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Top 25: Discussion for Nominations on Growing Older

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Incidentally, I did some hunting and found that Beginning with the End is only really available through Tugg or a site licensing, so I can't imagine it would be screenable for enough A&F members to vote for it. So sad...it's such a powerful film. 

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15 hours ago, Rob Z said:

These are good points, but I question the extent to which Unforgiven is really about growing older, even if the main character is older and reflects on his past, etc. There are other cantankerous old man Eastwood characters processing their pasts, but Gran Torino seems to me easily to be the most appropriate for this list. Are there earlier instances of this deceased wife/spouse dynamic?

 

It's the earliest I know of. I hope that if anyone here knows of anything earlier, that they nominate it.

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19 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I would definitely like to see a second round, even if it is optional, to rank finalists. I could see myself giving multiple films a "5" but having a strong opinion about which should rank higher.

Totally fine by me if we do a second round of voting to rank the 25 finalists.

 

17 hours ago, Rob Z said:

Great point. Both these films (I’ve only seen Ladybird) seem like much better fits in the “coming of age” category, but I see “coming of age” as a subset of “growing older.” They’re not mutually exclusive, and I really like the distinction of this list focusing on “the ongoing transformation wrought by time rather than experience,” or at least accumulation of experiences (or traumas) rather than overcoming something or going on a hero’s quest. Another telos for the bildungsroman is the marriage of the protagonist, or the integration of the individual into society in some form. I’d really love for the list to focus on the growth of those who are already integrated into society, or couples who are already married. But I don’t mean “focus” to be exclusive. Films that are peripheral to this focus but still anticipate the kind of accumulation and “growing wiser” we’ve talked about would add value and scope to the list, and that could include some coming of age films. But I think it’s too broad to have the list just be on transitions from any life stage to another. And I’m not sure Ladybird really fits the bill.

I have not seen An Education (will definitely do so before voting). However, Lady Bird is just as much about Marion's growing older and coming to terms with her daughter becoming an independent young adult as it is about Christine's coming of age. And Christine's coming of age here is not a response to a specific event or trauma, but a gradual accumulation of experiences and knowledge.

15 hours ago, Rob Z said:

These are good points, but I question the extent to which Unforgiven is really about growing older, even if the main character is older and reflects on his past, etc.

It's been awhile since I've seen Unforgiven, but I have the same reservations. Although rewatching it could make me think it's a good fit.

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I nominated The Remains of the Day

I then saw it was actually picked for Top 25 films on memory. That oddly made me want to nominate it less, even though I think it is a better film for this category than that one. 

I've cooled on the film considerably in the last ten years, and like Interview with a Vampire, I'm more persuaded by the thematic fit than blown away by the actual film itself. I do think the film is about losing one's capacity and having to reorder one's values in the face of age and experience. The title itself is a metaphor for how we look at autumn years, and the way it frankly addresses questions of whether those years can be redeemed, lived independently of the years leading to them, or simply endured, are ones that are pertinent to our cultural assumptions of aging.

Aside: has anyone seen The Fountain recently? I am not an Aronofsky fan, but I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it yet. 

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I've been thinking about nominating three period pieces, but have held back because I can't decide whether they're truly about growing older and in some cases wiser and in some cases not, or three movies whose plots take place over many years. The three films are: Barry Lyndon, The Age of Innocence, and The Portrait of a Lady. I'm inclined to say The Portrait of a Lady is a good fit, since Nicole Kidman's character must confront the consequences of the choices she made in her youth, particularly when she has a chance to prevent another young couple from repeating the mistakes she made. The very last scene of Barry Lyndon definitely shows a sort of growth for Barry, but beyond that I'm not sure how much growing older is a central theme. And The Age of Innocence definitely shows Newland growing older, but once again is that too limited to just a couple scenes?

 

Anyone else have thoughts on those three films?

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Regarding Ken's comment, I've considered The Fountain, but will probably nominate The Wrestler over it for this "Growing Older" theme.

Regarding Evan's comments, I've only seen The Age of Innocence (I've started and given up on Barry Lyndon numerous times over the years--I think I'll need to see it in a theater to keep me focused), and I think it *could* work for this, although I'd agree that it's only in the latter scenes where the "growing older" aspect is most present.

