For the third year, Senior Planet is offering our own take on the Oscars with the “Aging With Attitude” Film Awards.
We’ve nominated this year’s top “aging with attitude” films – dramas and documentaries that were released in 2015 and offer a vision of aging that strength, style, resilience, resolve, humor and a readiness to learn and try new things.
We want your vote!
Check out the nominations, watch the films — we’ve provided live-stream links — and register your vote in our poll (make sure to hit the Vote button after you’ve made your selection). Voting closes at noon ET on Wednesday, March 2; we’ll announce the winners on Facebook.
“I’ll See You In My Dreams”
US. Directed by Brett Haley. With Blythe Danner, June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, Sam Elliott. 1h 36min.
From the moment recently divorced Bill (Sam Elliott) flirts with longtime widow Carol (Blythe Danner) at the local pharmacy, it’s a slow countdown to sparks flying in “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” Filmmaker Brett Haley has fashioned a fine romantic comedy that takes its time getting to the combustion between these kindred independent spirits, along the way introducing viewers to Carol’s new pool boy/eventual karaoke buddy (Martin Starr) and a hilarious group of senior lady friends (Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb). Although Carol hasn’t had a love interest since the death of her husband 20 years ago, she’s not making up for lost time so much as the recent loss of her beloved dog Hazel. Carol and Bill have great conversations and good sex, but when the whirlwind romance is snuffed out almost as quickly as it began, to cope she’ll have to gather all the powers of resilience she’d developed in relative solitude. —K. Leander Williams
US. Directed by Paul Weitz. With Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Sam Elliott. 1h 22min.
Lily Tomlin gets the aging with attitude nomination for her take-no-prisoners portrayal of Elle, a lesbian poet ex-hippie grandma. Broke and without access to credit (she cut up her credit cards as an act of defiance) she has to raise $600 for teenage granddaughter Sage’s abortion because the girl is too afraid to tell her uptight businesswoman mother (Elle’s daughter) that she’s pregnant. This is not the cute, wacky Tomlin performance we’re used to. Grandma Elle is tough as nails, going after Sage’s boyfriend with a hockey stick, raising hell with a bookstore owner who refuses to buy a first edition of her poetry, getting a tattoo along the way and eventually facing some past demons with a man she had an affair with long ago. Clearly, she’s a diehard misanthrope, but not where her beloved granddaughter is concerned and not when she eventually manages to share some hard truths with Sage’s mom. Many critics thought Tomlin should have been nominated for an Oscar for her stellar performance, but she’s been overlooked by all the awards committees. No surprise. Elle (and Tomlin) is not only old, but also female and gay — triple jeopardy in Hollywood. —Erica Manfred
“Seymour: An Introduction”
US. Directed by Ethan Hawke. With Ethan Hawke, Seymour Bernstein. 1h 24min.
It was a stroke of good luck that film star Ethan Hawke happened to be seated next to former concert pianist Seymour Bernstein at a New York dinner party a few years ago. Hawke’s directorial debut is a loving tribute to his new friend and mentor, a composer and piano teacher who lives and inspires students in the same one-room Manhattan apartment he occupied when at age 50 he gave up a performing career of international renown. A sage presence these days, Bernstein matches enthusiasm with a creatively driven asceticism that is both remarkable and inspiring. The film is awash in music as Hawke darts between Bernstein tending to his young students, philosophizing alone and in chats with longtime acquaintances, and flashing back to childhood and his military and concert careers. Hawke even coaxes Bernstein into performing his first public piano recital in 35 years for the camera, the preparations for which entail an interesting look at the maestro in the bowels of the Steinway piano company’s headquarters, choosing just the right instrument for his comeback. “The most important thing is to inspire an emotional response in all aspects of life,” Bernstein says — a value by which to shape your days. —K. Leander Williams
“Ricki and the Flash”
US. Directed by Jonathan Demme. With Meryl Streep, mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield. 1h 41 min.
Meryl Streep’s multifaceted portrayal of an aging rocker who left her family when she was young to go on the road—and is still playing small and venues—proves that sexy female rockers do not have to only come young and younger. Streep as Ricki Randazzo, lead singer of The Flash, is confronted with her past when she’s contacted by a grown daughter in crisis who needs her to come home. Even though her life has been about being unencumbered, she discovers that she can change and make commitments, both to her child and her longtime lover, guitarist and boomer heartthrob Rick Springstein—without giving up her life as a musician. Despite the rather soapy plot, watching Streep rock out on guitar and vocals is inspirational for anyone who worries they might be too old to keep following their dream — even when the dream doesn’t pay off. —Erica Manfred
US. Directed by Dan Fogelman. With Al Pacino, Jennifer Garner, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer. 1h 46min.
Al Pacino plays Danny Collins, an aging Tom Jones-type rock star who drinks too much, falls into bed with groupies 30 years his junior and has lost his artistic mojo after mechanically singing the same catchy single at every concert for 40 years. When he receives a long lost inspirational letter from John Lennon, he goes on a quest to become a “real” musician. He wants to stop being stuck in the past and live without the crutches he’s always leaned on—booze and groupies. On the way he discovers the charms of an age appropriate romance and the rewards of discovering his family. Pacino can’t sing worth a damn but it doesn’t matter because he acts his heart out in this delightful movie that aims to show it’s never too late to make amends and change the track of your life.—Erica Manfred
US. Directed by Albert Maysles. With Iris Apfel, Bruce Weber, Albert Maysles. 83min.
Iris, Albert Maysles’ penultimate film before he died in May 2015, is an intimate biography of the self-professed “geriatric starlet” Iris Apfel, who became a style icon in her 80s when the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute mounted a show of items from her collection. An outspoken bundle of energy, wit and creativity, Apfel is known as a fashion adventurer, and in “Iris” we get to see the adventure in progress as she takes off on her shopping expeditions in out-of-the-way bazaars and flea markets. We see more, too — most notably Iris the resilient, who ploughs on, creating and presenting her public persona even as she grapples with exhausting aches and pains. Through it all, we’re aware of Maysles; the filmmaker makes occasional on-camera appearances and is a frequent presence off-camera, a co-creator with Apfel of this portrait of powerful individuality. —Barbara Aria
“Heart of a Dog”
US. Directed by Laurie Anderson. With Laurie Anderson, Lolabelle. 1 hr 15 min.
Approaching her 70s, acclaimed performance artist–musician Laurie Anderson was dealing with loss — of her mother, her talented rat terrier Lolabelle and then her husband, rockstar Lou Reed. What she did with her grief was meditate on it, examine its meaning, connect it with a larger world of loss, let go and finally turn it into a film that unfolds in layers of impressionistic visuals and sound, like a shifting dreamscape, with Anderson’s voice guiding us through. “Death is the release of love,” Anderson says in “Heart of a Dog,” a film that’s both joyful and generous. Attitude? Sometimes it means that willingness to go deeper and deeper as we age, fully experiencing, accepting, finding the joy and the humor, and offering what we’ve learned. —Barbara Aria
“Heart of a Dog” is not available for streaming just yet.
Is there another film you think we should have nominated for the “Aging With Attitude” Film Award? Let us know in the comments section!