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Top 25: Discussion for Nominations on Growing Older

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2 hours ago, Ed Bertram said:

 Like his character, John Wayne knew he was dying of cancer while filming. 

 

Hi Ed. This is not necessarily a knock against the film, but could you source that claim? Because I've always heard it was...truth adjacent. (i.e. That Wayne had been cancer free before shooting the film and had a remission 3 years later.)

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On 2/23/2019 at 6:27 PM, kenmorefield said:

Hi Ed. This is not necessarily a knock against the film, but could you source that claim? Because I've always heard it was...truth adjacent. (i.e. That Wayne had been cancer free before shooting the film and had a remission 3 years later.)

Oh thanks. I'll check on that. I heard it from a Robert Osborn introduction on TCM years ago, so I assumed he knew what he was talking about. But perhaps it's one of those Hollywood legends that was so well spread even Robert Osborn wrongly thought it was true and continued to spread it. I don't know, but I'll check.

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It didn't take much research to realize that the problem must have been my memory over what I heard on that Robert Osborn introduction to The Shootist. So, I will adjust my justification of it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention Ken.

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I deleted the earlier post on my nomination for The Shootist because of the incorrect information I included in it. Here's an updated argument for it:

I nominated John Wayne’s last movie, The Shootist. As his last movie, it appears to reflect John Wayne's own reflection on nearing the end of life. Aspects also mirror his own battle with cancer both before and after the film. The character searches for what he thinks to be a more dignified way of dying—in a gunfight. Yet, the world around him has grown older and wiser. The ways of the Old West are viewed as too violent for polite society now, completely contrary to when he was younger. John Wayne seems to live out his own inner battle before the cameras, forced with the decision of whether he will finish his aging process with wisdom or cling to the delusions of his youthful ideals and desires.

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I seconded The Shootist, which I re-watched this week. 

Right now, I kind of have it in the same circle as Interview with a Vampire and, maybe, High Fidelity: movies that fit the theme (as I gloss it) really, really well but which I don't rate as highly as artistic achievements. Some of that is taste/subjective. It's a Don Siegel movie, with Ron Howard being Opie-ish and John Wayne being John Wayne. The stylized gun violence is very dated, and I do prefer the mournfulness of Unforgiven. But...

Bacall and Jimmy Stewart and Harry Morgan surround Wayne and help make it clear this film is about death and dying and whether and how that changes someone. That could be an objection, I suppose, in that people may want a list about Growing Older meaning things other than dying. (Is that why nobody has nominated Ikiru?) But surely there is room for people facing mortality on such a list. 

There is a scene in which Mrs. Rogers tries to get Books to talk to a minister and he responds that death is private and doesn't belong to anyone else, including the minister. I suppose that stoicism is more quintessentially American than spiritually significant, but then again, it is probably spiritually significant in illustrating the attitudes towards death of the period and culture. 

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10 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Bacall and Jimmy Stewart and Harry Morgan surround Wayne and help make it clear this film is about death and dying and whether and how that changes someone. That could be an objection, I suppose, in that people may want a list about Growing Older meaning things other than dying. (Is that why nobody has nominated Ikiru?) 

Ikiru strikes me as far less about growing older and far more about waking up.  Its theme really seems age-independent, except for its protagonist having plenty of time for unfulfilling life experiences at work and with his son.  Without strong persuasion, if nominated, I'd be giving it a 2 at best.

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14 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I seconded The Shootist, which I re-watched this week. 

Right now, I kind of have it in the same circle as Interview with a Vampire and, maybe, High Fidelity: movies that fit the theme (as I gloss it) really, really well but which I don't rate as highly as artistic achievements. Some of that is taste/subjective. It's a Don Siegel movie, with Ron Howard being Opie-ish and John Wayne being John Wayne. The stylized gun violence is very dated, and I do prefer the mournfulness of Unforgiven. But...

Bacall and Jimmy Stewart and Harry Morgan surround Wayne and help make it clear this film is about death and dying and whether and how that changes someone. That could be an objection, I suppose, in that people may want a list about Growing Older meaning things other than dying. (Is that why nobody has nominated Ikiru?) But surely there is room for people facing mortality on such a list. 

There is a scene in which Mrs. Rogers tries to get Books to talk to a minister and he responds that death is private and doesn't belong to anyone else, including the minister. I suppose that stoicism is more quintessentially American than spiritually significant, but then again, it is probably spiritually significant in illustrating the attitudes towards death of the period and culture. 

