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Top 25: Discussion for Nominations on Growing Older

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1 hour ago, inessentials said:

Thanks, Joel. Working on it.

Hi inessentials, I echo Joel's welcome. 

While no means a requirement, you are welcome to post an introduction in the "About You" thread: 

We've interacted before, of course, but there may be people here who don't know you. Sadly, we live in an age where not everyone feels comfortable using names on the Internet, so there's the use of handles here is common. But most of the interactions here are pretty friendly, and people warm up a bit faster when they know you aren't a bot or a troll. I hope you are well.

 

P.S. Any thoughts on where the Friedrich film can be seen?

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17 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

 

P.S. Any thoughts on where the Friedrich film can be seen?

I caught it on MUBI about a year ago. Not sure if it’s got any official distribution.

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20 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

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.

Thank you for these Ken. Your word "transcend" is what still keeps me troubled about Interstellar. The movie presents such a vast philosophical and spiritual vision that it's difficult to make it fit in any specific sub-category like we're trying to do. It almost transcends every genre-related label. Its profound spiritual significance and its surface relationship with the concept of growing older make me want to nominate or second it, but that relationship still seems too tenuous for me to do so. 

I haven't seen Stan & Ollie yet. But if you nominate Sophie's Choice and/or Far from Heaven, I'll second and re-watch it/them.

Edited by Ed Bertram

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On 3/27/2019 at 1:47 PM, Ed Bertram said:

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.

 

You've set forth what seem to me solid reasons for seconding this film's nomination. It is an enjoyable movie.

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The case for my nomination of Only Angels Have Wings and why it should be seconded in the next 48 hours : J  

 

A :

This is Howard Hawks, this is ‘30’s, this is classic.

 

B :

In Michael Sragow’s essay for the Criterion Collection, he writes :

“In Only Angels Have Wings, [Hawks] brings it all together with a casual profundity. With his ability to connect with audiences kinetically, he achieves that rarity in American mainstream movies: a complete, organic vision of life—and death.”

 

But growing older?….yes indeed….

 

C :

The spoilerish explanation of why I would love to see it high on this list:

 

I am primarily thinking of the character of the Kid here, and the way his own “growing older” drama subtly develops into a wave that crashes irreversibly over the film and the rest of the characters.  This begins with the sublime scene where Geoff is forced to ground the Kid from flying due to the Kid’s failing eyesight.  Here we see the Kid experiencing the losses that often come with growing older.  Throughout the rest of the film, the Kid fights against obsolescence and futility by continuing to work and be of use to his friends . . . and to the world.

 

Parallel to the Kid’s struggle against being cast off is another struggle he must grit his teeth against : the temptation to take revenge for a past injustice done against his family by another character in the film.  The fascinating angle on growing older here is that this other character is also facing mid-life watershed moments that will make him or break him almost immediately.

 

The deeply compelling final act throws the Kid and his “nemesis” into the ring together, not so much to battle each other but to battle their own enemies of middle age ALONGSIDE one another.  This really becomes the climax of the film, finding the two men engaging these battles with not a little bit of surprising grace.

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If anyone is willing to work on creating the ballot for Round 1 voting, please leave a message here or PM me. I can do it, but it'll take an hour or two, and I have a lot on my plate this time of year. 

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I seconded The Crowd. It might be hard to find (I had to go to the DVD rental at Alamo) but is worth seeking out.

I kinda grouped it together with It's a Wonderful Life and Citizen Kane as classic, great films that are self-consciously trying to be the Great American Novel film, increasing the scope to a whole life (or large swaths of it) rather than necessarily focusing on old age or the move to it. But the thing that elevates it, for me, is that the theme is a bit more universal than personal (spiritually significant) and the transition from an attitude of American exceptionalism (I am extraordinary and will have an extraordinary life) to one of broader humanism (I am a part of the crowd, but the things that make life grand are the ordinary rather than the extraordinary things) is prompted by age and experience. 

