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The Woodman Speaks
September 29, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Woody Allen interview in New York Magazine For its 40th anniversary New York Magazine scored an interview with one of the icons of American cinema, the filmmaker most associated with the city with the possible exception of Martin Scorsese
posted by leybman (54 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope he makes a decebt film soon.
posted by chuckdarwin at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2008


decent I have really disliked his last few. Match Point was so cold it was almost glacial.
posted by chuckdarwin at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2008


He's a genius. That doesn't mean you have to like him. It does mean that if you want to grow your brain, you have to study him.

Virtue. It isn't about what you like, by the way. That's Desire.
posted by ewkpates at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2008


Who knows who or what to believe anyway. Anyone see a film that ran on IFC about Roman Polanski and the 13 year old he drugged and had sex with? Mia Farrow is on there praising him.
posted by raysmj at 11:11 AM on September 29, 2008


And I still can't get What's Up, Tiger Lily? on Netflix.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:20 AM on September 29, 2008


I hope he makes a decebt film soon.

Does this look like "gub" or "gun"?
posted by bondcliff at 11:39 AM on September 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't hate the guy because he married his stepdaughter (although, I have to admit it's rather icky in a none-of-my-business way), I just think he's been off his game for some time. What was his last really solid film? Celebrity?
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:47 AM on September 29, 2008


Match Point was his last really solid film that I've seen. I know you said it was glacial, and I don't care. That was a hell of a flik. I haven't seen any of the others since then. Before that, Sweet and Lowdown was also really top notch. Better than Celebrity, certainly, which was an unfortunately flawed movie.
posted by shmegegge at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2008


Newsflash: Artists often have complicated, non-standard personal lives. For example, I hear that Pablo Picasso treated his women horribly, especially the ones that were the subjects of some of his greatest works. Life is strange that way.

Annie Hall is still one of the best, funniest movies about relationships ever made.

I haven't caught many of his more recent pictures, but his latest, Vicky Christina Barcelona, is quite good.
posted by mosk at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2008


[Out-of-the-gate well-poisoning derail removed. Please refrain from shitting up threads on comment number one, thanks.]
posted by cortex at 12:04 PM on September 29, 2008


Soon Yi was not at any time Woody Allen's stepchild. Woody Allen was never married to Mia Farrow. As such, he had no stepchildren with her. Mia Farrow adopted Soon Yi. Woody Allen later dated and married her. As far as I know, he is not alleged to have had sex with her when she was a minor.

Does it mean that it is not still creepy? Of course not. It is still very strange.

But it also means that he did not have sex with a child, he did not have sex with someone related to him, and he did not have sex with a stepchild. Just wanted to clear that up.
posted by flarbuse at 12:06 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


with the possible exception of Martin Scorsese

Spike Lee? The twin insult-montage sequences in Do the Right Thing and 25th Hour seem just as much like iconic love-letters to New York as the opening bit of Manhattan, maybe more – whatever his flaws, at least Lee's movies aren't shot exclusively in multi-million-dollar apartment locations. Even in this unilluminating trifle of a softball interview it's ridiculous to read the interviewer asking Allen about his films' take on the "grittier" New York.

And please, don't feed the pedo-trolls.
posted by RogerB at 12:06 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


to return to the article that was linked, page 2 of that interview is pretty amazing. the whole bit about the degeneration of culture is really very well said, and far less judgmental than you'd think someone saying those things would typically be.

The stars had some kind of charismatic hold that later stars don’t have.

NY: And why is that?

WA: Because the screens were big and the world was not as small, and Hollywood was a distant place. They acted out myths. Now, it would be hard to find better actors than, you know, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, but the public sees them as guys in the neighborhood.


and

When we started to get into the late sixties or seventies, though, there was a little rush when cinema moved away from centering on the star and started to center more on the directors. And suddenly, we started to have good movies. Of course, we’ve taken a turn recently when the studios realized that it was to their advantage to spend $100 million and up on a movie because they could make $300 million, and what is the point of making a fine movie that makes $15 million, which was good enough years ago? They want to gamble for bigger stakes, and who can fault them, that’s the business they’re in. So the films have taken a big hit.

