The first time I was privileged to attend AARP’s stellar MOVIES FOR GROWNUPS gala, I was thrilled and humbled to be included in such a prestigious event. Now, this second time for the 14th annual gathering, I am even more awestruck with the entirety of the experience…and I am not one to be easily starstruck nor bowled over by Hollywood’s bright lights and glitz. This private affair awash with such seasoned celebrities so comfortably mingling throughout the evening with a certain unpressured assuredness: the impact, ineffable. While most were not quite my social or age cohort, I also found myself surprisingly relaxed in their midst as I felt free to firm footedly enjoy being one openly hungry to learn …what a gift to be uninhibited, fully inspired by those in the evening’s spotlight. These industry veterans and honorees certainly have so much to share… I wonder if even they realize just how much…
As one’s journey through life and vocation was oft celebrated this evening, it similarly was in the process of giving these well-deserving artists their just desserts throughout the event that so many deeply authentic words and moments poured forth onto all who would hear. In earnest hope that such sagacity be not lost on the youth, I am sharing just some particulars here so that the impact and exhortations be not lost or wane over time for me.
Hosted by an appropriately irreverent-enough John Leguizamo, my awesome mentor and friend, first Assistant Secretary for Aging for the Adminstration on Aging, and esteemed AARP board member Fernando Torres-Gil and I chuckled through the program in appreciation of the host’s smarts and wit that spanned the decades of perspectives in the room. After the stars of The Theory of Everything lauded all whom worked with them, especially showing sweet regard to the people they depicted so heart-rendingly beautifully, Leguizamo referred to Hawkins’ hope-infused battle with ALS with as much respect as well-intentioned levity to further engage an already enthralled audience.
In listening to the non-speeches offered from this adept group of professional storytellers, recurrent themes of human struggle, compassion, and exuberant overcoming illumined a palpable unifying spirit in the room.
“It’s about how you live… not how you lose,” said Julianne Moore as she ended her time at the podium, calling out the heroism in those who fight all manner of debilitation and impossible odds. In fact, 65% of those with Alzheimer’s are women and 2/3’s of their caretakers are also women. Staggering. Sobering. With 20% of the America anticipated to be seniors in 15 years, who can turn away from this disease that, according to Maria Shriver, “has no survivors,” except, I add, the heartbroken who remain. I speak of the family members and dearest friends of those claimed by the disease who wish their loved one had not struggled and suffered so much spiraling indignity and cognitive decline before passing into a beloved, living memory.
Surely, such dreaded fears can bind us or motivate us to become free and compel us to continue to work together, recognizing how much we need one another to become our best as an individual and as one, like-minded group. A man who surged into acclaim by his daring to direct for the first time ever at the age of 74 helped expunge my acculturation toward timidity when he said that he “wanted to do something that truly terrifies (paraphrased)” him while standing onstage accepting praise for the results of his intrepid dream-doings (my neologism for passionate callings acted upon). Israel Horovitz is a new force in filmmaking I look forward to working with one day!
In togetherness, so many greater possibilities lay waiting to be unveiled to the esteemed adventurers who dare to continue to transgress against conventional needs for safety nets. With necessary abandon, such intrepid artists feed sustainably off a certain, collective bravery linking peers pressing onward to that tireless directive to affect change with a unique signature only their own. “The JOY of what we get to do all the time is collaborate,” said J.K. Simmons as his stream of consciousness talk showcased his style of steps taken deliberately in search for truth in the work, with a self-deprecation so very real and remarkably human. So much of what was shared was simple, yet grand in its universality…and then came the key call to rise and go forth.
Kevin Coster. Yes, I intended that to be just one sentence. It should stand alone as plain and powerfully as the man who bears the name. After embracing his AARP status due to his “f-in’ birthday,” he continued to share from his heart, “I would simply and respectfully ask you to look back and then to look inward for the dreams you once had…some realized, some not… and then, like an athlete, I would ask you to look up at the clock.” Framing the activism that can make the 60’s a heyday of laurels to rest upon, he quips, “can’t we just forget the 60’s… well no, not for the next 5 minutes…” “…and no, I am not kookoo… I know that One Direction was the most popular band in the country last year, but the 3rd most pop band was the Rolling Stones. In fact 15 of the top grossing tours last year, half of them were over the age of 50.” Reminding the older Americans of their vitality and the necessity of their re-emergence in the world today, he continued,
“I think our generation still has time to fulfill it’s promise. I think winning and losing is still before us.”
