Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Woody Allen's Best Work?

I'm a week late chiming in here but I can't let the topic pass me by as a major fan of Woody Allen's filmography. Before Woody's quality started to dip and I found Pedro Almodovar, he was my favorite living director.

I can't find a suitable link to the original text that won't charge me money (dagnabbit) but apparently The Times of London asked Woody Allen to name his best films last month and his answers have had the internet all atwitter if not a twitter (I have yet to see Woody Allen "trend" even if he's contributed far more to society than, say, Justin Beiber).

Anyway, in case you didn't hear or would still like to discuss (Always up for a Woody!), the legendary writer/director/comic chose these six films as the cream of his crop. I've listed them in chronological order.

Woody's favorites
  • Zelig (1983)
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
  • Husbands and Wives (1992)
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
  • Match Point (2005)
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
I find the list completely fascinating. I think how artists view their own work is always of interest even though I think, by and large, artists are not the best judges of their own work. Creation and criticism being two completely different skill sets (which is also what you can blame so many dumb Oscar honors on), especially about one's one work since there's no way to see it from a suitable distance

The obvious talking point is that Allen shunned what history has arguably favored as his holy trinity: Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters. I was aware even as far back as 1987 that Woody didn't think as highly of Hannah and Her Sisters as the public and Oscar voters did -- he was all about David Lynch's Blue Velvet in 1986 if I recall -- and thought he'd done something wrong with Hannah when it became popular. But that he wouldn't list his late 70s giants as his best does surprise me.

Oscar's favorite Woody Allen pictures
Hall (5 noms/4 wins) Bullets (7 noms/ 1 win) Hannah (7 noms/ 3wins)

But then, no one seems to agree on these things. If you look around the web (Cinematical, Vanity Fair, Ken Levine, Awards Daily) everyone claims a different "best". To my mind that's a healthy argument that the man has made a lot of fine films, even if he himself doesn't think so stating
I've squandered an opportunity that people would kill for. I have had complete artistic freedom... There are a few better than others, half a dozen, but it's a surprising paucity of worthwhile celluloid.
It surely wouldn't kill him to slow down a little bit and fine tune his screenplays these days -- the concept is often better than the execution, now -- but I think he underestimates his early work.

The Best of Woody according to Nathaniel? This is how I'd personally rank them.

Nathaniel's favorites
  1. Manhattan (1979)
  2. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
  3. Annie Hall (1977)
    (all three are perfection)
  4. Husbands and Wives (1992)
    (disgustingly underappreciated due to the scandalous climate in which it premiered)
  5. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
    (also terrific)
  6. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
    (give or take a few others depending on my mood. But this one is just so rewatchable/funny.)
A lot of critics swear by Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) but I seem to have totally forgotten it. I cannot recall one single thing about it (???) A revisit is definitely in order.

You know what you have to do in the comments, don't you?

Further Archived Reading
Woody's Muses, Ranked By Number of Films ~ Mia Farrow reigns. Scarlett Johansson is still such a newbie, all told.


Michael W. said...

I love that Woody himself (and now Nathaniel ;) ) rates both Husbands and Wives and Bullets Over Broadway highly. They are great, often underappreciated films, and both are definitely two of my favorites of his.

But I don't want to even try naming my favorite. It's too difficult. I would have to rewatch all my favorites to be able to say it with conviction. Both Annie Hall and Manhattan are up there. Obviously...

I also really like Interiors and Manhattan Murder Mystery. Both in the Top 10 for me. Easily.

And I have a soft spot for Sweet and Lowdown and Everyone Says I Love You. I just love both of them and they make me smile everytime I see or think about them.

Andrew R. said...

I saw VCB last night. Cruz deserved it.

