Category Archives: Woody Allen

WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 7

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Whatever Works – Monologo Inicial de Larry David Sobre la Raza Humana [Sub.Español]



Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
96 min., rated R.
Grade: B 

Shaking off his love for Manhattan, the witty and sexy concoction that is “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is writer-director Woody Allen’s fourth consecutive European project. The title refers to the names of two American women traveling in Barcelona, Spain for a summer vacation. 

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson, Allen’s newest muse) are completely diverse best friends, who meet and are offered to be seduced by a suave painter/Casanova, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), for a weekend full of wine and lovemaking. The strait-laced Vicky is married to a boring white man, while Cristina is the more adventurous one. Soon, Cristina settles into a lusty three-way relationship with Juan and his unpredictable, loose-cannon ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz, who won an Oscar for her fiery performance). 

Allen’s breezy and perhaps “Frenchiest” piece of work is cast to perfection and the attractive stars are engaging in their performances, heightened by a palpably laid-back atmosphere, but it’s not without its flaws. Christopher Evan Welch’s narration is way too obvious, an unnecessary and condescending device used rather than allowing the images and performances to speak for themselves. Even the exotic Spanish country is a character in itself, and Javier Aguirresarobe’s cinematography gorgeous. 

And even if this trifle ultimately doesn’t add up to a lot, the writing is smart, the music charmingly quirky, and the characters richly written. 
Whatever Works (2009)
92 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B
 
Woody Allen dusted off an old script once intended for Zero Mostel and re-wrote it to suit the talents of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”‘s Larry David. Behind the camera, Woody is in fine fettle with “Whatever Works,” the auteur’s first comfort-zone return to New York City in five years after going European. In fact, it works as a time warp to earlier Woody. 

David is the right replacement for Allen’s archetypal nebbish, eccentric persona, playing Boris Yellnikoff, a limping, crotchety, cynical old Jewish misanthrope who talks down to everyone, including us directly. Right off the bat, Boris breaks the fourth wall and bitter Boris makes it loud and clear that he’s not a likable guy. And this is not “the feel-good movie of the year,” so if we want to feel good “go get a foot massage.” A self-absorbed, self-professed genius who thinks all children are imbeciles and a germaphobe who sings the “Happy Birthday” song twice when washing his hands, Boris attempts suicide by jumping out his apartment window but hits the canopy. He shows a hint of humanity (after a while, of course) when taking in Melodie St. Ann Celestine (a beguiling Evan Rachel Wood), a Mississippian runaway waif begging for food. Melodie develops a crush on him, Boris thinks it’s inappropriate, but whatever works. 

The Boris character is off-putting, but he warms up, and his courtship with Melodie is happily treated with charm, not smarm. David (seeing his chicken legs in shorts) and Wood are excellent, as are Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr., as Melodie’s divorced parents, who evolve their characters into interesting directions. 

“Whatever Works” may not be quintessential Woody, as it’s scraps of his other work, but still a sharply written, enjoyable diversion with New York flavor, so whatever works. 



You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
98 min., rated R. 
Grade: C

Woody Allen rejuvenated himself five years ago with “Match Point” in London, and now returns to the European city, filling his yearly quota. Like the film points out from the start and at the end, Woody’s trifling “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is just like the old Shakespeare quote, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Although Allen is no idiot, this entry is more of a meaningless exercise filled with a talented cast reading his Allen-y dialogue in a poorly used London. 

As this joyless tale of marriage foibles and extramarital lust would have it, everyone desires something in their unfulfilled lives, but hasn’t Allen said enough on the subject? The daffy Gemma Jones and Anthony Hopkins play a newly separated older couple when the old guy, working out, tanning, and teeth-whitening to seek his lost youth, marries a flashy ex-prostitute (Lucy Punch), while she listens to a fortune-telling friend who tells her she’ll meet someone great. The couple’s daughter (Naomi Watts) has her own marriage unravelling with her self-absorbed novelist husband (Josh Brolin), who’s attracted to their soon-to-be-married neighbor/muse (Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto) while said wife’s tempted by her handsome boss (a wasted Antonio Banderas). 

Most of these characters are unlikable whiners that we don’t care about, don’t deserve what they want, and stay the same throughout. 

“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” has its moments and has the tone of a feather, but it’s a shruggable effort from Woody Allen of all people. The narration is grating by Zak Orth, sounding a lot like Allen himself, and feels more like a demonstration. And Brolin has to be the most misguided candidate to impersonate Allen’s neuroses or call his love object “a hot little number.” Pinto, loved by the camera, and Punch, an absolute floozy hoot, land the most impression. 

Allen tries to say that illusions work better than the medicine, but his new movie is only an illusion of his earlier, better work. 

 

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 6

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Match Point – Trailer (Ponto Final) – Woody Allen

Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies



Match Point (2005)
124 min., rated R.
Grade: B + 

Although there’s no universal truth for the last time Woody Allen made a great picture (his last five or so were enjoyable if not great), “Match Point” marks Allen’s true comeback and full-hearted accomplishment. It’s uncharted territory, meaning it’s not a comedy and he leaves his beloved New York for a literal change of scenery in London. And it’s his longest work to date. 

Sure, this dramatic film still opens classically with the same white fonted credits over black, but it’s all scratchy opera records rather than the old jazz standards. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, not asked to mimic Allen’s fumbly neurosis, plays Chris, a slick Dublin-born fellow who comes to London to work as a club tennis pro. He meets rich good chap Tom (Matthew Goode) and is quickly taken into the high-society family fold that he’s soon in a relationship with Chris’s sweet sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Chris’s attention is instantly absorbed by Nola (Scarlett Johansson), a flirtatious starving actress from Colorado, also Tom’s fiancee. Eventually, he’s welcomed into the father’s business firm, flourishes, and marries Chloe. But when Tom unexpectedly dumps Nola, Chris decides to have his cake and eat it too, as he embarks on a secret affair with Nola and things just get complicated from there. 

Bubbling through “Match Point,” as voiced by Meyers’ Chris, is a metaphor of luck over morality that’s first represented visually by a tennis ball hitting the net. The coolly deliberate story starts with its class distinctions, then has some beats as an adultery drama, and changes gears into a high-stakes thriller but in plausible fashion. Allen covers some of the same themes and philosophies—infidelity, lust, obsession, morality—from his previous work, especially his “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” as he evokes Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and Hitchcock albeit with subtlety and without clichés. The ending is not mechanical either but more of a meditation on crime, chance, and fate. 

Meyers brings the right kind of surface charm and outward composure to the increasingly immoral Chris whose consequences of his actions turn out lucky, not great. Johansson is absolutely enticing and seductive with her throaty, come-hither sex appeal as Nola, although her character becomes more of a nag even after a crucial plot development. Meyers and Johansson smolder on screen together. Mortimer is lovely but her Chloe is so damn naïve and passive-aggressive even when she’s pushy about having a baby (her character and a key scene recall Mia Farrow’s Hannah in “Hannah and Her Sisters”). 

Most unlike any other film the auteur has made, “Match Point” is sexy, smart, serious-minded, and Allen’s most confident, elegantly shot filmmaking in a while. The man’s 70 and this is his 36th feature film, if you’re keeping track, and that’s not just from years of hard luck. 


Scoop (2006)
96 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B 

“Minor Allen” was nothing new before last year’s “Match Point,” Woody Allen’s most original and Hitchcockian piece of work in a good while, but now the auteur is back to his trifling tricks. No matter, Allen’s follow-up “Scoop,” also set in London, is light, beguiling good fun. 

Sondra (a likable Scarlett Johansson), a Brooklyn journalism student visiting the Big Ben city, gets handpicked to go on stage by magician Sid Waterman (Allen). Inside a box, she comes across the spirit of famous reporter Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) who hands his scoop over to Sondra—he knows the identity of the Tarot Card Killer. She decides to go undercover, and together Sondra and Sid contrive to meet the suspect, Peter Lyman (a suave, charming Hugh Jackman), at a private club pool (she’s posing as an aspiring actress and Sid is her father). But of course, Sondra begins to fall hard for Peter even if he’s a murderer. 

