Films on Aging

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Films on Retirement

Dr. Andrew Weil: Healthy Aging

Lecture 2006 NR 1hr 15m. Dispensing practical advice, Dr. Andrew Weil — one of America’s most admired physicians — guides viewers through tips for healthy aging while providing easy-to-understand examples. In this informative PBS special, maturity never seemed so bright, as Weil shares diet, exercise and sleep secrets that contribute to overall mental, emotional and physical well-being. His trusted methods and honest advice offer a favorable outlook on growing older.

Life & Death in Assisted Living

Documentary Frontline 2013 July13. A ProPublica and Frontline examination of the multibillion-dollar assisted living industry reveals a mishmash of minimal state regulation and no involvement by federal officials. These three deaths, an alleged sexual assault, and a senior’s disappearance, are among the more than two dozen cases of questionable care uncovered by Frontline and ProPublica at the nation’s largest assisted living provider. The investigation took Frontline and ProPublica to seven states over 14 months, and included an examination of more than 100 lawsuits against Emeritus over the last decade. In a passionate call to arms mistakenly sent to ProPublica, an Emeritus spokesman calls on employees to take to the web to blunt any negative impact from Frontline and ProPublica’s investigation into the assisted living industry. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2013 July13): http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/

Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain

Documentary 2009 NR 88 minutes. Director Mitch McCabe, the daughter of a plastic surgeon, investigates America’s huge anti-aging industry through this documentary, in which a colorful cross-section of doctors, experts and beauty devotees share their views on staying forever young. Filmed across the United States over the course of two years, McCabe’s deeply personal project offers both humorous and disturbing insights into modern society.

How to Live Forever

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 34m.  On a mission to live forever, director Mark Wexler explores the boundaries of modern medicine, the wisdom of fitness gurus, a chain-smoking marathoner, an elderly porn star and other extraordinary centenarians. Forever may be sooner than you think.

Fed Up

Documentary 2014 PG 90 minutes. The film focuses on the causes of obesity in the United States. It presents evidence showing that the large quantities of sugar in processed foods are an overlooked root of the problem. It points to the monied lobbying power of “Big Sugar” in blocking attempts to enact effective policies to address the issue. This eye-opening documentary examines the underlying causes behind the obesity epidemic, including the marketing strategies of major U.S. food producers. How did 60% of the country get so fat?  2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight, with 1 in 3 adults considered obese. Childhood obesity has become an ever-more serious medical issue in the United States. The film includes touching video self-portraits by young people who belong to the almost 17 percent of children and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, who are considered obese. The obese parents who raise obese children — why aren’t they in the least bit curious as to how they’ve become 300 pounders when their ancestors were all normal. This film is an expose of the food industry’s pedaling of sugar-rich junk food to kids and the epidemic of obesity that has resulted from it. It rightly points to the chief villain in our food choices–sugar–as addictive and toxic. Sugar is clearly added to food products that historically had none in an effort to elicit a crave factor, so you can’t stop eating them. See Full Review

Living Old

Documentary Frontline 2006 NR 60 minutes. A compelling and insightful expedition into uncharted terrain, this episode of the penetrating PBS series delves into this issue of America’s increasing elderly population and the implications for the aged, their families and society. Facing the ramifications of medical advances that have made longer lives possible, the health-care system — already overtaxed — may be reaching a breaking point as the number of caregivers shrinks. With 35 million elderly people in America, “the old, old” — those over 85 — are now considered the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. While medical advances have enabled an unprecedented number of Americans to live longer and healthier lives, this new longevity has also had unintended consequences. For millions of Americans, living longer also means serious chronic illness and a protracted physical decline that can require an immense amount of care, often for years and sometimes even decades. Yet just as the need for care is rising, the number of available caregivers is dwindling. With families more dispersed than ever and an overburdened healthcare system, many experts fear that we are on the threshold of a major crisis in care.

