Category: Woody Allen


What’s Up, Tiger Lily is technically Woody Allens directorial debut; although that is a stretch as he actually did very little directing. The film is highly unique in the strangest way possible. Essentially the film is a Japanese action film re-dubbed by Allen to be a comedy; the effect is very strange and has as many problems as it does good points.

Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 22.31.16

 

The story which Allen creates is a ridiculous spy plot involving a secret recipe for egg salad. Various characters chase after this recipe with a wide array of consequences which with the dubbing seem entirely nonsensical and I spent much of the film wondering what the plot could of really been before the dubbing.

 

Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 22.31.41

The dubbing itself is well done with characters speaking in time and the plot being mostly followable; random sequences where characters discuss using a moustache to eat a beard are quite hilarious although sparsely spread out. The film is a drag and considering its has a runtime of only 80 minutes feels much, much longer.

 

The film uses a good idea; but struggles to make it live up to what could be possible and is difficult to enjoy.

 

Story – 2/5

Style – 4/5

Technical – 3/5

Enjoyment – 2/5

 

Total: 11/20 = 5/10

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Woody Allen once more plays an exaggerated version of himself; this time portraying a filmmaker, Val Waxman, who is past he peak and is given a last change to make a name for himself. However production of the film becomes filled with problems such as a non-english speaking cameraman, an over-the-top set designer and the fact it is produced by his ex-wife! These problems add up leading to an extremely entertaining and over-the-top twist.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 12.17.22

THE GOOD

The twist of the story is by far the best part of this film. It is hard to discuss exactly what happens without producing a spoiler and therefore dare not say much.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 12.18.17

Allen is as usual the most interesting character and gets his satire spot on as he parodies the entire film industry and filmmaking process to a near perfect level; you can see that it is most likely based upon true stories that have happened to Allen over the years and that makes it all the more entertaining.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 12.18.45

THE BAD

The film although entertaining at points does span out slightly too long; many characters and scenes could be much shorter and more impactive and if I’m honest I have already begun to tire of Allen’s nihilistic character style.

ALLEN SCALE

The film scores 7.75 on the Allen scale with Jewish references being the main features missing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Hollywood Ending is an ok film that is however nothing special; it has an interesting story but does however drag out a little. I therefore give it 3 Woody’s allowing it a total of 7.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

This weeks film was entitled Melinda and Melinda and prior to watching I had not heard of it and made sure to avoid all research into it in order to give me a surprise.

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 23.58.49

WHAT HAPPENED?

The film explores the same story told in two contrasting ways in an exploration of whether comedy or tragedy makes for better storytelling.

THE GOOD

The film is interesting in terms of the story as you have the two narratives playing out simultaneously. The two are consistently referencing each other in both events and phrases used however contain two entirely different casts with the titular Melinda (Radha Mitchell) being the only character in each.

The premise of the film also works well and there are sporadic flashes of brilliance in the dialogue and certain events; the cast also performs well with Will Ferrell surprising in a slightly more serious role.

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 23.58.39

THE BAD

The film is let down by the fact that it is simply boring. After watching similar scenes repeated it doesn’t seem to move anywhere and feels very shallow; the two sections are also not different enough to truly impact an audience. The comedy is not funny enough and the tragedy not tragic meaning that both are very middle-of-the-road films.

ALLEN SCALE

The film scores a mid-way 5.75 on the Allen scale.

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 23.53.44

FINAL THOUGHTS

Although it has an interesting premise the film lacks any sort of depth and the two narratives remain too similar for it to truly function. I therefore award it 2 Woody’s giving it a total of five.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

This weeks film is one I have been looking forward to as I have previously read articles stating that ‘Match Point’ is one of Allen’s greatest films of recent years. However I have to say that I was ultimately disappointed as the film although not terrible does not match the greatness achieved in say Blue Jasmine.

THE PLOT

Chris Wilton (Johnathan Rhys Myers) is an ex-tennis pro who appears to have made it when he marries into a rich family. However an affair with a wannabe actress (Scarlett Johansson) who is engaged to his brother-in-law threatens to ruin everything with drastic consequences.

Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 15.42.01 

THE GOOD

As I said before the film is not brilliant; however there are several moments that shine. The consistent metaphors relating to tennis work wonderfully throughout and tie together the narrative in unexpected ways; however the film really doesn’t get going until the final half hour.