The droopy-eyed Allen is really beginning to look his age (70) on screen, last appearing three years ago in “Anything Else,” but his one-liners still pop (“I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older I converted to narcissism” or “I never gain an ounce, because my anxiety acts like aerobics so I get the exercise.”). His bug-eyed expression behind the wheel of a European smart car is hilarious. Johansson, still a cutie behind those mousy Mia Farrow glasses and night-time retainer, is a good foil for Allen, like the next Diane Keaton. Thankfully, Allen’s more of a father figure than a love interest for her, but trying her hand at fostering the Jewish kvetch’s mannered-neurotic shtick, the leading lady is not much of a bumbler. McShane, first shown on a ship guided by the Grim Reaper (a nod to Allen’s Love and Death?), is mostly a plot device for the film. 

Music by Peter Tchaikovsky and Johann Strauss Jr., as well as “In the Hall Of The Mountain King,” add to the lark-ish charm. 

A slight effort, borrowing a bit from “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion,” and “Small Time Crooks,” and the whodunit mystery isn’t really worth solving, but “Scoop” is a silly charmer that simply wins you over. 


Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
108 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C 

Oh, how far the great Woody Allen has fallen. On the British heels of “Match Point” and “Scoop” now comes “Cassandra’s Dream,” an ineffectively weighty thriller about money, class, family, and murder, and it seems the filmmaker’s stuck this time in London without a passport. 

Allen’s fresh new players Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell play two Cockney blue-collar brothers who dream of striking it rich and having a boat to call their own. Terry (Farrell) is a gambling mechanic in a steadily happy relationship and Ian (McGregor) is a would-be entrepreneur who pawns himself off as a rich tycoon to earn the fancy of a self-obsessed actress (newcomer Hayley Atwell). When both run into financial ruins, they ask for help from their well-off Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson). He agrees to assist them but on one condition: whack a colleague who could put Howard away for life. 

McGregor’s Ian is too much of a whiner when it comes to the romance but he becomes more confident than Terry and oddly keeps his cool after the deed is done. Farrell gives the more interesting performance of the two, feeling his head spinning and the sweaty apprehension and then the post-murder guilt. Together, their brotherly chemistry feels relaxed, and their British accents maybe too relaxed. Wilkinson, as usual, is amusingly persuasive in his limited screen time. 

Allen’s reworking a lot of the same morality themes he did in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Match Point,” but the writer-director doesn’t get away with murder here. You wish there was more giddyup in the story and pacing, and less bombast in Philip Glass’s musical score, and this time, Allen’s dialogue has more exposition than it does wit. The leading up to the murder is staged like darkly humorous, mischievous Hitchcock and decidedly bloodless, the right touch by Allen’s pan-left, but the film’s abrupt ending is Greek tragedy or just an ironic shaggy-dog joke. 

Said “Match Point” still wasn’t just a fluke, but the “earlier, funnier ones” are looking real good right about now, as “Cassandra’s Dream” is anything but a dream, especially for Woodyphiles.

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 5

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Hollywood Ending – Trailer

 


Hollywood Ending (2002)

112 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C + 

Since the early ’80s, Woody Allen has written and directed a film every year. So as the trend of his latest work goes, “Hollywood Ending” is pleasant but uneven and rather weak Woody. 

Here, he stars as Val Waxman, a movie director in desperate need of a hit. His producer ex-wife Ellie (Téa Leoni) gives him a shot, thinking he’ll be perfect for the Manhattan-set script, “The City That Never Sleeps,” but Val is bitter about compromising with the studio head (Treat Williams) who stole his wife. Then when Val all of a sudden becomes blind, he lies about it and makes the picture anyway. 

The psychosomantic blindness situation makes “Hollywood Ending” a one-joke movie, although it is a funny joke, with plenty of sight gags and slapstick bits that hit. Like when an actor asks which prop gun he should use, Val answers with “that one.” Or when he pretends to admire the poster art for his movie, but he’s “looking” on the wrong side. A business student being hired as the translator for the Chinese direct of photography and as Val’s pair of eyes is also a nice touch. One glaring hole is that Val can’t even detect which direction people’s voices are coming from; don’t actors master this? 

Woody just doesn’t do enough with this slight premise, as the blindness ends up never becoming of much consequence and Val gets the girl, even after the film dailies are rendered incoherent. What more, the script runs out of steam with a half hour still to go. And since the filmmaker is back to playing the eccentric, fidgety persona he started with, his neurosis, kvetching, and stuttering delivery are becoming annoying at this point, as is his casting of much younger women (i.e. Tiffani Thiessen) who want to get into the frog prince’s pants. 

All that said, the film still has its fleeting pleasures: funny, well-timed Woody lines, hypocondria, those jazzy Bing Cosby tunes, and sharp insider jokes about agents and art directors (i.e. rebuilding a set rather than using the real Times Square). 

In Leoni, she’s a compatible foil for Allen to play off him comedically, but their romance is sterile. Also, Debra Messing has proven she has energy and comic timing, but here she’s wasted as Val’s dumb, questionably talented girlfriend. Mark Rydell, however, is funny as Val’s agent who never stops smiling, and George Hamilton is just right as a tanned studio flunky. 

This may be less than it should be but “Hollywood Ending” hopefully doesn’t mark the end of the Woodman. Maybe he just needs to take a year off to get re-energized, realize it’s quality over quantity, and write some sharper jokes. 


Anything Else (2003)
108 min., rated R.
Grade: C + 

When the standard white-on-black opening credits come on, cued to Billie Holiday, you get the reassurance that writer-director Woody Allen might be back in top form. In a way he is, but throughout most of “Anything Else,” he’s just coasting and recycling the wonderful “Annie Hall” from 26 years ago. That film had more wit, memorable lines, and more interesting characters, whereas this one’s a minor effort. 

Acerbic and hyper-neurotic Allen stars but fortunately steps out of the lead role, playing nebbish, articulate writer David Dobel, who takes Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs), a disciplined (and just as neurotic) aspiring nightclub-comic writer, under his wing. Allen passes the torch to Gentile Biggs, a younger version of his Jewish self who talks to the camera about his relationship with the most difficult woman on earth, Amanda (cat-eyed Christina Ricci). She tortures her boyfriend with her mood swings and insecurities, whining about how “fat” she is and complaining about their sex life. 

Like anything else Silent Generation’s Woody has written and directed, “Anything Else” is all about the dialogue, and the Generation X actors here are up to the task of the stuttering rhythm of the man’s smart, snappy dialogue without just sounding like marionettes. Allen doesn’t forget to give himself some gem one-liners (“You chose psychoanalysis over real life? Are you learning disabled?”). The men are more anxious and pathetic here than the women, but Jerry and Amanda are both such shrill and abrasive people that you want to slap them silly until they shut up. Notwithstanding a great speech in a restaurant, Danny DeVito is greatly underused as Jerry’s loser agent, but Stockard Channing does funny supporting work as Amanda’s alcoholic, pill-popping mother who comes to live with her and Jerry. (There’s a cocaine scene with Channing that calls back to “Annie Hall” as well.) 

Saying Allen repeats himself would be unfair, even if he gives us more observations on relationships and Allenisms about philosophy, sex, masturbation, religion, jazz music, and every and now then a good joke. Not to forget, New York (photographed by Allen’s new collaborator Darius Khondji) still has that beautifully warm glow. 

So despite the fine work by the actors and some verbal wit, “Anything Else” is more small time Woody. 


Melinda and Melinda (2004)
99 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B –
 
Woody Allen’s return to form is more of a return to the same material and although executed with middling results, “Melinda and Melinda” is still a diverting piece of work from the Woodman. 