His Top 9:
1. Annie Hall-duh
2. Hannah and her Sisters-duh
3. Purple Rose of Cairo-very fun
4. Crimes and Misdeamanors-rewatch it, Nate
5. Bullets Over Broadway-Wiest's performance is one of the greatest ever, she deserved the Oscar. The film goes up the list each time I watch it.
6. Vicky Christina Barcelona-very nice looking, great acting
7. Manhattan-a tiny bit overrated, still great
8. Match Point-very good
9. Zelig-need to rewatch

Alison Flynn said...

Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of those movies that I appreciate more and more every time I watch it again.

Zelig is one of my favorites of his along with Hannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. I think Zelig is really underrated. Also agree with Michael W. on Sweet and Lowdown. Great movie and Sean Penn was terrific.

And I still love his earlier stuff, like Bananas and Love and Death.

/3rtfu11 said...

It surely wouldn't kill him to slow down a little bit and fine tune his screenplays these days -- the concept is often better than the execution

Yes it would. I’d rather Woody Allen make less than stellar films than Steven Spielberg. A far more painful prospect than Woody Allen not living up to past glories – Allen is a genius when it comes to interesting failures. If you’re going to fail do it in great idiosyncratic style.

/3rtfu11 said...

It surely wouldn't kill him to slow down a little bit and fine tune his screenplays these days -- the concept is often better than the execution

Yes it would. I’d rather Woody Allen make less than stellar films than Steven Spielberg. A far more painful prospect than Woody Allen not living up to past glories – Allen is a genius when it comes to interesting failures. If you’re going to fail do it in great idiosyncratic style.


Michael W -- i love EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU too. I remember laughing so hard in the theater during the "it's sooner than you think" number and just l-o-v-e the big final Goldie Hawn scene.

i used to think it was better than BULLETS OVER BROADWAY but...

@Andrew R --- i agree that that one gets better every time you watch it.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

It's so strange how much he hates Manhattan. He offered to do another film for the studio free of charge as long as they didn't release it. I think it's one of his most brilliant and beautiful, but it's his least favorite of all his films. WEIRD.

My personal faves:

1. Everyone Says I Love You (my favorite genre, and my first)
2. Shadows & Fog (undervalued! fantastic experiment! Madonna!)
3. Hannah and Her Sisters
4. Manhattan
5. Interiors
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Walter -- i didn't know that but that just proves the theory: artists are not good judges of their own work.

Is it because Manhattan is too revealing about him?

Klemen said...

This is EXTREMELY difficult, he's made so many great movies. I'd say:

1.Annie Hall-one of cinema's defining movies
2.Interiors-I know it's not very loved, but the darkness, the screenplay, the performances, I adore it all
3.Love and Death-I don't think I've ever laughed so much. "No, you must be Don Francisco's sister" is burnt in my brain forever
4.Hannnah and her Sisters-sweet, funny, basically perfect
5.Match Point-I marvel at how intelligent and subtly poignant it is. Plus, all the beautiful people:)
6.Manhattan Murder Mystery- I found it to be both genuinely funny and genuinely suspensful. I may be in minority who think so, but it really worked for me.
7.Manhattan-should probably be higher, but for some reason I don't remember it well.
8.Purple Rose of Cairo-underrated and probably Mia's best performance.
9.Sleeper-very very funny."Checking the cell structure"!
10.Bullets Over Broadway-again, probably should be higher, but I mostly remember only Wiest and Tilly's brilliant performances.
11.Vicky Cristina Barcelona-I wanna wait a bit to see how it really holds up. It's fun and fresh and Penelope is a knock-out...but I just find it hard to believe that the man that all these women fall for so passionately is Bardem. He just doesn't do anything for me in that department. Although I'm aware I'm in minority again:) JRM in Match Point on the other hand...more than understandable:)

and I could go on listing movies:)

His worst is still better than almost anyone else's best.

Anonymous said...

1. purple rose of cairo
2. annie hall
3. hannah and her sisters
4. another woman
5. match point

Kurtis O said...

"Manhattan" is my favorite Woody, too.

James Colon said...

