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Movies for Grownups Award Winners Talk Aging, Experience

A recap of the virtual awards show with AARP entertainment writer Tim Appelo

George Clooney


Mike Ellison:

This past year, audiences turned from the big screen in the theater to the small screen in their living rooms to find entertainment. But that didn’t stop some older actors and filmmakers from giving the performances of their careers. And it didn’t stop AARP The Magazine’s Movies for Grownups Awards from honoring their achievements -- even if it had to take place virtually.

Hoda Kotb:

Welcome to Movies for Grownups with AARP The Magazine, I’m Hoda Kotb and I’m excited to be your host. Coming to you from Rockefeller Center.


Mike Ellison:

For two decades now, Movies for Grownups has advocated for the 50-plus audience, fighting industry ageism, and encouraging films that resonate with older viewers.

The star-studded event was hosted by NBC TODAY co-anchor Hoda Kotb (COT-bee) and broadcasted by Great Performances on Sunday, March 28th on PBS. In case you missed it, you can stream the ceremony on and the PBS Video app until April 25th.

On today’s show, AARP Film Critic, Tim Appelo, is back to discuss some of his favorite acceptance speeches from this year’s Awards show.

Hi, I’m Mike Ellison with an AARP Take on Today.

Let's start with George Clooney, who was the recipient of the Career Achievement Award this year. When he received his reward, he talked a lot about the value of experience. Let's listen to George Clooney.

George Clooney:
Experience is the key. It keeps you from panicking in situations that you would normally panic. And it gives you perspective, because sometimes things seem bigger in real life. And then if you step back and you have a little perspective, you realize it's not that big and you'll survive those things. And so, experience is the whole game. It's just unfortunate you have to get old to get it.

Mike Ellison:
Now, he's been in the industry for a long time, and he doesn't seem to be slowing down at all. How have you seen his career evolving over the years, Tim?

Tim Appelo:
Well, it's interesting. He got a relatively late start on ER, his first big hit. I think that kind of equipped him to handle success and experience a little better than a lot of people. And he also lived with his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, the famous singer, who has had ups and downs in her career. So, it's not surprising that he was able to chart a really lasting and ascent for himself.
And you know he's not just still on top as an actor. I mean, he's the Cary Grant of our time, really as an actor. But he's also one of our most promising rising directors. You know, he did a space movie this year that's almost as good as Gravity. Which was a masterpiece about space. So yeah, he's, as I say, a slam dunk argument against ageism.

Mike Ellison:
Absolutely, absolutely. Now, let's hear from the actors who played the defendants in the trial of the Chicago Seven. Sasha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, and Yahya Abdul Mateen II. We have another clip. Let's take a listen.

Sacha Baron Cohen:
In 1968, the new generation dared to stand up against war and racism. They were met with battens and tear gas at the old order. What happened then helps us understand today. The film actually holds up a mirror to current events and illustrates how the fight for truth and justice must never stall.

Eddie Redmaybe:
Tom Hayden, Abby Hoffman, and Bobby Seale, along with five others were charged with, and convicted of, crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot. Last month, marks 51 years since the United States watched as these men were convicted and sentenced.

Yahya Abdul Mateen II:
It's been said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those words have never been more potent than they are today. This is the trial of the Chicago Seven.

Mike Ellison:
With the 51-year anniversary of the trial recently passing, what impact do you think the film had on audiences?

Tim Appelo:
Yeah, well, there is certainly a lot of political strife today and there was a racial element to that trial as well. Judge Hoffman famously chained and muzzled or gagged the black defendant. Which was quite a powerful metaphor back then and resonates down the ages to today.

Mike Ellison:
Wow! All right, now let's move on. We've got Catherine O'Hara. And Catherine O'Hara has had quite an extensive acting career, but it seems that she's getting her flowers now. And for those who don't know, O'Hara played Moira Rose in the show Schitt's Creek on Netflix. So, tell me about her role and why it was so important to shine a light on her performance this year.

Tim Appelo:
I think there is two things. One thing, Catherine O'Hara thanked AARP for recognizing TV for the first time. She's our first TV Best Actress winner in the 20-year history of the Movies for Grown-Ups awards.