Is it comedy or tragedy? Is a funeral funny? You be the judge. As four friends chat over dinner get to talking about how stories can be funny or tragic, the two playwrights (Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn) take turns spinning the same yarn. Woody creates two versions of the same story about Melinda (Radha Mitchell), a draggled woman with baggage. In the tragic story, she drops in unannounced on a childhood friends’ dinner party of a Park Avenue couple (Chloe Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller). Bored and high-strung, she expects to start her life anew. The lighter comic one finds the offbeat Melinda, having overdosed on pills, busting in on another dinner party of an out-of-work actor Hobie (Will Ferrell) and his indie-film director wife (Amanda Peet), who are in a passionless marriage. Josh Brolin co-stars as a charming, well-off dentist that gets set up with Melinda, while Hobie gets jealous. 

“Melinda and Melinda” has an interesting setup with parallels and opposites connecting both stories, somewhat treading water, but the tragic story is the least interesting of the two with too many self-involved characters. 

Mitchell is the reason to even see “M and M,” as she capably handles the rival tones and plays Melinda with more than one note. Ferrell wouldn’t be your first choice for Allen’s younger surrogate, but he’s a likably dim sadsack and nails more than less of the lines (“The Chilean sea bass lightly dusted with lime!”). Peet is also funny and natural for Allen’s style as Hobie’s all-work-no-foreplay wife, and Brooke Smith just right as a pregnant friend in the tragedy portion. 

“Melinda and Melinda” still has that old-fashioned Allen-y feel, and his written banter isn’t without wit and its tartly amusing moments. Some of the other actors don’t grow into Allen’s comic/intellectual verbal rhythm as well, coming off stilted that you can just feel the puppeteer pulling the strings. 

 

Related posts:

WOODY WEDNESDAY The Performance of all Woody Allen movies at the Box Office!!!

_ Woody Allen Bob Hope Tonight Show 1971 Woody Allen Actor Director Writer Date Title (click to view) Studio Lifetime Gross / Theaters Opening / Theaters Rank 7/15/16 Cafe Society LGF $11,103,205 631 $359,289 5 18 7/17/15 Irrational Man SPC $4,030,360 925 $175,312 7 36 7/25/14 Magic in the Moonlight SPC $10,539,326 964 $412,095 17 […]

“WOODY WEDNESDAY” WOODY ALLEN TURNS 81 5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE FILM GENIUS

__ The Woody Allen Special [1969] (Guests: Candice Bergen, Billy Graham and the 5th Dimension) Published on Sep 8, 2016 For all the Woody Allen/television fans, here is the rare 1969 CBS special! Featuring the flawless stand-up of Woody, and skits such as: Woody and Candice having to rehearse nude for an artistic play. A […]

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A First look at a scene from Woody Allen’s new movie WONDER WHEEL!!!

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Kate Winslet & Justin Timberlake FIGHT On Sets Of Woody Allen’s Next | Lehren Hollywood

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Full Cast & Crew

Directed by

Woody Allen

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Woody Allen

Cast

Kate Winslet Kate Winslet
Ginny
Juno Temple Juno Temple
Justin Timberlake Justin Timberlake
Mickey Rubin
Debi Mazar Debi Mazar
Actress
Jim Belushi Jim Belushi
Geneva Carr Geneva Carr
Mary
Max Casella Max Casella
Tony Sirico Tony Sirico
Steve Schirripa Steve Schirripa
Matthew Maher Matthew Maher
Nancy Ellen Shore Nancy Ellen Shore
Woman on Beach / Boardwalk
Marko Caka Marko Caka
Food Vendor
Jack Gore Jack Gore
Amelie McKendry Amelie McKendry
Woman at Amusement Park
Brittini Schreiber Brittini Schreiber
Boardwalk Lady / Soldier’s Girlfriend
Candice A. Buenrostro Candice A. Buenrostro
Capri Waitress
Jeremy Francis Bell Jeremy Francis Bell
Patriotic Boardwalk couple
Hannah Hartwell Hannah Hartwell
Beach Goer
Tod Rainey Tod Rainey
Grumpy Train Passanger
Jacob Berger Jacob Berger
Jeweler
Julia Losner Julia Losner
Beach Goer / Swimmer
John Druzba John Druzba
Movie Attendee
John Mainieri John Mainieri
John, Capri owner
Robert C. Kirk Robert C. Kirk
Joe
Max Ripley Max Ripley
Boy / featured background
Dominic Albano Dominic Albano
Sailor
Kejvi Rapaj Kejvi Rapaj
Beach girl
Gregory O Nicolas Gregory O Nicolas
Featured boy merry go round
Olivia Twarowski Olivia Twarowski
Boardwalk Kid / Merry Go Round
Michael Zegarski Michael Zegarski
Danny
Michael Striano Michael Striano
Man on Phone
Evin Cross Evin Cross
Boy on beach / boardwalk #120
John Michael Bradshaw John Michael Bradshaw
Patron at Ruby’s (uncredited)
Neil Fleischer Neil Fleischer
Man at Carousel (uncredited)

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 4

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Small Time Crooks Water Main Scene

Celebrity (1998)

113 min., rated R.
Grade: C 

Woody Allen stays behind the camera this time around in his ensemble piece “Celebrity.” Kenneth Branagh, in the “Woody role,” apes the flustered tics, and even his fickle ways of never settling with one woman, to the best of his ability. But he’s miscast and nobody plays Woody better than Woody. 

Branagh plays Lee, a journalist who has run-ins with some of Hollywood’s celebrities and there’s never a dull moment. He’s recently divorced from his schoolteacher ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis, very neurotic and brittle), who was devastated to find Lee was having an affair. 

By turns entertaining and boring, with vignettes that work and others that do not, the shallow, scattershot “Celebrity” doesn’t have much to say besides, most transparently, how we and Allen view celebrities. At least it’s crisply shot in black and white by Sven Nykvist (his fourth collaboration with Allen), though Allen’s beloved New York is used to little effect. 

The large cast recruited here is handled better here than the one in last year’s “Deconstructing Harry.” Davis brings her fidgeting in full swing here and she’s easily the most interesting thing in the film as Robin, who actually has the biggest arc after meeting a man in the TV industry (Joe Mantegna) that gives her the confidence she needs. Everyone else mostly gets a laugh or a moment, then walks off. Charlize Theron is stunning as a libidinous supermodel. Melanie Griffith rings true as a movie star who thinks she’s still being faithful to her husband if she only cheats from the waist up. Leonardo DiCaprio is wildly off-the-wall but probably playing close to the truth as a rebellious young movie star who trashes a hotel room, beats his girlfriend (Gretchen Mol), drinks and does drugs, and has a threesome. Bebe Neuwirth, as a hooker, has a hilarious scene with Davis where she teaches her how to perform oral sex on a banana; it’s a delirious bit of physical comedy. Winona Ryder also sparkles as a struggling actress that Lee goes after. 

With that cast, it’s watchable, but even the greatest filmmakers have disappointments and “Celebrity” counts as Woody Allen’s most disappointing.


Small Time Crooks (2000)
95 min., rated PG.
Grade: B 

Writer-director Woody Allen shows his face on screen for the first time since 1997’s “Deconstructing Harry” in the lead with “Small Time Crooks,” classic Allen that’s no more and no less a sweetly enjoyable caper. 

Allen plays Ray, an ex-con New York dishwasher who lives paycheck to paycheck in a cramped apartment with Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), his loud, straight-shooting stripper-turned-Fmanicurist wife. So he thinks up a half-baked get-rich-quick scheme: buy out a closed-down pizza shop so they can tunnel through the basement wall and rob the bank next door. With his gang of three dummies (Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz), Ray is the “brains” behind the operation and Frenchy distracts the public upstairs baking cookies. Then their cookie-store “front” becomes such an overnight sensation that wealth goes to their head. And as Frenchy strives to become a more cultured and sophisticated socialite, Ray and her grow apart. 

The plot is ever so thin and shapeless as an episode of “The Honeymooners,” but it’s more about the funny one-liners and endearing performances. Allen’s screen character is still a nervous jokester but he plays Ray as a less intelligent schmo. Ullman is a delight and hilariously on par with Allen, delivering sharp-tongued wisecracks. Screenwriter Elaine May does wonderfully daft supporting work, stealing every scene as Frenchy’s cousin, May, a dumb broad who hasn’t a clue what’s going on but always speaks the truth. Hugh Grant, the major star here, is only okay as a con artist whom Frenchy hires to educate her on art and opera. 

