Richard Loncraine):  Search from January through December and you’ll not find a more adorable 2015 movie couple than Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman. In this lovely comedy, they play a long-married couple faced with the prospect of moving out of the Brooklyn walk-up that’s been their home since Gerald Ford was president. She has that sparkling smile; he has that rolling voice that makes Barry White sound like Pee-wee Herman. They are irresistible to each other … and us.  

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  • Francois Duhamel/Roadside Attractions

    Best Time Capsule

    Love & Mercy  (Directed by Bill Pohlad): The Beach Boys — and songwriter Brian Wilson, in particular — practically wrote America’s soundtrack in the 1960s. This film bio of Wilson (played at two stages of his life, by Paul Dano and John Cusack) captures not just the music of the era but also the precarious tipping point between the clean-cut, conservative 1950s and the murkier, drug-and protest-infused ’60s.    

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  • Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

    Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up

    Inside Out  (Directed by Pete Docter): Delicately wrapped into Pixar’s greatest film to date is not just the story of a tween girl trying to adapt to her new home; at its center is a meditation on the power of memory, the ethereal nature of youth and the inescapable imperative of sorrow.   

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