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Top 25: Discussion for Nominations on Growing Older

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2 hours ago, Brian D said:

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.

No doubt about the father-daughter theme. But two aspects of the film form what I said about wanting to see it near the top. First, as the father grows older, he's grown accustomed to having his daughter by his side and doesn't seem to want that dynamic to change. His scheme to get her to marry is a reflection of the sacrificial love that ideally develops alongside wisdom as one gets older. Secondly, cultures define what certain stages in life are supposed to look like. We watch the daughter growing older with her father. She has a vision for what both her father's aging process and her own are supposed to look like, but that vision rebels against their society since it doesn't involve her marriage. Those are my reasons for putting it alongside Col. Blimp as my favorites for the top spot so far. But as I said above, I still have quite a ways to go. I plan to watch three on my next day off, so Late Spring might not stay on the top for me much longer.

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10 hours ago, Ed Bertram said:

No doubt about the father-daughter theme. But two aspects of the film form what I said about wanting to see it near the top. First, as the father grows older, he's grown accustomed to having his daughter by his side and doesn't seem to want that dynamic to change. His scheme to get her to marry is a reflection of the sacrificial love that ideally develops alongside wisdom as one gets older. Secondly, cultures define what certain stages in life are supposed to look like. We watch the daughter growing older with her father. She has a vision for what both her father's aging process and her own are supposed to look like, but that vision rebels against their society since it doesn't involve her marriage. Those are my reasons for putting it alongside Col. Blimp as my favorites for the top spot so far. But as I said above, I still have quite a ways to go. I plan to watch three on my next day off, so Late Spring might not stay on the top for me much longer.

Those are good arguments, Ed.  They help me a lot also as I process Late Spring.  The cultural aspect in particular has me thinking a lot.  I had just written on my Letterboxd review that this film ends up being more bitter than sweet, but I am really questioning my own reading there as coming from my own cultural bias.  I see the "bitter" part in the fact that the father and daughter don't communicate directly about things and that in fact the father is being deceptive in order to get her to marry.  From a Japanese perspective, though, I would guess the ending would in fact be "sweet" because it shows the father sacrificing his own comfort to give his daughter what is considered to be a good and culturally appropriate life.  A lot of room for discussion there, though, as the cultural gap between Western and Eastern here is likely huge. 

As I think about it, our consideration of whether this would be a great or just okay selection for this top 25 list may have a bit to do with how positively we view the father's actions.  Also whether or not our list is favoring positive examples of growing older or more questionable/complex ones.  

A lot of food for thought here!

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On 3/19/2019 at 2:51 AM, Brian D said:

As I think about it, our consideration of whether this would be a great or just okay selection for this top 25 list may have a bit to do with how positively we view the father's actions.  Also whether or not our list is favoring positive examples of growing older or more questionable/complex ones.  

The list of nominees is diverse in this way. A few are unquestionably about growing older and wiser (like Col. Blimp). A few are about very bad decisions that plague a person's process of growing older (like Sunset Blvd.). And a few are just about growing older, nothing more, nothing less (35 Shots of Rum seems more like a meditation on embracing aspects of aging than on anything transformational in the character). But most of the nominees I'm familiar with are right in the middle like Late Spring. They're honest about the complexities of the topic and unwilling to judge whether the characters are growing older in a right or wrong way. My hope is that our final list reflects this same diversity but also emphasizes that middle ground the like nominations list does so far. 

Edited by Ed Bertram

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I nominated The Gleaners & I. Every scene of the documentary (regardless of the interviewee or inanimate subject she's filming at any moment) metaphorically points to Agnes Varda's own experiences of growing older and wiser. While she gives a detailed history of gleaning in France (an occupation that has itself grown old) and how it has influenced all aspects of French culture, she places herself as the film's ultimate gleaner. She gleans wisdom about some of the simplest things in life that are quickly shrugged off by others. She intersperses shots of her wrinkled hands just before showing any object that she wants us to know she values (always a leftover). She communicates her deep love for discarded things and people. Through filming them, she demonstrates a reflection of her own self-perception. When she juxtaposes shots of her hands with things that are worn out and full of blemishes, she points out how each one of those things has too much purpose to throw away. This seems to be exactly how she viewed herself at the time of filming. She offers one of the most hope-filled portrayals of aging gracefully that I've seen. 

I couldn't find a trailer with English subtitles, and the clip I posted along with the nomination is extremely short. But it provides a good example of how she uses the words of her subject to metaphorically communicate her own views on aging.

Edited by Ed Bertram

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Ed's nomination of The Gleaners and I prompted me to nominate another Varda film, Faces Places. I think both films address the experience of aging--both people and places--but Faces Places has a unique aspect of including the presence of JR, a youthful counterpart to Varda, and her dialogue partner about both art and the process of growing older, and I think FP is more *explicitly* about aging than Gleaners.

