SENIOR POWER Five “aging” moving pictures

By Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Saturday April 05, 2014 - 09:55:00 AM

Seen any good films lately that were about the passage of time? About people aging? Here are Anita, Gloria, Honey, five people Out Late, plus three Old Goats.  

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power is a 2013, 95-minute documentary directed by Freida Lee Mock. Jan Wahl, San Francisco-based film++ critic, gives Anita a raving Four Hats.  

Anita Faye Hill is a 58-year old American attorney and academic, “currently a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management” [Wikipedia]. Brandeis’ web site identifies her as Professor of Social Policy, Law and Women's Studies in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Is women’s studies like home econ, one wonders? Brandeis’ online library catalog lists many by-and-about Hill media.  

Anita Hill is the woman who accused then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment at the 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Incredibly, there are still people who question whether or not she was telling the truth! In an interview on HuffPost Live, Hill spoke about those hearings. She said that they were meant to "inform the public" and that then-Senator Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. did a "terrible job" as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman during the 1991 hearings.  

Sixty-six year old Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. “Joe” Biden is Vice President.  

Biden, one of the hearing’s disinterested senators, failed to call to testify three women who had been subpoenaed to discuss alleged inappropriate behavior by Thomas. In addition, Hill said there were experts available who could have "given information and helped the public understand sexual harassment." She argued that Biden's actions were both a "disservice to [her] and, more importantly, a disservice to the public." [“Anita Hill: Joe Biden Botched The Clarence Thomas Hearings.” The Huffington Post, by Natasha Bach. 03/20/2014 ]  


From Chile, comes Gloria, a new film not to be confused with Gena Rowlands’ 1980 portrayal of an ex-gun moll and showgirl suddenly forced to protect a child whose parents have been rubbed out by the mob. 2013’s Gloria is a late-middle aged, divorced “free-spirited older woman”. Paulina Garcia won the top acting prize at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, where the movie was a surprise hit. It opened in January in New York and Los Angeles, and more widely in February. I’m looking forward to seeing it and have placed a hold on the library DVD. Closed captioned, Spanish audio, English and Spanish subtitles.  

The Los Angeles Times praised “Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's near-perfect film about the very imperfect world of a divorced woman of a certain age." Indeed, most reviewers relied on that old “woman of a certain age” saw. The message, according to Newsday, is that the course of romance is no smoother at 50 than it is at 15. Gloria gets caught up in a passionate whirlwind romance with a retired naval officer, whom she meets at a dance club for singles.  


From Italy, here’s Honey, a bittersweet nuanced approach to euthanasia. “Honey is a fascinating and complex figure, and Jasmine Trinca inhabits the role with a detached intensity that's thoroughly compelling." [Sheri Linden. Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2014]. 

The assured feature-directing debut by actress Valeria Golino (Susanna in Rain Man) achieves the rare feat of addressing euthanasia head-on without devolving into a dramatized treatise or a button-pushing issue movie. 

Medical school dropout Irene lives alone in a town near Rome. Honey is her adopted name for her illegal work: using barbiturates she buys in Tijuana, she provides assisted suicide services to the terminally ill. Calm and systematic, she takes control of each emotionally charged session, providing precise instructions along with the necessary ingredients. Irene has the procedure down pat and her life neatly compartmentalized. But beneath the compassion and steeliness is personal anguish.  


Out Late is a 64-minute production that looks at 5 people who made the decision to come out as a lesbian, gay, or transgender person after age 55. Written and directed by Beatrice Alda and Jennifer Brooke, it was released as a motion picture in 2008 and as a DVD in 2011.  

On February 26, 2014 the Equal Rights Center (ERC), in partnership with Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10001), released the results of a 10-state testing-based investigation documenting differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities. Read the report at the GLBT website, Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples. Among other findings, the tests showed that 48% of same-sex couples experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment when inquiring about senior housing as compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The investigation showed housing agents: providing information about additional units being available to the tester from an opposite-sex couple; advising the tester from the same-sex couple about additional fees, costs, and/or a more extensive application process than were disclosed to the heterosexual tester; providing information about additional amenities to the testers from the opposite sex couple that were not mentioned to the tester from the same sex couple; and offering "specials" and discounts to the tester from the same-sex couple that were not offered to the tester from the opposite sex couple. [Same-sex couples encounter more barriers when seeking senior housing, study finds," by Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2014).]  

BBC News reports "The growth of gay retirement homes," by Aidan Lewis, March 18, 2014. 

"For aging transgender population, retirement can be bittersweet refuge," by Ryan Schuessler (Al Jazeera America, February 20, 2014). 


Old Goats, released in 2011, consists of 91 minutes of elusive comedy. Well, it eludes me, and this is my column. Three elderly men play themselves within a fictional framework. The story is said to blend fiction and reality.  

Britt (Britton Crosley) lives alone on a cluttered old boat and seeks excitement and romance. Bob (Bob Burkholder) is writing a memoir of his supposed soldier, para-trooper, bush pilot life, but is uneasy about revealing his youthful sins. Dave (David VanderWal) struggles to adapt to retired life with his wife (played by an actor). The story begins when the guys meet, greet and exercise at the senior center, and then it goes on… and on… as each gent attempts to change his ways and to make the most of his sunset years.  

Opinionated and set in their ways, each copes with aging in his own way. Conventional Dave rebels against his wife wanting to spend their retirement as he had promised, hoarder Britt struggles to learn internet dating (that part is actually kind of humorous), and lively ladies' man (he should be so lucky) Bob juggles girlfriend (an actor) and the memoir of his notorious (he should be so lucky) past.  

The other characters are played by actors, the women considerably more youthful appearing than the three “live” men, much as in real life. I dare say some viewers will perceive Old Goats as a hilarious and heartfelt story of a trio of spirited senior citizens on a quest to make the most of their remaining years. For some viewers, this may provide a refreshing perspective on the golden years, proving it's never too late to chase your dreams. Same old same old. 

In real life, old goats can be useful for brush clearance.  


Recommended Reading, from the Berkeley Daily Planet: 

Press release: “Berkeley Public Library selects Noll & Tam architects and planners for improvements to the central library interior public spaces.” March 21, 2014. 

“The sterilization of the Berkeley Libraries,” by Vivian Warkentin. March 22, 2014. 

“Libraries: Overhaul fails,” by Phil Allen. March 26, 2014. 

LIBRARIES: Facts First” by Thomas Lynch . March 28, 2014.