A group of friends are having dinner in a nice New York restaurant. Max (Larry Pine) writes tragedies. Sy (Wallace Shawn) writes romantic comedies. The two can’t seem to agree on which deserves to be taken more seriously as an art form or worldview, but hold on: What if tragedy and comedy were just two sides of the same coin? A friend tells them the story of Melinda Robicheaux (Radha Mitchell) and challenges them to tell him if it’s a tragedy or a comedy, but of course it all depends on your point of view. Continue reading
Bananas is a free state, you know apart from having a dictator. A group of revolutionaries with thick cigars and uniforms that look a lot like those of Fidel Castro and his buddies are trying to start a revolution. Meanwhile Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) a neurotic blue collar man living in New York City gets involved with a social activist (Louise Lasser) who wants to overthrow the cruel regime of Bananas. After they break up Mellish decides that it’s a good idea to take a trip to Bananas in the midst of the country’s crazy social upheaval. What happens next is all kinds of crazy and incoherent. Continue reading
1) What is The Front about?
The Front is a comedy/drama about the Hollywood blacklist during the age of live television. It stars Woody Allen as “America’s most unlikely hero” as the tagline for the film says, but it’s basically Woody playing his usual self. Only this time he didn’t write or direct the film, which is rare, so he just stars in it. Though if you look at the producers of this film those names should be familiar. Charles H. Joffe & Jack Rollins produced every Woody Allen film ever and are personal friends of his. Continue reading
Written, directed and starring John Turturro, Fading Gigolo premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. It’s one of those rare movies that stars Woody Allen, but isn’t his brainchild. Although, looking at this trailer Woody is pretty much playing his usual anxious and obnoxious Manhattan Jew character, that launched his career. Even some of his lines sound like something out of his movies. Continue reading
2013 is coming to an end. We’ve had some great movies. Some have not yet been released for wide audiences or in foreign territories. That always happens. So before I get into my most anticipated films of 2014, I’d like to mention the 2013 films that I’ll only get to see next year at this point. Some of these will be (or are already) available for my American friends by the end of the year, but not in sad and small Switzerland. Here it goes: Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness, Spike Jonze’s Her, Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius, Alexandre Payne’s Nebraska, Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best, Sono Sion’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. As you can tell from this list I base my anticipations for a film mostly on the director. Now then, let’s see what 2014 has in store for us. Continue reading
I finally made it: I got to see Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine! One of my most anticipated films of the year. It was my first time watching a Woody Allen film in a theater. I’ve only discovered this fantastic filmmaker in 2011 when I watched Midnight in Paris an experience I’ll never forget. So anyway, that was the highlight of my week, in terms of movies, but there were also two others I’d like to discuss.
Lust, Caution (2007) – 7 (IMDb 7.5) – War, Drama, Romance (Taiwan)
Ang Lee is one of those directors I should get more into. It seems that everyone loves his films and while I can certainly see why, for some reason I never really love them as much as everyone else. I can’t connect somehow. Lust, Caution is probably my favorite of his so far. I mainly checked it out because it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. To me there are three “authorities” when it comes to cinema: The Criterion Collection, Sight & Sound and the Venice Film Festival. I will literally believe and watch anything they praise. Continue reading
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) just lost everything. Her husband. Her son. Her possessions. So after a nervous breakdown she packs the last of her Chanel, Dior and Hermès pieces in her vintage Louis Vuitton luggage and flies all the way from New York to San Francisco. Her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) lives there. She is nice enough to take her in, even though Jasmine’s husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) gambled away all of her money on a dubious investment. Jasmine has hit rock bottom. When she married Hal she left school for him. Now she doesn’t have a degree or job experience. She is forced to take the first job that comes her way, in order to pay for go to computer school so that she can then study interior design online. Drowning her sorrows in cheap alcohol and prescription drugs only makes things worse. Nothing seems to be going right for her, until she meets a dashing and promising young fellow named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). To appear more desirable she lies to him about her past, but what if he found out what kind of person she really was? Continue reading
Ever since I watching Midnight in Paris in late November 2011 I have fallen in love with the films of Woody Allen. Since then I regularly sought out his films, watched them, re-watched them and I still haven’t seen every movie the guy has directed. His catalogue is seriously amazing. I haven’t seen a Woody Allen film I disliked or wouldn’t revisit. Even in his weaker films there’s still plenty to enjoy. This past week I only watched three movies, again, and two of them were Woody Allen films.