I consider Crimes and Misdemeanors to be one of the five greatest films that I've ever seen. Here's how my list would go:

1. Crimes and Misdemeanors
2. Annie Hall
3. Manhattan
4. The Purple Rose of Cairo
5. Hannah and Her Sisters
6. Stardust Memories
7. Love and Death
8. Bullets Over Broadway
9. Sweet and Lowdown (possibly his most underrated film)
10. Another Woman

After that, all the rest of his films come out about even. There isn't a Woody film that I particularly dislike (though I have a hard time really falling in love with Match Point or Mighty Aphrodite). Probably my favorite filmmaker.

Lev Lewis said...

1. Annie Hall
2. Crimes And Misdemeanors
3. Hannah And Her Sisters
4. Manhattan
5. The Purple Rose Of Cairo

Those are the top five, but you have to also love Interiors, Zelig, Another Woman, Husbands And Wives and Bullets Over Broadway

stjeans said...

3.Another Woman
4.Hannah & her sisters
5.Crimes & misdeminors
6.Love & death


wait i have to love them? just kidding. I do love them. Or the ones i remember well at least.

in DESPERATE need of a rescreening as i remember generally nothing about them

SHADOWS & FOG (the only thing i remember was that i didn't like it. but i can't remember why)

Leo said...

The Woody Canon (according to yours truly)

1. Hannah and her Sisters
3. Annie Hall
4. Manhattan

(In my book these three define his work; they can't be topped)

5. Husbands and Wives
6. The Purple Rose of Cairo
7. Stardust Memories (one of his most underrated)
8. Vicky Cristina Barcelona/Match Point (don't know if the fact their release was recent, but these two solid films always compete for the same spot)
9. Everyone Says I Love You
10. Bullets over Broadway

The ones I almost included:

Radio Days, Interiors, Deconstructing Harry

Alex Constantin said...

there isn't enough love for Interiors here!!!

and Annie Hall is a must.

Unknown said...

I cannot rate or rank stuff but I know I don't remember the last time I laughed as much as I did while watching "Manhattan Murder Mystery" in which Diane is INCREDIBLE!!! and I LOVED "The Purple Rose of Cairo";

Both Annie Hall and Manhattan were rather dull for me, is it because I had all the expectations in world when approaching these films? Who knows... maybe

Jeff said...

ANOTHER WOMAN - so underappreciated. I seem to be one of the few that love Woody in his Bergmanesque darker moods.

EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU is fantastic, if nothing else for the final sequence with Goldie. MAGIC!

DiAnne Wiest literally leaves me breathless in both BULLETS and HANNAH.

HANNAH is probably my fave, if I were forced to pick one. I think it's pretty much perfection.

Am anxiously awaiting him to hit just one more out of the park. Have been left cold by pretty much everything since BULLETS. said...

My Ten:

Annie Hall
Stardust Memories
Hannah and her Sisters
Purple Rose of Cairo
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Bullets Over Broadway
Vicki Christina Barcelona
Match Point
Husbands and Wives

Honorable mentions:

Love and Death
Sweet and Lowdown
Broadway Danny Rose
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Deconstructing Harry
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
Radio Days

Yes, I wish he would spare us a lot of the duds, and hone his scripts. But that there is 20 very good to great movies. Few directors, alive or dead, can make that kind of claim.

Alex said...

I love Woody's one-two Ingmar Bergman homages, INTERIORS (1978) and SEPTEMBER (1987). I know the former is generally well-received, but I prefer SEPTEMBER. It's a small film that feels exactly like a play (maybe that's why I like it?) and feature a fantastic performance by Elaine Stritch as Mia Farrow's mother, though Farrow and Dianne Wiest are as good as ever. It's my guilty pleasure, I suppose.

1. Manhattan
2. Husbands and Wives
3. Annie Hall
4. The Purple Rose of Cairo
5. Hannah and Her Sisters
6. Manhattan Murder Mystery

stjeans said...

