Woody Allen made a handful of masterpieces, and most the rest of them are really good as well. Even his weaker stuff is interesting to me, or has some degree of fun or interest, even if he does get annoying sometimes. He's about as funny and good as everyone says he is.
What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) -- Worth watching once if you're a Woody Allen fan, and worth seeing once if you're a buff of "making fun of movies" movies. Not incredibly funny, but often funny enough. The best thing was probably seeing The Lovin' Spoonful in a Japanese spy movie.
Take the Money and Run (1969) -- Sometimes slow, but not very often. Mostly this is a good gag movie... even when it becomes surprisingly grim for a time during the chain gang sequences. One of the most straightforwardly funny Woody Allen movies.
Bananas (1971) -- Pretty funny stuff, but most especially when the movie is working as a collection of "skits" rather than worrying with the overall plot. For example: the Howard Coselle opening by itself works perfectly well.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask) (1972) -- A pretty cute, segmented film, the best segments being "Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching Orgasm?," "What Are Sex Researchers Actually Accomplishing?," and "What Happens During Ejaculation?" Pretty funny stuff.
Sleeper (1973) -- Pretty good sci-fi parody that's best when doing slapstick and dumb jokes about the future (and the present) and worst (but not bad) when it's simply a romantic comedy.
Love and Death (1975) -- Nothing's more funny than, you know, Ingmar Bergman and Dostoyevsky. Actually, this is a funny movie, even if (or because) it's an intellectual one.
Annie Hall (1977) -- An excellent comedy, and always funny even when making you think. Woody Allen never lets up in the movie, always surprising you with one comedy trick or another (talking to people on the streets, jumping into cartoons, doing split screens, etc.). The self-analysis barely gets annoying (only for a few seconds at a time), and the rest of the while it's great and fun and smart and all that everyone says about Woody Allen.
Interiors (1978) -- A great, moody piece, and one of my favorite Woody Allen movies. Sure, it's got characters that are kind of stupid, too serious about their "art" and that kind of thing, but Woody Allen treats it here not just as an annoyance or something to be mocked (as he did in Annie Hall and others), but as a serious disease--or at least as a product of a diseased mind. In addition to winning points for the deliberate and artful way the movie is shot and its spooky pale set design, he also gets little things right like having all the women in the family actually look alike. This is apparently the Woody Allen movie that splits his fans down the middle, but I'm on the side of really liking it.
Manhattan (1979) -- Any movie filmed in black and white is going to look a little more somber than a color one, and this is more somber, but still very funny in spite of it being less light-hearted than something like Annie Hall. A great story movie, where characters are pushed into uncomfortable places where they are forced to do something which is wonderful to watch.
Zelig (1983) -- A funny mockumentary made before mockumentaries were incredibly common, and still one of the better ones. The effects used in the movie are more seamless than those in Forrest Gump, another movie that inserted a modern actor into archive footage. (Zelig didn't make the mistake of giving historical figures a Clutch Cargo mouth.) The "deeper" stuff in the movie about conformity, individuality, etc. is undercut by the movie itself, with modern commentators who analyze the implications of Zelig's character--allowing the movie to be more purely funn
Broadway Danny Rose (1984) -- A pretty cute black and white comedy with a likeable Woody character.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) -- In a lesser movie, I might have been uncomfortably conscious that I was watching two stories, or that the meeting Allen and Landau at the end was too "pat," but not in this movie. Often funny and always excellent.
Shadows and Fog (1991) -- A sort of noir, with all the existential questions and Kafka themes that go along with it (and a dose of Fellini)... oh, but it's funny. Be on the lookout for William H. Macey and John C. Reilly in mini-roles.
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) -- A fun movie, and somewhat of an actual mystery, if you like mysteries. Even though I don't much like Diane Keaton in general, she seems to eventually win me over in Woody Allen movies.
Bullets Over Broadway (1994) -- This is the first Woody Allen movie I saw without Woody Allen in it, and it was a little weird to watch John Cusack doing his Woody impression the entire movie (does Woody Allen tell the actors to do that? he also seems to get all the women in girlfriend/wife roles to act the same). Not weird in a bad way, just weird. The movie itself takes a while to get going. The first thirty or more minutes is another one of those parodies of artists who take themselves too seriously, over-dramatic actors, etc. It picks up when the real plot of Cheech rewriting the play begins and remains interesting from then on.
Mighty Aphrodite (1995) -- Mira Sorvino is about as great as everyone says she is (I like her in other movies just as well or better--she's a goodun). This movie seems oddly like a 70s movie from Woody Allen, especially the way he uses (and directs) the Greek Chorus.
Everyone Says I Love You (1996) -- I saw this entirely because Edward Norton was in it, and it was the first Woody Allen movie I'd ever seen (believe it or not). It was a funny little take on musicals without only being that.
Deconstructing Harry (1997) -- One of the better latter Woody Allen movies, the only things really wrong with this one is (a) that it suffers from the same problem that most movies about writers (or other artists) do: they just kind of depict them wrong, even from Woody Allen who's a writer himself (sort of) and (b) that it "explains" itself too much, especially since it needs no explanation. But good, and with more of a bite than of late.
Celebrity (1998) -- Kenneth Branagh does a Woody Allen impression (does Woody tell his leads to do that?) and presents us with a really unlikable character--which at least gets "judged" by the end of the movie while the more likable ex-wife gets "rewarded." A hodge-podge of stuff, but an entertaining one.
Small Time Crooks (2000) -- Not the same kind of greatness Woody Allen has done (lots of it just feels like a dumb family comedy), but not a bad little cute and funny movie.
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) -- Not a bad little comedy. Kinda cute. Nothing special if you're expecting the past greatness of Woody Allen, but fun enough if you forget it's by him.
Hollywood Ending (2002) -- Not a lot of folks liked this one, but maybe they were expecting too much. It's a pretty funny movie with a funny premise.
Anything Else (2003) -- Normally-good Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci are all but unwatchable in this movie. In doing the Woody Allen thing, they look like horrible actors. Lots of this movie looks like a high school stage performance. It's refreshing when Danny De Vito or Stockard Channing (or Woody Allen himself) appear on the screen, but that's not often enough. Not only is the acting bad, but Woody Allen has written two of the most unlikable characters he's ever done. Neurosis is fine, but these people are just horrible; they're not fun to spend a day with. One of Woody's worst.
Melinda and Melinda (2004) -- A decent concept, telling the same story as a drama and a comedy. The problem is that it's neither dramatic nor funny, just annoying. You find yourself watching with amazement that Will Ferrel is on the screen and you're not even grinning one bit. Good thing Woody reinvented himself somewhat with the next one.
Match Point (2005) -- Woody Allen should make the rest of his movies in England, since apparently British actors and accents really work for him. Something about the instant charm of everyone drowns out what is sometimes annoying about Woody Allen, and only rarely does his sort of dialogue and mannerism come through. It makes you feel like you're not watching a Woody Allen movie, but that's a good thing--not because Woody Allen isn't good, but because, you know, you don't want to see even the same good thing over and over for forty years. There are a few moments of "huh?" like when Scarlett Johansson's character is introduced as a sexy "maneater" (only later to discover she's the most vulnerable character in the movie) or some of the last thirty minutes in which the movie goes into another direction when it was doing just fine in its first direction, but for the most part things work out great, the movie is nice and wicked, and it's Woody's best in years.
Copyright (c) Aug 2001 - Apr 2008 by Rusty Likes Movies