I seconded Anders' T2 Trainspotting nomination after watching the film last night, and while it doesn't have the "lust for life" of its predecessor, I think that's precisely the point. Thematically, I'm not sure I can think of a better film which revisits the same characters--played by the same actors and with the same director--20 years later. It really examines life in one's mid-40s and how much has truly changed, not just for these characters, but for the world in general from 1996 to 2016--it's not just the four guys who have grown older and changed, Edinburgh itself has also grown and changed.

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I nominated Children of Paradise. Marcel Carné was originally forced to circulate Children of Paradise as two movies, so there's still a bit of disconnect between the two parts when we watch it as one movie the way it was intended. That disconnect serves to highlight the offscreen passage of seven years. The Bohemian lifestyle of the first half is summarized by a seductress's catch phrase of sorts, "Love is so easy." But as the second section begins, we find that she has been away from the acting troupe for the full seven years and has just returned when the story resumes. The second half beautifully shows how the passage of time naturally transforms lives whether a person is willing to change or not. The second half shows the folly in the belief that "love is so easy" and the devastating consequences for the characters who allow that belief and their old passions to be revived.

Edited by Ed Bertram

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I nominated A Raisin in the Sun (the 1961 version with Sidney Poitier). The film shows three generations of one family growing older together in one crowded apartment. They grieve the loss of the family's patriarch together. They hope for a brighter future together. And they struggle with the consequences of each other's individual manifestations of growing older. We see each character change and/or grow in terms of self-awareness, religious identity and moral convictions. All of these changes are the results of the characters' lots in life that force them to grow older together. 

Note: If you watch the Youtube video I attached to the nomination, I would advise you to skip ahead to 1:22 to avoid the producer's cheesy, long-winded introduction that says nothing about the movie.

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The Silence contrasts the intellectual and the carnal, the irascible and the appetitive, the rational and the passionate in the form of the two sisters. But both these sisters have in common that they are aging, and they both struggle to come to terms with what that means. The setting—a journey in an unstable place where the language isn’t clear—suggests their situation of disorientation as they age as well.

 

Wild Strawberries is probably the best film on growing old that I’ve seen. Reflecting on key moments in life, telling one’s story to those younger, being honored (in both small but meaningful and large but shallow ways), reconciling familial relationships, finding forgiveness (especially of oneself)—these strike me as some of the most important tasks of old age, and they are just what the film portrays in Isak Borg’s journey toward finding peace. The use of flashbacks and dreams are wonderful.

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Here is my argument for including Phantom Thread on the list.  I think this would be an exciting and surprising entry on our Growing Older list. 

 

The Reynolds Woodcock character is himself middle-aged.  There may be various interpretations about the change that takes place in him as the film progresses, but there is no question he is a profoundly different man at film’s end than he is at the beginning.  The changes that take place in him are intricately tied to the shifts in the relationships and alliances between Woodcock and those around him.  Woodcock has to navigate a whole paradigm shift from an “indestructible” alliance with his sister to a world in which Alma is allowed to play a role in his life.  The way the first world shatters to give way to the second one has a cataclysmic force, one that is surely mirrored in the way many in middle age have to change alliances and deep-seated ways of living when they find rifts in the foundation they have stood on for so long. 

 

Perhaps most compelling of all is the way Alma brings a certain balm and restoration to the way Woodcock relates to the memory of his late mother.  She rights his reeling ship in this regard.  (How she does this, of course, is complicated and morally ambiguous :))

 

As we age, we not only change in the way relate to loved ones, but also in the way we relate to our memories. 

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Is All That Jazz available to stream anywhere? I can only find DVDs for sale at Amazon and nothing at Kanopy, Vudu, or on Roku. 

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21 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Is All That Jazz available to stream anywhere? I can only find DVDs for sale at Amazon and nothing at Kanopy, Vudu, or on Roku. 

Criterion picked it up, so I would have assumed it would be available on Kanopy. Strange.

If you wanted, I'd be willing to mail you my Blu-ray, as long as you mailed it back to me after watching it.

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If I understand correctly, Kanopy's offerings vary depending on what library you have. 