I watched La Jetee and also felt the main argument against putting that one on our list is that it is more a film about death than it is about growing older.  Of course, La Jetee is debatable, as it such an expansive film that it could fit in a lot of categories.

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I just seconded Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You :

 

This film could be accused of caricature and oversimplification in its contrasting visions of how to grow old.  On the one hand, you can grow old well with a zest for life and on the other hand you can make a mess of the whole thing with materialism and knocking down houses.

 

Yet if there is room on in the world (and on our list) for “growing older” films as complex as Amour, Poetry, and Mirror, there is also room in the world for “growing older” films as simple and sweet as this candy-jar film.  You delight in this vision of aging with joy because the actors and the director are so obviously delighting in it too. 

 

Yes, there is certainly room in our world for a film like this…a film about growing older with a harmonica at your side, ready to be played until the crisis passes.

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17 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

It's a Don Siegel movie, with Ron Howard being Opie-ish and John Wayne being John Wayne. The stylized gun violence is very dated, and I do prefer the mournfulness of Unforgiven. But...

This echoes much of my own thinking. I waited to nominate The Shootist until our Unforgiven discussion died down. I wanted someone to nominate Unforgiven, but as I tried to argue for it, it kept seeming like more of a stretch. So, I knew I couldn't be the one to do it. Then when you said you re-watched it and completely discarded the idea of nominating it, that was the last nail in the coffin for me. If someone nominates it now, I won't second it. All along I thought of The Shootist as a good fit for this list but have plenty of objections to Ron Howard's performance and the moderately cheesy action scenes (I don't share your Don Siegel or John Wayne objections). But even as annoying as Ron Howard's Opie-ness is, the movie's center is the search for a more dignified way of dying. Since the character is forced to evaluate what that entails, it means he must conduct his search via his past. So, we do get a journey of growing older, not only of coming to terms with imminent death and learning to live well within that knowledge like Ikiru. He has to choose whether he will follow his youthful ideals or the wisdom he's developed with age. I see that choice as also being the crux of the movie's spiritual significance. What voice is he going to listen to: the voice of self-centered romanticized violence, or the voice of reason and humanity? Having said all that, I hope we can overlook the Opie annoyances and the other artistic flaws the movie may have in abundance and celebrate the profound message it has about growing older.

Edited by Ed Bertram

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2 hours ago, Brian D said:

Yes, there is certainly room in our world for a film like this…a film about growing older with a harmonica at your side, ready to be played until the crisis passes.

 

Brian, Thank you for your comments on You Can't Take it with You. It's one of my favorite movies, but I couldn't have voted favorably for it without a little encouragement. Your emphasis on the harmonica gave me what I needed to give it a 4 or 5. That harmonica symbolizes what the character has learned throughout his life, the same thing that the title alludes to. His ability to keep playing in jail shows that he's aged well, learning to cling to the simplest pleasures in life and never on what he can't take with him. The simplicity of his joy and of the whole movie are testaments to the likelihood that the freer from consumerism one is, the easier it is to grow older in a way that also yields growing wiser. But I wouldn't have thought of the movie in any of these terms if you hadn't first written that last sentence about the harmonica.

Now for everyone, I feel similarly about several movies that have been nominated and seconded that I did about You Can't Take It with You before Brian's comments. I would love to give them high rankings, but I'm not yet convinced about how well they fit the topic. So, if you you've nominated or seconded any titles that don't have comments on this thread yet, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the hopes that I might change my mind about some of them. I plan to look through all the movies I've seconded to make sure they've all been covered. I know I've written about everything I've nominated, but I don't know about the seconds yet. If I find some that haven't been covered, I'll plan to start fighting for them on Wednesday if the nominator doesn't do so between now and then.

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I nominated The Queen. Yeah, let's just make this the Stephen Frears list I guess. 

First, I will get the quibbles out of the way. The screenplay is a bit on the nose, using the device of having secondary characters explain the actions of the protagonist, which is one step above expository dialogue but still can be a bit on-the-nose. Also the "let's leave God out of it" remark from Tony Blair does sort of undercut the spiritual significance, maybe. 

On the other hand, this is, I think, the film I hoped Unforgiven would be on a re-watch--something about an aging protagonist wrestling with a changing world and unsure whether conforming to it is: a) a tragic concession; b) a tragic capitulation; c) an heroic capitulation; d) something to be avoid, i.e. an heroic retention of past value while the world leaves them behind. 

On rewatching it, too, I note that Tony Blair's character fits the theme as well since he transitions from young adulthood, representing unalloyed ideological certainty, into a more pragmatic and empathetic middle-age. (His smugness at first meeting queen, followed by comment to his wife about not liking the way people are bullying her, followed by his mini-explosion explaining her actions, followed by his comments watching her address.) 