I think <> is waaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy OVERRATED!

Mirko S. said...

the best:

10)ALICE (Mia was robbed of a nomination!!!)

the worst:

(I wanted include CELEBRITY among the worst, but it's blessed by precious perfs by Davis and Leo DiCaprio)


stjeans -- and what would <> be?

kent said...

gonna change the topic a bit. woody sure does get great performances from his stars. my top five favs in no order would be:

keaton - annie hall (1977)
davis - husbands and wives (1992)
wiest - hannah and her sisters (1986)
page - interiors (1978)
farrow - the purple rose of cairo (1985)

stjeans said...

sorry The Purple Rose of Cairo is! (overrated that is)


kent -- i can't do that list because i fear it'd be ALL Farrow all the time. Single most underappreciated major actress of the modern era.

no, no, okay it'd be

FARROW in just about everything (but particularly Alice, Purple Rose & Broadway Danny Rose)
KEATON in annie hall
WIEST in everything
PAGE or STAPLETON in interiors.
DAVIS in husbands and wives

or something like that.

Josh said...

no fans of Deconstructing Harry? i really like that one, but i have a soft spot for a number of his more generally maligned films, like Stardust Memories and Shadows & Fog. i love manhattan, hannah & her sisters, etc, but at this point in my fandom i think i get more out of some of his more obscure titles.

Will said...

1. Hannah and Her Sisters
2. Annie Hall
3. Crimes and Misdemeanors
4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
5. The Purple Rose of Cairo
6. Everyone Says I Love You
7. Broadway Danny Rose
8. Match Point
9. September
10. Manhattan

Must rewatch Husbands and Wives!

Nate B. said...

My favourites -

1. Everyone Says I Love You - I know it's not his BEST film, not by far, but it's absolutely the one that makes me the happiest.
2. Bullets Over Broadway - His funniest film, and Tracey Ullman is hugely underrated in it. I think it was Nick's Flick Picks who had a great write-up about the film and her performance.
3. Hannah and Her Sisters - Love. Everyone was talking about how (500) Days of Summer 'ripped off' Annie Hall, but I saw a lot more of Hannah in there - especially the architecture shots.
4. Annie Hall - How could I not? "I'm inta leather."
5. Manhattan - One of the most beautifully photographed films ever made.
6. Deconstructing Harry - So weird, so funny, and very moving.
7. Love and Death - Hysterically funny, and Diane Keaton is really fantastic in this one.
8. Sleeper - Ditto - the giant banana peel really gets me in this one.

cjmovieman said...

I would have to go...
1. Annie Hall (my favorite movie of all time)
2. Manhattan (gets better every time I watch it)
3. Match Point (my first Woody Allen movie. Instant love)
4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (while Penelope Cruz was beyond outstanding, Rebecca Hall was vastly underrated)
5. The Purple Rose of Cairo (I have to agree with you Nathaniel. My next few are ones Farrow should have an Oscar nomination or win for)
6. Mighty Aphrodite (No love for this one here. Maybe it was more poignant to me because of the adoption sideplot but I loved this one)
7. Broadway Danny Rose (MIA FARROW FTW!!!!)
8. Bullets Over Broadway (I love it the more I watch it. Wiest is amazing here)
9. Alice (Once again, Mia Farrow)
10. Hannah and Her Sisters (I really liked and admired this but I didn't quite connect as much as I expected)

For some reason, I like Whatever Works but I recognize it was not his best. Strangely, I don't like Husbands and Wives too much (same with Zelig). Also, I don't remember Crimes and Misdemeanors just like you Nathaniel. I just remember I got bored and shut it off (i've never done that to Woody Allen before). I probably need to rewatch it.

