Awards season is in full swing in Hollywood.
The Golden Globes, a festival of stars and champagne that's always amusing but never to be taken seriously, takes place Sunday night (Jan. 13). And Oscar nominations, in case you somehow missed ’em, were announced on Thursday morning.
It wasn’t a bad year for movies about or aimed at older audiences. While the true hit of the aging midlifer and senior circuit, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, got stiffed when it came to Oscar nominations, it did receive two Golden Globe nominations, for best picture and best actress (Judi Dench).
The film, a comedy about a group of English retirees who head to India for their golden years, scored where its counts the most: at the box office. To date, it has grossed $134 million worldwide, according to the Box Office Mojo website, a figure that’s even more impressive when you consider that Hotel’s budget was a humble $10 million.
Otherwise, boomer-targeted movies and actors of a certain age did just fine when it came to Oscar nominations.
Nabbing nods for both best picture and best foreign film was Amour, the French-language film by Austrian director Michael Haneke (who earned a best director nomination) that movingly tells the story of an elderly Parisian couple as the wife slips away due to illness and dementia. Veteran French star Emanuelle Riva, whose performance as the wife is a model of economy and grace, was nominated for best actress. The oldest nominee ever in the category, she will celebrate her 86th birthday on Feb. 24, the same day as the Academy Awards ceremony.
Nearly as good a story is that of Jacki Weaver, 65, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her quietly effective turn as the worried mother (Robert De Niro plays her husband) in Silver Linings Playbook. The Australian actress was a well-known figure Down Under for decades but was bupkis in Hollywood until her knockout performance as the matriarch of a criminal clan in a little Aussie crime drama called Animal Kingdom (2010) earned her a supporting actress nod in 2011. Silver Linings is only Weaver’s second American movie and she said she was so intimidated that she kept addressing her co-star as “Mr. De Niro” for the first couple of days of shooting.
While there are plenty of younger stars who were nominated this year (let’s hear a shoutout for Quvenzhané Wallis, the now 9-year-old sprite who received a best actress nomination for her turn in Beasts of the Southern Wild), it wasn’t like older actors got shut out. In the best actor category, nominees include Daniel Day-Lewis, 55, for Lincoln, and Denzel Washington, 57, for Flight. And the best actress contenders, other than Riva, include … well, never mind.
For best supporting actress, Weaver is joined by Lincoln's Sally Field, 66. Best supporting actor is the spot where the over-50 crowd cleans up: nominees include Alan Arkin, 78, for Argo; Robert De Niro, 69, for Silver Linings Playbook; Tommy Lee Jones, 66, for Lincoln; and Christoph Waltz, 56, for Django in Chains. (The youngest nominee in the category is Philip Seymour Hoffman, 45, for The Master.) And four of the five nominees for best director are past 50 (including Hanake, Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg and David O. Russell).
Even if you’ve already worked your way through the Oscar-nominated films, there are still movies at the megaplex aimed at older audiences. Here are five worth catching that are playing now or will open soon:
56 Up This British documentary is the eighth in an extraordinary series by director Michael Apted in which he checks in every seven years on a group of 14 English men and women whom he has been following since they were bright-eyed 7-year-olds. The film cuts back and forth between the subjects — over the years, they have become almost like friends for regular viewers — as their middle-aged selves tell us about their reality now even as their younger selves, at, say, 7, 14 or 28, discuss once-held hopes and ambitions.
Quartet Dustin Hoffman, at the ripe age of 75, makes his feature-directing debut with a slight but amusing comedy about the residents of a British retirement home for aged musicians. Think of this as the stuck-in-England spin-off of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with recitals added. Like Marigold, it stars Maggie Smith. Other cast members include Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Billy Connelly and Pauline Collins (Sarah in the original Upstairs, Downstairs).
The Last Quartet Similar name, different movie. This drama is about a classical music quartet whose members have been together for two decades. When its senior member, a cellist (Christopher Walken), becomes ill the foursome finds itself on the verge of breaking up. Walken gives a wonderful performance, showing both humanity and humility as an artist who knows his gift is leaving him.
Stand Up Guys Walken is again the main reason to see this modest, sometimes crude comedy, in which he, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin play a trio of aging criminals who reunite when Pacino emerges from the pokey after a long sentence.
Not Fade Away The Sopranos director-writer David Chase reunites with his HBO leading man, James Gandolfini, for this melancholy, nostalgic drama about a New Jersey youngster (John Magaro) who’s coming of age in the mid-1960s. The boy and his friends, inspired by seeing the Rolling Stones perform on TV, form a band and dream of becoming rock stars. The soundtrack alone will transport you through the decades back to your childhood bedroom, where you dreamily listened for hours to your teenage sister’s rock LPs.