Mike Ellison:

Tim Appelo:
So I think that in itself, is a landmark. And you couldn't have a better first winner than Catherine O'Hara. Or a more satisfying one, because she has been at it since SCTV days way back when. And now she has got a hit of her career really at her distinguished age. And so now, her future is even brighter than her past. The show itself was a dark horse hit that, it was a word of mouth hit. It wasn't an instant hit, but it worked its way up and people told people and now, it's a smash. And so, you've seen her in everything from Home Alone to any number of hits. But she's never really fully gotten her due until now. And I'm so proud and pleased that AARP is one of the organizations that finally gives her, her due.

Mike Ellison:
Yeah. Yeah, that's fantastic. Let's listen to a clip.

Catherine O'Hara:
Thank you, AARP magazine editors for including television in this year's Movies for Grown-Ups awards. I will always be grateful to Eugene and Daniel Levy for inviting me to be part of their Schitt's Creek and for writing such fun, funny custom-made stories for my sexagenarian Moria. Here's to your good health, to your continuing adventures, to upping your vocabulary game and to wearing whatever the hell you want.

Mike Ellison:
"Wearing whatever the hell you want." Why do you think her role in Schitt's Creek found favor in both older and young audiences? Perhaps, it was that very attitude that she just expressed.

Tim Appelo:
Yeah. And I think too that a theme of the show is that these rich people who bought a small town on a whim, rather an imperialist whim, to own a town, now find that they're broke, and they have to relocate to that town. But I think that that resonates in our time of terrible economic insecurity when everybody is a bit worried about that. And so, laughing about it makes us all feel better about it.

Mike Ellison:
Yeah. All right. Now, let's move on to the United States Vs. Billie Holiday. A biographical movie about the blues singer Billy Holiday played incredibly well by Andra Day. During the awards she and Lee Daniels talked about how important it was for the story to be portrayed just right. Let's listen to Andra Day explain.

Andra Day:
It meant a lot to me to help you tell this story and that you trusted me. Even though we had that fear that we had to get over, but ultimately you did trust me, and I trusted you diving into this story. And so, I appreciate you just allowing me to dive in with you and to bring this story to life.


Mike Ellison:
So Tim tell me, did they achieve their goal in portraying the story just right. And if you think they did, how did they do it?

Tim Appelo:
There're different ways of portraying it. I mean, Lee Daniels became a director because he was inspired by Diana Ross in the first movie about Billie Holiday. I think Andra does a better job, honestly, of singing and acting in it. But that's not to diss the original. It's really a movie about early policy in the war on drugs. Which were opt to bear on her life because of course Harry Anslinger. The federal official targeted her in order to publicize his campaign. So, I think it's a movie that does more to tackle the issues of her life and not just that, but also it's very centered on her famous song or the song she made famous, Strange Fruit about lynching. And the government tried to suppress that song, which a lot of people don't know. It isn't just that she did this controversial song. The government, tried to stop her or did stop her in many cases from singing it because they didn't want lynching to be mentioned in public because they didn't like the political backlash.

Mike Ellison:

Tim Appelo:
The movie is important in all kinds of ways, but not least I think it does a better job than that or us even did in conveying her musical achievement or achievement as a singer. It's an amazing act of musical ventriloquism.

Mike Ellison:
Yeah, I was blown away and I think a lot of people were surprised. I mean Andra Day obviously incredibly successful recording artist, but I think she surprised some people with her acting skills. I mean, there were times when I was watching, I forgot that I was watching a movie it felt more like a documentary.

Tim Appelo:
And it's also an incredible story of betrayal. It's kind of like another movie this year, Judas and the Black Messiah.

Mike Ellison:

Tim Appelo:
In both cases, a government appointed spy was sent in to target the victim. And it really happened in both cases in a very interesting psychological way. And in some ways the persecutors is the most interesting character, but they're all interesting. And it also, it shows that the specifics of policy or history aside, it shows the importance of grown-up movies, that address serious issues in a smart and artistic way. And that's something that grown-up audiences appreciate. And Hollywood is a little bit more inclined to do superhero movies to make a lot of money, but only when they also contain important ideas and great artistic achievement like Black Panther is AARP going to focus on them.