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12 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I nominated The Queen. Yeah, let's just make this the Stephen Frears list I guess. 

First, I will get the quibbles out of the way. The screenplay is a bit on the nose, using the device of having secondary characters explain the actions of the protagonist, which is one step above expository dialogue but still can be a bit on-the-nose. Also the "let's leave God out of it" remark from Tony Blair does sort of undercut the spiritual significance, maybe. 

On the other hand, this is, I think, the film I hoped Unforgiven would be on a re-watch--something about an aging protagonist wrestling with a changing world and unsure whether conforming to it is: a) a tragic concession; b) a tragic capitulation; c) an heroic capitulation; d) something to be avoid, i.e. an heroic retention of past value while the world leaves them behind. 

On rewatching it, too, I note that Tony Blair's character fits the theme as well since he transitions from young adulthood, representing unalloyed ideological certainty, into a more pragmatic and empathetic middle-age. (His smugness at first meeting queen, followed by comment to his wife about not liking the way people are bullying her, followed by his mini-explosion explaining her actions, followed by his comments watching her address.) 

I think The Queen would be a good fit for these reasons. I considered nominating it and The Iron Lady, which also deals with loss of a spouse, declining capabilities, dementia, and coming to terms with changing roles. I didn't because for some reason, it feels strange to put biopics on this list, even ones like these that are very concerned with aging. Like the aging theme in the film needs to be extra foregrounded to be more insightful that just illuminating an aspect of the person in the film. And I think I'd rather see A Quiet Passion over either of these, at least as a film.

 

On 3/2/2019 at 5:36 AM, Andrew said:

Ikiru strikes me as far less about growing older and far more about waking up.  Its theme really seems age-independent, except for its protagonist having plenty of time for unfulfilling life experiences at work and with his son.

I very much think there is room on this list for the aspect of "growing older" that involves facing mortality, whether one's own death or a loved one. But not all films explore death or mortality in the context of aging. I don't think Ikiru or La Jetee do.

The Fountain does, however, and also grasps for the spiritual significance of facing mortality in this context--no second?

I haven't seen either Dreams or Rhapsody in August. If they were seconded, I'd love an excuse to catch up on some more late Kurosawa. Do others have reservations about seconding these (as opposed to the other Kurosawas, which have been seconded, and which I've already seen)?

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I seconded the nomination for Moonstruck because of Rose's (Olympia Dukakis) theory on infidelity that binds together the otherwise disparate stories of different family members and their affairs. She says that men cheat on women because they fear death. Throughout each story (whether the one about a happy, faithful marriage or the several about unfaithful relationships), we see the interplay between getting older and romantic attachment. The reason behind each relationship's success or failure always intimately with the characters' willingness to embrace the aging process or animosity against it, attempting to feel younger instead at the risk of their relationships.

 

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I seconded the nomination for Nobody's Fool. However, I subsequently revisited the film. After doing so, it feels like a better fit for the earlier "waking up" list. Newman's character is an old man with a Peter Pan complex who finally decides it's time to take care of the important things in life he neglected for so long. His character transforms, but the transformation seems too spontaneous to accept as the result of growing older.  

Edited by Ed Bertram

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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp : I've watched this for the first time over the past few days.  I was just starting to consider how I would vote for this when it comes time for our Growing Older top 25.  I was starting to consider arguments for and against when I ran across these very distinguished arguments FOR

This glorious film is about the greatest mystery of all: how old people were once young, and how young people are in the process of becoming old. – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Made in 1942 at the height of the Nazi threat to Great Britain, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's work is an uncommonly civilized film about war and soldiers--and rarer still, a film that defends the old against the young. – Roger Ebert

Pretty convincing, eh, old chap?

 

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1 hour ago, Brian D said:

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp : I've watched this for the first time over the past few days.  I was just starting to consider how I would vote for this when it comes time for our Growing Older top 25.  I was starting to consider arguments for and against when I ran across these very distinguished arguments FOR

This glorious film is about the greatest mystery of all: how old people were once young, and how young people are in the process of becoming old. – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

 

Made in 1942 at the height of the Nazi threat to Great Britain, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's work is an uncommonly civilized film about war and soldiers--and rarer still, a film that defends the old against the young. – Roger Ebert

Pretty convincing, eh, old chap?