“Small Time Crooks” is certainly a small time effort from Allen’s canon but still fun. 


The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
104 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B 

Mr. Woody Allen has fallen into a slump of just making slight movies rather than great movies, but it’s still Allen, and “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” is a wispy little screwball comedy. Natch, the Brooklyn-based Big Apple lover sets his film in Manhattan but in the 1940s, and it’s just a pleasure to watch. 

He stars as CW Briggs, a crack insurance investor and ladies’ man who’s considered a dinosaur by his firm’s new efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). At a nightclub, they both get hypnotized by a con artist (with the swing of a jade scorpion) into loving each other and whenever “Constantinople” or “Madagascar” is uttered on the phone they’re put under and go into a trance robbing jewels from an estate safe. And even though CW is old, short, and nearsighted, can Fitzgerald tame him? 

All of “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” feels gentle and old-fashioned with the Woodman’s classic sharpness still showing up in his mostly zingy dialogue. Attractively shot, the film has a sparkling period flavor of a ’40s film noir, and all the women are groomed like Veronica Lake. 

At 65 years old, Allen is still at it with his fidgety, stammering persona and a lot of his one-liners work. In the dame role, Hunter keeps up with Allen’s “His Girl Friday”-style spitballing and gives it right back to him with insulting barbs in a battle-of-the-sexes. Theron gets some playful wordplay as a promiscuous actress when trying to seduce Briggs. For instance, when the hot little number first meets C.W., she purrs “You don’t seem tough enough to go after criminals,” and he jumps back with “Really? Maybe if I slapped you around a little bit you’d change your mind.” (Side note: it’s starting to become less charming that Allen takes home women 30 years his junior.) Other supporting cast members shine as well, like Dan Aykroyd, Wallace Shawn, and Elizabeth Berkley. 
The chuckles and smiles are pretty consistent through the lightweight fun of “Jade Scorpion,” even if the romance is so contrived that only a hypnotist could make Hunt fall in love with Allen. They can love to hate each other, but the attraction between the two is inconceivable. 

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 3

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Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies

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Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
98 min., rated R.
Grade: B 

Woody Allen’s first stint since “Alice” behind the camera without being in front of it is “Bullets Over Broadway,” an entertaining Roaring Twenties-period comedy. 

Subbing for Allen is John Cusack as an earnest, nervous playwright, David Shayne, who thinks he’s a real artist and gets his latest play financially backed from a Mob boss (played by who other than Joe Viterelli). There’s a catch: David has to find a part for the gangster’s moll, a helium-voiced, untalented flapper named Olive (Jennifer Tilly). He assembles a flaky crew of thespians, who all put in their two-cents whether David takes them or not, but Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), a glowering gangster that acts as Olive’s bodyguard, ends up influencing David because, hot damn, he knows how people speak in real life. Naturally, as David begins taking Cheech’s suggestions, the play improves. 

The period flavor is tasty from the golden oldies on the soundtrack (Cole Porter’s “Let Misbehave”) to the sumptuous costume design to the art direction, and the dialogue is smart and funny, if not the Woodman’s most memorable (co-written by a new collaborator, Douglas McGrath). It’s the cast that really gooses things up: Dianne Wiest, hilariously over-the-top, as an over-the-hill, pompous Broadway prima donna Helen Sinclair (who sells her catchphrase “Don’t speak!” with theatrical verve); the blowsy Tilly nailing the shrill sex-bomb; Tracey Ullman as a hyper-perky actress with her yippy dog in tote; Jim Broadbent as a gluttonous Englishman who’s always feeding his face; and Palminteri, though playing another gangster, charges his Cheech with charisma and surprising intellect and brings on the darkest laughs. 

“Bullets Over Broadway” isn’t guns-blazing Woody Allen (some praise it as one of his best), but it’s juicily acted and good fun.


Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
95 min., rated R.
Grade: B 
Writer-director Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite” starts out as a Greek tragedy, with a Greek chorus in a stone amphitheater, but we soon realize it’s Allen’s new device in lieu of his narration. 

Allen is back in frame with his one neurotic personality in New York playing a sportswriter named Lenny. Helena Bonham Carter, obviously in the Mia Farrow role with her lamblike voice, is his art-dealer wife Amanda who wants a baby, so against Lenny’s wishes, they adopt a son. After a bit of detective work, he finds his adopted son’s biological mother, Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino), a flighty hooker and porno actress with a lot of different names including her stage name “Judy Cum.” Sorvino shines as the towering, Mickey Mouse-voiced Linda, who’s more than just an airhead or the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype. 

Winning an Oscar for her work, Sorvino showcases her daffy timing and on-screen warmth. The joke is that upon meeting Linda, Lenny squirms at every kitschy knickknack in her apartment to every innocously delivered raunchy lick of dialogue that comes out of her mouth. And Lenny’s conversation with Linda about setting her up with a dumb boxer (Michael Rapaport), also an onion farmer, is hilarious. The editing is sometimes disjointed and the Greek-parody segments, while amusing, get in the way. 

More vulgar and lighter than most of Allen’s work, “Mighty Aphrodite” is still funny and entertaining. Although it’s refreshing Allen doesn’t write himself ending with Linda, the Greek-like deus ex machina is ironic without ever getting too messy.



Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
101 min., rated R.
Grade: B + 

Where else are you going to find hospital orderlies and patients dancing around and singing “Makin’ Whoopee”? A Woody Allen movie, that’s where! His charming and contagiously happy fantasia “Everyone Says I Love You,” his first musical on celluloid, is hard to resist. 

Allen’s character Joe is a divorced writer living in Paris who contemplates suicide after being dumped by his French girlfriend. Instead, he returns to New York, where he’s still on good terms with his charitable ex-wife Steffi (Goldie Hawn), now married to Bob (a very funny Alan Alda), but still loves her. Of course, this is Allen’s movie, so that doesn’t stop him from tailing other *cough* (younger) women like Julia Roberts. Bob’s daughter, Skylar (Drew Barrymore), is about to be engaged to Holden (Edward Norton), a nice schnook in love. She accidentally swallows her Harry Winston ring. 

There’s a lack of story, though told from the point-of-view and narration of Joe and Steffi’s daughter DJ (Natasha Lyonne) telling us about her politically diverse Upper East Side family, but it’s mostly an excuse for Allen to put on a show! 

Everyone seems to be having a good time being in love, gamely breaking into a ditty of ballads from the ’30s and ’40s (the one exception is Barrymore, whose voice was dubbed and it shows) and fancy footwork. Even if the cast wasn’t aware they’d be in a musical until after they signed up, they try their best modestly. Only Alda, Hawn, Norton, and Tim Roth (as an animalistic ex-convict smitten with Skylar) have the most confident pipes, but that doesn’t stop the rest, most of all Allen who’s no Fred Astaire. With very few cuts during the music numbers, the actors (usually surrounded by back-up dancers) show their stuff like in a Broadway show. One quibble: the camera has a tendency to drift away from those singing for no reason other than to get reaction shots from those watching. 

One fun, cleverly upbeat song-and-dance sequence at a funeral home, “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think),” has a bunch of ghosts shaking their groove thing. In the closing number “I’m Thru With Love,” preceded by a Groucho Marx party in Paris for New Year’s Eve, Allen and Hawn’s flight of fancy at the Seine banks is lovely, romantic magic. Allen’s cinematographer Carlo DiPalma (since “Hannah and Her Sister”s) captures the enchanting beauty of Italy and New York in the winter. 

Though not his most thematically daring, “Everyone Says I Love You” is Woody’s most delightful.

Deconstructing Harry (1997) 

96 min., rated R.
Grade: B –

Writer-director Woody Allen’s 28th film, “Deconstructing Harry,” is certainly his most ambitious and personal autobiographical opus about self-analysis, but also his most sour, profane, and narcissistic work. Or, his confession of being self-obsessed and unable to love. Even in the end, his creations applaud their maker. It’s like his first really R-rated movie, as Woody makes his alter ego vulgar, charmless, and unlikable. 