Money and Medicine

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 23m. As rising health care costs threaten to bankrupt the country, Money and Medicine is a documentary that tackles the medical, ethical and financial challenges of containing runaway health care spending, especially in the last two years of life.

Who Pays for Mom and Dad?

Documentary Frontline 1991. Frontline examines the crisis facing middle-class Americans seeking long-term nursing home care for elderly parents. The report focuses on the tremendous financial difficulties faced by families who must decide what’s best for their loved ones.

What about Mom and Dad?

Documentary Frontline 1985. Americans over the age of 75 are the fastest growing segment of the nation’s population. Many have spent all their lives planning carefully for retirement. But they find their savings destroyed by nursing home care and federal programs for medical costs covering much less than they ever thought. When they turn to their families for help, difficult emotional and financial choices must be made.

The Invention of Lying

Satire 2009 PG-13 99 minutes. “The Invention of Lying” is a satire that depicts a world where no one fibs, fiction doesn’t exist and people take each other at their literal word, but unsuccessful screenwriter Mark gains fame and fortune — and maybe the girl of his dreams, Anna — by saying things that aren’t true. The Invention of Lying is a remarkably radical comedy, a comedy with ideas; fortunately it remains, throughout, a comedy first. The first half hour has some of the funniest original writing and scenes ever in a comedy, in which people actually say what they think about each other. It opens with a series of funny, relentlessly logical episodes in a world where everyone always tells the truth. But one day Mark (Ricky Gervais) undergoes an astonishing revelation. He knows his bank balance is $300. The camera zooms into his brain to show mental lightning bolts, and he tells the teller he has $800 (which he needs to pay the rent). She hands him the money and apologizes for the bank’s computer. He has discovered he can lie, but his world lacks even a word for this. Then when Mark wants to console his mother who is dying, he makes up a story about “The Man In The Sky”, and gets millions of people to believe in him. So the film slips in the implication that religion is possible only in a world that has the ability to lie. Not only is it inventive and imaginative and original, but it truly inspires the viewer to think! You start to wonder, “Is this how religion was invented?” Something to think about. With his new power Mark is able to tell his mother that death does not lead to oblivion, but to a wonderful afterlife. Of course she, and everyone else, believes him. The word races around the world, and people beg for more details. Anna tells him how happy he could make everyone. Then, in one of the funniest satirical scenes I can remember, Mark stands on his front steps and informs the world there is a Man in the Sky, and they will be happy up there with him after death. The world is ecstatic. This Man, Mark explains, is responsible for everything. “Even my cancer?” a woman asks. Yes, that too, but Mark asks his audience not to get bogged down in the details. What we have here, in microcosm, is the paradox of a benevolent god creating a world of evil. Mark is hard-pressed to explain it, but greater men than he have tried. That’s a definite extra in a light romantic comedy. As someone once said, “Religion is Santa Clause for adults.” So unlike many liars we know who lie for their own benefit, Mark uses his power to fib only to make unfortunate people feel better, by telling only what we call “white lies”. So the movie could more accurately be titled “The Invention of White-Lying”. See Full Review

Can We Live Forever?

Documentary Nova scienceNOW 2011 NR 60 mins.  Consulting computer scientists and bioengineers, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson investigates the possibility of extending human life indefinitely and if the principles that keep a Volvo running could be applied to our own biology.  It introduces several possible methods of extending human life.  Discusses 1) gene FOXO and its role in longevity, 2) an attempt to create real avatars and  3) science’s advancements in using cells from your own body to generate a new organ.  This segment on growing human body parts is excellent.  They all got me pumped for the future.

FILMS ON HEROES OF AGING:

Granny D Goes to Washington

Documentary 2007 NR 26m. An 89-year-old idealist walks across the United States to demand that lawmakers reduce the role of special interest money in politics, focusing on campaign finance reform.