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New here, so I'm not sure of the rules, but if I can nominate films on growing older (or suggest some films to those that can), then here are some not yet mentioned:

The Crowd (Vidor)

Clouds of Sils Maria (Assayas)

The Last Days of Disco (Stillman)

A Quiet Passion (Davies)

The Grapes of Wrath (Ford)

How Green Was My Valley (Ford)

Margaret (Lonergan)

The Tree of Life (Malick)

I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (Friedrich)

Breaking Away (Yates)

I can/would second Citizen Kane.

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I’m sorry to see that no one has seconded my nomination for this remarkable film. 

De Oliveira was 92 years old when he made it, and knew a thing or two about aging. (He continued directing films until 2013, at the age of 104, and died in 2015 at 106.)

I guess very few people besides me have seen it, which means it would have little chance even if I got a second.

For what it’s worth, it’s streaming on Amazon, but unfortunately you need a Fandor subscription (or a free 7-day trial). 

On 2/12/2019 at 3:38 PM, SDG said:

Title: I’m Going Home
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Year: 2001
Language: French/English
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283422/
YouTube Link: I can’t find a YouTube link. There’s video from the film in this video essay by Richard Brody: 
https://video.newyorker.com/watch/im-going-home

 

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42 minutes ago, inessentials said:

New here, so I'm not sure of the rules, but if I can nominate films on growing older (or suggest some films to those that can), then here are some not yet mentioned:

The Crowd (Vidor)

Clouds of Sils Maria (Assayas)

The Last Days of Disco (Stillman)

A Quiet Passion (Davies)

The Grapes of Wrath (Ford)

How Green Was My Valley (Ford)

Margaret (Lonergan)

The Tree of Life (Malick)

I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (Friedrich)

Breaking Away (Yates)

I can/would second Citizen Kane.

Welcome to A&F, inessentials! So glad to have you as part of the conversation. You can nominate these films in the nominations thread by following this format:

Title:
Director:
Year:
Language:
IMDB Link:
YouTube Link (a clip of/trailer for the film):
Link to the A&F thread on the film (if there is one):

 

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28 minutes ago, SDG said:

I’m sorry to see that no one has seconded my nomination for this remarkable film. 

De Oliveira was 92 years old when he made it, and knew a thing or two about aging. (He continued directing films until 2013, at the age of 104, and died in 2015 at 106.)

I guess very few people besides me have seen it, which means it would have little chance even if I got a second.

For what it’s worth, it’s streaming on Amazon, but unfortunately you need a Fandor subscription (or a free 7-day trial). 

 

This sounds really interesting, and I will seek it out to watch it at some point. Unfortunately, it's not available on Amazon in the UK.

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14 hours ago, inessentials said:

New here, so I'm not sure of the rules, but if I can nominate films on growing older (or suggest some films to those that can), then here are some not yet mentioned:

The Crowd (Vidor)

Clouds of Sils Maria (Assayas)

The Last Days of Disco (Stillman)

A Quiet Passion (Davies)

The Grapes of Wrath (Ford)

How Green Was My Valley (Ford)

Margaret (Lonergan)

The Tree of Life (Malick)

I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (Friedrich)

Breaking Away (Yates)

I can/would second Citizen Kane.

Welcome. The Clouds of Sils Maria & A Quiet Passion have already been nominated and seconded. So, when you follow Joel's link and nominate your choices, you won't need to add those; we're already considering them. Also, you can second Citizen Kane on that same thread where you nominate films. I nominated Citizen Kane and fought hard for it for a while. But I gave up the fight until you came along! So, thank you.

Once you've nominated the films you listed above, I'd encourage you to come back to this thread and briefly explain why you think each would be a good fit for our list. I see a few titles on your list that I love but have a little trouble seeing how they fit the theme. So, if you fight for them a little, you'll be more likely to have them seconded. Thanks for joining us.

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I nominated The Old Man and the Sea. The old fisherman Santiago is tested by the greatest fish he's ever caught, which prompts him to reflect on his life--doing the work of elderhood. He recalls his successes as a young man, reflects on his occupation (his relationship to the fish), and what he can pass on the the young ( the boy Manolin). And the painted animation is gorgeous.

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Films I'm tempted to nominate but don't plan to

because it's been too long since I've seen it, even though it's good in terms of quality and fit for the theme: The Savages

because the film's lacking in quality despite a good fit for the theme: Hook

because it's an okay fit for the theme but is truly a better fit for "coming of age" than "growing older": The Graduate

because it's a fine film for what it is, fits the theme, but is somehow too vapid (or perhaps lacks "spiritual significance" even broadly understood, even though I haven't been considering that as an essential criterium): City Slickers

I'd put When Harry Met Sally in that last category, too, thinking of Billy Crystal films, but honestly a lot of the films on the nominations list fall into one of these categories for me.