Allen plays Harry Block, a writer suffering writer’s block (get the joke?) and depression. He pops pills and chases them with booze. He cheats. He sleeps with whores. He’s not winning any Man of the Year Award anytime soon. Harry wrote a thinly disguised fictionalization about his own life, including an affair with his ex-wife’s neurotic sister (Judy Davis), who’s in an outrage (not too unlike Dianne Wiest’s Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters). 

Being cast in a Woody Allen film must feel like a privilege. It’s certainly audacious for its cornucopia of actors (Caroline Aaron, Kirstie Alley, Bob Balaban, Richard Benjamin, Eric Bogosian, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Hazelle Goodman, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Demi Moore, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci, Robin Williams) that parade around the film. The cast is good but the mishmash of fictional characters as a template for the “real” people distracts at times. Davis and Alley, as his second wife, act up a storm in rage, while Louis-Dreyfus and Moore amusingly play these women in the novel (Benjamin and Tucci stand in for Harry). Goodman has a surprisingly winning perormance as patient black hooker Cookie. Hemingway, far removed from her tender role in “Manhattan,” is wasted. 

Frequent Allen editor Susan E. Morse makes a lot of jump cuts, obviously a choice like in “Husbands and Wives,” but it feels more sloppy and overly indulgent. 

“Deconstructing Harry” has some great moments and performances, and the old Jew’s darkest, most caustic humor about Judaism, sex, women, and the F-word, but it’s a rambling psychiatric-session stunt. The most hysterical vignette involves Robin Williams as an actor who’s always “soft” (out of focus) on film. (“Get some rest and just see if you can sharpen up,” the confused director tells him.) 

The last vignette includes an elevator ride to Allen’s erotic fleshpot version of Hell that Billy Crystal makes fun as the wisecracking Devil. Harry won’t win Woody any new fans, but Woodyphiles might call it his most brutally honest film since 1992’s “Husbands and Wives.”

 

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___________ Justin Timberlake Talks ‘Trolls,’ Family Life and His New Album With Pharrell Williams Andrew Barker Senior Features Writer@barkerrant TOM MUNRO FOR VARIETY NOVEMBER 1, 2016 | 10:00AM PT Settling into a hotel bar in Soho after a long day shooting a film for Woody Allen in the Bronx, Justin Timberlake wastes no time ordering […]

WOODY WEDNESDAY Woody Allen’s 81st Birthday

_ Woody Allen – standup – ’65 – RARE! Happy 81st Birthday, Woody Allen December 2, 2016 1 Comment Woody Allen turns 81 today. And he shows no signs of slowing down. Allen spent his 80th year being remarkably prolific, even by his own standards. The end of 2015 saw that year’s film, Irrational Man, […]

WOODY WEDNESDAY Everything We Know About Woody Allen’s 2017 Film With Kate Winslet And Justin Timberlake October 16, 2016

  _ Everything We Know About Woody Allen’s 2017 Film With Kate Winslet And Justin Timberlake October 16, 2016 3 Comments Woody Allen has, it seems, wrapped production on his 2017 Film. The new film stars Kate Winlset and Justin Timberlake. And despite some very public days of shooting, We still don’t know that much […]

WOODY WEDNESDAY At 79, Woody Allen Says There’s Still Time To Do His Best Work JULY 29, 2015 5:03 PM ET

_____________ Woody Allen – The Atheist At 79, Woody Allen Says There’s Still Time To Do His Best Work JULY 29, 2015 5:03 PM ET When asked about his major shortcomings, filmmaker Woody Allen says, “I’m lazy and an imperfectionist.” Thibault Camus/AP Woody Allen is a prolific filmmaker — he’s been releasing films pretty much […]

WOODY WEDNESDAY Midnight in Paris: TAP’s Movie of the Month for June 2015 JUNE 1, 2015 by TAP Adventures

Midnight in Paris: TAP’s Movie of the Month for June 2015 JUNE 1, 2015 by TAP Adventures Each month in TAP, we select a Movie of the Month to help prepare our students for their overseas trip. This month we’re starting to prepare for our 2016 adventure in France and the Benelux countries, so we’ve selected […]

“Woody Wednesday” An Interview with Woody Allen Woody Allen’s World: Whatever Works Robert E. Lauder April 15, 2010 – 2:31pm

This interview   below reveals Woody Allen’s nihilistic views and reminds me of his best movie which is  CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS!!!! Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989 Woody Allen Woody Allen Crimes and Misdemeanors Nihilism Nietzsche’s Death of God An Interview with Woody Allen Woody Allen’s World: Whatever Works Robert E. Lauder April 15, 2010 – 2:31pm Woody […]

WOODY WEDNESDAY Woody’s Cold Comforts Robert E. Lauder April 19, 2010

Top 10 Woody Allen Movies   Woody’s Cold Comforts Robert E. LauderApril 19, 2010 – 1:36pm Friends have often asked me about my interest in the films of Woody Allen: Why is a Catholic priest such an ardent admirer of the work of an avowed atheist, an artist who time and again has insisted on […]

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 2

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Hannah and Her Sisters – Favorite Scenes

Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies

Thursday, June 16, 2011



Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) 
104 min., rated PG-13. 
Grade: A

Woody Allen’s heartfelt, literate, evenly balanced Robert Altman-esque ensemble piece is structured like a chapter novel, revolving around three New York sisters with themes of love, relationships, and faithfulness. 

Hannah (Mia Farrow) is the nurturing lamb to her two sisters, Lee (Barbara Hershey), a flighty former alcoholic living in a loft with an artist (Max von Sydow), and Holly (Dianne Wiest) is the free-thinking aspiring actress who owns a catering company with her always-overshadowing friend (Carrie Fisher). Hannah is married to Elliot (Michael Caine), an accountant, who’s in love with Lee, and Hannah’s ex-husband, Mickey (Allen), a hypochondriac TV executive, thinks he’s dying. 

Allen intersperses his typically acute sense of humor with sensitivity, and as the film takes place over the span of two years, beginning and ending at Thanksgiving, much has changed from when we first Hannah, Lee, and Holly. Each character has a voice (literally, a voice-over) but it works, they have arcs, and every performance is finely tuned. 

Full of warmth, truth, and humor, “Hannah and Her Sisters” is a treasure and quintessential Woody Allen next to “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan.” 


Alice (1990)
106 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B –
In filmmaker Woody Allen’s “Alice”—a musing, light-as-helium comic variation on “Alice in Wonderland” and Federico Fellini’s “Juliet of the Spirits”—his lamblike muse and girlfriend Mia Farrow snags the title spot. 

She’s Alice Tate, a rich, pampered Manhattan housewife who spends her days shopping, pedicuring, and gossiping with her socialite lady friends. At an appointment with Chinese healer Dr. Yang (Keye Luke), an ersatz for psychoanalysis, he treats her with hypnosis and mystical herbs, making her realize that she’s holding onto her youth. When she meets a handsome, gentle divorced dad (an appealing Joe Mantegna), she begins fantasizing about having an affair with him. But while she’s a mousy, goody-goody Mother Teresa and believes in fidelity with her husband (William Hurt), her fantasy becomes reality. 

Although Allen takes time off from the lead spotlight, his one-liners slip through and Farrow is virtually in the “Woody role” with her fast-thinking jitteriness. She’s charming. Blythe Danner shines as Alice’s distant but down-to-earth sister, and Bernadette Peters and Alec Baldwin enliven their small roles, respectively, as Alice’s muse and ghostly first love. Unfortunately, Julie Kavner and Judy Davis don’t even register here in bit parts. 

“Alice” is certainly Woody-lite, not always comfortably blurring the line between hokey fancy and affirmativeness about a woman’s selfless self-discovery, but it sure is sweet.