and

People are always talking about the dumbing down of the country. Now, it’s hard to believe that they could be dumber now than they were in my time. Theoretically that can’t be. But when you look around at Broadway theater and films, it’s hard to argue with the fact that we’re going through a period of coarsened public taste. And yet you don’t want to be caught saying that because then it seems like you’re one of those people saying, In my day, it was great. You know, it wasn’t that great in my day either. I’m sure if you went back to the 1800s and the 1500s and the Greeks, they would say garbage sells, too.

honestly, thanks for linking this.
posted by shmegegge at 12:06 PM on September 29, 2008


Vicky Christina Barcelona is quite good

RT likes it. Faves:

1. Manhattan
2. Annie Hall
3. Sleeper
4. Hannah and her Sisters
5. Sweet and Lowdown
6. Crimes and Misdemeanors
7. Zelig
8. Bullets Over Broadway
9. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask
10. Stardust Memories
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:11 PM on September 29, 2008


flarbuse, thanks for that. I really though he and Farrow were married.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:17 PM on September 29, 2008


Not on that Top 10 list, but should be: Broadway Danny Rose, which is as much a love letter to NYC as anything he's ever done (at least the older one referenced in the interview), and is most decidedly not exclusively shot in multi-million dollar apartments. It's worth seeing alone for the shootout in the warehouse full of Macy's parade balloons, which is one of the silliest and most hilarious scenes from any American film, ever.
posted by raysmj at 12:29 PM on September 29, 2008


I recently got the second and third MGM Woody Allen box sets for quite a good deal and am going through them voraciously. His insight in this interview is well appreciated - thanks for the link!

Also, I feel as if I should put forth some defense for his later movies. Sure none of them are as good as his older films, but although they're frothy and insubstantial, at least they're also fun and have a pretty decent amount of wit to them.
posted by bookwo3107 at 12:30 PM on September 29, 2008


Deconstructing Harry, for an Allen take on Bergman's Wild Strawberries, and Stardust Memories, for his take on Fellini's 8 1/2.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:36 PM on September 29, 2008


I hope he makes a decebt film soon.

For goodness sake. Decent? He's never made a decent movie? Or just the later ones? Go down the list of the top 100 grossing movies of the past ten years and tell me the ones that are more 'decent' than, say, Match Point. Or Celebrity. Or Vickie Christina Barcelona.
Are you holding out for Annie Hall Jr? Bride of Sleeper? More Crimes and Misdemeanors?

Annie Hall, to take one f'rinstance, is one of the best movies EVER MADE. So are several-to-many other Woody Allen films. To judge his recent excellent movies as not even decent, simply because they are not quite as good as some of the best movies ever made, is daft.

I guess maybe you just don't like his movies, but man. Surely, by any criteria they are DECENT.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:51 PM on September 29, 2008


ewkpates: He's a genius. That doesn't mean you have to like him. It does mean that if you want to grow your brain, you have to study him.

What in the holy hell has he contributed to film? He made a few funny movies in the late seventies. Zelig was sorta interesting, and I don't mind watching it. Beyond that, his film-making isn't so much 'genius' as 'subpar.' His movies aren't really well-written; he doesn't draw characters that well beyond a stock set; his conception of space isn't really that developed; and he clearly hasn't thought that hard about what the image means.

I swear, something pretty sad and despicable happened when Woody Allen, the comedian who idolized some of the great filmmakers, turned into Woody Allen, THE GREAT DIRECTOR WHO MUST BE WORSHIPED. No dice.

Hell, a simple comparison with someone like Mike Leigh, another movie-drama guy, demonstrates that Woody Allen is far from the best the world has got as far as film is concerned. And I defy you to name a Woody Allen movie that's actually "genius."
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


dirtdirt: Annie Hall, to take one f'rinstance, is one of the best movies EVER MADE.

Sez you. And a whole lot of other people.

So are several-to-many other Woody Allen films. To judge his recent excellent movies as not even decent, simply because they are not quite as good as some of the best movies ever made, is daft.

Fine. But part of the problem is all the ridiculous and breathy claims that have been made since Annie Hall that 'we're in the presence of genius, people!' This is precisely the type of bullshit that fed Allen's national-debt-sized ego and turned him into a hack. And it gets tiresome to keep hearing it.