I presume that Allen was influenced by the ‘Hitchcock’ narrative once more in that most of the film is characterisation leading to dramatic consequences and I have to say this is done well. The characters may be a little lackustre (more on that in a minute) and despite not an awful lot happening for the opening hour and a half; the final thirty minutes is a tension filled thrilled that is truly astounding.

Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 15.42.35

THE BAD

The characters in the film lack depth and are simply annoying. Rhys Meyers character and all those with whom he speaks come across as upper-class ponces who seem a little pedantic; personally I found it odd that Allen would focus his narrative around such characters when these are the ones whom he normally uses for satire. This added to the slow narrative makes the film a drag. Scarlett Johansson performance does brighten things but ultimately even she lacks depth.

 

ALLEN SCALE

The film scores reasonably low on the Allen scale and is very untypical of what is to be expected from one of his films.


Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 15.38.24

FINAL THOUGHTS
Match Point is a disaapointing film with a fantastic ending that loses impertous because of a slow and tedious build up.

I therefore award it 2 Allens giving it a total of 5/10.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

 Scoop is another Woody Allen trip to the city of London; this time following the story an American journalist/student and a magician (played by Allen himself). The film is a great example of the bizarreness of Woody Allen films.

WHAT HAPPENED?

After being given a tip by a dead man, Sondra (Scarlett Johansson), a young journalism student, discovers the Scoop of the century and alongside the help of narcistic magician Sidney (Woody Allen) sets about investigating Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) the son of a lord.

THE GOOD

The film is a typical Woody Allen film on so many levels and brightened by the performance of Allen himself; in a typically Allen role. For me what makes the film so enjoyable is its bizarreness; much as he does in Midnight in Paris and Purple Rose of Cairo; Allen creates a perfectly realistic universe and then adds a totally unexplained & surreal element that is unexplained, unexpected and yet somehow makes total sense. Although the supernatural element does not occur as often as in other films it is this moment that captures interest in the audience and also drives the narrative forwards.


Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 19.28.58

This film balances a line between film-noir and comedy in a perfect manner; it never sinks as low as being a farcical parody yet it does not take itself too seriously. Whereas last weeks Cassandra’s Dream didn’t seem to no its tone this film does and sticks to its line near perfectly.  The best thing of the film is however Woody Allen’s performance. Allen simply does what he always does when he acts; he stammers and rambles on about death and Judaism; when you add in that his character is a magician and is constantly doing magic tricks the entire character is perfect.

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 19.29.43

THE BAD

Sadly, I think the film is let down by Scarlett Johansson’s performance; in this film she is playing a much more toned-down role than from what we are accustomed to from her. She is a student who rambles in an Allen-esque manner but there is just something unbelievable about her; especially when she has a romance with Hugh Jackman.

ALLEN FACTOR
The film is a typical Woody Allen film and scores highly on the Allen scale gaining 7.75/10 with the only aspect missing being a lack of real nostalgic references; although the plot focuses around aristocrats there are very few art and literature references (by Allen standards).

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 19.23.24

FINAL THOUGHTS

Scoop is a thoroughly entertaining film and therefore I award it four Woody which when added to the Allen scale give it a total of 8/10.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

This weeks film is a Woody Allen’s tribute to the master of suspense Hitchcock and is a film with an entirely different tone to any other film I have thus far seen.

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell) are a couple of brothers stuck in dead-end lives who dream of better things. With Terry finding himself in large gambling debt and Ian offered a great investment opportunity they are forced to turn to their rich Uncle (Tom Wilkinson) who offers them they money they desire if they complete a deadly task for him.

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 23.22.59

THE GOOD

Watching the film it felt very un-Woody. Many of the attributes and characters which I have come to relate to an Allen where missing – the film is not reliant on character and dialogue as so many are and is instead driven by an actual narrative. This although not brilliant was a little refreshing as the film plays out, however I am unsure if it is a good thing.

When watching the film whilst I was not bored I did not feel fully involved and am still unsure if I enjoyed it or not. It is definitely a film that I will never go out of my way to watch.

THE BAD

The film does have several points that are not good. Firstly I found that the Hitchcockian imitation which Allen attempts in terms of style felt extremely dated (with the story set in the current day) and made the characters difficult to like. The moments in which tension should have been created – and would have in a Hitchcock film – did not hit their marks thus making the film stretch out a little.