The Lady in Number 6:
Music Saved My Life

Documentary 2013 NR 38m. Czech pianist and holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer describes how music enabled her to survive one of the darkest chapters in human history. Wow….all I can say is wow! What a profound and uplifting film! Alice shares her views on how to live a long happy life using the tools available to everyone: music, laughter, love and unrelenting optimism. This powerfully inspirational video tells not only her amazing story of survival but how, throughout her life, she was able to be strong by choosing to be happy, even during times of great loss. Alice is probably more full of life than anyone ever after living through so much. Alice’s friends are as inspiring as she is. Three women who not only survived Nazi death camps, but did so with a positive attitude. Quite a testament to the human spirit, and how it can survive even indescribable horrors. The emphasis is on the eldest of the three, a consummate musician who at 109 is still playing, and smiling. Never has a film of 38 minutes better reflected the human power of supreme optimism and joy amid such great adversity. What a touching and inspiring documentary. Absolutely beautiful! A true inspiration that we all should take lessons from. We can learn a lot about how to live our own lives with joy, fulfillment, mental fortitude, and positivity from listening to and learning from Alice. She could teach all of us with the beauty of her spirit. She certainly helped me put some things in perspective. A great lesson for all generations. Wise words and beautiful music. So sad to learn she died 2/23/14. An amazing life. Really makes you think about your own. This won the 2013 Oscar for Best Short Documentary. A must-see film. Do not miss this one. Watch it, that’s all I can say. Watch it and be amazed, touched and enlivened.

Holes in My Shoes

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr30m. New Yorker Jack Beers, 94, defies the concept of aging in this documentary that chronicles his diverse achievements and infectious enthusiasm. Even though he looks his age, you would not be able to tell from the way he talks. It is wonderful to see someone that age still showing a zest for life. This is the life story of a man I would have liked to know. A man full of unfailing energy, and love of life. I began watching it wondering why he was being documented, and for each segment of his life, I would think, ahh this is who he is. But no, within a few more minutes of the story, my perception once more changed. This man is inspirational, so don’t let the slow first few minutes in the opening distract you from the real meat of the film. Jack Beers is simply one of the most wonderful men I have ever heard of. His life story, were one to tell it, would seem to be a bit over-the-top, sure-you-did kind of story. It seems outlandish. But it’s all true! It is an inspirational biography about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. He is not being honored for his longevity but for the endless energy and love of life that this man and his actions so clearly depict.  We should all live this way. His father advised him, “No matter what you do in life, be the best at what you do.” Truly had tears in my eyes when Jack sang at the top of the Empire State Building at the end: “…and when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” We can all glean from Jack as he continued to find a reason to smile his way through life, in the good and bad times. We can all benefit from him! Great story, and told so beautifully by the man himself. He did live a Wonderful Life, overcoming all obstacles along the way. From beginning to end, I absolutely and totally loved, loved, loved this extraordinary man’s bio. Watched this documentary three times, then I joined my husband who watched it twice! The BEST documentary I have ever viewed. I highly recommend this one, I recommend to anyone, anywhere. Watch this, you won’t be sorry!  Wonderful story, wonderful man. (I see online that he passed on two years after this film was made.)

Get Low

Docudrama 2009 PG-13 100 minutes. Oscar winners Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek team up to tell the true story of irascible Felix Bush, a backwoods Tennessee loner who planned his funeral in 1938 while he was still around to attend — and enjoy — the proceedings.