It is, therefore, liberating, justified, and completely correct to say that the bulk of Allen's movies just aren't that good.
posted by koeselitz at 1:06 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


dude, whatever you may think, Annie Hall is a work of genius. These things are subjective, of course, but if it's possible to say that with authority about any film at all then it's possible to say that with authority about Annie Hall. Stardust Memories, Manhattan, Broadway Danny Rose, What's Up Tiger Lily? are all works of genius, but even if you don't accept those, then Annie Hall is undeniable insofar as any film's merits can be undeniable.
posted by shmegegge at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2008


the interview is, mostly, classic Allen, but I was very surprised to read that he doesn't care for any recent New York films. He either hasn't seen The 25th Hour, and that's not cool, because Spike Lee is really one of the very few good ones out there, or if he's seen and doesn't think much of it at least as an iconic post 9/11 NYC film, well, then I don't think what is.

I think he's a legend but he does strike me as the guy who only watches 1940s films in the privacy of his screening room, and gets chauffered everywhere. not that he must have been a subway guy, but I don't think that's healthy, eventually, for a film maker such as himself, to live such a sheltered Upper East Side life. as much as he dislikes crowds, navelgazing is still navelgazing, even when you're crazily talented.

oh, and Match Point is quite clearly a masterpiece.
posted by matteo at 1:12 PM on September 29, 2008


77%...

Masterpieces usually get something more like a 95%. Not that critics are infallible, but there seems to be little consensus that this is a masterwork.

posted by chuckdarwin at 1:21 PM on September 29, 2008


It is, therefore, liberating, justified, and completely correct to say that the bulk of Allen's movies just aren't that good.

Well, it's got to be liberating, anyway. Allen has consistently done better than "just good" work; the frustrating thing is that he hasn't been consistently great.

Let us discuss the filmic works of Michael Bay and then discuss what "x' movies just aren't that good" means.
posted by cortex at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


if it's possible to say that with authority about any film at all then it's possible to say that with authority about Annie Hall

Someone's obviously never seen Legally Blonde.
posted by cillit bang at 1:25 PM on September 29, 2008


Surely, by any criteria they are DECENT.

I really think COTJS and Hollywood Ending were rubbish. Sorry, he was phoning it in there for a bit.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2008


Let us discuss the filmic works of Michael Bay

Oh, he's a demigod next to Uwe Boll
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:34 PM on September 29, 2008


chuckdarwin, i'm not really sure that i take the tomatometer very seriously for films that have been released since the site's inception. this is not to say that you can't trust them for a review or to get a general feel for a movie's reception, not at all. But films that are received well, especially if it's to the point where you feel like you can't stop hearing about it (which was the case for me before I saw Match Point, fwiw) often fall prey to a backlash of sorts. Rotten Tomatoes can be a great gauge of film reception, but it can also be a measure of petty user or critic backlash. I feel confident that if The Seventh Seal came out in internet times it would have a similar score, if not worse. that's just my view on rottentomatoes, though.
posted by shmegegge at 1:38 PM on September 29, 2008


When Spike Lee first came out with "She's Gotta Have it", everyone was calling him the "black Woody Allen." (Note on Vicky Christina Barcelona -- the formula for this film is to have one the three most beautiful women in the world onscreen in virtually every frame, while the script keeps you titillated with a teeny little plot. I enjoyed it.
posted by Faze at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2008


No one else in here liked or loved Interiors? That flick would be on any WA top ten list I'd put together, he took a real risk, a huge leap, and made it to the other side on his feet, triumphant. Quiet, dark, thoughtful, beautiful. Cool toned, understated. A far cry from Bananas in a remarkably short time, like The Beatles shift from Meet The Beatles to Revolver and/or Rubber Soul.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2008


What in the holy hell has he contributed to film? ...His movies aren't really well-written; he doesn't draw characters that well beyond a stock set; his conception of space isn't really that developed; and he clearly hasn't thought that hard about what the image means.

I don't know if this is worthwhile arguing, because it involves so much subjectivity that the best one can do is truss up "Yeah, well I like it!" with highfalutin phrases.

I love many of Allen's films, and I think he still makes the occasional great one, though for me, the general quality of his films has waned.

I'm not sure what you mean when you ask what he's contributed to film. Do you mean what technical or narrative innovations? Probably none. If you judge him by that meter, he is sub-par. But then so is Chekhov and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I love Allen because he writes well, he really crafts unique, complex characters, and he's visually gifted. So I disagree with all your main points. You didn't provide evidence; I'm not sure I can, either. We've reached the subjective bottleneck where all we can do is point and say, "Annie Hall is an amazing character!" "No she isn't!"

