Robert Redford looked a bit weather-beaten, but still magnificent, when I saw him last evening at the AARP The Magazine's Movies for Grownups Award Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He and I chatted for a few minutes about our mutual friend, the late director Sydney Pollack (he told me that he misses him every day, and I agreed), and then Bob went up on stage to receive their Lifetime Achievement Award.
A really well-deserved tribute, but I could not help flashing back to when he received an honorary Oscar from the Motion Picture Academy in 2002. As a member of that august body for some 30 years, I was in the audience that night... and remember him saying that in a way he resented the award, "because I am not ready to draw a line under my acting career yet." And yes, he has remained active and seemingly almost driven in this past decade, with a new film which he directed, The Conspirator, opening shortly. (It's the story of Mary Surratt, whose boardinghouse was the meeting place for John Wilkes Booth and fellow plotters of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.) Redford commented that the political climate of post-Civil War Washington -- when individual rights sometimes took a back seat to national security -- mirrors post-9/11 America. I commented to my companion, Jacqueline Bisset (yes, her again!) that I had been shocked to see Bob appear on the Oprah Show last year, when she was paying tribute to Barbra Streisand. (Yes, they did discuss a sequel to the 1973 The Way We Were, but I would not hold my breath.)
I get AARP The Magazine because I am a member of that organization, but I was surprised to hear from Editor Nancy Perry Graham that it is the world's largest-circulation magazine, 35 million, with 47 million readers. Can you imagine that? (Nancy reminded me of the times when, as an editor at People, she would accompany me to tasting dinners while I was reviewing a restaurant.) The magazine has been doing this awards show for the past 10 years. As the magazine's Entertainment Editor Bill Newcott put it, "These niche awards are designed to celebrate movies and performances which most appeal to our audience of people in the 50+ age range." I asked him how the winners were selected and he said his panel of editors nominated them, though I strongly suspect Bill and his discriminating, oft-offbeat taste, is the final factor.
Seated at the next table to me was the contingent from The King's Speech, which won the award for "Best Movie for Grownups," while Colin Firth won the Best Actor honor. (Yes, I voted for it as best picture in the Oscar race.) I was rather surprised (but very pleased) that an extraordinary actress named Leslie Manville won "Best Actress" for an English movie, directed by the idiosyncratic Mike Leigh, called Another Year, about a married couple who manage to stay blissfully happy over the course of many years and much adversity. I loved the film, but I rather doubt that most people in the room had even heard of it (unless they were Academy members and received a screener DVD, as I did.) Danny Boyle was selected as Best Director for 127 Hours, again well-deserved but a film which had almost no audience among older folks because of its story of a man (James Franco, who is co-hosting the Oscars) cutting off his arm in a remote desert canyon to save his life. (I couldn't even get my best friends to see the screener, although it was directed by the man who had won the Oscar in 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire.) I think some of the other awards were, to be kind, puzzling and yet interesting... John Malkovich for "Best Supporting Actor" for Secretariat (I think Christian Bale will get the Oscar for The Fighter), and Phylicia Rashad for For Colored Girls. "Best Grownup Love Story" was a somewhat brave choice for such a staid organization, with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as the lesbian couple in The Kids Are All Right.
The rest of the awards were equally interesting... especially John Wells for "Best Screenwriter" for The Company Men over Aaron Sorkin for Social Network. John made an impassioned speech about the 22 million people who are out of work in this country, a sobering note in an exuberant evening. Helen Mirren received the "Breakthrough Achievement" Award for her performance as a machine gun-toting agent in Red. Andy Garcia accepted the "Best Comedy" Award for the delightful City Island. Silliest award was that for "Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up", which describes me, and it was for The Karate Kid, which I have not seen. "Best Documentary" went to the powerful Waste Land.
My personal highlight of the evening was speaking to veteran actor Hal Holbrook, who starred in the only Broadway drama that I ever produced, Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie? We laughed about my costarring a young actor I had found off-Broadway by the name of Al Pacino.... wonder whatever happened to him. And Ed Begley, Jr. came over to my table to remind me of his role in my Billy Wilder/Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau comedy, Buddy, Buddy.
I celebrate any platform like this which will honor really good movies and performers, though I do question the mindset that people of my age and generation have different movie tastes than young people. But, hey, 47 million can't be wrong.
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