Shadows and Fog (1991)
85 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C
Woody Allen’s tepid experiment in German expressionist style comes and goes like a puff of smoke. In “Shadows and Fog” (based on the filmmaker’s comedy play “Death”), a Jack the Ripper-esque serial strangler lurks in the shadows of a European city during the 1920s and strikes in the fog! 

Allen casts himself as another nebbish schlemiel, a bookkeeping clerk named Max Kleinman who’s roused from his sleep to help a band of vigilantes find the killer. Naturally, Allen peppers the gloom and doom every now and then with his one-liners, but they’re more than mild here. 

The real suspense lies in which actor will pop up next, but so little is done with the cast. Allen’s dear Mia Farrow gives the same whiny, lamblike performance here as a sword-swalling circus act, whom we’re supposed to believe is mistaken for a prostitute and wholly desired by John Cusack. John Malkovich is surprisingly dull as a circus clown, Farrow’s husband. Julie Kavner is momentarily amusing as Max’s bitter ex. Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, and Jodie Foster show up as the hookers at a brothel, as do Madonna, Katie Nelligan, Donald Pleasence, and Wallace Shawn in bit parts. Allen’s entrapment of the strangler with a magician’s (Kenneth Mars) help is an absurdist highlight. 

“Shadows and Fog” would make Fritz Lang and Franz Kafka proud, but will leave Woodyphiles wanting. Nice try but a non-starter in Woody’s canon. 


Husbands and Wives (1992)
108 min., rated R.
Grade: A –

“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” obviously at the top of Woody Allen’s commandments, comes out full throttle in “Husbands and Wives,” the Woodman’s most perceptive, witty, and generous look at broken relationships. 

Allen casts himself as Gabe, a faithful (New York) writer and English professor who, along with his wife of 10 years, Judy (Mia Farrow, with a haircut that makes her look like Dianne Wiest), get a very formal announcement by their two married best friends, Jack (Sydney Pollack) and Sally (Judy Davis), that they’re splitting up. Of course, Gabe and Judy’s marriage becomes endangered once a student (Juliette Lewis), who’s attracted to older men, looks his way. Then once Sally gets jealous that Jack has already moved on to a chatty airhead (Lysette Anthony), Judy sets Sally up with a sweet colleague, Michael (Liam Neeson). He falls hard for Sally, but Judy is in love with him. 

This truthfully messy exploration of marriage has the characters making confessions in a talking-head couch setting to an off-screen voice that’s either a shrink or an interviewer; it’s a device but effectively gets us into these people’s heads. It’s no concidence that life imitates art in “Husbands and Wives,” with much conjunction to Allen and Farrow’s real-life breakup, as Allen allows us to understand the emotionally fragile and confusing period after a breakup, the dull security of marriage, and the excitement of spontaneous sex. 

In a well-written scene in a cab with Allen and Lewis (the camera on her the entire time), her dialogue in criticizing Gabe’s book is so pointed about the film’s own themes. Husbands and Wives is so well-acted that we believe these characters exist. Davis is incredibly good as hyperactive, hypocritical Sally. Her character could’ve been a shrew cliché, but the great Davis goes deeper, finding the rage, confused feelings, and vulnerability of Sally. And veteran director Pollack gives a stellar performance as a man sinking in self-delusion. We see him finally crack at a friends’ party where he literally drags his girlfriend out. 

Shot documentary-style as if we’re eavesdropping on these couples, the antsy, handhand camera and jump cuts, made to make things feel raw and real, are often distracting and feel overly rigged but don’t break the film. 

One of Allen’s most emotionally intimate works to date, “Husbands and Wives” is done with the truth, wit, angst, and irony that we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker’s voice.


Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
104 min., rated PG.
Grade: A –
Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” marks a few great returns. It’s a return to classic, funny Woody (especially after his past work dealt with heavy themes), his first-co-writing collaboration with Marshall Brickman since “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan,” and it’s his first pairing with Diane Keaton since “Manhattan.” 

Allen and Keaton play Larry and Carol Lipton, a long-married couple afraid they’re turning dull like their friendly old neighbors, Paul and Lillian House (Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen). Then Lillian drops dead of a heart attack, case closed. But Carol becomes suspicious of Mr. House acting a little too cheerful as a widower. The Liptons’ old close friend, Ted (Alan Alda), plays along with Carol’s theories and helps her out in her Nancy Drew sleuthing. 

“Manhattan Murder Mystery” is a flat-out entertaining caper. The mystery plot is actually pretty clever and suspenseful, kind of a Hitchcockian goof on “Vertigo” and “Double Indemnity.” And the Woodman’s funny quips, phobias, and one-liners are on full display here and so consistent it’s hard to keep up or stop laughing. It’s a pleasure to see the reunited teaming of Allen and Keaton (whose role was originally intended for Mia Farrow), whose frantic verbal rhythms and neuroses go hand in hand. They feel so at ease with one another that their natural chemistry recalls Alvy Singer and Annie Hall. Alda and Anjelica Huston (both appearing last in Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors”) are also very sharp as their friends, respectively, a divorced playwright who still yearns for Carol and a sexy fiction writer that gives Larry the eye. 

The one complaint for this very enjoyable film is the same conceit that somewhat plagued last year’s “Husbands and Wives”: Carlo DiPalma’s voyeuristic, roving, handheld cinematography. It’s mostly smooth but is sometimes annoying. But this Allen lark is so fun and involving that it hardly matters.

Related posts:

WOODY WEDNESDAY The Performance of all Woody Allen movies at the Box Office!!!

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“WOODY WEDNESDAY” WOODY ALLEN TURNS 81 5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE FILM GENIUS

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Happy Birthday Woody Allen: 15 Quotes By The Maverick Filmmaker

__ Woody Allen The Dean Martin Show Happy Birthday Woody Allen: 15 Quotes By The Maverick Filmmaker News18.com First published: December 1, 2016, 3:30 PM IST | Updated: December 1, 2016 One of the most celebrated filmmakers of Hollywood, Woody Allen turns 81 today. Born and raised in Brooklyn as Allen Konigsberg he is arguably […]

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Woody Allen’s 81st Birthday

_ Woody Allen – standup – ’65 – RARE! Happy 81st Birthday, Woody Allen December 2, 2016 1 Comment Woody Allen turns 81 today. And he shows no signs of slowing down. Allen spent his 80th year being remarkably prolific, even by his own standards. The end of 2015 saw that year’s film, Irrational Man, […]

WOODY WEDNESDAY Everything We Know About Woody Allen’s 2017 Film With Kate Winslet And Justin Timberlake October 16, 2016

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Midnight in Paris: TAP’s Movie of the Month for June 2015 JUNE 1, 2015 by TAP Adventures

Midnight in Paris: TAP’s Movie of the Month for June 2015 JUNE 1, 2015 by TAP Adventures Each month in TAP, we select a Movie of the Month to help prepare our students for their overseas trip. This month we’re starting to prepare for our 2016 adventure in France and the Benelux countries, so we’ve selected […]

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Top 10 Woody Allen Movies   Woody’s Cold Comforts Robert E. LauderApril 19, 2010 – 1:36pm Friends have often asked me about my interest in the films of Woody Allen: Why is a Catholic priest such an ardent admirer of the work of an avowed atheist, an artist who time and again has insisted on […]

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies PART 1

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Reviews of past Woody Allen Movies

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top form or not, Woody’s “Midnight in Paris” charms


Midnight in Paris (2011)
94 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B +

Woody Allen has always interpreted his beloved Manhattan as not only a romanticized city but a state of mind. Continuing his change of scenery (since 2005’s “Match Point”) but not losing that sense of place, Paris follows suit in his latest, “Midnight in Paris.” It’s a truly charming valentine to the City of Lights and for being the Woodman’s 41st film, a literate, witty, playfully clever lark. Judging by how European cities bring out the best in this film auteur, Allen has announced that next he’s shooting in Rome. We’re there. 
 