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On 3/25/2019 at 3:21 PM, SDG said:

I’m sorry to see that no one has seconded my nomination for this remarkable film. 

De Oliveira was 92 years old when he made it, and knew a thing or two about aging. (He continued directing films until 2013, at the age of 104, and died in 2015 at 106.)

I guess very few people besides me have seen it, which means it would have little chance even if I got a second.

For what it’s worth, it’s streaming on Amazon, but unfortunately you need a Fandor subscription (or a free 7-day trial). 

 

As an aside, if you are looking for one of the nominated films but having trouble finding it, I'll give a shout out to Alamo Drafthouse. If you have one in your area, they offer free rentals (for up to one week) though you do need to secure your registration with a credit card, so you need to be very careful not to accrue late fees.

I was able to find Criterion All that Jazz and the de Oliveira film (though they had it listed under "France" rather than Portugal). Here's a list of places that have them, including some places (like Raleigh) one wouldn't expect the same level of access as NY/LA. https://drafthouse.com/

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20 hours ago, Rob Z said:

I nominated The Old Man and the Sea. The old fisherman Santiago is tested by the greatest fish he's ever caught, which prompts him to reflect on his life--doing the work of elderhood. He recalls his successes as a young man, reflects on his occupation (his relationship to the fish), and what he can pass on the the young ( the boy Manolin). And the painted animation is gorgeous.

Thank you for nominating this Rob. I just watched it. What a spectacular artistic vision!

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I nominated The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  I hesitated to nominate this because it's obvious by the thread on the movie, that most people here don't seem to think very highly of it (or at least didn't upon its initial release). I was in my 20s when I first saw it, so not nearing the warning the top of the thread comes with, but it was an instant favorite for me and still is today after about 20 viewings. Its tone is unabashedly light and goofy but this doesn't mean its unremarkable. Several of the characters form a composite that provide a unique, diverse picture of growing older and wiser in community (along with a couple characters that just get older, less wise and more self-centered). Four characters especially embody the spirit of aging gracefully, so I'll give a reason for why I think each of them makes the film worth consideration.

Evelyn (Judi Dench): Upon grieving not only the death of her husband but the realization that he was consistently dishonest to her about who he was and about her role in his life, Evelyn learns to enjoy life free from the constraints she never even knew her marriage placed on her during her husband's lifetime. She has an adventurous spirit with a new home in India, a new job, a new blog, and even a potential new romance. Each one empowers her to come to terms with the wisdom she's acquired during her life but was never able to share because of the constraints of her marriage. Most importantly, these new adventures give her the opportunity to share that wisdom with the people in the hotel with her and with a younger generation.

Douglas (Bill Nighy): Douglas comes to the hotel with his wife who's the most stagnant character in the film. As she pulls away from him and from their relationship, she gives him what he needs to begin growing older and wiser. So, his expressions of aging gracefully are similar to Evelyn's. As Douglas and Evelyn bond over that connection, they grow older and wiser together finding freedom from the bonds their spouses previously held them in. That liberty makes a powerful statement to those around them (especially those like Douglas's wife who try to hinder them from making the most of their later years).

Graham (Tom Wilkinson): Graham implies that he was only truly in love once when he was a teenager in India. Several decades later, he returns to India in an attempt to apologize for decisions that he assumed ruined his first love's life. He exhibits grace and maturity in his approach toward the re-connection, focusing every decision on the other person. He exemplifies selflessness and sacrifice to all the people around him. Every scene we see of him involves reflection on his earlier life and what he has learned over the years. 

Muriel (Maggie Smith): At the beginning of the film, Muriel doesn't want anything to do with a surgery that could entail a long recovery. She says, "at my age, I don't even buy green bananas!" Her time in India forces her recognize and change her obsessions with weakness and impending death, realizing that they don't have to define what it means for her to get older. This also involves a shedding of racist and individualistic beliefs. The longer she spends at the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful," the more she's able to experience community and love that she eventually gives back in surprisingly lavish ways.

 

Edited by Ed Bertram

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Happy to second I'm Going Home which was delightful (though I mean that it a non-patronizing way) and which would be a good addition because it is about an old person but isn't necessarily about him being old. Certainly, that's a major part of his life but it is interested in the way he observes, the way he reacts, the way he values his time (and how that influences the choices he makes) while avoid some of the cliches of crankiness that surround stereotypical depictions of aging. The integrated theater scenes are metafictive in a way. It's not for everyone to be sure, but its simple and straightforward in a cool kind of way.

As an aside, here are a couple of films that I've been thinking about as possible non-traditional choices. Wondering if anyone wants to discuss suitability:

Stan & Ollie

Interstellar

Sophie's Choice 

Far From Heaven

 

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I nominated Persuasion.

