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7 Most Memorable Grownup Moments at the Oscars

We’ve got the full scoop, from surprises to statuettes


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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Kevin Winter/Getty Images (2); Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images; Kevin Winter/Getty; Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Only two of the five winners in the major categories at the 96th Academy Awards March 10 were over 50, but it was still an inspiring night for grownup filmgoers.

And arguably the most grownup movie of the year, Oppenheimer, seized the lion’s share of awards — seven Oscars, including the big one, best picture.

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Eight of the 20 acting nominees were over 50. The average age for best actor contenders was 52.8. Actress contenders averaged about age 43, but in traditionally youth-centric, deeply sexist Hollywood, that’s progress.

Four of the five best director nominees were 50 or over (Killers of the Flower Moon director Martin Scorsese, 81, Oppenheimer’s Christopher Nolan, 53, Poor Things’ Yorgos Lanthimos, 50, and The Zone of Interest’s Jonathan Glazer, 58), and Nolan won.

All 10 best picture nominees owed a significant part of their success to viewers over 50, which makes sense. Oscars tend to favor smart, art-house hits over superhero blockbusters, and so do grownup moviegoers.

Here are some of the grownup highlights of the show:

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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images; Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images; Stefanie Keenan/WireImage/Getty Images)

Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster reunite 48 years after nomination

“Here’s some fun Oscar trivia!” said host Jimmy Kimmel, 56. “Forty-eight years ago, Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster were nominated for Taxi Driver, and they are both nominated again tonight.” Killers of the Flower Moon’s De Niro, 80, and Foster, 61, beamed from their seats. Then Kimmel cracked a joke about Hollywood’s long road to go to overcoming ageism: “In 1976, Jodie Foster was young enough to be Robert De Niro’s daughter. Now she’s 20 years too old to be his girlfriend.” Foster nodded that Kimmel was, sadly, correct.

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Yoko Ono, 91, got a shout-out from her Oscar-winning son

Sean Lennon, 48, helped accept the Oscar for animated short feature for War Is Over!, inspired by the music of his folks John Lennon and Yoko Ono. After the music played to notify the winners to exit the stage, Lennon leaned into the microphone and said, “I just want to quickly say my mother turned 91 this February, and today is Mother’s Day in the UK. So will everyone please say. ‘Happy Mother’s Day, Yoko?’” The crowd obliged. Ono has a new honor of her own: The current career retrospective exhibition Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind is winning raves at London’s Tate Modern.

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Robert Downey Jr., 58, proved he’s more than Iron Man by winning his first Oscar

It’s been 31 years since Downey proved himself more than a hard-partying Brat Packer by earning a best actor nomination in Chaplin. Since then he’s had to live down another reputation, as a box-office superhero in $14 billion worth of movies — good for the pocketbook, risky in terms of Oscar snob appeal. As J. Robert Oppenheimer’s benefactor and nemesis Lewis Strauss, Downey demonstrated a whole new depth and subtlety in his performance, and nabbed the best supporting actor trophy. Renowned and beloved for his witty acceptance speeches (and he’s had a lot of accepting to do), he did not disappoint at the 96th Oscars, thanking his “terrible childhood and the Academy, in that order,” and also his wife, Susan, who “found me a snarling rescue pet and she loved me back to life,” and Tom Hanson, his lawyer for 40 years, “for half of which he spent trying to get me insured and bailing me out of the hoosegow.” 

spinner image "The Boy and the Heron" director Hayao Miyazaki
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Hayao Miyazaki makes history at 83

Director Miyazaki, whose animated classics are very much for grownups, not just kids, has earned four Oscar nominations for best animated feature, plus a 2015 honorary award. But when he won his second Oscar for The Boy and the Heron, he broke two records: He’s the oldest animation director ever nominated and the oldest winner by over two decades. Miyazaki is also the only one to win for hand-drawn animation (twice, for this film and 2001’s Spirited Away). The director is now tied with Pixar’s Pete Docter, 55, for the most nominations. While Miyazaki wasn’t at the ceremony to accept the award, he said when the film was released: “There’s nothing more pathetic than telling the world you’ll retire because of your age [at 58, he’d announced plans to retire], then making yet another comeback. Doesn’t an elderly person deluding themself that they’re still capable, despite their geriatric forgetfulness, prove that they’re past their best?” That would be a hard no, as proved by his unprecedented Oscar.

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Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Slash, 58, joined Ryan Gosling's Oscar band

​Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, who played on the Barbie soundtrack, gave a shred-eriffic guitar performance on “I’m Just Ken,” joining Wolfgang Van Halen, Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Ken himself, Ryan Gosling, to rock the tune from the film. Gosling roamed the room, giving Barbie director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie a chance to chime in triumphantly on vocals. Slash’s all-black outfit and trademark top hat next to Gosling’s all-pink suit made it a visual treat as well.

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Director Christopher Nolan, 53, finally broke into the winner’s circle

Possibly the most respected director who’d never won an Oscar (though he’d had eight nominations in several categories), Nolan has long been revered for the sheer intelligence and bold ambition of epics like The Dark Knight, Dunkirk and Memento. He outdid himself with Oppenheimer, a film that manages to pack in a crash lesson in physics, deep psychological realism, eye-popping spectacle, a narrative time line that makes quantum leaps and some of the best performances by some of the greatest actors alive.

“Movies are just a little bit over 100 years old,” Nolan said while accepting the award. “I mean, imagine being there 100 years into painting or theater. We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here. But to know that you think that I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

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Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Oppenheimer was the bomb

Arguably, there was never a smarter best picture winner than Oppenheimer, and discerning grownups were crucial in making it a near-billion-dollar hit. It is history’s highest-grossing biopic and also the top World War II film, two genres beloved by AARP members.

Emma Thomas, 52, who produced the high-risk film with Charles Roven, 74, and Nolan, her husband, accepted the award and echoed Sean Lennon’s sentiments: “It’s UK Mother’s Day, so I’m thinking of my mum, who’s no longer with us today, and my mother-in-law, Christina, who’s here with my dad. So thank you. And thank you, Academy! I’m so honored to be here!”

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