Monday, January 28, 2013


I don't know if you know this (nor do I know who you are--who are you?), but we've got a senior's rate at the cinema: eight bucks if you've bested 65. As a ticket seller, however, know that I make no assumptions. Unless I'm told otherwise, I take it for granted that everyone's a spring chicken of 64 years or less. This is not because I'm a stickler, but because I do all I can to avoid the Midsummer Night's Dream-style spell that gets cast when one makes assumptions. There's donkey-headed hell to pay--trust me--if I assume someone under the age of discount is over the age of discount, and vice versa. You can never win guessing a person's age.

I've been ripping tickets on and off at the cinema for a few years, and lately I've noticed a tangible shift in nomenclature. For sure there's still the simple request: "Senior, please." But more and more senior isn't cutting the mustard when it comes to identifying oneself. Old folks is an oft-heard chestnut; people of a certain age is one of my favorite replacements; old farts comes in a lot, and there's even been a fun smattering of geezers and fogeys lately. I guess I'll risk donning the donkey dome here and assume that there's a certain amount of dowdiness and frailty associated with the term and category of "senior" that just doesn't apply to most who find themselves in that age/discount bracket. So in comes the sarcasm and the ribaldry, as if to say, "I'll take the discount, but leave the label." And I'm A-okay with that.

We've had on our program recently a handful of movies that explore this sentiment. I'm thinking The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel specifically, as well as And If We All Lived Together, and I think the Timothy Cavendish section of Cloud Atlas deserves a movie to itself. Not shown at the Bookshelf Cinema (for some reason) but also apt examples are fluffier, explodier fair like The Expendables and Red. At the core of these movies is the message that aging doesn't have to be a winding down in life, but can be a revving up.

Septuagenarian Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with Quartet. Verdant and gazeboed, Beecham House retirement home houses aging musicians. (Maybe Christopher Walken's character from A Late Quartet has a room here....) The status quo is upset by the arrival of a big deal soprano, played by Maggie Smith. Reluctant to enter Beecham, and, ostensibly, retirement, Smith is ushered into this new phase of her life by the likes of Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly.

People of a certain age assure me, as they leave the theater, that Quartet is not meant for me. While that's a little reductive, it does raise an important point. There's that old parable about the old fish asking the young fish how the water is that day. "What's water?" the young fish asks. I'm not quite thirty. For the most part, The Media has its bead on me; it makes a lot of donkey spell presumptions about what I like. And the inundation is so incessant that I can't help but take the water that it is for granted. The other side of this inundation is, of course, alienation. If you're not in the sweet spot of culture's campaign, no doubt a lot of it can seem irrelevant. Really, there's so little aimed at territories beyond my age bracket that, when these movies come down the chute--movies for people of a certain age about people of a certain age--it's no wonder they're received so well by the audience they're aimed at.

You can caw about the levity and rose-colouredness of films of Quartet's ilk, and indeed there's plenty of cawing, mostly from fish who don't know what water is. But Quartet and its peers do what any good, nutritious entertainment should do: help us recognize who, how, and where we are, as well as who, how, and where else we'd rather be. If fortune sees fit to get me to the right side of 65, I'm sure I'll be reluctant to identify with such a dry, monosyllabic label as "senior," too. Maybe I'll go with something like "An old fart fogey geezer of a certain age who knows what water is."

- Andrew

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