Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Woody Turns 75. Undoubtedly Writing 43rd Feature Film.

What you're looking at below is a screenshot from the new Film Experience site (opening in a couple of weeks) in the "top tens" section... which is more like a "top 1" for each year from 1920-1979 (until I see or revisit more films from those years).

Woody Allen made my favorite films of 1977 (Annie Hall), 1979 (Manhattan) and 1985 (The Purple Rose of Cairo) and came very close to doing so in 1986 (Hannah and Her Sisters) and 1992 (Husbands and Wives). I haven't done the math but he's way up their under "most represented filmmaker" in my personal bliss lists. Other repeat #1 champs are Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks and William Wyler. But you'll see those lists soon enough.

Though I've expressed concern about Woody Allen's qualitative if not quantitative decline in various posts (I've nearly hated the last two films, Whatever Works and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), he has given us so much great cinema over the past four decades that today on his 75th birthday I only want to sing him "Happy Birthday". Or maybe play it for him on the clarinet. If only I could play.

10 Favorite Woody Flicks
  1. Manhattan (1979)
  2. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
  3. Annie Hall (1977)
  4. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
  5. Husbands and Wives (1992)
  6. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
  7. Interiors (1978)
  8. Match Point (2005)
  9. Stardust Memories (1980)
  10. Sleeper (1973)
Disclaimer: This list is constantly in flux after the top 5 which are inarguably my favorites. I should probably rewatch some of the older ones. I've been meaning to take a good long look at Crimes and Misdemeanors and Another Woman again especially. The only ones I haven't seen: Bananas (1971), Love and Death (1975), Zelig (1983... I've been meaning to watch this one forever. It's like a strange mental block for me), and Cassandra's Dream (2007)

Weird Oscar Trivia: This is little commented on but I think it's worth noting. Though it's well known that Woody Allen is Oscar's #1 screenwriter (14 nominations, 2 wins) and among their 10 favorite directors of all time (6 nominations, 1 win) isn't it bizarre that, given the intensity of that AMPAS love, he's only ever had 2 Best Picture nominees (Annie Hall & Hannah and Her Sisters)? Strange.

Next? Woody's 42nd feature film Midnight in Paris which is about an engaged couple travelling to Paris on business and cheating on each other. I'm guessing on that last part of that sentence but it doesn't take a psychic. Will the film be another goodie like Vicky Cristina Barcelona or a mess like Whatever Works? The new film stars Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen (now a real life couple). Marion Cotillard plays a character referred to as the 'Muse' -- an Allen staple. When it comes to the new cast, we're most excited to see Mimi Kennedy join the Woodyverse. She seems ideally suited for it, yes? She was so gutbustingly funny in In the Loop (2009).

Woody directing Kennedy and McAdams in Midnight in Paris (2011)

 All of them are newbies to the Woodyverse but he doesn't repeat his cast members that much anymore (sigh). Still no Dianne Wiest in sight. Since Paris is done filming he's undoubtedly writing Untitled Woody Allen Project i.e. the 43rd due in 2012. That how he do.

Wish Mr. Allen a happy 75th in the comments, and tell us your favorite of his films!


    adam k. said...

    Do you think maybe the problem with Woody now is that he goes too damn fast with his films?? Do wonder they're so hit and miss! You're supposed to really invest in each one and fine-tune it over a longer period of time, rather than make a new one every year (at least) just because you feel like you have to make as many films as you can before you die.

    I also don't think it's that weird that he has so few best pic noms. It is a bit weird, yes. But I think it's explained by the fact that he won best pic so early with Annie Hall and they kinda felt like he didn't need to be rewarded anymore, AND by the fact that the writer and director's branches cared more for him than all the others, for good reason. It takes lots of branches to get the best pic nod, and the tech people probably don't "get" Woody at all. It is surprising that the actors didn't carry him over the top more often, though.

    adam k. said...

    Actually now that I think about it, has he actually ALWAYS worked this much, and this fast? If so, well, there's a reason most people slow down in their old age... even Clint has more misses than hits...

    HenryK said...

    "Love and death" is one of the funniest Woody Allen movies ever! And "Zelig" is, in my opinion, his personal best!!

    I´m really envious that you still have the opportunity of watching them for the first time!