Life Itself

Documentary 2014 R 2hr.  Follow Roger Ebert from his school newspaper days to his status as America’s premier film critic in this documentary drawn from his memoir.   It provides a great deal of information and footage from Roger Ebert’s professional life, ranging from his time as editor of The Daily Illini through his career at the Chicago Sun-Times and his television shows. The stories about him at the college paper show what a gifted writer he was, even at such a young age.  It features the solid documentary work you would expect (still pictures, voice overs, rostrum camera work, etc.) and some very nice interviews with film critics Richard Corliss, A.O. Scott, Martin Scorcese, and some lesser known filmmakers who were impacted by Roger’s advocacy. I wanted more of that.  Ebert estimates that he saw 10,000 movies and wrote 4,000 reviews.  (To put that in perspective, if you watched one movie every day, or 365 per year, it would take three years to see 1,000 movies, and thirty years to see 10,000.)  (Or 300 years to watch all 100,000 movies available on Netflix.)  The movie reveals how the rivalry between Ebert and fellow critic Gene Siskel was even more contentious and persistent than it appeared on their television show.  But the film is missing something, it’s missing a genuine viewpoint on Roger’s role in the history of film criticism and of film itself, and this might have pushed it over the line into a truly great documentary. It’s made pretty clear at the outset that this was a collaboration between Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and Roger Ebert himself, and Roger clearly wanted an unflinching window into what ended up being his death process. It’s not quite as gut-wrenchingly intimate as what Farrah Fawcett did, but it does come awfully close.  But in the end I can’t blame Ebert for wanting to retain control, and he got exactly what he wanted, a fitting and quite moving tribute. But it’s not for everyone, this much is certain.

Hawking

Documentary 2013 NR. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking narrates his own story via the voice-synthesis device that he has used since ALS silenced his speech. Hawking’s memories capture his youth and college years as well as his extraordinary scientific career.

The Salt of Life
(Gianni e le Donne)

Comedy 2011 NR 1hr 29m.  Rather than living the good life he’d imagined, newly retired Gianni spends his days running errands for those around him. Bemoaning his fate, he decides to take a mistress — a task that proves easier said than done in this wistful comedy.

Nebraska

Dramedy 2013 R 1hr54m.  When a cantankerous old boozer named Woody thinks he’s won a million dollars magazine sweepstakes prize, his son David reluctantly takes a road trip with him to claim the fortune.  This uneasy duo encounters many obstacles, some quite amusing. Along the way, we gain some empathy for Woody and the man he once was. Many of us have seen this in our grandfathers and fathers — and how many have had to deal with the grouchy grumpy old men as adult siblings. And who is not to love his equally snappy grouchy wife?  The performances are low key. Woody is played so perfectly by Bruce Dern. I never felt such heartbreak and admiration for a character. Dern is one of the shining lights of this film. Another shining light is the script, filled with dark comedy.  Nebraska itself, both people and terrain, gives this movie authenticity. Perhaps being from a small town helps, but I thought the script was right on the money. It’s challenging to get the day-to-day lingo of small town folk, but this movie succeeds there.  It was a great idea to film this story in black and white — it adds so much to the characters.  Even though it is filmed in black and white, I didn’t even notice it after a few minutes.  Be prepared for a slow-moving film, but it has a pay off that’s well worth it.  Ahhh well, don’t miss this gem.  Rating: See it.  This movie is excellent, and I only wish there were more quality films like this one!  P.S. As seen in this movie, America is filled with out-of-the-way miserable dying places where people eek out dreary forgettable lives. If you live in such a place, get up and leave NOW.

The Bucket List

Comedy 2007 PG-13 97 minutes. When corporate mogul Edward Cole and mechanic Carter Chambers wind up in the same hospital room, the two terminally ill men bust out of the cancer ward with a plan to experience life to the fullest before they kick the bucket.

About Schmidt

Drama 2002 R 125 minutes. When insurance actuary Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) retires and his wife dies, he looks for life’s meaning on a road trip to his daughter’s (Hope Davis) upcoming wedding to a waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). But Schmidt can’t seem to get anything right. En route to the wedding, he shares his life through letters with a Tanzanian boy he’s sponsoring for 73 cents a day — and soon, Schmidt discovers renewed purpose.

Diamond Men

Drama 2000 R 1hr 40m. About to be put out to pasture after suffering a heart attack, a traveling diamond salesman reluctantly concedes to train his replacement, who’s a brash novice. Though the two men get off to a rocky start, they soon develop an unexpected bond.