Mike Ellison:
Absolutely, absolutely. Well said, very well said.

After the break, we’ll hear Sophia Loren discuss coming back to film after over a decade. Stay tuned.


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Sophia Loren won best actress for The Life Ahead after not being on film for what 11 years? And we have a clip of her acceptance speech with her son Edoardo Ponti. Let's take a listen.

Edoardo Ponti:
In your career. You've played amazing characters. They always combine strength and fragility together.

Sophia Loren:
I think it has to do a lot about the life I went through, the war, about the life of my mother. She was a great, great pianist, Beautiful, beautiful woman. But you know, her love life, she was not very happy. And so, I lived through her, the anguish of a big unhappy.

Mike Ellison:
So she said that she models her performances after her mother, or that she modeled her performance in this particular film after her mother. How did we see that in The Life Ahead?

Tim Appelo:
Well, she's got the years to play a mother convincingly. And I think that she's kind of the grandmother of Hollywood. She's the only surviving actress on the top 20 actors of Hollywood list of the American Film Institute. She hasn't had a hit since 1995's Grumpier Old Men. And, and this is her most prestigious movie since she won an Oscar in 1960. So, it's kind of a proof of the vitality of mothers and grandmothers and elders as wise repositories of wisdom and, and compassion.

Mike Ellison:
Yeah. And George Clooney said that experience is so valuable that he said the downside is you must get older or old to get it. But it's interesting, right? Because we don't look at experience being such a valuable tool in artistry enough. We're going for, as you talked about, there are so many examples that thwart the notion of ageism, right? And so, this is a classic case where experience becomes an incredible tool for great art.

Tim Appelo:
Yeah. And she says just because she's been away for a lot. A long time concentrating on her family. And of course her son directed the film. That's nice. But she says, now she says, when I say I'm 86, I don't believe it. I feel 20. So, she's a validation of the idea of growing up years of life can be times of growth, not decline. They can be times of discovery and openness. And so, she was always inspiring, but she's just never been more inspiring than that.

Mike Ellison:
We immediately look at aging as a decline and not look at the opportunities for growth and discovery. I'm going to hold on to that one, Tim, that was a gem. Anything else that you'd like to add before we close?

Tim Appelo:
Well, she wasn't the only one who exemplified that in this year's Movies for Grown-Up awards. Jodie Foster told me she's happy to be her age because it's actually getting easier for her to get good roles now. There's a time in your forties when an actress starts to lose a lot of options. And now he feels like she has more options than ever. And Anthony Hopkins has told me that his eighties have been the best years of his life. And he sees hit after hit. This may be his masterpiece, his latest, and a very important theme since it's about a father. His film is about a guy experiencing Alzheimer's and it also explores the experience of his caregiver. A lot of our AARP members are either experiencing Alzheimer's, fearing Alzheimer's or being caregivers for it. So it's really quite inspiring to see these people. It's not an act of sentimentality saying that old people are great. These old people are getting greater in terms of fame and achievement. And in many cases it really took off after they turned eighty.

Mike Ellison:

Thanks to Tim Appelo, AARP Film Critic. We sat down with Tim earlier this year when the winners were first announced. Check out episode 122 to listen.

Once again, you can stream the ceremony on and the PBS Video app.

Big thanks to our news team.

Producers, Colby Nelson, and Danny Alarcon.

Production Assistant, Bianca Trotter.

Engineer, Julio Gonzalez.

Executive producer, Jason Young.

And of course, my cohosts, Bob Edwards, and Wilma Consul.

If you liked this episode, share it with a friend and become a subscriber on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or other apps. Be sure to rate our show as well.

For an AARP Take on Today, Mike Ellison, Thanks for listening.

As the world continues to adhere to social distancing guidelines, the entertainment industry has now become more acclimated in engaging audiences from their homes. This year, AARP The Magazine's Movies for Grownups Awards Show took place virtually as it honored many award recipients from this past year’s best movies and shows. On today's show, Tim Appelo, AARP Film Critic, returns to highlight some key moments from this year’s ceremony.

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