    NATHANIEL R said...

    adam -- yeah, he's always worked this fast. it's nothing new. it's just before the quality was more consistent. he's always had peaks and valleys but before the peaks were masterpieces rather than good films and the valleys were pleasant diversions rather than complete messes.

    but you can't win them all. I've given up hoping for another masterpiece but i'll gladly take a few more good films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, you know?

    HenryK - considering how many movies he's made i'm proud of how many i've seen. but yeah, i'm excited to watch those. now it's just about making the time.

    Anonymous said...

    1.Hannah and Her Sisters
    2.Annie Hall
    3.The Purple Rose of Cairo
    4.Crimes and Misdemeanors
    5.Deconstructing Harry
    6.Match Point
    7.Another Woman
    8.Everyone Says I Love You
    10.Stardust Memories

    love them all...

    didn't watch broadway danny rose, interiors and love & death...


    Ryan said...

    For me, HUSBANDS & WIVES is Woody’s only *great* film from the last two decades. Sure, VCB and BULLETS are good, worth-while efforts---and far superior to anything else he’s done recently—but I can’t help but feel the credit for the latter two is due more to Cruz and Wiest’s indelible, Oscar-winning performances.

    Now if I remember correctly, Nathaniel, you once mentioned that while Woody’s depiction of women is controversial, you’re just glad he continues to give them such juicy material. I definitely agree with this and while I haven’t lost hope for Woody to deliver an all-out, Best Picture nominated comeback, I’m doubtful he’ll find it in either Scar Jo or Rachel Adams…

    Now that I think about it, I’d give anything to see Woody tap into Tilda Swinton’s underused, (dark) comedic dexterity.

    James T said...

    I can't say I'm passionately in love with any of his films but I like some of them a lot.

    OK, maybe only "Hannah and her sisters". But I don't think I've ever disliked a movie of his.

    Happy birthday Woody!

    Ryan said...

    Just for the heck of it; my TOP 10 fav performances from Woody’s films:

    01. Diane Keaton, ANNIE HALL
    02. Judy Davis, HUSBANDS & WIVES
    03. Dianne Wiest, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
    04. Mia Farrow, HUSBANDS & WIVES
    06. Mia Farrow, THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO
    07. Dianne Wiest, HANNAH & HER SISTERS
    08. Woody Allen, ANNIE HALL
    09. Michael Caine, HANNAH & HER SISTERS
    10. Jennifer Tilly, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY

    Andreas said...

    I've always been better-acquainted with his "early funny films," especially since his '90s-today output has been so rapid-fire and hard to keep up with. (Though I did quite enjoy seeing VCB in theaters.)

    So I feel obligated to give some love to those hilarious if trivial spoof movies like Take the Money and Run or Bananas, both of which have some very inspired gags. "I have a gub?"

    Iggy said...

    My favourite Woody Allen films don't always go hand by hand with his best films. Right now, the one I have best memories of is Bullets Over Broadway, and in general those seen as his "lighter" comedies. but I never get tired of rewatching ,Husbands and Wives, or Another Woman,.

    On more superficial note, the role of Marion Cotillard is prior or post huge boobs? It seems only superficial, but if the part includes "them" you can easily guess the type she's playing.

    I also wonder how long it will take him to cast Emma Stone as the younger love interest. She'd be perfectly fit in his world with her comic skills.

    MRRIPLEY said...

    whose the cute guy behind ms mcadams!!!!!

    nat,what think you of miss cahrlotte rampling in stardust memories.

    Roark said...

    Woody was a gateway filmmaker for me - I watched his early funny movies as a kid alongside the Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks movies, Abbot & Costello, all that good stuff. As I got older I started watching Woody's later, mature comedies and dramedies (as well as reading his excellent books!), and they in turn led me to the European arthouse classics that informed so much of Woody's work in that period. So he's not only been one of my favorite filmmakers (like you Nat, he'd feature at or near the top of a LOT of my top 10 lists from 1971 to 1995 at least), his work inspired me to be a more well rounded and adventurous cinephile.

    I've seen every film he's done except for Interiors and the most recent one. I own Interiors, but for whatever reason I'm holding off watching it - I kind of like the idea of holding one film in reserve, so that if/when Woody's not around anymore I still have one more "new" Woody Allen movie to experience. But that's a little morbid. He's still around and kicking, and even if he's not kicking quite as well as he used to creatively, I always look forward to the next film.

    Scott said...

    Your Top 5 are THE Top 5, with the possible addition of Crimes.