If by "stock characters" you mean he almost always writes about educated people with money (and romanticized lowlifes), I agree with you. But to me that's not a negative; nor is it how I interpret the phrase "stock characters." Stock characters are types like the evil villain who twirls his mustache; the wide-eyed ingenue; the square-jawed, strong-and-silent hero, etc.

Have you seen "Interiors"? Take a look at Mary Beth Hurt's character in that film. It's incredibly nuanced. It's not stock, because there are many layers to her. She's incredibly fragile, but she covers her fragility with a sort of pent up stab at sophistication. Geraldine Paige also plays a complex character in that movie -- as do Diane Keaton and Maureen Stapleton.

"September," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Match Point," "Husbands and Wives" and several others are full of extremely complicated, well-observed characters. I'm someone who chiefly goes to the movies for the characters, and that's specifically why I love Allen's work -- so your objection rings so strangely in my ears.

At the bottom of this comment, I'm going to paste some of Allen's script for "Hannah and Her Sisters." It's an incredibly tense and funny scene between two people who are scared to acknowledge their attraction for each other (because they're both married). To me, this is as good as anything in Chekhov. Parts of it read like vintage Pinter, too.

Allen's images are gorgeous (he works with some of the world's best cinematographers, so they should be). Mostly he's on-target when he films the human face. He not a Kubrick, but he's done some bold things with the camera. Everyone shoots hand held now, but when he made "Husbands and Wives," he actually had to have his people send memos to movie theatres, explaining that there was nothing wrong with the picture -- that it was supposed to be shaky.

I love the long shot of Juliet Lewis in the cab in "Husbands and Wives." I love how, in "Hannah and Her Sisters," when Michael Caine and Mia Farrow are arguing, Allen lets Caine walk out of the frame and then back again. (He had to explain this to Caine, who had never had an experience like this before, as he was used to the camera following him.) I love the long shot of Allen and Tony Roberts walking towards the camera in "Annie Hall." I could go on and on.

Some directors make arresting images that you always remember. Some make sure their images serve the story, specifically trying NOT to make them stand out. Allen is of the latter type. I'm sorry you can't appreciate it.


ELLIOT
(chuckling softly)
How's everything?

LEE
(walking onscreen
towards Elliot)
Oh, you know...I talked to Hannah
this morning on the phone, and she
said that you two might be going to
the country for the weekend.

ELLIOT
Yeah, she loves to go out in the
woods.

LEE
(nodding, her arms
clasped around her chest)
Oh, yeah.

ELLIOT
(chuckling)
But I go nuts. It's a conflict.

He laughs. Lee, uneasy, looks down.

LEE
I have to get my teeth cleaned this
week.

ELLIOT
Oh, that's nice.

There's an awkward moment of silence.

ELLIOT
(breaking the silence,
pointing in the
direction of the door)
I figured I'd get, uh, Frederick
and Dusty together.

LEE
(looking in the same
direction, gesturing)
Oh, yeah, that's really nice of you.

ELLIOT
Yes. This kid, he's earned a
trillion dollars.

LEE
(nodding, wrapping
her arms around her
chest again)
Oh.

ELLIOT
He's got like six gold records.

LEE
(gesturing, relieved
that she's found
something to say)
Oh, speaking of records...I bought
that Mozart Trio you recommended...

The camera follows Lee as she walks quickly to the stereo
unit, pulling a record off the shelf.

LEE
(continuing)
...and the man in the record shop
showed me another one that I think
you'd love. It's a... another
Bach, second movement.

She pulls the record out of its jacket and puts it on the
turntable.

ELLIOT
(offscreen)
Oh, you-you have that one?

LEE
(working at the
stereo, turning her
head towards Elliot)
Yeah.

ELLIOT
(offscreen)
Oh, I would love to hear it.

Bach's Concerto for Harpsichord fills the room.

LEE
(putting the turntable
cover in place)
Oh, and Holly met a wonderful man
who loves opera. An architect.

ELLIOT
(offscreen)
Oh, that's nice. I'd love to see
her wind up settled. She's a tense
one.
(chuckling)


The record in place, Lee turns and leans back against the
stereo unit. She listens to the music, her eyes closed.
The record plays for a few moments in the quiet room, as
Elliot walks over to Lee and leans against the shelf near her.

LEE
(intently)
Isn't that beautiful?

