I once had an excellent editor - we’ll call him Rob - who was brutally honest about story ideas. If you brought him one he hated, he let you know.
And there was nothing he seemed to loathe more than a story pitch that fell into what he called the “old-people-still-do-things” category.
For a while they were a newspaper staple. You know, features about octogenarians who ran marathons, milked cows or roller skated.
Rob was right. These pieces were formulaic and condescending. Yet even today some 25-year-old reporters seem startled to find folks in their 80s or 90s who aren’t confined to bed.
Despite my advanced age, I feel the same way about the recent blizzard of TV series and movies in what I like to call the “geezer genre.”
Old people still doing things. Who wants to watch THAT?
For instance, “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix - starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin - was entertaining for a season and then got bogged down in old lady humor and dildos.
“The Kominsky Method,” new on Netflix, is hilarious. If you like prostate jokes. And lots of them.
The list of full-length geezer films is long and getting longer. Some are good. Most are not. There’s “Bucket List,” “Nebraska,” “Gran Torino,” “Going in Style,” “Grumpy Old Men” and “Grumpier Old Men." Of course, 1974’s “Harry and Tonto” may have started it all. An old fellow and his cat on a road trip. Sweet and touching.
Look, I get it.
Not only are Baby Boomers aging, but so are some of our favorite actors. Studios scrounge around for roles - any roles - for acting legends like Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Jane Fonda and hope we’ll pay 10 bucks just to see they’re still ambulatory.
That said, I went to see Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” when it opened Friday night with great expectations. One reviewer said it was Eastwood’s best picture.
It is not. His perfect 1992 western, “Unforgiven,” is his best.
Still, I liked this film. It’s loosely based on the true story of a 90-year-old horticulturalist - Leo Sharp - who fell on hard times and started ferrying drugs around the country for cash.
Yes, “The Mule” has flaws. As much as I like Andy Garcia, his character is a little too lovable to be the head of a ruthless Mexican drug cartel. And Dianne Wiest is a terrible actress, all wrong as Eastwood’s ex-wife.
On the other hand, there’s a gentle dose of humor sprinkled throughout the film. Plus, the soundtrack is fabulous. And scenes of Eastwood driving alone with a load of cocaine in the bed of his pickup, as he sings along to Hank Snow’s version of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Roger Miller’s “Dang Me” and Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head" are terrific.
The best music may be the haunting song that plays at the end: “Don’t Let The Old Man In,” by Toby Keith.
Eastwood can act. And he’s a heck of a director. I want him to live forever so he can keep making movies.
Come to think of it, he’s an old guy still doing things. And doing them well.