…we were the first generation that knew something was broken and we weren’t afraid to take it on. The difference was we were teenagers, right, we were in our twenties… but something is still broke.” And hearkening back to the call to be as an athlete keeping track of the tick-tock, he shares his experience in preparing for the movie 13 Days. Reflecting on his a private conversation in the Oval Office with then President Kennedy, he shared a bit of it,
“you need to know the inning Jack; you need to know the score. You need to know how much time you have left in the game.”
In his most gentlemanly way, he mindfully refused to ramble on into the late night and made his point that heralds the need to fight ageism in our youth-centric society.
“…we still are the boomers… we are not just old dogs looking for one last fight. I think we have a chance to stand taller than we ever thought was possible. I think we have a chance to go out with a bang… there’s still time– I don’t now how much, but there’s still time…”-Kevin Costner
How much time will we waste or redeem either by maintaining the silent status quo among our brightest and most experienced elders muffled largely by a brooding atmosphere of disregard or by bringing out the best in the babes as well as our currently under appreciated and overlooked seniors. Careless dismissal from some does not negate true relevance. I deeply feel intergenerational bridges must be restored or built anew. Perhaps some of the answers we are looking for in our youth to solve current and future ills can and should be addressed now alongside the Greatest Generation.
Ironically, is it not our elders who by blood, sweat, tears, and unimaginable sacrifice allowed so much of our present day freedoms to lull many of us into our exclusionary comfort zones? Then, I propose it would be apropo to invite and empower our elders to arise out from under the isolation and doldrums they feel sequestered in. There is a larger picture… prevailing winds to take heed to. When our elders in times past have borne so much of the cost and we bear the burden of option-paralysis in a consequential burgeoning of conveniences, what ominous personal, national, and global costs and unbending taskmasters are we ignorant of that are unfavorable and imminent, and being so, reparable? The legacy of a great American hero and wise elder who passed in 2014 drives home the value in taking account of ourselves in the context of community.
Louis Zamperini not once, in our nearly 20 years of friendship built upon a shared faith, nostalgic meals, tea-time, and sunroom chat sessions ne’er pricked me with any self-lauding woes or wooed me with tales of his history-making service to God and country. He was just my “dear Louis” and I, to him, seemed to be a promising and ambitious whipper snapper he had to pray toward the most prudent path. His prayers certainly paved many a blessed, narrow way for me. In reflecting on his life and shared memories together, I see now that he simply enjoyed the wonders of living, relishing the fruits of his giving due to heaven’s grace poured into his life. He gave so much, he was too busy to think of his own comforts and wanted nothing more than to appreciate sweetness of transformed lives in times of peace. I wonder if I cherished him enough… and I ache with the wish I would have somehow loved him more.
In addition to listing the award recipients below, I want to honor the awesome AARP Foundation for casting a high standard for our future, inviting all generations to join. I also give thanks Mary “Margy” Drumheller in particular who welcomed me again to this event as Fernando Torres-Gil’s guest. Certainly, Fernando’s gracious and firm support in many areas of my life further compels me to highlight the beauty and value in advocating for the more “mature.” This celebratory event continues an eye-opening experience I am deeply blessed to enjoy being inspired through!
CAREER ACHIEVEMENT Kevin Costner
BEST PICTURE The Theory of Everything
BEST ACTOR Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
BEST ACTRESS Julianne Moore, Still Alice
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR J.K. Simmons,Whiplash
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
BEST DIRECTOR Richard Linklater,Boyhood
SCREENWRITER Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed, Wild
BREAKTHROUGH ACHIEVEMENT Israel Horovitz, My Old Lady
BEST TIME CAPSULE Big Eyes
BEST INTER-GENERATIONAL St. Vincent
BEST BEST BUDDYPICTURE Land Ho!
BEST COMEDY Chef
BEST GROWNUP LOVE STORY Love Is Strange
BEST MOVIEFOR GROWNUPS WHO REFUSE TO GROW UP The Lego Movie
BESTDOCUMENTARY Keep on Keepin’ On
BEST FOREIGN FILM Diplomacy(Germany/France)