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Movie awards season: It is long. It’s just so long. Even now that we’ve all but disavowed the Golden Globes, we’ve still got the BAFTAs, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Critics Choice Awards, and the New York Film Critics Circle, not to mention the guild awards: the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, and, oh, right, the actual Oscars. Over the years, as someone whose professional obligations and private passions have led me to follow awards season quite closely, one Oscar precursor has emerged as a personal favorite, not for its prestige or its ability to predict the eventual Oscar winners but for its quirky, often defiantly esoteric take on the best films of the year. I’m, of course, talking about the AARP Movies for Grownups Awards.

Given out annually since 2002 — though in their earliest years, these awards were merely citations in an article in AARP The Magazine — the Movies for Grownups Awards have evolved into a very real awards ceremony, broadcast on PBS. This year’s ceremony, hosted by Alan Cumming, will air on March 18 as part of PBS’s Great Performances. As their name suggests, the awards are handed out by the American Association of Retired Persons to the best filmmakers and performers over the age of 50 (and the films that speak to that audience). As was said in the press release announcing this year’s nominees, “Without grownup audiences, arthouse films, indies and TV that qualifies as art would not survive. Thanks to AARP and its viewers, there’s more to Hollywood than young stars in superhero spandex.” One can only hope!

Over the years, the Movies for Grownups Awards — or M4Gs, as they’re known by me and hopefully other hip people — have shown a singular taste in movies, one that overlaps with the Oscars sometimes and follows its own personal faves at others (Judi Dench is an M4Gs goddess). It was the only awards organization with the good sense to, for example, crown Annette Bening Best Actress for 20th Century Women while Oscar voters were busy being egregiously wrong. Last year’s M4Gs were the canary in the coal mine for Anthony Hopkins’s eventual Oscar victory. And it was the only awards body to nominate Candice Bergen for Let Them All Talk (good!), give Best Supporting Actor to Demián Bichir for Land (a movie!), and hand its Best Movie for Grownups award — i.e., Best Picture — to The United States vs. Billie Holiday (I mean!).

You can’t tell these retirees anything, and we love them for it. The M4Gs go their own way, and I can only eagerly follow. This year, I’m embarking on the sure folly of trying to handicap the top categories at the Movies for Grownups Awards, where Belfast leads the field with seven nominations and stands a far better chance at winning awards than it does at the Oscars.

The Nominees
Belfast
King Richard
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Being the Ricardos

Oscars Crossover
Of these five, only Being the Ricardos isn’t an Oscar nominee for Best Picture.

Surprise Omission
M. Night Shyamalan directs his first movie since reaching AARP eligibility age, a wickedly fun bit of M4Gs bait called Old, and he gets completely blanked. Injustice!

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While, yes, Netflix does now operate the Paris Theater, New York City’s only single-screen movie theater, it’s still a shame that NYC theatergoers can no longer descend that escalator at Lincoln Plaza to watch The Power of the Dog the way every Jane Campion movie is meant to be screened: in a room full of Upper West Side retirees.

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Historical Precedent
Trying to glean a kind of coherent voting narrative for this category based on previous winners will make you go insane. How do you track a group that has awarded Best Film to auteurist victory laps (The Irishman), giant blockbusters that infuriated Twitter (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), tiny movies that made no money (Loving), and actual Oscar winners (like 12 Years a Slave and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)?

Prediction
With a reminder that last year The United States vs. Billie Holiday bested all the year’s big Oscar contenders, take a long-shot bet that Lucy-and-Desi nostalgia will push Being the Ricardos to a win.

The Nominees
Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley
Steven Spielberg, West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Oscars Crossover
Branagh, Campion, and Spielberg are all Oscar nominees. Villeneuve was a surprise Oscar snub, but the AARP is clearly very into Timmy and the sandworms.

Surprise Omission
Aaron Sorkin won last year, so it’s a bit of a surprise he’s not back again this year for Being the Ricardos, especially since the film has five other nominations.

Historical Precedent
Only once in the 20-year history of the Movies for Grownups Awards has Best Director gone to the same film that won Best Movie for Grownups. And the AARP has selected the eventual Oscar winner only four times (one of those times was Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water). It has, however, nominated Branagh twice before, for decidedly less heralded films Murder on the Orient Express and All Is True. This is also Spielberg’s sixth M4Gs nomination, having won twice before for Munich and Lincoln.

