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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

June 2015


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month

To view all of Jeanne's articles visit the Interest Index.

Seniors in Films


“Summer is supposed to be the season of youth, when the theatres are surrendered to cartoons, comedies and action franchises based on toys, comic books, amusement park rides. This is when the big studios’ year-round obsession with pandering to the kids reaches a climax," report Manohla Dargis and A.O.Scott in the New York Times International Weekly of May 24.

In the movie world, summer starts the first weekend in May, when this year meant the release of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” with Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson and – the 50-year-old Robert Downey Jr.

The “Avengers” series skews young, but not entirely: Its paterfamilias is Samuel L. Jackson, who at 66 only seems ageless. Like his fellow sexagenarians Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, Mr. Jackson has been an action star for decades. Some of their peers, including Liam Neeson and Helen Mirren, are relative newcomers, having turned to action movies after decades of artistic ventures.

Action heroism isn‘t the sole ticket to mature stardom. Now 65, Meryl Streep, a perennial Oscar nominee and critical favourite, has only in the past 20 years realised her potential as a box-office force. Since 2006, she has starred in five movies that exceeded or came close to the $100 million mark in North American ticket sales.

Stars over 50 bring gravity, craft and seasoned, relaxed professionalism to projects that might otherwise lack those qualities. When filmmakers cast Ms. Streep, they are almost guaranteed a memorable performance; she’s money in the bank, much like Morgan Freeman, the hardest-working senior citizen in movies. He shares that honour with the avenging auteur Clint Eastwood, 84, whose reascension as a critical and popular phenomenon offers further evidence that movies are currently enjoying a senior moment of a kind.

In July, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 67, will again make good on his promise (“I’ll be back”) in “Terminator Genisys.” The first “Terminator” was released in 1984. Mr. Willis has made five “Die Hards” over 25 years.

The most conspicuous emblem of the action-franchise elder is Mr. Neeson, 62, whose career resurrection in the “Taken” series evokes the likes of Charles Bronson in the “Death Wish” flicks. When the first “Taken” made $100 million in early 2009, turning Mr. Neeson into a box-office dynamo, it started a trend of casting aging stars. Now everybody wants to get in to the act: Mr. Willis, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone. Harrison Ford will forever be Han Solo for millions of fans; in his early 70s, he will again when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens in December.

Women are increasingly allowed a token role in the mayhem, and sometimes more than that. Ms. Mirren’s ability to create steely, willful characters - including Queen Elizabeth 11 and a detective , Jane Tennison in the television series “Prime Suspect” – has led her to the hyperviolent “Red” comedies about older and retired assassins and spies. The “Red” movies come across as a “Dirty Dozen” for retirement-age people, (locking and loading in camouflage.) They play with and, at times, succumb to ageist stereotypes, even as Ms. Mirren’s sexy, witty performance demolishes any suggestion that she’s ready to retire.

American stars, like the country they reflect, are getting older, a fact they at once resist and do their best to exploit. They have always been symbols of glamour and potency, often reluctant to give up the spotlight. They are also the vessels of our ideals and aspirations, including the dreams that it might be possible to grow old without slowing down, with or without a machine gun. They are changing the face of movie stardom, one wrinkle at a time. “

There may come a time, but not soon, when the obligatory sexy scenes, in most of the box office hits, of naked young bodies are the wrinkled ones of the senior citizens. That, for the moment is a wrinkle too far, one few of us wants to see on the big screen.

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