Monday, January 3, 2011

2010: Year of Woody

 Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.

-Woody Allen (Annie Hall)

I love Woody Allen films. The art, the exploration of human nature, the comedy, the acting, the drama, the title sequence that never changes, the big band music...I love it all. In 2010, I made a point of watching every Woody Allen film that I hadn't yet seen but wanted to. It was a glorious, glorious year. I even got TLC (The Lovely Cynthia) to watch a few good ones with me. After such a binge of Woody's movies, I now have to revise my top five Woody Allen movies. These are my personal favorites, not necessarily his best.

Crime and Misdemeanors
"God is a luxury I can't afford."

I finally saw this one just this summer. In my opinion, it is Allen's masterpiece. Two very human stories are intertwined; one a Greek tragedy with deep introspection, the other a realist comedy. Religion, relationships, life and death are all examined. The acting and direction are wonderful. A few scenes are so well done that they permanently burn into your psyche. I'll never listen to Schubert the same way again.

Annie Hall
"La Di Dah, La Di Dah"

Here's a little trivia for you about one of my favorite movie stars - Diane Keaton. Her birth name is Diane Hall and her friends call her 'Annie'...she is literally the title character in this film. The personality and wardrobe were straight from Diane Keaton; no creative writing needed. Good thing she got the Oscar for it, no one could have played herself better. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar, Annie Hall is a romantic comedy with a bittersweet end. Woody Allen's best comedy, by far. It's a film that shows its age, but I still love it. TLC however, can't stand it - hard to please everyone.

Radio Days
"I've never forgotten any of those people or any of the voices we would hear on the radio. Though the truth is, with the passing of each New Year's Eve, those voices do seem to grow dimmer and dimmer."

It seems that, sooner or later, every great artist does an homage to his/her childhood. This is Woody's tender remembrance of simpler days when radio waves ruled the culture of our nation. Touching, funny, and very down to earth. And filled with great music from the 20's, 30's, and 40's that (depending on your age) will either be fondly remembered or a great first listen of classic hits. Also of note, Mia Farrow's best movie, in my humble opinion.

Manhattan Murder Mystery

"Claustrophia and a dead body - this is a neurotic's jackpot!"

Diane and Woody's last collaboration resulted in the brilliantly funny, heart-pounding Manhattan Murder Mystery which is a murder mystery in Manhattan...brilliant title right?...or is it a murder?... Either way, you'll have an enjoyable evening trying to figure it out. Bonus points for the married couple working out their differences...a rare feat in a Woody flick.

Small Time Crooks
Ray - "The Brain. That's what the guys used to call me, right?"
Benny - "But, Ray, that was sarcastic!"

Small Time Crooks is a deliciously indulgent comedy about dumb crooks and cookies...seriously. It's a really fun time, but don't expect to be made into a better or more cultured person by watching it. Tracey Ullman, Elaine May, and Hugh Grant are perfect in their roles.

A few other of Woody's films deserve at least an Honorable Mention:

No other movie is like Purple Rose of Cairo. It's an unexpected dramedy in its own class.
Hannah and Her Sisters is Woody's biggest commercial success. A masterfully told story of three sisters.
Vicky Christina Barcelona is great cinematically, but I can't recommend it because of its content.
Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a period detective/comedy film. Many think it's Woody's worst film, but...

There are a few Woody Allen movies I saw this summer that I can't stand. Stay away from them...please.

Sleeper - quite possibly the worst comedic Sci-Fi ever made. Too screwball and dirty to matter.
Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy - dumb story, Mia Farrow is terrible,...there are no redeeming values.
Play It Again, Sam - I really wanted to like this homage to Casablanca. I couldn't even stand to watch it all.


  1. So, um, I sort of have an impression that I don't like Woody Allen films. I think mostly because, like Cynthia, I don't like Annie Hall even though my Dad think it's sooo great. But I had no idea that Purple Rose of Cairo is a Woody Allen film. I really liked that one...

  2. I thought this post was going to about Woody from Toy Story.