 

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So, I went a little bonkers and nominated 11 films for the list just now.  I'll try not to make this too wordy, but here's my rationale for each:

Wes Anderson's films are rather Truffaut-like in their sophisticated looks at man-children and the consequences of their immaturity.  The Royal Tenenbaums is probably the best of his films in this regard.  It succeeds in shows young adults striving to come to terms with their failures to live up to their precocious potential, as well as Gene Hackman's father figure almost too late growing both older and wiser in his relationships with his adult children.  Moonrise Kingdom is more subtle in handling these themes, but the characters played by Norton, Willis, Murray, and McDormand each grow into a wiser, more self-aware, and responsible middle age by the film's end.

Speaking of Truffaut, I'm bending the rules a bit in nominating his five films spanning 20 years of the life of his man-child, semi alter ego Antoine Doinel.  We see him from his teens to his 30s, beginning with his rebellion against his neglectful, selfish parents in The 400 Blows; to first love in Antoine and Colette; to marriage, fatherhood, and infidelity in Stolen Kisses and Bed & Board; to the potential for more mature attachment in Love on the Run.  It's unfortunate that the last film is artistically the weakest of the bunch, because I'm especially touched by how it shows Doinel's maturation as tied to the acceptance of his now-deceased mother's flaws.

And I bend the rules again in nominating Linklater's Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy.  Each is artistically strong and profound on its own terms, but they're stronger as a whole, in showing 18 years in the lives of their two protagonists, through youthful idealism, disappointed love, parenting, and marital turmoil - each handled realistically with a mix of success and failure.

Christopher Nolan strives for thematic depth in his action films, and I think he did this best with Inception.  Both DiCaprio's and Cillian Murphy's characters illustrate the process of maturing through grief across two common middle age milestones, the end of a marriage and the death of a parent.  DiCaprio comes to accept gratefully the years that he had with his wife, while Murphy accepts that he must become his own individual in the face of his father's disappointment.  And this is set against the background of Watanabe's words about the risk of growing old, alone, and full of regret.

Kurosawa gets three nominations.  Stephen Prince, the best analyst of Kurosawa's oeuvre, rightly points out that Kurosawa's protagonists aged as the director grew older, so these are all late career works.  Dersu Uzala shows a tragic aspect of growing older, as its title character loses his faculties but just as significantly cannot keep pace with the changes in the world around him.  

Kurosawa's Dreams and Rhapsody in August are far more hopeful, both seeming to be exactly the types of films that belong on this list.  Dreams' eight stories cover the entire lifespan from childhood to advanced old age, in a way that I would contend is quite psychobiographical.  The specter of suicide and trauma hangs over these stories, just as it did for Kurosawa and his family, but the film progresses past this to an embrace of the world and its wonders, to an old age that does not fear death.  Rhapsody in August addresses these last points in a more straightforward narrative, showing an incredible survivor of Nagasaki's A-bombing who bravely faces advancing age (and likely dementia) through family, community, and spirituality.

Probably half or more of Ozu's films could qualify for this list, but besides the already-nominated Tokyo Story, I would recommend Late Spring most vigorously.  Chishu Ryu's character exemplifies the sacrificial elements of growing older, namely in nudging his beloved daughter ought the door, despite the vast loneliness this entails.

Lastly, I've nominated two films by Paolo Sorrentino.  The Great Beauty has much to say about growing older badly, with a just-turned-60 protagonist who has squandered his talents despite the ancient and contemporary splendors of the city surrounding him.  Even in contemplating decades past, he can't summon anything more than hopeless cynicism.  On the other hand, Youth offers a broader perspective on growing older:  Harvey Keitel's character is developmentally stuck, while Michael Caine's is far more open, though hardly struggle-free.  We see this in the way he relates to a younger actor, his daughter, his musical output, and his wife with far-advanced dementia.

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I nominated Citizen Kane With every new stage in Charles Foster Kane’s life comes new opportunities to grow wiser with age.  His lament that “If I hadn’t been rich, I might have been a really great man” could be an excuse for not heeding the lessons life teaches. Or it could actually be a type of growth, a moment where he realizes that his priority of being admired over genuine relationships has made his life a tragedy. Whichever is the case, the regret and missed opportunities of Kane’s life provide a powerful reminder of how the years do change people and that it’s often up to us to let the years change us for the better contrary to Kane’s unwillingness.