Cocoon

Sci-Fi Drama 1985 PG-13 120 minutes. A group of shut-ins at a rest home get a new lease on life when they’re offered the gift of eternal youth by visiting aliens led by Brian Dennehy. Steve Guttenberg plays a charter boat captain who helps Dennehy and Don Ameche (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) marshal their fellow seniors (Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley, Jack Gilford, Jessica Tandy and Maureen Stapleton) into making the choice between perennial youth or old age.

FILMS ON DYING:

The End

Documentary 2004 NR 1hr 24m. This film about the final stages of life is a moving chronicle of five hospice patients whose stories are in turns honest, humorous and heartbreaking.

Moment of Death

Documentary National Geographic 2008 TV-PG 50m. This National Geographic documentary explores the physical and psychological changes experienced by the human body in the moments before and after death. When does a person really die, and what happens at that precise second when life ends? While the subject both frightens and fascinates, understanding both the science of death and the ways in which our bodies hold it off are key to understanding the complete cycle of human life.

The Loved One

Satire 1965 NR 121 minutes. Soon after a British poet Dennis (Robert Morse) arrives at his uncle’s Hollywood home, the uncle ends up dead in this satire based on the Evelyn Waugh novel of the same name, which skewers the U.S. funeral industry and along with it, U.S. values.  That’s how Dennis comes to Whispering Glades, the ultimate resting place for the privileged and the famous, like Forest Lawn cemetery in Hollywood Hills. Now, the poet must deal with the cemetery’s exasperating staff: an embalmer (Rod Steiger); a funeral home manager and his twin (both played by Jonathan Winters); and a coffin salesman (Liberace). Dennis, not having a job, is recruited to help with the pet cemetery. He meets enough weirdos to last a lifetime. This acerbic satire about the funeral business was written by Evelyn Waugh, an Englishman who saw the excesses about the art of preparing “the loved ones” for their final send off into eternity. Morse is memorable as the hapless Englishman, trying to understand this peculiar American commercial funeral institution and the nearly fanatical devotees to the Jonathan Winters’ Blessed Reverend. The tawdry corporate nature of the funeral industry gradually unfolds in this fantastic study of the American fixation with marketing everything, even death. If you are disturbed or offended by the funeral business, death in general, dead pets, or slightly veiled hints at necrophilia then you might want to give this one a miss. If you’re brave and open-minded, however, I highly recommend this truly strange and wonderful film.

Gates of Heaven

Documentary 1978 NR 83 minutes.  Indie documentarian Errol Morris trains his lens on obsessive pet owners and the zeitgeist that supports them, including pet cemetery owners and embalmers.  Morris interviews the owners and patrons of a handful of California pet cemeteries and comes away with a unique, funny, and genuinely touching glimpse at American life.  Pet owners talk candidly about the challenges they face dealing with feelings of bereavement.  One is tempted to laugh at the people for their devotion to their dead pets, but Morris seems to genuinely like and feel for these people, who just want to repay their pets for all the years of love they provided for them.  This is truly a film like no other, and well worth a watch for those who like documentaries that are a little out of the ordinary. This is one of the best and most charming documentaries in film history.  A little side note about this movie: Director Errol Morris was all but dared to make this movie by legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog.  Herzog told Morris that if he had the courage and resolve to actually make this movie, Herzog would eat his shoe.  Well, Morris completed and released Gates of Heaven, and Herzog proved true to his word.  If you can find the short documentary ‘Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe’, you can actually see Herzog make good on his promise.  Quite an interesting story behind one of the best films, documentary or narrative, ever made.