Why only three films, again? This time it’s because I watched a television show, which I rarely do. I saw that the first season of Lilyhammer was out and the premise sounded intriguing enough to me for some reason. The show is only eight episodes and it’s about an Italian American gangster who testifies against his new boss and then has to flee the country. The guy’s wacky enough to pick a godforsaken town in Norway instead of some tropical paradise, but that’s exactly what makes the show so enjoyable. I felt this weird attraction to Scandinavia myself and their culture and people fascinate me (at least as far movies are concerned).
The show starts out pretty great, but then becomes just this mafioso being all macho and shit. I mean he’s all right, but there are just so many coincidences and he’s always right and everyone one else is dumb (according to the writers anyway). I don’t like when a character “becomes” morality. If you’ve seen one or two Bud Spencer movies you’ll know what I mean. It’s when everything a character does is right and everything he doesn’t do or dislikes is wrong and he has no flaws. It’s really annoying. The show finale however manages to tie up everything somewhat nicely and the so-so/bad episodes are entertaining enough to sit through. Recommended with a grain of salt. Now on to some films!
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Hollywood Ending (2002) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Comedy, Romance (USA)
Written, directed and starring Woody Allen Hollywood Ending is a charming romantic comedy about a Hollywood director (played by Woody Allen) who tried to transition into art house, but became irrelevant. His ex-wife, married to a big studio executive, feels guilty for leaving him and decides to offer him the opportunity to direct a mid-size budget film about Manhattan. Left with basically no choice Allen’s character agrees to do the movie, but feeling too much pressure and blocked by his anxieties he becomes temporarily blind.
I love the premise of this film and its execution is very funny. The film seems to be autobiographical to some degree, then again most of Woody’s films are, and I’m just a sucker for any film that is about film. There’s a lot of commentary on the film industry and a lot of jokes that are still poignant and spot on even over a decade later. I was in need for a lighter, romantic film with Woody’s distinct tone and atmosphere this week and this one came at just the right time. An underrated and overlooked gem in Allen’s filmography.
La Dolce Vita (1960) – 10 (IMDb 8) – Comedy, Drama (Italy)
Everyone Says I Love You (1996) – 7 (IMDb 6.8) – Comedy, Romance, Musical (USA)
Musicals are generally not my thing, but this one was pretty great. It also helps that it makes fun of musicals a little bit, but in a loving way. Everyone Says I Love you is about a New York family and every family member’s romantic pursuits, but the film mostly focusses on Woody Allen’s character who’s trying to get over his ex-wife. He meets a beautiful woman in Venice and his daughter helps him get into her pants, thanks to the fact that she casually listened to all of her shrink sessions. The film is filled with musical numbers and even some choreographed dances, which however never distract from the story. Oddly enough they also don’t ruin the pacing or atmosphere, but rather help the film overall. I was quite surprised actually.
Also surprising is how good everyone sings. This film has a great cast and some of the actors aren’t exactly known for their singing abilities, but it’s great to hear them try and they’re all quite impressive, even Woody himself. The themes of the film are of course familiar territory for Allen, but the ending in Paris and all of the romantic moments really make this one of the sweetest and endearing Woody Allen films. The musical aspect is also great because, the numbers are so purposely exaggerated that you don’t even try to take them seriously or as part of the real story, but accept them as the inner state of the characters, as an expression of how they feel, rather than as a plot device, like most genre films would do. And that’s precisely why it all works so well.
Frances Haliday (Greta Gerwig) is a peppy 27-year-old dancer living in New York City with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). When her boyfriend Dan (Michael Esper) asks her to move in with him, she realizes that their relationship isn’t really working out. Later she finds out that Sophie is moving out of their apartment. With not enough money to live on her own in the City, she moves in with two male friends. Meanwhile her relationship with Sophie seems to be falling apart, one of her new roommates labels her as “undatable” and on top of that her job as a ballet teacher is on the line. Frances doesn’t really know what to do with her life. She goes back to her hometown to visit her parents. All around her people seem to be doing just fine, but even if things aren’t really working out for her at the moment, she keeps smiling and stays positive. Continue reading
Blue Jasmine wasn’t even released in Switzerland yet and already we get a peak at Woody Allen‘s next project. It’s called Magic in the Moonlight and it’s basically a romantic comedy set in 1920s and 1930s France. The film stars Emma Stone and Colin Firth in the lead roles. Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden and Jacki Weaver will co-star. It doesn’t look like Woody Allen himself will star in the film, which lately seems to be a good thing.
The film was shot by one of my favorite cinematographers, Darius Khondji, who has previously worked with Allen on Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love, both of which look amazing. Woody shot the period piece on location in southern France. At this point there aren’t any official plot details yet. All we know is that the story spans over two decades and that the film is set to be released on July 26, 2014 apparently, which seems weird because that’s a Saturday.