Friday, December 2, 2011

Directors: Woody Allen

Almost immediately after I posted my little survey thing, I got an email from a friend who is apparently a ginormous film snob, not to name any names (JAMES, ahem). I had no idea he was so particular. We talk about movies all of the time, (seriously, every conversation we have is about movies and nothing else) but he watches anything and everything, so when I got an email criticizing the directors I named (Rian Johnson, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola and Woody Allen) (He had nothing bad to say about Preston Sturges, for how can you ever have anything bad to say about Preston Sturges?*) I was pretty surprised.

He was actually mostly gobsmacked (my word, not his) that I didn't put down my "real favorites" Jacques Demy, Jean-Luc Godard, and Alfred Hitchcock. To which I say, why stop there? I respect a lot of directors. I kind of just arbitrarily chose five to name. AND maybe I wanted to seem less like the pretentious girl I am - so I chose fairly accessible directors. Not to be too defensive here, but I wrote that these are five directors whose movies I could watch all day long. It's not an exclusive list. (Truth be told, I wrote down the first five that came in to my head. Hitch would have been a way better choice than say, Rian Johnson with only two films so far.)

He mostly had issue with Woody Allen whom he deems totally overrated. I must argue that he is superbly prolific and diverse, and while I don't like everything he does, he's still cranking out a movie a year, after 40 years. To me that is amazing. He's an odd duck, for sure, but why not hear stories from all sorts of people?  Aside from particular movies, I love that Woody Allen has a particular signature. He always uses the same font for his credits (white windsor on a black screen) played over either a jazz standard or a classical piece. His neurotic little thumbprint is all over each movie, be it Bananas or Matchpoint. And, he's very funny. I am a fan.

So I made a chart in my journal to prepare for my argument discussion with this film snob** of titles that I loved, others not so much, and the ones I haven't seen. 

When you are in the mood for a comedy, watch Scoop or Sleeper. When you are in the market for a neurotic 'who dunnit' go for Manhattan Murder Mystery. If you just want to witness cinematic perfection go ahead and pop in Annie Hall, Radio Days, or Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

What do you think, do you love him or hate him? What's your favorite?

*Just don't watch The Great Moment -- snoozefest!
**Maybe I should say, "other film snob."


Brian said...

Radio Days for the win! It has such a unique, warm, nostalgic tone that just makes me smile - the trip to Radio City Music Hall to see The Philadelphia Story underscored by Sinatra singing "If You Are But a Dream" is one of the most magical moments in the cinema, in my opinion. I have a tradition of watching Radio Days every New Year's. Structurally I find it fascinating - many of the vignettes come about just because Woody happens to remember a particular song, creating a really loose, almost non-narrative quality that is more about how the memories feel rather than how they actually occurred. Plus it's got young Seth Green (love my Buffy actors) and Julie Kavner (so weird to hear Marge Simpson's voice coming out of a non-animated person).

Hannah and Her Sisters is a close second for me. I generally dislike the films where Woody's doing his full-on Ingmar Bergman imitation (Interiors and Another Woman - I'm looking at you), but Hannah has the perfect amount of Bergmaniness mixed in to give weight and pathos to the bittersweet comedy. And the scene where Woody and Diane Wiest walk and talk through the record store in a perfect unbroken take is another one of my favorite moments of the cinema.

And as for his purely silly pre-Annie Hall work, I'll take Love and Death. WHEAT!!!

molly said...

Maybe I need to rewatch Love & Death.

I just hated oh so much last time. But I LOVE Hannah and Her Sisters.