From a Christian standpoint (not a requirement but where I'm coming from), I tend to think films about disillusionment or loss of meaning are easier and sometimes more lauded, but that films that are life-affirming (if not necessarily rose-colored-glasses) are a bit harder. 

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On 3/27/2019 at 7:14 PM, kenmorefield said:

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. 

Excellent pick, Ken! This particular film is my preferred adaptation of the story as well.

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As I've caught up with more films on the nominations list, I'm feeling more and more like this should be a list of films about the process of aging but with a heavy emphasis on the second half of life. That might be elderhood, but it might also be negotiating the onset of that second half of life, middle age. And that very much includes a film like Persuasion since Anne Elliot would have been considered an "old maid" in her time though only in her late 20s.  Or a film like While We're Young that takes that middle age vantage to look at the interactions between both younger and older generations.

I'd love to see a more focused list in that regard, and save Coming of Age Films and Films about Children/Childhood to be separate lists for the future.

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On 3/16/2019 at 8:44 AM, Evan C said:

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.

I see this one still isn't seconded, and I'm afraid I won't have the time to prioritize catching up with this one in the next couple days, but I've read the novel, and the story would certainly be a good fit for the list. There's one chapter late in the book where Isabel reflects back on her life--where she really gets it as to where she went wrong, and how she's been betrayed--that's crucial in the novel, but it all takes place in her head. She's just sitting in a room. I've always wondered how that would be filmed.

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On 3/29/2019 at 1:33 PM, Brian D said:

The case for my nomination of Only Angels Have Wings and why it should be seconded in the next 48 hours : J  

 

 

 

A :

 

This is Howard Hawks, this is ‘30’s, this is classic.

 

 

 

B :

 

In Michael Sragow’s essay for the Criterion Collection, he writes :

 

“In Only Angels Have Wings, [Hawks] brings it all together with a casual profundity. With his ability to connect with audiences kinetically, he achieves that rarity in American mainstream movies: a complete, organic vision of life—and death.”

 

 

 

But growing older?….yes indeed….

 

 

 

C :

 

The spoilerish explanation of why I would love to see it high on this list:

 

 

 

I am primarily thinking of the character of the Kid here, and the way his own “growing older” drama subtly develops into a wave that crashes irreversibly over the film and the rest of the characters.  This begins with the sublime scene where Geoff is forced to ground the Kid from flying due to the Kid’s failing eyesight.  Here we see the Kid experiencing the losses that often come with growing older.  Throughout the rest of the film, the Kid fights against obsolescence and futility by continuing to work and be of use to his friends . . . and to the world.

 

 

 

Parallel to the Kid’s struggle against being cast off is another struggle he must grit his teeth against : the temptation to take revenge for a past injustice done against his family by another character in the film.  The fascinating angle on growing older here is that this other character is also facing mid-life watershed moments that will make him or break him almost immediately.

 

 

 

The deeply compelling final act throws the Kid and his “nemesis” into the ring together, not so much to battle each other but to battle their own enemies of middle age ALONGSIDE one another.  This really becomes the climax of the film, finding the two men engaging these battles with not a little bit of surprising grace.

 

I kinda want to second this just to have Brian's blurb if it makes the list...but I am rewatching my own Criterion copy of the film, and as much as I love it, I don't get the same centrality of Growing Older as a theme that Brian does.

 

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I will make my final plea for Cassavetes' Opening Night to be seconded. It's not my favourite Cassavetes film, and it includes so many different themes--theatre/artistic process, alcoholism, guilt, addiction, mental health--but at its core, it's a film about confronting the aging process itself, staring the death of one's youth directly in the face before tackling it to the floor. I think a list about "Growing Older" without it would be missing some crucial.