Now for performances:
1. Diane Keaton - Annie Hall
2. Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
3. Scarlett Johansson - Match Point
4. Dianne Wiest - Bullets Over Broadway
5. Mia Farrow - Alice, Broadway Danny Rose, Purple Rose of Cairo
6. Mira Sorvino - Mighty Aphrodite
7. Mariel Hemingway - Manhattan
8. Jennifer Tilly - Bullets Over Broadway
9. Rebecca Hall - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
10. Woody Allen - Annie Hall

So many good movies and performances

/3rtfu11 said...

Learn something new everyday!

cal roth said...

It's Husbands and Wives. And I've seen every movie except for Tall Dark Stranger and Bananas.

Then, we have your 3: Manhattan, Annie Hall and Purple Rose.

From that, I'd go to Deconstructing Harry and Bullets Over Broadway.

After that, Hannan and Her Sisters, Manhattan Murder Mystery.

I think Allen's best belong to the 90's!

cal roth said...

A lot of people don't like the influence of Bergman, but I think Husbands ans Wives is even better than Scenes of Marriage. I mean it!

I think it is the most brutal movie ever made about relationships.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

My favorite filmmaker (in total) with my alltime favorite movie ever, Annie Hall. I saw it when I was about 18 and giggled through the whole thing. I've probably seen it at least 30 times. But there are others I really, really like as well. This is more or less in order. The top three are solid:

1. Annie Hall
2. Manhattan
3. Crimes & Misdemeanors (one of my Top 10 of the 80s)
4. Sleeper (for sheer laughter, it just can't be beat)
5. Radio Days (very underrated in my opinion, his second best of the 80s)
6. Hannah and Her Sisters
7. Husband & Wives (I'm still mad at Marisa Tomei)
8. Zelig (audacious)
9. Broadway Danny Rose (a fun piffle)
10. Match Point (for not sucking and showing Woody still has it)

IslandLiberal said...

1. Match Point (it's a more focussed Crimes & Misdemeanors)
2. Broadway Danny Rose
3. Annie Hall
4. Bullets Over Broadway
5. Hannah and her Sisters

Special mention goes to Play It Again, Sam, which is often omitted from the canon because he didn't direct it, but it stars him and Diane Keaton, was written by him, and if you watched it with no credits everyone would assume he directed it.

Owen (aka die hard Woody Allen fan) said...

top ten in order:

purple rose
crimes & misdemeanors
annie hall
hannah & her sisters
husbands and wives
love & death
deconstructing harrry

runner up: another woman

Paul Outlaw said...

Take the Money and Run
Annie Hall
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Stardust Memories
Sweet and Lowdown

Sean D said...

My List:
1. Annie Hall
2. Hannah and Her Sisters
3. The Purple Rose of Cairo
4. Love and Death
5. Husbands and Wives
6. Crimes and Misdemeanors
7. Bullets Over Broadway
8. Manhattan
9. Radio Days
10. A three-way tie between Broadway Danny Rose, Deconstructing Harry, and Match Point.

badmofo said...

1. Annie Hall - Perfection...
2. Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Cruz slays me!
3. Crimes and Misdemeanors - "God is a luxury I can't afford." Unsettling, atypical Woody.
4. Deconstructing Harry - Black comedy at its most volatile; side-splittingly hilarious.
5. Hannah and Her Sisters - Simultaneously one of Allen's most cynical and sincere movies.
6. Bullets Over Broadway - Watched it in a funk but managed to fall under Wiest's spell anyway ("Don't speak!"). Tilly and Ullman also shine.
7. Manhattan - Enjoyed it the first time around, but haven't been able to sit through it since. ?

Nick Duval said...

Husbands and Wives is awesome. So, so, so, so underrated. My favorite is either Match Point or Annie Hall.

Anonymous said...

1. Crimes And Misdemeanors
2. Annie Hall
3. Bananas
4. Hannah And Her Sisters
5. Bullets Over Broadway
6. Manhattan
7. Sleeper
8. Stardust Memories
9. The Purple Rose Of Cairo
10. Husbands And Wives