Prediction
Will the AARP’s historical love for Spielberg trump its historical love for Branagh? It feels like this is finally its chance to award Branagh, so I think it’ll take it.

The Nominees
Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos
Jim Broadbent, The Duke
Peter Dinklage, Cyrano
Will Smith, King Richard
Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Oscars Crossover
Bardem, Smith, and Washington are all Oscar nominated. (Neither Benedict Cumberbatch nor Andrew Garfield are old enough.)

Surprise Omission
Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen — OH, I’M KIDDING. But seriously, it’s like Matt Damon turned 50 and put on a camo baseball cap in Stillwater for nothing!

Historical Precedent
Whenever the eventual Oscar winner is old enough to qualify for the AARP (which happens fewer times than you’d think), he usually triumphs here. The lone exception so far is when Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis lost to Washington for Flight. Speaking of whom, this voting body really loves Washington, having nominated him three times before this (he’s the only lead actor to win this category twice).

AARP-iest Nominee
Broadbent nominated for an art-theft comedy that hasn’t been released yet, co-starring Helen Mirren and directed by the recently deceased Roger Michell (making it the fifth movie of Michell’s illustrious career to have earned an M4G nomination), is honestly perfect, and it’s why we have/love the Movies for Grownups Awards.

Prediction
It’s almost certainly going to be Smith, but keep an eye out for Washington.

The Nominees
Halle Berry, Bruised
Sandra Bullock, The Unforgivable
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Helen Mirren, The Duke

Oscars Crossover
Kidman is the only tether here between the M4G and the Oscar noms. As was the case in Best Actor, none of this year’s other Oscar nominees were eligible to be nominated.

Surprise Omission
Toni Collette is just barely on the wrong side of 50. Otherwise, we’d wonder where her nomination is for Dream Horse, the movie whose poster strongly suggests she plays a woman who falls in love with a horse.

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Historical Precedent
The AARP is not nearly as consistent in awarding the eventual Best Actress winner (if she’s eligible) as it is with Best Actor. It also snubbed McDormand before both of her most recent Oscar wins, so unless it’s feeling the need to make it up to her, you can probably rule McDormand out.

AARP-iest Nominee
This is Mirren’s ninth nomination in this category. In addition to her two previous Supporting Actress nominations, three noms in Best Grownup Love Story, a Breakthrough Accomplishment award in 2011 for her performance in Red, and a Career Achievement award in 2018, that brings her AARP grand total up to 16. Pretend to be surprised: They love her.

Prediction
Berry and Bullock are both representing Netflix movies that nobody saw, which you’d think would be a detriment, but Sophia Loren won last year for starring in a Netflix movie nobody saw, so you never know. It’s probably going to be Kidman, though.

The Nominees
Ciarán Hinds, Belfast
Jared Leto, House of Gucci
J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos
Timothy Spall, Spencer
David Strathairn, Nightmare Alley

Oscars Crossover
Hinds and Simmons are both Oscar nominated.

Surprise Omission
Ironically, the only one of the Oscar nominees who is eligible but not nominated here is likely Oscar champ Troy Kotsur.

Historical Precedent
Leto wasn’t old enough to qualify for the M4Gs when he won his Oscar in 2014. Simmons was, however, and he won both the M4G and the Oscar in 2015 for Whiplash.

AARP-iest Nominee
Spall, nominated for playing a character I am 65 percent certain was a ghost in the style of the bartender from The Shining, is prime M4Gs tomfoolery.

Prediction
With Kotsur out of the running, this category is a wild tossup. The winners in this category are usually pretty deserving, so don’t rule out Strathairn getting a well-deserved award, but the favorite is probably Ciaran Hinds for Belfast, who feels like a proprietary M4Gs nominee that the Oscars jumped in and stole first.

The Nominees
Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley
Judi Dench, Belfast
Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard
Marlee Matlin, CODA
Rita Moreno, West Side Story

Oscars Crossover
Dench and Ellis are the only two Oscar nominees also eligible for the M4Gs.