ELLIOT
(looking at Lee, his
hands clasped in
front of him)
I know this. Bach. F Minor
Concerto. It's one of my favorites.

Lee, smiling, continues to listen to the music, her head
down; Elliot stares at her.

ELLIOT
(after a pause)
Uh...did you ever get around to e.e.
cummings?

LEE
(wrapping her arms
around her chest and
looking away from
Elliot for a moment)
Yes, he's just adorable.

Elliot nods.

LEE
(awkwardly)
They have a very large gay
clientele, you know, where I get my
teeth cleaned, and...all the
hygienists now wear gloves because
they're afraid of AIDS.

ELLIOT
(taking a breath)
Oh, right.

There is another moment of silence. Elliot stares at Lee,
who continues to look down, her arms around her chest. The
harpsichord plays on.

ELLIOT
(softly)
Did you ever get around to the poem
on page a hundred and twelve?

LEE
Yes, it made me cry
(tentatively looking
at Elliot)
it was so beautiful...so romantic.

Lee looks down again; the music plays softly and Elliot
continues to stare at her, thinking.

ELLIOT (V.O.)
I want so badly to kiss her. Not
here, you idiot. You've got to get
her alone someplace.

As Elliot's thoughts are heard over the scene, Lee glances
around the loft, then begins to walk away. The camera
follows her as she goes past the nude drawings, which become
the focus of attention as Lee walks offscreen.

ELLIOT (V.O.)
But I've got to proceed cautiously.
This is a very delicate situation.
Okay, uh...ask her if you can see
her for lunch or a drink tomorrow.

Lee walks back onscreen, to the bookshelf behind the drawings.
She takes the e.e. cummings book from the shelf and flips
through it as she walks back to Elliot, who is still leaning
by the stereo, still ruminating.

ELLIOT (V.O.)
And be ready to make light of the
offer if she's unresponsive. This
has to be done very skillfully,
very diplomatically.

LEE
(showing Elliot a
poem in her book)
Did you ever read this one--?

Elliot leaps up, grabs Lee, and kisses her passionately.
Lee, surprised, pushes him away.

LEE
Elliot! Don't!

ELLIOT
Lee! Lee! Lee, I'm in love with
you.

He kisses Lee again. He clumsily turns around; she humps
against the stereo unit. As Lee pulls away, she smashes
into the turntable. The needle scratches loudly. Lee,
shocked, is gasping. The record, pushed to a different part
of the concerto, now plays a more complicated, faster fugue.

ELLIOT
(breathing hard)
Oh!

LEE
(gasping)
What are you doing?!

ELLIOT
(frantically)
I...I'm-I'm-I'm-I'm sorry. I have
to talk to you for... There's so
much that I want to tell you.

Lee stares at Elliot in shock.

LEE
(still gasping)
Elliot!

ELLIOT
(gesturing desperately)
I have been in love with you for so
long.

Frederick and Dusty's indistinct voices, raised in argument,
are suddenly heard. Elliot quickly turns away from Lee.
posted by grumblebee at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's a pretty long excerpt!
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2008


Now I'm afraid of my Recent Activity page.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:56 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is a quote of excerptional length, indeed. Any chance you've got a page you can link to, grumblebee, in lieu of that monster?
posted by cortex at 3:00 PM on September 29, 2008


that cummings poem became one of my favorites after seeing that movie. i show it to everyone.
posted by shmegegge at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2008


Sorry about the length. Here's the link (which I found by googling "'Hannah and Her Sisters' script."
posted by grumblebee at 3:38 PM on September 29, 2008


I feel confident that if The Seventh Seal came out in internet times it would have a similar score, if not worse.

Hmm. I'm not so sure. I think it'd get a 95.

Here's a dissenting voice:
The Seventh Seal
Capsule by Dave Kehr
From the Chicago Reader

Returning from the Crusades, a 14th-century knight finds his homeland devastated by the plague and swept by religious mania. He's no longer able to pray, but just as his faith reaches a low ebb, death comes calling in the person of a very grim reaper. The ending is a cliff-hanger: the knight challenges death to a chess game, hoping to win himself enough time to settle his doubts. Ingmar Bergman's 1956 film is still his most celebrated (probably because the stark imagery reproduces so well in still photographs), yet he later repudiated it. It survives today only as an unusually pure example of a typical 50s art-film strategy: making the most modern and popular art form acceptable to the intelligentsia by forcing it into an arcane, antique mold (here the form of medieval allegory). The film in fact consists of a series of dull speeches spun on simple themes; Bergman barely tries to make the material function dramatically.

posted by chuckdarwin at 3:49 PM on September 29, 2008


[Out-of-the-gate well-poisoning derail removed. Please refrain from shitting up threads on comment number one, thanks.]

