Monday, May 16, 2011

Celebrating Woody Allen's 42nd Feature

Woody Allen's latest film, Midnight in Paris, opened the Cannes Film Festival to favorable, it not ravishing reviews which is nearly enough to pose the idea that the film, which opens in limited engagements this week might be an above-average endeavor from America's most celebrated screenwriter.
Looking back on his past:
  • What's Up, Tiger Lily (1966)
  • Take the Money and Run (1969)- first WGA nomination
  • Bananas (1971)- first film to feature Allen favorite Louise Lasser; 2nd WGA nomination
  • Everything You Ever Want to Know About Sex But Were to Afraid to Ask (1972)
  • Sleeper (1973)- first to feature Diane Keaton; 3rd WGA nomination
  • Love & Death (1975)
  • Annie Hall (1977)- landmark and treasure; first Oscar nomination (won for directing and writing, also nominated for acting); 4th WGA nomination and 1st win
  • Interiors (1978)- 5th Oscar nomination; 5th WGA nomination
  • Manhattan (1979)- second landmark and even more glorious treasure; 6th Oscar nomination; 6th WGA nomination.  Meryl Streep played his bitter lesbian ex-wife in her year of discovery.
  • Stardust Memories (1980)- the 80s began a year of self reflection of Woody Allen-- a mixed bag critically, but perhaps even looser and more inventive than his landmark 70s achievements; 7th WGA nomination.
  • A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)- first to feature Mia Farrow, who received a Razzie Nomination for Worst Actress; sigh!
  • Zelig (1983)- 8th WGA nomination.
  • Broadway Danny Rose (1984)- two more Oscar nominations (8); 9th WGA nomination and 2nd win.
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)- landmark and treasure featuring Jeff Daniels single greatest performance; 9th Oscar nomination and 10th WGA nomination.
  • Hannah & Her Sisters (1986)- cinematic treasure; 3rd Oscar win and 10th nomination; 11th WGA nomination and 3rd win.
  • Radio Days (1987)- 11th Oscar nomination; 12th WGA nomination.
  • September (1987)
  • Another Woman (1988)- featured Gena Rowlands.
  • New York Stories (1989)
  • Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989)- earned two Oscar nominations (13), 13th WGA nomination and 4th win.  Martin Landau won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  • Alice (1990)- 14th Oscar nomination; 14th WGA nomination.
  • Shadows & Fog (1991)- co-starred Madonna, securing Allen's reputation as an auteur with the ability to get anybody to appear in his films.
  • Husbands & Wives (1992)- landmark and treasure and the last to feature Mia Farrow for obvious reasons; earned his 15th Oscar nomination and 15th WGA nomination. How Judy Davis (nominated for Best Supporting Actress) lost the Oscar is one of the Academy's greatest travesties.
  • Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)- a nifty, if slight re-teaming with Keaton
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)- landmark and treasure; two more Oscar nominations (17), one more WGA nomination (16); Dianne Wiest deservedly won her second Oscar here-- her first win was for Hannah & Her Sisters, cementing Allen as won the top directors for Oscar-winning performances.
  • Mighty Aphrodite (1995)- 18th Oscar nomination; 17th WGA nomination; Mira Sorvino won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her flightly hooker portrayal.
  • Everyone Says I Love You (1996)- This movie always makes me smile.
  • Deconstructing Harry (1997)- Divisive, but good film (his third best of 90s after Bullets Over Broadway and Husbands & Wives), earned his 19th Oscar nomination.
  • Celebrity (1998)- Awful film that swerved a downhill spiral to this point on unfortunately.
  • Sweet & Lowdown (1999)- Venerable showman preserved good will just a year later, featured Oscar nominated performances from Sean Penn and Samantha Morton.
  • Small Time Crooks (2000)- Featured Tracy Ullman.
  • The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
  • Hollywood Ending (2002)- First of his films to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Anything Else (2003)
  • Melinda & Melinda (2005)- Far from great, but Radha Mitchell's performance is a delight.
  • Match Point (2005)- Landmark and treasure- second Allen film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, first to feature Scarlet Johansson; earned his 20th Oscar nomination.
  • Scoop (2005)
  • Cassandra's Dream (2008)
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)- Perhaps minor, but a welcome modern Allen film; 3rd to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival; Penelope Cruz won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar; Allen earned his 18th WGA nomination.
  • Whatever Works (2009)- Dreadful film, but Patricia Clarkson is awesome.
  • You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)- Dreadful as well; 4th to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
For nearly four decades Woody Allen has brought a film every year, and while it's always difficult being a Woody-booster, one always has the hope and neurotic desire that the next one will be a classic.  He's already prepping his latest film, another European odyssey, set in Italy with Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg and Roberto Benigni called Bop Decameron.  As a follower, I suppose I'll be there next year.  In whatever form, it's undeniable that Woody Allen hasn't changed the cinematic landscape, or that romantic comedies could ever be the same without his influence.  Perhaps never before was they're ever an a more clearly defined version of the neurotic male psyche ever put to screen.  Yes, very Jewish, and nearly always divisive, but think of an American movie universe without Woody Allen...doesn't exist.

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