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I actually just watched that this morning. Perhaps not surprisingly, after the first scene, I was like, "Well, I am admittedly not a Cassavettes fan, but this looks really solid and on point." Then each scene that went by, I lost a little more interest until half way through I was not engaged at all. That's typical of me and Cassavettes, and I know that says more about me than the director. The best I can say about him is that the films are usually so rich and layered that it is hard to say they are about any one thing. 

It's weird how there are a number of films about aging that are about *performers" aging -- Sunset Boulevard, Stan & Ollie, All That Jazz, Opening Night, The Stunt Man. Weird that made me think of sports movies since athletes are a different kind of performer. At their worst, they use aging as a simple metaphor for loss of capacity. At their best, they wrestle with how losing capacity transforms us as we move from one life cycle to another. Which reminds me, I have another film to go nominate....

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I nominated The Natural. 

Must be my year for nominating flawed but interesting films over great films that I bend to put in the category. Just about everything bad people want to say about Levinson's film, I'd probably agree with, and then I would add that it's shocking how little it understands (or cares about) Malamud's novel.

Here's the thing though...Malamud's novel isn't all that great to begin with. Oh, it's not shlock, it has pretensions, but it ain't great. What links them together and makes them interesting is how well they understand that they want to be about myth-making rather than storytelling. In particular, Roy's emphasis on the "best there ever was" or "will be" is a striking illustration of the Ecclesiastes theme of how we try to fill the void of eternity in our hearts with temporal things -- in this case, fame. The attempts to make it a redemption story, or a comeback story are less than great. But the film understands the human longing to be ageless and has in spades the pathos of the growing awareness that time is short.

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In case anyone is unaware, there is a list of all nominated and seconded titles here:

Also, I would like to make one last push for Blind Chance to be seconded, a lesser known Kieslowski, but a film about how chance and our choices affect how we age.

 

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I nominated Gertrud which doesn't appear to have the following of Dreyer's other films but which is closest to our theme. My rationale, besides the fact that it is Dreyer, is this quote from the Criterion essay by Phillip Lopate, where Dreyer says:

 

Quote

Why did I say [Soderberg] was 'more modern'? Well, instead of suicide and other grand gestures in the tradition of pathetic tragedy, Soderberg preferred the bitter tragedy of having to go on living even though ideals and happiness have been destroyed...

FWIW, Lopate also recommends as "autumnal" films:
Seven Women -- John Ford

An Autumn Afternoon -- Ozu

Empress Yank Kwei Fei -- Mizoguchi

Fedora -- Billy Wilder

That Obscure Object of Desire -- Bunuel

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On 3/30/2019 at 10:52 PM, kenmorefield said:

I actually just watched that this morning. Perhaps not surprisingly, after the first scene, I was like, "Well, I am admittedly not a Cassavettes fan, but this looks really solid and on point." Then each scene that went by, I lost a little more interest until half way through I was not engaged at all. That's typical of me and Cassavettes, and I know that says more about me than the director. The best I can say about him is that the films are usually so rich and layered that it is hard to say they are about any one thing. 

Fair enough, and thanks for giving it a chance. It's a difficult film to watch, as scenes go on a bit too long, and the semi-improvised dynamic makes everything a bit anxious or awkward rather than fresh or spontaneous. But I think that's part of Cassavettes' aesthetic, as well as his intent here--we're meant to feel every tension, to experience reality like Myrtle experiences it.

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As a reminder, if you have not seen The Man Who Planted  Trees, it is currently streamable on YouTube...who konws for how long?
 

 

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I am assuming that Tully nomination is for the 2018 Charlize Theron picture and not the 2002 picture of the same name? Figured I better check now.

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On 3/30/2019 at 10:08 PM, kenmorefield said:

I kinda want to second this just to have Brian's blurb if it makes the list...but I am rewatching my own Criterion copy of the film, and as much as I love it, I don't get the same centrality of Growing Older as a theme that Brian does.