    I'd avoid catching Cassandra's Dream. Do something more pleasant and entertaining - say, getting punch in the gut for 90 straight minutes. As you note his newer films are often terrible. It's a shame.

    The Z said...

    Am I the person who loved "Sweet and Lowdown"? One of Sean Penn's few comedic roles and he's incredible.

    Cinesnatch said...

    What is McAdams carrying under her left arm? It makes her look hunky. LOL

    NATHANIEL R said...

    mrripley -- i believe his name is Crew Member. ;)

    vince -- unfortunate background crew memebr shirt right, making Rachel have huge guns.

    the Z -- i couldn't get into that one apart form the Penn/Morton duet.

    Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

    I could have sworn that Interiors was also nominated for Best Picture. Am I losing it?

    Annie Hall kinda changed my life, or at least changed my idea of comedy. I think it's the most influential film of the last 30 years or so. Yes, that includes Star Wars, etc.

    Crimes & Misdemeanors is a brilliant movie. It's so deep in a lot of ways and yet really funny. I think it's the Woody movie that has made me tear up the most. I'd have to think about that one.

    Everyone has a "little" guilty pleasure Woody Allen movie, and mine is Radio Days.

    "I have a gub!" My friends and I say that all the time whenever there's a stupid misunderstanding.

    NATHANIEL R said...

    Dave -- no, Interiors got 5 noms but not BP (So, like Bullets Over Broadway -- 7 noms -- it was probably somewhere just outside the list) Woody just kept getting that "lone director" spot. hence the only 2 best pic situation.

    my guilty pleasure (that i don't feel guilty about) is an abstract one because i haven't seen it in years and maybe it's not as good as i remember it being but i really like SEPTEMBER which everyone else seemed to immediately dismiss. but maybe that's because it gave Dianne Wiest such a big part and i so love watching her.

    Anonymous said...

    Who is that cutie in the right corner of the picture with Mimi Kennedy and Rachel McAdams?

    Anonymous said...

    ^Whoops. Just saw MrRipley's post. Still- Yum!

    Oneliner said...

    My top ten Woody Allen's are:

    1. Annie Hall— 1977
    2. Manhattan— 1979
    3. Hannah and Her Sisters— 1986
    4. Husbands and Wives— 1992
    5. Broadway Danny Rose— 1984
    6. Interiors— 1978
    7. Another Woman— 1988
    8. Bananas— 1971
    9. Sleeper— 1973
    10. Radio Days— 1987

    No STARDUST MEMORIES for me, but it DOES have one of my all time favorite lines, when the "aliens" tell Woody... "You're not the Peace Corps type. You want to help humanity? Tell funnier jokes."

    TOP 10 of the last 20 years:
    1. Husbands and Wives— 1992
    2. Deconstructing Harry— 1997
    3. Match Point— 2005
    4. Bullets Over Broadway— 1994
    5. Mighty Aphrodite— 1995
    6. Manhattan Murder Mystery— 1993
    7. Alice— 1990
    8. Vicky Cristina Barcelona— 2008
    9. Sweet and Lowdown— 1999
    10. Everyone Says I Love You— 1996

    Also, by the way: I thought that Woody would never make a film as bad as SEPTEMBER... then I saw ANYTHING ELSE!

    I wish Woody wouldn't crank them out every year (now that they are generally so not-great), but each year I think, alas there will be few left.

    Amir said...

    Bananas is the funniest movie Allen has ever made. You should definitely watch it.
    It's nowhere near Annie Hall or Purple Rose in terms of quality, but it's just laugh out loud funny.
    I also like Take the Money and Run for the same reason, but it's definitely not as funny as Bananas.

    Jason Adams said...

    Where's the Manhattan Murder Mystery love? Also, I only saw it last year for the first time but I totally adored Alice.

    I can't believe I haven't done Sweet & Lowdown yet. My adoration of Samantha Morton is matched pound for pound with my dislike of Sean Penn I guess.

    Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

    For laugh out loud funny, Annie Hall still makes me laugh the most, BUT Sleeper just about gets me every time as well.

    The large vibrating orb, "Rags" the robot dog, the instant pudding, etc. Ridiculous.

    Billy Held An Oscar said...

    Hannah and Her Sisters is modern classic ... I've lost track of how many times I've watched it. of my all-time favorite scenes from a Woody film is the dinner scene from Interiors. Maureen Stapleton in that red dress is an assault on their beige senses.