The trailer casts it as a film (and novel) about passion, but it's really about maturity. Anne's growing -- and I think she's past the point where I would really call this a coming of age film -- is about learning to trust herself and her judgments rather than to be ruled by others. She's younger than protagonists in many of our films that were nominated but she's also living at a time where she is getting married later than some of her peers and thus feels like she is struggling with middle age problems in ways some of us have discussed conceptualizing this list. She's old enough to see how some of her life strategies (I think D called them ordering strategies) are suspect or faulty and old enough to wonder if she is too old to change. 

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15 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

As an aside, here are a couple of films that I've been thinking about as possible non-traditional choices. Wondering if anyone wants to discuss suitability:

Stan & Ollie

Interstellar

Sophie's Choice 

Far From Heaven

 

I've been tempted to nominate Interstellar for quite a while, but the process of considering it causes me to do so many mental gymnastics that I determined it wasn't worth it. If the theme was "passage of time," then it would be perfect. The characters are all confronted with how to use the time they have in whatever temporal dimension they're in. We see Murph at three different stages in life including when she's old, but we never get any insight into her process of growing older. On the opposite end, her father grows in terms of maturity but because of nature of the black hole, he literally didn't grow older. So, there are so many interesting aspects of this film to discuss, but I just got too tired from trying to figure out how it might work here. If you can do those mental gymnastics better than me and think you can figure out how it fits, then please let us know, and then I'll gladly second the nomination if you choose to nominate it.    

I'd also love to hear why you're considering the other three titles you listed. 

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On 3/25/2019 at 2:48 PM, Joel Mayward said:

Welcome to A&F, inessentials! So glad to have you as part of the conversation. You can nominate these films in the nominations thread by following this format:

Title:
Director:
Year:
Language:
IMDB Link:
YouTube Link (a clip of/trailer for the film):
Link to the A&F thread on the film (if there is one):

 

Thanks, Joel. Working on it.

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I nominated Su Friedrich's I Cannot Tell You How I Feel, a short documentary in which the influential filmmaker moves her mother into a nursing home while both struggle with what this means for her mother's life and for their relationship with each other. Honest, funny, and sensitive to the ways in which the most important things can seem little to those on the outside. There are no little indignities.

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I nominated Whit Stillman's Last Days of Disco.

Stillman's film is not just about growing up, with post-college replacing post-high school. It's a film about what it means to understand oneself with a larger social history. Are we determined by larger forces (the rise and fall of the yuppie, the decline of disco) to live small lives? Are we doomed by our class, our career, our self-understanding? Stillman's deep exploration into what it means to be a person who exists in a society requires the attentive viewer constantly to switch between characters' self-understanding and how they view their own moral progress within a larger social context and our own position at an historical remove. Should they agitate for change? Should they experiment with sex, drugs, dancing, and demeaning work because that's what people their age should do? What does moral growth mean and is it possible in isolation from others on the same quest? Everyone grows older; not everyone grows wiser.

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I nominated Clouds of Sils Maria.

Few films are as sensitive to the ways in which age both opens up and closes off choices for those who want to live lives of meaningful expression for others. Through Bincohe and Stewart's explicit conversations about acting and meaningfulness (which echo aspects of their star personas) and repeated role-playing and role-blurring, we have to ask Binoche's question of whether certain roles are determined by one's age and whether one can ever truly return to who they thought they once were or others thought they were. Aging gracefully means aging with struggle--against one's body, against others' expectations, against changing technologies, against changing tastes.

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I nominated King Vidor's The Crowd.

Vidor's epic about America through the life of one man and one family both encourages and challenges reading characters synechdochically for their city, their country, or their era. Few films have ever approached The Crowd's sensitivity to the contingency of life's joys and despairs and whether we have the power to respond or control. Like many of the great films about growing older, this is also a film about moral growth and what it means to grow into the person one can possibly be. 

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2 hours ago, Ed Bertram said:

   

I'd also love to hear why you're considering the other three titles you listed. 

 

As you noted, Interstellar isn't specifically about aging, but it is about time, which is something that fascinates me on the spiritually significant side. We change. What does it mean to be finite in relationship to an infinite God, to age and transform when others don't. The playing with relativity establishes a theme that invites us to look at what elements of a relationship are based on shared experience and which transcend time/age.

Stan & Ollie I thought about while revisiting All That Jazz. It is about characters who are aging, and it it fits the notion we've discussed a little about ordering your world and then having to rethink what gives that world/order meaning. 

Sophie's Choice is in some ways about being stuck in the past. One horror of aging is that it distances us from trauma. Time is inexhorable. But I haven't seen the film for many years.

Far From Heaven is, I suppose more of a mid-life crisis movie (or a double one at that) but I suspect that a big part of what catalyzes the husband coming out and the wife transitioning is an awareness of the clock ticking, of having a finite amount of time. In that sense, it would be serving the same role on our lists as, say, Moonstruck.

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