FILMS ON ASSISTED SUICIDE:

The Suicide Plan

Documentary Frontline 2012 Nov13. Assisted suicide, one of the most polarizing social issues of our time, is explored. How the right-to-die movement has shaped the debate about assisted suicide in the U.S. from 1980 to today. A bill approved by the state legislature makes Vermont just the third state in the nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide – and the first to do it through a legislative vote. So controversial is the question of assisted death that even advocates disagree about what to call it. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Nov13): http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/

How to Die in Oregon

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 47m. This award-winning documentary takes you into the lives of terminally ill people as they consider availing themselves of physician-assisted suicide.

The Suicide Tourist

Documentary Frontline 2010 NR 54 minutes. In this sobering but thought-provoking portrait of personal freedom, “Frontline” follows a native of Chicago across the Atlantic to Switzerland, where he plans to take his own life with help from a nonprofit organization that legally assists suicides. Dignitas was founded to help people die with dignity. But is it a human being’s right to end his life on his own timetable — and is it ethically sound to serve as his accomplice?

Kevorkian

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 30m. Filmmaker Matthew Galkin profiles Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous “Dr. Death” who helped more than 100 people commit suicide in the 1990s.

You Don’t Know Jack

Docudrama 2009 NR 134 minutes. Al Pacino stars in this Emmy-winning biopic that focuses on the life of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the controversial physician who boldly advocated the legalization of euthanasia and personally helped more than 100 terminally ill patients commit suicide. Directed by Hollywood veteran Barry Levinson, the made-for-cable drama also stars Susan Sarandon as vocal activist Janet Good and John Goodman as Kevorkian’s trusted friend and supporter Neal Nicol.

The Kevorkian Verdict

Documentary Frontline 1996. As Dr. Jack Kevorkian faces his third criminal trial for assisting in the suicide of his desperate patients, FRONTLINE examines the improbable saga of ‘Dr. Death’ and assesses how quickly the Michigan pathologist seized center stage in the intricate and emotional debate over physician-assisted suicide and what role he played in changing how America thinks about the end of life.

The Kevorkian File

Documentary Frontline 1994. Just a few years ago, nobody had ever heard of Jack Kevorkian. Today, he is the most famous doctor in America–and the most controversial. Kevorkian is celebrated by his supporters as a merciful angel of death, the only man courageous enough to publicly step forward to help those suffering needlessly at the end of life–the champion of a new civil-rights issue. To his opponents, Kevorkian is Dr. Death, a discredited pathologist whose obsession with death has led him to kill patients who are not yet at the end of their lives; a man who is trying to push America into a nightmarish future of death on demand. Who is the real Jack Kevorkian? FRONTLINE presents an in-depth examination Jack Kevorkian’s record–exploring the man, his cases, and the issue he has come to personify.

Choosing Death

Documentary Frontline Health Quarterly Special 1993. In the Netherlands, euthanasia has been openly practiced for twenty years. Through the personal accounts of doctors, patients, and families in Holland, this program explores the complexities and dilemmas of euthanasia. Anchored by veteran newsman Roger Mudd and co-produced by The Health Quarterly and Frontline, the documentary is interspersed with a studio discussion relating the Dutch experience to the euthanasia debate in the United States.

The Right to Die?

Documentary Frontline 1989. Frontline and Fred Friendly’s Media and Society series join forces to examine the complex legal and moral issues involved in the US Supreme Court’s first right-to-die case, Cruzan vs. Harmon. The broadcast features exclusive coverage of the Cruzan family’s legal struggle to remove their daughter Nancy from the life-support system that keeps her alive and explores the issues with the Cruzan’s attorney as well as leading ethicists, jurists, and Supreme Court watchers.

Mercy or Murder?

Docudrama 1987 TV-PG 1hr 36m. Roswell decides to euthanize his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease — and pays the consequences when he’s tried for murder.

The Sea Inside
(Mar adentro)

Docudrama 2004 PG-13 2hr 5m. Determined to die with dignity, a quadriplegic leads a 30-year campaign to win the right to end his life in this drama based on a true story.

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Films on Retirement

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