 

Thanks for your response, Ken. Maybe a modified version of that blurb could find second life in a top 100 list down the road. :)

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On 3/30/2019 at 7:08 PM, kenmorefield said:

I nominated The Natural. 

Must be my year for nominating flawed but interesting films over great films that I bend to put in the category. Just about everything bad people want to say about Levinson's film, I'd probably agree with, and then I would add that it's shocking how little it understands (or cares about) Malamud's novel.

Here's the thing though...Malamud's novel isn't all that great to begin with. Oh, it's not shlock, it has pretensions, but it ain't great. What links them together and makes them interesting is how well they understand that they want to be about myth-making rather than storytelling. In particular, Roy's emphasis on the "best there ever was" or "will be" is a striking illustration of the Ecclesiastes theme of how we try to fill the void of eternity in our hearts with temporal things -- in this case, fame. The attempts to make it a redemption story, or a comeback story are less than great. But the film understands the human longing to be ageless and has in spades the pathos of the growing awareness that time is short.

If I had seen this nomination before the list closed, I would have seconded it. Yes, it may be flawed, but as a film it fits the list theme very well.

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On 4/3/2019 at 9:34 AM, BethR said:

If I had seen this nomination before the list closed, I would have seconded it. Yes, it may be flawed, but as a film it fits the list theme very well.

If I had seen Ken's nomination for The Natural in time, I would have nominated Requiem for a Heavyweight. Now, I'm mad at myself for never thinking of it during the nominating process.

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I am trying to see as many of the nominees as I can before voting and revisit a few that I haven't seen in ages and don't really remember. I have DVDs on my shelf of Benjamin Button and The Best Years of Our Lives and suspect I need to rewatch Late Spring and Colonel Blimp. 

Beyond that, does anyone want to nudge me into prioritizing any of the following (I may be able to do one or two of them but I doubt I can do all):

Farewell My Concubine

I Remember Mama
A New Leaf
On Golden Pond
Youth Without Youth

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2 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I am trying to see as many of the nominees as I can before voting and revisit a few that I haven't seen in ages and don't really remember. I have DVDs on my shelf of Benjamin Button and The Best Years of Our Lives and suspect I need to rewatch Late Spring and Colonel Blimp. 

Beyond that, does anyone want to nudge me into prioritizing any of the following (I may be able to do one or two of them but I doubt I can do all):

Farewell My Concubine

I Remember Mama
A New Leaf
On Golden Pond
Youth Without Youth

Definitely prioritize A New Leaf. My favorite of the others is Youth without Youth, but it wouldn't surprise me if our tastes diverge on that one. On Golden Pond probably fits the theme most explicitly of all of them, but it's the one I'm least excited about as a film itself.

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18 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I am trying to see as many of the nominees as I can before voting and revisit a few that I haven't seen in ages and don't really remember. I have DVDs on my shelf of Benjamin Button and The Best Years of Our Lives and suspect I need to rewatch Late Spring and Colonel Blimp

Beyond that, does anyone want to nudge me into prioritizing any of the following (I may be able to do one or two of them but I doubt I can do all):

Farewell My Concubine

I Remember Mama
A New Leaf
On Golden Pond
Youth Without Youth

I'd urge prioritizing On Golden Pond. In addition to being such a strong thematic fit as Even pointed out, it also included the last great performance for both Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. If you have the DVD with Jane Fonda's audio commentary, I'd highly recommend that. She shares many stories of how her offscreen relationship with her father connected so intimately to the characters they each played and how making the movie was a source of healing for their relationship. Therefore, it played a major role in how both Fondas grew older. Also, I don't think there's ever been a movie I've discussed with people, in which everyone I've talked to about it sees a reflection either of themselves or of an older person in their life in the Henry Fonda or Katharine Hepburn character. For me it's an uncle who never saw the movie or the Ernest Thompson play, yet many phrases, attitudes and actions that made him the uncle I knew were identical to Henry Fonda's in the film.

I'd also recommend prioritizing I Remember Mama

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