 

 

Yes, those are convincing. Based on the movies I've seen so far (I have several I plan to watch before the vote), I'm between Col. Blimp and Late Spring as the film I'd hope to see top our list. I keep going back and forth between the two every day. Thanks to those comments Col. Blimp is the one for today.

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A brief exhortation: Please make sure to watch Opening Night and My Happy Family, as these haven't been seconded yet and they definitely deserve to be considered for this list. The latter is streaming on Netflix.

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Ditto Running From Crazy which I've already pushed here and in its own thread. FWIW, I have made an effort to screen a couple nominated films that I hadn't seen already (What They Had, The Shootist, though I haven't tracked down I'm Going Home or Smashed yet. 

Also, I am probably going to invite some laughter with this comment, but has anyone seen the Halloween reboot? I am so not a horror fan, so I have been unable to make myself watch it, but I've been told by one or two people that Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is older and that in some ways the movie is allegedly about the effects of growing up in a horror franchise.

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On 3/6/2019 at 10:54 AM, Ed Bertram said:

I seconded the nomination for Nobody's Fool. However, I subsequently revisited the film. After doing so, it feels like a better fit for the earlier "waking up" list. Redford's character is an old man with a Peter Pan complex who finally decides it's time to take care of the important things in life he neglected for so long. His character transforms, but the transformation seems too spontaneous to accept as the result of growing older.  

Do you mean Newman's character?

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5 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Ditto Running From Crazy which I've already pushed here and in its own thread.

I really want to watch this, but it doesn't seem to be easily available in the UK--I only found it available to rent/purchase on Amazon Prime US.

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Did you make an argument for My Happy Family, Joel? I've been on the fence about seconding it, since it is about a sort of midlife crisis, but I'm not entirely sure how much that crisis relates to growing older, as to becoming a new stasis for the family.

I would encourage everyone to watch The Portrait of a Lady, if possible. The ways our youthful decisions affect how we grow older plays a big part in the development and aging of Kidman's character, as well as others.

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14 hours ago, Overstreet said:

Do you mean Newman's character?

Thank you. I just fixed that in my earlier post. I do that all the time. The two did their best work together, so when I'm talking about just one of them, I usually say the wrong one.

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I'd encourage everyone to watch Children of Paradise (no second yet). It presents a unique approach to depicting the passage of time and has a wide variety of characters who all provide very different perspectives on growing older.  I gave a fuller defense of it earlier on this thread.

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On 3/16/2019 at 3:44 PM, Evan C said:

Did you make an argument for My Happy Family, Joel? I've been on the fence about seconding it, since it is about a sort of midlife crisis, but I'm not entirely sure how much that crisis relates to growing older, as to becoming a new stasis for the family.

I think the film is doing something beyond the typical midlife crisis narrative, as it's exploring cultural norms and views of what it means to be a "good" spouse/woman/adult, especially via the inclusion of some key markers in growing older--the high school reunion, the revelation about her husband, etc. It's a film about memories and the passing of time without becoming too overt in this; it's a snapshot of the present which immediately makes one recognize the sacred depths of the characters' earlier years. In this, I think My Happy Family really addresses the narrative events leading up to the events in the film really well, without resorting to overly expository methods. I really like Bilge Ebiri's opening statement in his review: "There are few things more terrifying than being asked 'How have you lived your life?' while in the midst of living one’s life." I think that question is significant for our theme of "Growing Older." And I think it's very important that we consider a non-Western female-led, female-directed story for our list.

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On 3/16/2019 at 1:37 AM, Ed Bertram said:

Yes, those are convincing. Based on the movies I've seen so far (I have several I plan to watch before the vote), I'm between Col. Blimp and Late Spring as the film I'd hope to see top our list. I keep going back and forth between the two every day. Thanks to those comments Col. Blimp is the one for today.

Thanks, Ed. 

I had to go immediately watch Late Spring once you offered it as a possible list-topper.  As I expected from Ozu, it is beautiful and richly layered.  I have to ask, though, would we really go for it so strongly as a Growing Older film that it could top our list?  It's tempting to rank it a 5 just because it is from Ozu, but I came away from it feeling uncertain about the prominence of the Growing Older aspect.  The most striking thing about the film is the relationship between father and daughter and the fate of that relationship.  This relationship is so emphasized that we don't even meet other key characters who you think we would surely meet in the course of the film.  Everything takes a back seat to this relationship.  As such, this film would fit even more strongly in a list about Parents and Children.  It certainly has elements that strike the Growing Older chord, but I'm tempted to vote lower for it because it would fit better on a <different> list.

The Growing Older currents in Colonel Blimp, on the other hand, are quite strong.

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