Edited by Ed Bertram

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I nominated Incendies. As the twins immerse themselves in the world that their late mother's letters introduce them to, they learn how she grew older. They see the ways she allowed time to change her. Living in an environment of constant, intense religiously-motivated violence, the twins learn those lessons that only aging and experience could teach their mother. So, as they go through their journeys of finding out more clearly who they are, they're presented with ample opportunities to grow older and wiser themselves.

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I nominated two films about which I admittedly feel ambivalent.

High Fidelity...I'm still not sure if it is coming of age more than growing older. And I know there is a contingent of this board that thinks the film suffers in comparison to Hornby's novel. But...it more than any postmodern work I know really addresses the emptiness of postmodernism. I ultimately see Rob not as an arrested adolescent who must grow up (coming of age) but as a crippled adult who is seemingly incapable of navigating life because of his fear of death. 

Umberto D...others I respect like this film more than I do. Like King Lear, it is a title I think is *supposed* to be on such lists, and there is a poignance to the attempts to hold onto dignity. 

On a side note...I actually thought about Citizen Kane (see Ed's post above), though I'm not convinced that it is a film about growing older so much as a film that spans a lifetime. I think Kane's defining feature is precisely that he doesn't grow. He is a mostly static character, and as much as I love the film, I'm not sure if I quite get it on this list...though I can be convinced.

I haven't re-watched Unforgiven yet, but I wondering if it is more a film about domestication and violence than experience and maturity. We'll see.

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I seconded Umberto D, as I was potentially going to nominate it myself, though I'm still trying to differentiate between films about old age or mortality and films about "growing up." Regarding Citizen Kane, I agree with Ken that it feels less like a film about "growing up" as simply the span of a character's life; for a similar entire-lifespan film which addresses the process of aging/growing up more, I think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fits better.

I nominated two Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody/Charlize Theron films, Young Adult and Tully. Reading Ken's note on High Fidelity and arrested adolescent vs crippled adult reminded me of the former, which is an interesting and complex (if ultimately tragic) film exploring what it means to get "stuck" in a certain emotional or social maturity. Both films address the supposed "golden age" of youth as an older person fantasizes about their past, while both affirming the goodness of aging and growing older.

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I just nominated Blind Chance, a what-might-have been story that explores three different outcomes to one incident that overshadows all of the protagonist's life. In each segment, Witek grows older, and the film shows the radically different paths his life takes in response to once chance happening and the resulting influences that shape his future choices. Some of the choices lead to him growing wiser and others growing in power instead. As a story about how outside influences and our choices affect how we age, I think this would be a great fit for the list.

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I nominated Make Way for Tomorrow, which finds the characters and the audience confronting the aging process in at least 3 stages of life. First, there is the Old couple, who are facing the heartbreaking fact of having to leave their home, and be separated for the first time ever. Then there are the adult children and their spouses, in the prime of life, and busy with social and work activities, yet having to deal with the added burden of taking care of their aging parents. Finally, there are teenage children, grandchildren of the old couple, who are finding their way on the cusp of independence, and are straining against the bonds of childhood in a search for independence and freedom. The film deals with these competing family claims with grace and humor, but with an unsparing honesty that allows us to sympathize with each generation's difficulties, but without letting them off the hook for their choices.


I also nominated Tokyo Story, which is a sort of remake of Make Way for Tomorrow, yet set in Japan, and with a Japanese set of family dynamics. I advance it for similar reasons to the McCarey film.

I nominated Madadayo as well. In this swan song of Kurosawa, he revisits many of the themes of aging that are present in earlier works, including the loneliness of old age, the sense of loss when you have retired from your livelihood, the romanticism of nostalgic recollection, and the defiance of intending to live even longer. "Not Yet!"

In Chaplin's Limelight, I think there is a profound exploration of what it means to be past your prime, especially in a performance profession, where you are only as good as your most recent success. There is also a tender look at the phenomenon of trying to recapture youth through a relationship with someone much younger.