Can we whip off the Roman Polanski troll while we're at it?
posted by panboi at 4:13 PM on September 29, 2008


... the filmmaker most associated with the city with the possible exception of Martin Scorsese ...

I'd agree with the commenter upthread who suggests Spike Lee should be included, and I'd also add the great Sydney Lumet. With Dog Day Afternoon and at least a few others, Lumet showed an affinity for NY that is, in my opinion, less romanticized and mythologized than either Woody Allen or Martin Scorcese.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2008


It wasn't a troll! If you're referring to my comment, I wasn't referring to Mia talking about Soo Yi, but other specific charges she made about Woody (I won't bring them up again) during a visitation rights battle, which was what I thought the "he's a pedophile" troll was referring to. I love Polanski's films (I taught a film and politics class and showed Chinatown every time, The Pianist in another), but I found Mia's that praising him after the fact for filmmakers making a doc about the rape case more than a bit off-putting. It is hard to know what to believe there, regardless. People make insane charges against one another in custody cases all the time.
posted by raysmj at 5:12 PM on September 29, 2008


Also, just for the record, she wasn't praising his films and unquestionable artistry, she was talking about his character (and hard emotional times prior to the event). Now back to Woody and his films, a subject I also addressed here.
posted by raysmj at 5:15 PM on September 29, 2008


Btw, Woody *was* Soon-yi's stepfather: he started going out with her when he was engaged in a long-term relationship with her mother that produced two biological children. Mia discovered the situation by finding nude pictures of Soon-yi, I believe.

Just because they had separate apartments and weren't officially "married" doesn't make him not her stepfather and just because she was adopted doesn't make the situation any less gross.
posted by Maias at 6:47 PM on September 29, 2008


Even if they started a relationship when she was 17, that still wouldn't make him a pedophile, as stated earlier (again, I presumed that comment was based on Farrow's never-proven accusations in a visitation rights battle). However, she says their romantic relationship began when she was 20 years old--and also says she'd never thought of Allen as her father, that he'd never acted as a father figure, knew Mia wasn't her real mother regardless.

Please, on to other things. Thanks. I'd have to think that the only relevance this should have is whether it has something to do why he has had a creative resurgence by filming outside of New York, or whether that's based more on his feelings about economic and social changes in the city.
posted by raysmj at 7:10 PM on September 29, 2008


WA: The country has, over the years, moved to the right. And it’s possible that accompanying that move to the right, you also get a lessening of taste. But I don’t know if what I’m saying is true, because I have shown some very good films—Bergman, Fellini—to kids from good schools like Yale. Bright kids. And they were not impressed. You know, it wasn’t as though I picked out some kid from the Midwest who’s a churchgoing barbarian. Those same kids that you see in the movie house doubled over with laughter over fraternity toilet jokes are very often kids from Columbia and Yale. We might also still be feeling the fallout from the sexual revolution, when everybody just ran amok talking dirty and doing things that were forbidden and it became the mark of drama and comedy to be simply outrageous. Not necessarily dramatically interesting or particularly comic, but just outrageous.

This question in particular really rubbed me the wrong way. Somehow, he manages to insult all of the kids in the Midwest, the East, and our culture in general. Ugh.
posted by cardern at 7:32 PM on September 29, 2008


I have a really hard time thinking that a man who mentions having a soft spot for "Airplane!" could be described as a snob here. What he seems to be suggesting is that American culture hasn't taken a turn for the worst due to some Mencken-esque attack of the stereotypical rubes from flyover/red states, but from the elite class on the coasts (the ones who came up with the whole "flyover" bit) as much as anyone else. Allen clearly shows the audiences flashes of a populist side from time to time. As for the obsession with status and wealth, I told someone after seeing his recent film that his films are sort of the original version of Stuff White People Like, given how he clearly plays the grad student's "interest" in Catalan culture for laughs. He knows that world, lives in it, but is not really comfortable with it, on various levels.
posted by raysmj at 10:19 PM on September 29, 2008