Owen Wilson, as the Woody Allen stand-in, stars as Gil Pender, a distracted Hollywood screenwriter on holiday in Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her conservative, disapproving parents (Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy). Instantly enraptured by Paris, Gil is the type of person who feels like he should’ve lived in the 1920s and wants to reinvent himself as a novelist. While Inez is more interested in fine dining, accessory shopping, and late-night dancing, Gil loves the city and wants to take in more of it. 
 
SPOILER ALERT!
 
One night after a wine tasting, Gil gets lost on his way back to the hotel. But at the stroke of midnight, he slips into a twilight zone, being transported to the golden-aged 1920s. Suddenly, he’s on a first-name basis with Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), gets to witness Cole Porter on his piano, and even finds his muse in Pablo Picasso’s alluring mistress, Adriana (the very lovely and fetching Marion Cotillard). Meanwhile, Enid’s dad has a detective follow Gil during his late-night strolls. 
 
Like the story itself, “Midnight in Paris” is a piece of magic. Allen doesn’t fuss with scrutiny for Gil’s time-travel because like a Dali painting, it’s quite surreal and fantastic. Looking for logic would just defeat its intent. Though he wouldn’t sound like the first choice as a surrogate for Allen’s neuroses, Wilson need not mimic his director and in fact makes his understated portrayal of Gil more sympathetic. The once-shoehorned surfer dude’s easy-going persona is perfect here and makes the role all his own. 
 
McAdams’ Inez is portrayed as a very status-concious, princessy harpy that you could never see her giving Gil the time of day. Needless to say, they might not be a right fit for one another, even if they share the same taste in Indian restaurants’ Naan. If Gil doesn’t throttle her, you’ll want him to, and soon. The role is more or less a means to an end; as Inez is all over the map as Zelda is, Gil still loves her as F. Scott loves his wife. But given the thankless part, McAdams handles it with more aplomb than what any other actress, like maybe Katherine Heigl, could bring. Fuller and Kennedy, as Inez’s parents, as well as Michael Sheen, as pedantic know-it-all acquaintance Paul, are game as the butt of every Ugly American joke. Of the actors playing the colorful greats of the arts, they’re all scene-stealers, even Brody who’s funny, despite his Dali whittled down to a cameo. Even nicely fitting in her surroundings is France’s First Lady, Carla Bruni, as a tour guide. 
 
Allen brings a very relaxed, romantic, and dream-like mood and tone to “Midnight in Paris” that just delights you. Opening with a tourist montage of mundane snapshots of the anything-but-mundane Paris, “Midnight in Paris” counts as one of Woody’s most visually resplendent films. Paris, much like New York in his earlier films, becomes a character unto itself. No wonder, since his cinematographer Darius Khondji (last hired by Allen on “Anything Else”) shoots Paris with such a warm, beautiful glow. And it’s nice to see the Seine banks again as it was last seen in Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You” (1996). 
 
As light and inconsequential as the film is, what it says about nostalgia, the love of art and literature, death being one’s greatest fear, and being unhappy in one’s present is actually quite universal and profound. Many criticize Allen for not yet returning to form, but in this day and age, finding a film that’s transportive and smile-inducing is not such a small feat. It might mean more to have knowledge of and recognize all the artists on display, but “Midnight in Paris” will make you desire a stroll through Paris in the rain. 
 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Woody Allen’s Canon

Upon the release of Woody Allen’s 41st film, “Midnight in Paris,” here are my critiques of the Woodman’s work. 
Interiors (1978)
93 min., rated PG.
Grade: B + 

Woody Allen breaks the mold with “Interiors,” a decidedly somber, Ingmar Bergman-esque piece and his first film that doesn’t include comic relief or himself. Three sisters, poet Renata (Diane Keaton), unhappy artist Joey (Mary Beth Hurt), and actress Flyn (Kristin Griffith), must deal with the separation and divorce of their emotional mother (Geraldine Page) and impatient father (E.G. Marshall). 

Page acts from her heart in a delicate, heartbreaking performance as Eve, and Maureen Stapleton is very good too as Pearl, their father’s twice-married girlfriend from Florida. All of the performances are open and vulnerable, and the conversations are interesting. Gordon Willis elegantly shoots with a painterly eye for detail in the space of empty rooms and characters staring out windows. Sure, the final scene is cinematically contrived but understated and it stays with you long after. 

Deliberate, downbeat, and often painfully devastating, “Interiors” is experimental Allen, staged very much like a play, but it’s powerfully acted and maturely done. 


Manhattan (1979)
96 min., rated R.
Grade: A –

“Manhattan,” writer-director Woody Allen’s love poem to New York and relationships, is a worthy follow-up to “Annie Hall” and among his best. His adoration for the city he calls home shows especially in the romantic, celebratory opening with Gordon Willis’ magnificent black-and-white cinematography of the Brooklyn Bridge and fireworks over Central Park and George Gershwin’s grand “Rhapsody in Blue” music on the soundtrack. 

Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a neurotic 40-something comedy writer who’s dating a high schooler, Tracy (Mariel Hemmingway). His married best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is having an affair with a kooky Philadelphia journalist, Mary (Diane Keaton), who criticizes Ingmar Bergman. Isaac’s second ex-wife (Meryl Streep), now in a lesbian relationship, is writing a whole book about their marriage. 

“Manhattan” is scathingly bittersweet and witty if not as endearing as two years ago with Allen and Keaton in “Annie Hall.” Allen really shows his brilliant sense of humor and timing, and Keaton is nothing less than wonderful. There’s the memorable, visually magical scene of Isaac and Mary sitting in silhouette facing the Hudson River. In one of her first bigger roles, 17-year-old Hemmingway is smart and innocent. 

After Annie Hall, “Manhattan” is just the right companion piece to that earlier film, both wistful odes to love and loss rather than fantasy happy endings. 

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WOODY WEDNESDAY The Performance of all Woody Allen movies at the Box Office!!!

_ Woody Allen Bob Hope Tonight Show 1971 Woody Allen Actor Director Writer Date Title (click to view) Studio Lifetime Gross / Theaters Opening / Theaters Rank 7/15/16 Cafe Society LGF $11,103,205 631 $359,289 5 18 7/17/15 Irrational Man SPC $4,030,360 925 $175,312 7 36 7/25/14 Magic in the Moonlight SPC $10,539,326 964 $412,095 17 […]

“WOODY WEDNESDAY” WOODY ALLEN TURNS 81 5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE FILM GENIUS

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Happy Birthday Woody Allen: 15 Quotes By The Maverick Filmmaker

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Why So Glum? Woody Allen’s Top Five Most Hilariously Depressing Comments at Cannes

Rare 30-minute Woody Allen interview from 1979 – ‘Question de Temps’

Woody Allen on Depression, Comedy, Writing, Universal Life Problems, Bad Journalism, Bob Hope

To Rome With Love – Los Angeles Press Conference with Woody Allen & Cast

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You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger by Woody Allen – Press Conference (2010)

IRRATIONAL MAN -conference- (en) Cannes 2015

Why So Glum? Woody Allen’s Top Five Most Hilariously Depressing Comments at Cannes

Woody Allen's 5 Most Hilariously Depressing at Cannes Film Festival
Woody Allen
TRISTAN FEWINGS/GETTY

05/15/2015 AT 07:05 PM EDT

On a beautiful, sunshiny afternoon in the French Riviera, a single storm cloud hovered over a Cannes press conference in the form of Woody Allen.

The hilariously neurotic writer/director is in town to screen his new filmIrrational Man – his 11th career entry to the festival – on Friday, and took questions from the press flanked by his film’s leading ladies, Emma Stone andParker Posey.

But neither the company of the two starlets, nor the adulation that routinely accompanies his entries to the festival, could keep the four-time Academy Award winner from falling back on his Debbie Downer tendencies – and touching on everything from Ebola to his biggest regrets in life.

Here’s are Allen’s top five womp womp comments of the week:

1. Amazon Anxiety
Allen’s first foray into the world of television mini-series seems to be off to a dubious start. The director has signed on to create a six-episode project for Amazon’s digital streaming service, expected to be available sometime in 2016.

