Woody Allen Round Up

"Chapter 1. I adore Woody Allen films. I idolize them out of all proportion...no, make that: I romanticize them out of all proportion. Yes, to me, no matter what the film is, they still pulsate to the great tunes...........No, missed out something.

Chapter 1. I am too romantic about Woody Allen films, as I am about everything else. I  thrive on the witty dialogue and the acting and.........No, no, corny, too corny for a man of my taste. Can I ... can I try and make it more profound?

Chapter 1. I adore Woody Allen films. To me, they are a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. They have an integrity most films lack.......No, that's a little bit too preachy. I mean, you know, let's face it, I want people to read the rest of this post.

Chapter 1. I adore Woody Allen films, they represent a welcome escape from a society desensitized by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage.......No. Too angry, I don't want to be angry.

Chapter 1. I am as funny and romantic as a Woody Allen film. And beneath this mild exterior is the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. Yes! Perfect! Here's my favourite Woody Allen films and they always will be..."

Take The Money And Run (1969) is a fake documentary about bungling criminal Virgil Starkwell (Allen), a bank robber so inept his embarrassed parents refuse to be interviewed unless they can disguise themselves with Groucho Marx masks. It's more a collection of sketches than a completely coherent film, but there are some outstandingly funny bits, notably his attempt to rob a bank with a 'gub' and his efforts to play the cello in a marching band. Useless trivia alert! The narrator is Jackson Beck, who was the voice of Bluto in the Popeye cartoons. You never know when that fact might come in useful.

Stardust Memories (1980) is a sort of homage/piss-take of Fellini's 8½ and it was such a brilliant parody that fans thought it too was an autobiographical affair, something that Allen always denied. The free-wheeling film ridicules Allen himself, his films, film-making in general, celebrity, fans of celebrities, intellectualism and art (to name but a few targets). But somehow, in a terrific juggling act, he manages to celebrate all these things at the same time and even throws in some Martians for good luck. Not as downright hilarious or accessible as his other movies, but a really clever film, that gets smarter and funnier the more you think about it - no wonder Allen considers it one of his best films.

Play It Again Sam (1972) brought Allen's successful Broadway play to the big screen, in which he plays a recently divorced guy who takes dating advice from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart, who nobody else can see. A laugh-riot from start to finish, thanks to a hilarious script and brilliantly comic delivery, whilst regular Allen collaborator Diane Keaton cements her place at the top of my list of kinda-funny-looking-and-a-bit-scrawny-but-actually-quite-sexy-women (er, not that I keep lists like that). It may lack the enduring appeal of Casablanca, but it certainly has better jokes about sex.

Radio Days (1987) was partly based on Allen's memories of his childhood and is an affectionate and nostalgic tribute to the days when radio was king in the households of America. It's basically a series of funny and touching anecdotes, with a lovely, evocative soundtrack of 40s music and, in the end, is a poignant commentary on the passage of time. Some may find it too romanticised and sentimental, but its is beautifully acted and it has a wit and charm that’s hard to resist. It might even inspire you to give your folks a call, just to say hello. And that can't be a bad thing.

The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985) is a wonderfully bittersweet slice of magical realism set during the Great Depression. Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is a downtrodden waitress in an abusive marriage who often visits the movies to escape from her life. During yet another viewing of the film The Purple Rose of Cairo, she is astonished when Tom (Jeff Daniels), the dashing hero of the film, notices her in the audience, emerges from the film and begins to romance her. But this causes havoc with the film, since the plot and characters can't move on without him, so the producer sends the actor who played Tom (Daniels again) to steal Cecilia away from Tom so he'll return to the film, setting up an unusual love triangle. A marvellous concept is beautifully executed, utterly enchanting and also works as a cautionary tale about our on-going obssession with movies and movie-stars.   

Husbands and Wives(1992) is Allen's best drama, inspired by Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, and chronicling the effect a marriage break-up has on a group of intellectual New Yorkers. Utilising a faux-documentary approach, including talking head segments, flashbacks and narration, Allen explores the deception, hypocrisy and manipulation within the various characters’ relationships, resulting in a cleverly structured and always interesting jigsaw of a movie. Allen’s humour is downplayed here at the expense of a more bitter, bleak tone, but his writing remains as astute and incisive as ever, whilst obvious parallels with Allen and Mia Farrow’s acrimonious real-life split add an uncomfortable layer of irony to the whole film.

And finally we have my favourite, Annie Hall (1977), the film that marked a turning point in Allen's career, where he ventured away from the broad comedy of his first few films into something with a bit more substance. The result was an Oscar-winning romantic-comedy that is endlessly inventive and screamingly funny, yet never loses sight of the bittersweet love story at its centre. Allen didn't collect his Oscar, though, since the ceremony was on a Monday night and that was his regular night for playing with his jazz band in New York. Diane Keaton did collect hers and the fashion world was also rather taken with her tomboyish outfits in the film, meaning ties, vests and baggy pants became standard 1970s attire for many female fans. It's comic and serious, funny and sad, real and surreal. And brilliant.

"So it's getting pretty late, and I have to go, but it was great reminiscing over Woody's films again. And I... I realized what a terrific writer-director he was, and... and how much fun it was just watching his films. And I... I, I thought of that old joke, y'know? This... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, er, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about Woody Allen films; y'know, even though his recent films haven't been very good, and even though he kept playing the same type of character and the humour is kinda high-brow, I guess I keep going to see his movies because, uh, I....... need the eggs."

Speaking of eggs, here's a bonus Easter egg extra for making it to the end of the post : More Woody than you can shake a stick at, if you're not bored yet.

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