Allan Stewart Konigsberg alias Woody Allen is one of the most prolific and consistently interesting filmmakers. I can’t praise him enough. He’s one of my favorite filmmakers and he continues to surprise audiences, by putting out a new film every year since the 1970s. Even if critics don’t always like his efforts, he consistently makes the films he wants to make. Lately he proved that he still got it with Midnight in Paris and now it looks like his newest film, Blue Jasmine is getting mostly positive reviews as well, which makes me happy.
To celebrate the release of his new drama, coming out in theaters this very friday, I wanted to recommend my five favorite Woody Allen films. This list can be especially helpful if you’re looking to get into his sizable filmography. Since I am so in love with all of his films, and wouldn’t say he’s made one that I dislike, it’s hard for me to pick one over the other, but I’ll try my best.
5. Annie Hall (1977)
It’s Woody’s smash hit. This catapulted him into international stardom, and rightfully so. This is a great picture, it won Best Picture, again: Deservedly so. The film is a romantic comedy starring Woody Allen himself and his first muse Diane Keaton. It’s about Woody’s character trying to figure out why his relationship with Annie Hall didn’t work out. Some very innovating filming techniques and narrative styles. Woody breaks the “fourth wall” several times, speaking directly to the camera. How could you not like this film?
4. Interiors (1978)
A rather depressing film for a director known for his comedic chops, but I love Interiors. It’s as close as Woody will ever get to Michelangelo Antonioni, in fact he uses the same cinematographer that worked on Red Desert, but of course there’s a bit of an Ingmar Bergman feel too. The film is about three sisters dealing with the separation of their parents. This is Allen’s first foray into drama and I would say it’s his best “serious” film. Great nuanced performances by all the actors involved and I especially like Diane Keaton in this one.
3. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Aside from comedy, Woody has always had a passion for fantasy as well, but not that dragons and wizards shit. It’s always something grounded in “reality”. In The Purple Rose of Cairo Mia Farrow’s character falls in love with a movie character that literally comes out of the movie. Set in New York in the 1930s this is a nostalgic and romantic film, with a bittersweet ending. It’s one of my favorite films, because it comments on film as a storytelling medium and as a cultural phenomenon. It’s also one of the best instances of Woody mixing melancholic and comedic tones.
2. Whatever Works (2009)
I know I should be picking one of his classics, but I have to be honest here and I think this is one of his most underrated films. It looks as though the script is something he re-hashed, but I like it nonetheless. It’s not one of his best, but certainly one of Woody’s funniest and probably most ‘expositive’ of his “life philosophy” which is basically the title of the film itself. On a personal level this film reminded me a little bit of Lolita, and maybe he didn’t even intend to reference it. Larry David is good in this, but my favorite part is Evan Rachel Wood, she is just to die for and a good actress of course.
1. Midnight in Paris (2011)
I know I always talk about this one, but it’s probably my favorite of his at this point and the Woody Allen film that got me to watch almost all of his movies. I should however revisit his classics, because now that I know and understand his style better I’m sure I’ll appreciate them even more. Midnight in Paris is about a writer (Owen Wilson) who wants his work to be more respected. He is on holiday in Paris with his fiancé he finds a spot where every night at midnight a car stops by and he is transported to the 1920s, where he meets all of his literary heroes. Almost like an Alice in Wonderland, he is able to work out his real life problems in the fantasy world. Won best original screenplay, well deserved and certainly one I’ll keep re-watching.
If you want to know more about Woody Allen I also recommend the excellent Woody Allen: A Documentary. A documentary on Woody as a person and an artist. In conclusion: What are your favorite Woody Allen films?
Now on to the good part. Literally. Oh, and there’s quite a few to discuss.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Man of Steel (2013) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.8) – Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (USA)
Under The Tuscan Sun (2002) – 7 (IMDb 6.6) – Comedy, Romance, Drama (USA)
This little ‘romcom’ starring Diane Lane looking for love in the lush Italian countryside is a charming little film. It has just about the right amount of everything: Comedy, romance and drama. It manages to pay homage to our greatest filmmaker Federico Fellini (or Fe’Fe’, as the only annoying character in this film calls him). Raoul Bova, our own movie star, shows up in the part of the clichéd heartthrob (I’d call him a douche bag, but hey). It’s a hopeful, sweet film. Above average for this kind of film, like way better than something like Letters to Juliet. The best part is definitely Diane Lane and the gorgeous scenery (is there a difference?). It is a bit expected and kind of predictable, but still a fun time: Especially the first two acts. I laughed, I cried. Recommended.
3-Iron (2004) – 9.5 (IMDb 8) – Crime, Drama, Romance (South Korea)
Unfaithful (2002) – 7 (IMDb 6.6) – Drama, Romance, Thriller (USA)
Another Diane Lane film, I was kind of on a kick after loving her in Man of Steel so much, that woman has aged better than any Hollywood actress. Anyway, Unfaithful is, you guessed it, about a woman betraying her husband. The interesting thing is how she doesn’t seem to have any apparent reason to do so. He seems to love her, they have a kid, everything is fine in little suburbia. However, humans always want something more. We’re never happy! Damn us. But seriously, this is a good drama, because it shows how cheating on your partner causes pain for everyone involved. Here they take it one step further, no spoilers, but it’s a good film, because most films would stop at showing us the sexy part of cheating (and there is a bit of that), but here they also wanted to show the regret and that’s an ugly feeling. Not many filmmakers have had the guts to go this deep, I applaud this film for trying something new although it is a bit preachy now that I think of it. Still a good film especially if you like Diane Lane and Richard Gere.
Play It Again, Sam (1972) – 7 (IMDb 7.6) – Comedy, Romance (USA)
Play It Again, Sam was only written by Woody Allen and directed by some other guy, but who are we kidding: This is very much a Woody Allen film. He co-stars in it with his muse Diane Keaton and it’s very much his sense of humor and a typical story exploring the same topics Woody has explored throughout his career: Love, art and death. Actually, there isn’t much talk of death in this film, but still. Short plot summary: After Sam (Woody Allen) is left by his wife his friends push him back into dating, but no woman seems good enough for him. Ironically, it turns out that the woman trying to set him up is the woman he wanted all along (Diane Keaton’s character), but of course she is married to his best friend (Tony Roberts). Throughout a series of gags and screwball/slapstick humor Woody Allen is trying to figure out how to be a man, with the help of his imaginary friend Humphrey Bogart.
That’s it for my weekly re-cap this week. If you have films you want to recommend, go ahead. If not, see you next week. Bye!
Woody Allen is one of the most important and prolific filmmakers working today. His movies mostly revolve around the grand subjects of Life, Love and Art. Even when he puts out a sub par film, he is still interesting to watch: “There’s always something about them”, like Martin Scorsese himself puts it.
The documentary opens with Woody Allen’s trademark title names; written in the iconic Windsor font, with playful jazz music in the background accompanying images of Brooklyn shot à la Midnight in Paris. Next up are a series of interviews, alternated to scenes from Woody’s films. The filmmakers managed to interview Woody’s mother, his sister and manager and of course Woody himself, while also showing us opinions from actresses and actors that starred in his movies, mainly Diane Keaton (his first muse). His long time collaborators and producers also voice their opinion, mostly praise, and there’s even a priest.