“It was a catastrophic mistake for me,” Allen said anxiously when asked about the series. “I’m struggling with it at home. I never should have gotten into it. I thought it was going to be easy. You do a movie and it’s a big long thing; to do six half-hours you’d think would be a cinch. But it’s not: it’s very, very hard.”

He continued that he’s “floundering” with the project, and feels the show is destined to be “a cosmic embarrassment.”

2. Why He Doesn’t Re-Watch His Films
“You can always see what you did wrong and why it’s terrible,” Allen explained when asked if he ever reviews his old work. “I would shoot them all again if I could. I could improve them all.”

He echoed his sentiments in an interview with Deadline on Thursday: “I never saw Annie Hall again, or Bananas or Manhattan or any of them. Because, you can only have regrets. If I was to screen any of my films now I would only see what I could have done, what I did badly, where I screwed up, how much worse it is than the way I remembered it. You’re never going to think “Oh, God, this thing is great.”

3. The Meaning of Life and Ebola
“We’re all gonna wind up in a very bad position one day sooner or later,” Allen said, musing on the philosophy behind Irrational Man.

“The only way to deal with it as an artist is to try to come up with something to explain to people why life is worth living. You can’t really do that without conning them because in the end it has no meaning,” he added morosely.

“Everything you create or do is going to vanish. The sun is burning out and the universe will be gone. Everything that Shakespeare or Beethoven created will all be gone no matter how much we cherish it. So it’s very hard to sell people a bill of goods that there’s any good to this.”

He then dragged Stone and Posey into his anxieties, imagining that if they weren’t working on his film, “They’d be home or sitting on a beach thinking: ‘What is life about? I’m gonna get old and I’m gonna die and my loved ones are gonna die. Will I get Ebola?'”

4. No More Sequels
For all the fans of the Marvel series, Terminator movies, or even Toy Story 2, Woody Allen has a message for you:

“I think it’s terrible,” he told Deadline about sequels. “I think movies have gone terribly wrong … and the big blockbusters for the most part are big time wasters. I don’t see them. I can see what they are: eardrum-busting time wasters. I think Hollywood has gone in a disastrous path. It’s terrible.”

5. Greatness
Despite the decades of awards and accolades, Allen still doesn’t feel any closer to being one of the great artists in cinema.

When asked what his biggest struggle is as a creator, he told Deadline, “The constant desire to do something great and the knowledge that it’s not really in me.”

Speaking of himself, he added, “You do not have greatness in you; you’re not Kurosawa, or Fellini. You’re a comic turned film director with a modest talent to amuse, to entertain. But true greatness is not in you.”

WOODY WEDNESDAY “My Speech to the Graduates” by Woody Allen, First published in the New York Times in 1979

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   My Speech to the Graduates  

                                     by Woody Allen

                               First published in the New York Times in 1979

 

More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

I speak, by the way, not with any sense of futility, but with a panicky conviction of the absolute meaninglessness of existence which could easily be misinterpreted as pessimism.


It is not. It is merely a healthy concern for the predicament of modern man. (Modern man is here defined as any person born after Nietzsche’s edict that “God is dead,” but before the hit recording “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”) This “predicament” can be stated one of two ways, though certain linguistic philosophers prefer to reduce it to a mathematical equation where it can be easily solved and even carried around in the wallet.

Put in its simplest form, the problem is: How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world given my waist and shirt size?

This is a very difficult question when we realize that science has failed us. True, it has conquered many diseases, broken the genetic code, and even placed human beings on the Moon, and yet when a man of eighty is in a room with two eighteen-year-old cocktail waitresses nothing happens. Because the real problems never change.

After all, can the human soul be glimpsed through a microscope? Maybe–but you’d definitely need one of those very good ones with two eyepieces. We know that the most advanced computer in the world does not have a brain as sophisticated as that of an ant. True, we could say that of any of our relatives but we only have to put up with them at weddings or special occasions.

Science is something we depend on all the time. If I develop a pain in the chest I must take an X-ray. But what if the radiation from the X-ray causes me deeper problems? Before I know it, I’m going in for surgery. Naturally, while they’re giving me oxygen an intern decides to light up a cigarette. The next thing you know I’m rocketing over the World Trade Center in bed clothes. Is this science?

True, science has taught us how to pasteurize cheese. And true, this can be fun in mixed company–but what of the H-bomb? Have you ever seen what happens when one of those things falls off a desk accidentally?

And where is science when one ponders the eternal riddles? How did the cosmos originate? How long has it been around? Did matter begin with an explosion or by the word of God?
And if by the latter, could He not have begun it just two weeks earlier to take advantage of some of the warmer weather? Exactly what do we mean when we say, man is mortal? Obviously it’s not a compliment.

Religion too has unfortunately let us down. Miguel de Unamuno writes blithely of the “eternal persistence of consciousness,” but this is no easy feat. Particularly when reading Thackeray. I often think how comforting life must have been for early man because he believed in a powerful, benevolent Creator who looked after all things. Imagine his disappointment when he saw his wife putting on weight.

Contemporary man, of course, has no such peace of mind. He finds himself in the midst of a crisis of faith. He is what we fashionably call “alienated.” He has seen the ravages of war, he has known natural catastrophes, he has been to singles bars.

My good friend Jacques Monod spoke often of the randomness of the cosmos. He believed everything in existence occurred by pure chance with the possible exception of his breakfast, which he felt certain was made by his housekeeper.

Naturally belief in a divine intelligence inspires tranquility. But this does not free us from our human responsibilities. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. Interestingly, in my case I share that honor with the Prospect Park Zoo.

Feeling godless then, what we have done is made technology God. And yet can technology really be the answer when a brand new Buick, driven by my close associate, Nat Zipsky, winds up in the window of Chicken Delight causing hundreds of customers to scatter?

My toaster has never once worked properly in four years. I follow the instructions and push two slices of bread down in the slots and seconds later they rifle upward. Once they broke the nose of a woman I loved very dearly. Are we counting on nuts and bolts and electricity to solve our problems?

Yes, the telephone is a good thing–and the refrigerator–and the air conditioner. But not every air conditioner. Not my sister Henny’s, for instance. Hers makes a loud noise and still doesn’t cool. When the man comes over to fix it, it gets worse. Either that or he tells her she needs a new one. When she complains, he says not to bother him. This man is truly alienated. Not only is he alienated but he can’t stop smiling.

The trouble is, our leaders have not adequately prepared us for a mechanized society. Unfortunately our politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. Sometimes both on the same day. The Government is unresponsive to the needs of the little man. Under five-seven, it is impossible to get your Congressman on the phone. I am not denying that democracy is still the finest form of government. In a democracy at least, civil liberties are upheld. No citizen can be wantonly tortured, imprisoned, or made to sit through certain Broadway shows.

And yet this is a far cry from what goes on in the Soviet Union. Under their form of totalitarianism, a person merely caught whistling is sentenced to thirty years in a labor camp. If, after fifteen years, he still will not stop whistling, they shoot him.

Along with this brutal fascism we find its handmaiden, terrorism. At no other time in history has man been so afraid to cut into his veal chop for fear that it will explode. Violence breeds more violence and it is predicted that by 1990 kidnapping will be the dominant mode of social interaction.

Overpopulation will exacerbate problems to the breaking point. Figures tell us there are already more people on earth than we need to move even the heaviest piano. If we do not call a halt to breeding, by the year 2000 there will be no room to serve dinner unless one is willing to set the table on the heads of strangers. Then they must not move for an hour while we eat. Of course energy will be in short supply and each car owner will be allowed only enough gasoline to back up a few inches.

Instead of facing these challenges we turn instead to distractions like drugs and sex. We live in far too permissive a society. Never before has pornography been this rampant. And those films are lit so badly!

We are a people who lack defined goals. We have never leaned to love. We lack leaders and coherent programs. We have no spiritual center. We are adrift alone in the cosmos wreaking monstrous violence on one another out of frustration and pain. Fortunately, we have not lost our sense of proportion.

Summing up, it is clear the future holds great opportunities. It also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o’clock.

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