I think one of the mistakes people make with Allen's movies is putting pressure on them to be works of genius. I kind of see that he does what he feels and what he knows, and sometimes that hits a certain wavelength for more people, sometimes fewer. I appreciate how he portrays relationships, because few filmmakers make the room for that kind of complexity and honesty, or even quiet. I like that he lets actors do what they do. Some favorite moments:

Elaine May in Small Time Crooks
Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives
Bach Concerto in F Minor in Hannah and Her Sisters
"She's the Jascha Heifetz of this instrument" in Broadway Danny Rose
"Hark! I hear the cannons roar! Is it the King approaching?" in Radio Days
Virgil's cello teacher in Take the Money and Run: "He had no conception of the instrument. He was blowing into it."
Richard Jordan in Interiors
posted by troybob at 12:37 AM on September 30, 2008


I love Woody Allen for being Woody Allen. There are so many mindless, big budget studio films today, yet he continues to do things his way. Doesn't always work, but I'll risk my time to find the couple that leave me breathless.

My favorite list:

- What's Up, Tiger Lily?

- Annie Hall

- Manhattan. Until I saw this movie, being from a small(er) town I never understood what people meant when they said they loved big cities. I still don't know why people love Chicago, but Woody Allen made me understand what's the big deal about the Big Apple.

- The Purple Rose of Cairo. Because he had the gaul to film the proper ending for the story, instead of the one you craved.

- Everyone Says I Love You. Not a daring or original film in concept, but highly risky for the mid 90's.

- Match Point. Only Woody Allen could make a movie that is so opposite of the Woody Allen genre. But beyond being completely unexpected from him, this movie is almost perfect in every way. It's the kind of film I think Hitchcock would have made if he were alive today.


The rest that I've seen, but don't make my favorite list (some I enjoyed, some I didn't):

- Casino Royale
- Play It Again, Sam
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)
- Sleeper
- Love and Death
- A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
- Hannah and Her Sisters
- Husbands and Wives
- Manhattan Murder Mystery
- Bullets Over Broadway
- The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
- Scoop

I keep meaning to see Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and I'm excited about Whatever Works (because I like both Woody Allen and Larry David), but I rarely go to theaters anymore. Might have to wait for the DVD.
posted by sbutler at 1:00 AM on September 30, 2008


troybob: I think one of the mistakes people make with Allen's movies is putting pressure on them to be works of genius. I kind of see that he does what he feels and what he knows, and sometimes that hits a certain wavelength for more people, sometimes fewer. I appreciate how he portrays relationships, because few filmmakers make the room for that kind of complexity and honesty, or even quiet. I like that he lets actors do what they do.

I think you nailed it pretty well there. I actually really like a lot of Woody Allen's work, but can't stand all the hype. Also, I think it has something to do with the fact that my favorite movies of his happen to be Zelig, Sleeper and Bananas.
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 AM on September 30, 2008


Who doesn't like Zelig, Sleeper, or Bananas?

Genius is this: these movies are unusual and original... and if most people set out to make a movie that was an expression of their own perspective on humor... most people would not be this successful.
posted by ewkpates at 8:48 AM on September 30, 2008


under-rated, unmentioned, late-period classic: Manhattan Murder Mystery. By any standard, one of Woody Allen's best. It's hilariously funny, deals with complex characters confronting profound issues (mortality, fading love), it pays homage to classic film, and it is most definitely a love letter to New York. And Woody Allen acts in it. Brilliantly.

In my opinion, it's as good as anything that Woody has ever done.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:00 AM on September 30, 2008


Manhattan Murder Mystery is never underrated in this house! The elevator scene...the multi-recorder phone call...Diane Keaton and Angelica Huston...the mirrors in the theater! It's great!

I kinda feel that way about Alice as well...that it doesn't get mentioned too often, but it hits some really lovely notes.
posted by troybob at 11:15 AM on September 30, 2008


“What in the holy hell has he contributed to film?”

Yeah, it’s not like he made “Armageddon” or nuthin.

“Until I saw this movie, being from a small(er) town I never understood what people meant when they said they loved big cities. I still don't know why people love Chicago,”

Watch The Blues Brothers.

I liked the interview. In a nutshell -
Woody Allen: You Cannot Stop New York City.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2008


A woodman, sil vous plait.
posted by britain at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2008


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