Hundreds of A-list celebrities, filmmakers, and Hollywood movers and shakers crowded into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on Tuesday for the 9th awarding of AARP the Magazine's Movies for Grownups®.
"We are the 'Little Engine That Could' of awards events," said Editor and AARP Vice-President Nancy Perry Graham in her opening remarks. "We aren't as big or well-known as the [Golden] Globes or the Oscars. But our engine is powered by 35 million readers of AARP the Magazine, who turn out in big numbers to watch the grownup films that you make and that we recommend.”
Robert De Niro received the Movies for Grownups® Lifetime Achievement Award from Sean Penn, who described De Niro as a "consummate, ground-breaking actor." De Niro, a film icon who has captivated audiences for decades with stellar performances in films such asTaxi Driver, Raging Bull, Meet The Parents, and 2009's Everybody’s Fine, thanked Penn for his humanitarian work in Haiti and asking, "Who would have known that America's bad boy would be such a good boy?" De Niro joked that it was odd to get a lifetime achievement award at midpoint in his career, after only 40 years. Though he appears to be a grownup, De Niro said, he still acts like a kid. The actor closed by telling the crowd he'd see them at next year's Kids' Choice Awards.
Clint Eastwood's Invictus nabbed this year's top honor for Best Movie for Grownups. Actress Frances Fisher, who presented the award to star Morgan Freeman, noted, "At the center of Invictus stands my old friend Morgan Freeman, with whom I was proud to costar in Clint's classic western, Unforgiven. As [Nelson] Mandela, Morgan inhabits the role, his bowed frame and halting steps a constant reminder of the man's 27 years in a cramped cell. His is an outstanding performance in a film that I believe, decades from now, will be regarded as a landmark achievement in these two men's astonishing careers."
Crazy Heart star Jeff Bridges accepted the Best Actor Award from his costar Maggie Gyllenhaal, who told the crowd that he should get every award there is. Bridges, who gave a compassionate performance as booze-soaked country singer Bad Blake, said it is a particular honor to receive an award from his own age group.
The Best Documentary Award went to The Way We Get By, a film about dedicated volunteers in Bangor, Maine, who greet troop planes headed to or from U.S. theaters of war. With three of the greeters in the audience, the film received a standing ovation from a visibly moved crowd. At the request of the film's producer, Morgan Freeman graciously took to the stage for a photo with the greeters.
"There's no doubt that 2009 was a year in which 50+ actors and filmmakers rocked Hollywood, providing film content that drove audiences and numbers at the box office. We're proud that we have become a bellwether for the Oscars," Entertainment Editor Bill Newcott told the crowd. "And we're equally proud of those films that rise to the top of our list, but are somehow overlooked elsewhere. You'll find a few of those tonight—the kinds of hidden gems that our audience counts on us to uncover for them year-round."
Additional top honors went to Helen Mirren, who was named "Best Actress 50+" for her ferocious performance as Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station; Alec Baldwin, who was named "Best Supporting Actor 50+" for his hysterical turn in It's Complicated; Kim Basinger, who was named "Best Supporting Actress 50+" for her searing portrayal of Gina in The Burning Plain; and Kathryn Bigelow, who was honored in the "Best Director 50+" category for her courageous and nerve-racking war film, The Hurt Locker.
In addition to celebrating the best films for the 50+ audience and filmmakers at the top of their games, AARP The Magazine's Movies for Grownups® Awards have created several unique, offbeat categories. These include "Best Grownup Love Story" (Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci for Julie & Julia), "Best Buddy Picture" (The Soloist), and "Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up" (Star Trek).
The complete list of winners can be found online and in the March/April 2010 issue of AARP The Magazine.