In The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, we get the full scope of a man's adult life, from brash and romantic youth, to cautious and set-in-their-ways old age. The sense that the world may be passing you by as you get older, and the reflection on the contrast between the boldness and certainty of the young with the experience and wisdom of the old has never been made better.

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I haven't seen it yet, but Cassavetes' Opening Night might be a good fit for this list. Maybe some other Cassavetes films could work here too? I've only seen A Woman Under the Influence, but I get the impression that "midlife crisis" is an ongoing theme in his filmography.

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On 2/11/2019 at 10:04 PM, kenmorefield said:

II think Kane's defining feature is precisely that he doesn't grow. He is a mostly static character...

I'm not sure I'm quite on the same page with everyone yet, so for now I will continue to contend for Citizen Kane, but I welcome any feedback that gets me more in line with the community's purpose for the list if my argument seems outside of that. My reason for nominating Citizen Kane is in large part because of this statement Ken made. I'm thinking of growing older that may or may not involve growing up so long as there’s ample opportunity for the latter. Certainly, Kane doesn't mature, but with every stage of his life, we see prospects for growth that he eschews. His relationship with Joseph Cotten's character constantly presents the chance for him to carry out his moral responsibility to fulfill the contract he made when opening the newspaper—one of honesty, integrity and to continuously learn and grow. That relationship shows him a way toward wisdom through taking his own advice and living by his own standards that he once set for himself (or at least for the newspaper). Each marriage provides different ways that he can move beyond selfishness; these relationships show him how growing wiser involves sacrificial love. And his bid for office combines both of those lessons that growing older ideally teaches, but of course this opportunity is also met with his stubborn insistence against heeding these lessons. 

Having said that, I understand that Kane's progression of age is nowhere near enough for consideration for this list. What matters for the list as I currently understand it is that we watch Kane experience so many opportunities for change. This means that we do watch a movie about growth; it's about growth rejected. It's about the interplay between the things of life we have no control over (Rosebud) with the decisions we make throughout life and the impact of both on the aging process and on whether or not a person will heed life's lessons. 

Edited by Ed Bertram

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33 minutes ago, Ed Bertram said:

I'm not sure I'm quite on the same page with everyone yet, so for now I will continue to contend for Citizen Kane, but I welcome any feedback that gets me more in line with the community's purpose for the list if my argument seems outside of that.

1

I think we are all hashing out our own thoughts on how to focus an admittedly broad topic. I'm pretty sure it goes without saying, but comments I make here reflect my own ideas for the list and not some guideline theat everyone has to follow. Separating admin hat from community member hat is messy, but in this case I welcome or encourage disagreement, especially when it leads anyone to posting or developing their thoughts. 

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I nominated No Country for Old Men.

As with The Interview with a Vampire, I am more a fan of the way the material speaks to our theme than an absolute fan of the film itself. I think No Country, properly understood, is about Sheriff Bell and his coming to terms with the ways the world is changing and has changed around him. The film has its problems, but I do like the way it inverts the one-last-ride Cowboy trope (hmmmm....maybe I should nominate The Searchers?), and there is something profound and beautiful about the way Bell comes to terms with his own aging while mourning not just himself but those who have inherited a world darker and uglier than the one he enjoyed.

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On 2/4/2019 at 11:00 PM, kenmorefield said:

Hey everyone, I need a little help/insight from someone who has been through a Top 25 before...

what exactly is the voting? A yea/no on whether a film is on the list? A Likert scale (1-5) with the Top 25 scores? One round (with the rank determined by score) or two (with one to determine which films and another to do their order)? How long is the voting open once nominations close? Are nominations mailed or is there a link that is posted?  Given that I'm against weighing votes by post count, who is/should be eligible to vote? Anyone with A&F account? Anyone with a minimum of "x" posts? Anyone who participated in the nominations process? Has this been the same in each voting or has it varied?

Incidentally, have we (or I) set actual cut off dates for nominating/voting?

Also, how have previous Top 25s dealt with the issue of people who haven't seen a nominated film? A minimum who have to have seen it to make the list? Or does everyone have to vote on every nominated title whether they have seen it or not?

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