Surprise Omission
In the Heights was done incredibly dirty throughout awards season, but we held out a glimmer of hope that the M4Gs might finally be the ones to recognize either Olga Merediz or Daphne Rubin-Vega. Alas.

Historical Precedent
Past winners in this category include Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Diane Ladd for Joy, Phylicia Rashad for For Colored Girls, and BOTH Christine Baranski and Julie Walters for Mamma Mia!, so this year’s nominees look kind of pedestrian by comparison, sorry to say.

AARP-iest Nominee
While she’s no Helen Mirren, this is Dench’s 12th M4Gs nomination, having previously won for Philomena, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and her previous Branagh collaboration, All Is True.

Prediction
This is a pretty stacked category, with everyone except maybe Blanchett boasting a realistic claim to the win. It’s folly to bet against Dench, and it’s maybe also folly to bet against the M4Gs’ building a bridge to cinema’s storied past by giving Moreno an award. But given the trajectory of this year’s awards season, which has seen CODA emerge as both a real contender and crowd-pleaser, and given that this is the most high-profile place on the ballot for the M4Gs to honor that film, I think the AARP will give this to Matlin.

The Nominees
Belfast
C’mon C’mon
CODA
King Richard
The Tender Bar

Historical Precedent
This award tends to go to family stories about parents and children (or grandparents and grandchildren) bridging gaps. Previous winners include Minari, The Farewell, and Nebraska.

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Surprise Omission
For all of the epic whining about Spider-Man: No Way Home deserving a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, where it really belonged was this very category, as it is literally an intergenerational adventure story about Gen-X Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), millennial Spider-Man (Garfield), and Gen-Z Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Sure, none of them are older then 50, but if the Oscars can make up dumb new categories to accomodate, surely the AARP can look the other way just this once.

Prediction
Here again, I think the feel-good CODA wave carries it through.

The Nominees
Finch
The Harder They Fall
Off the Rails
Queen Bees
12 Mighty Orphans

Historical Precedent
This award has been given out only sporadically, but Da 5 Bloods won last year.

Surprise Omission
If you’re going to argue that Pig doesn’t count because only Nicolas Cage and not Alex Wolff (or that pig) is over 50, then I’m going to point out that Finch is a buddy movie about Tom Hanks and a robot he just created.

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Prediction
The eligibility questions run rampant in this category, to be honest. The Harder They Fall is a great nominee, but of that large ensemble cast, only Delroy Lindo and (barely) Regina King are over 50. I still bet that’s your winner, though, making Lindo the Michael Keaton of this category. (We all remember that Michael Keaton starred in Best Picture Oscar winners Birdman and Spotlight in back-to-back years, right??)

The Nominees
Being the Ricardos
Belfast
Spencer
West Side Story

Historical Precedent
Regularly the most demented category at the M4Gs, this award should probably just be called Best Movie Set in the Past since time capsule suggests fonder feelings toward a film’s subject matter than would be appropriate for past winners like Harriet, Dunkirk, and J. Edgar.

Surprise Omission
I guess House of Gucci’s aggressive reminders of the 1980s were no match for the nostalgic draw of the early ’90s, when Diana Spencer was most stressed out.

Prediction
As established, the M4Gs aren’t averse to the idea of declaring a movie about the Troubles to be a great time capsule, so I’d bet on Belfast to be a major contender here, since the idea of looking back in time is baked into its premise.

The Nominees
Belfast (Caitríona Balfe & Jamie Dornan and Ciarán Hinds & Judi Dench)
Cyrano (Haley Bennett and Peter Dinklage)
The Duke (Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren)
The Tragedy of Macbeth (Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington)
23 Walks (Dave Johns and Alison Steadman)

Historical Precedent
In many ways a more definitional M4Gs category than even Best Movie for Grownups, past winners here have included Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci for Julie & Julia, Bening and Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini for Enough Said.

Surprise Omission
Say what you want about The Matrix Resurrections, but it would’ve been a rad nominee in this category.

Prediction
The fact that the AARP nominated Belfast for two separate couples (one of whom is flagrantly too young to qualify for these awards) is a pretty good indicator that it’s probably going to win.

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