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 23.23.57

The other bad thing in this film was the performances (particularly that of Ewan McGregor). Whilst I usually like McGregor in general; in this film he pushed the line of being obviously ‘acting’ too far that his character felt fake; as if he was reading lines and carrying out rehearsed actions. This was very distracting especially in some of the longer takes where his presence was needed. The team up of McGregor and Allen was one of the things that excited me for the film and was ultimately my biggest disappointment.

 

ALLEN SCALE

As I said this film was particularly un-Woody and therefore scores just 3.75 on the Allen Scale.

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 23.18.19

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cassandra’s dream is a film which is difficult to judge I therefore award it 3 Woody’s; giving it a total of five.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

This weeks film showcases Woody Allen’s love affair with Spain and Spanish cinema as he visits the city of Barcelona in a film adopting the style of typical Spanish films.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are two friends visiting Barcelona for the summer. Vicky is uptight, organised and soon to be married, whereas Cristina is much more of a free spirit. When they both fall for the charming artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) a complex series of love affairs begin.

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 10.39.46
THE GOOD

The film begins in a style that is typical of a Spanish film; with the two main characters sitting in the car whilst an extremely detailed voiceover explains intimate details about who they are. This voiceover continues throughout and is a nice comic touch whilst also helping explain exactly what the characters are thinking.

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 10.40.40

The story is also extremely interesting and unpredictable with several twists and turns; just as it appears to be reaching a point of predictability their will be a dramatic twist that will change everything. This makes the film seem fresh and interesting. The plot also allows Allen a lot of freedom to explore Spanish society; with Vicky studying Catalan history and Cristina being a budding photographer there are countless opportunities for Barcelona’s museums and culture to be referenced.

The most interesting part of the film by far though is the contrast between the two lead females. Both characters are written and performed excellently and seem to be the antithesis of each other; yet somehow remain friends. It is their differences that drive the film forward and make it what could be described as a ‘masterpeice’ (although I throw that word out lightly as Allen has done better work).

THE BAD

There is very little wrong with this film as it is well paced, full of interesting characters and carries just enough wit to make the drama more impactive.

ALLEN SCALE
The film contains most Woody Allen traits and therefore scores 7/10 on the Allen Scale.

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 10.15.13

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona is a wonderful film which delights and pleases throughout; I therefore award it 5 stars giving it a total score of 9 when added to that of the Allen scale.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

 

Whilst in previous weeks we have seen Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Wilson take on the typical Woody Allen role; this weeks film seems the same of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Boris (Larry David); a divorced, pessimistic and hypochondriatic genius, discovers his life to be more fulfilled when he meets a young country girl (Evan Rachel Wood).

THE GOOD

This film is one of the strange ones where it should be good… it just isn’t. The script is well written and witty with several twists that on paper seem hilarious; however something (see ‘The Bad’ section) just doesn’t work.

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 21.34.27

The film is very odd and a little experimental; for example the opening scene breaks the fourth wall oddly with all of the characters discussing the audience which is in itself entertaining albeit feeling a little dated.

THE BAD

My main problem with the film is the lead performance. Woody Allen films never have fantastic special effects or camerawork; they are constantly performance driven pieces of cinema and Larry David really lacks the personality to pull of the lead role. Now don’t get me wrong I am a huge David fan and love Curb/Seinfeld and think he is amazingly funny; however Curb is generally filmed in an ad-lib style so the performance is very improvised. This is contrasted by the fact he has obviously been given a script and been asked to play a character which is beyond his capabilities; as the film plays out it seems as if David is reading lines and the entire effect is that of a rehearsed performance. This makes the film go slowly as some of the dialogue heavy scenes play on for what seems like an eternity.

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 21.34.40

ALLEN SCALE

This film scores highly in most the categories on the Allen scale and it is worth noting it is the first film to be set in New York.

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 21.18.54

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whatever Works is a thoroughly disappointing film which is let down by an uninspired lead performance.

1 Woody… giving a total of 5 when the Allen Scale is included.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody

 

 

 

 

Week 2 of the reverse-order challenge is Woody’s second film set in the lovely city of Rome.

WHAT HAPPENED?

To Rome With Love has a star-studded cast (including Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz and Allen himself) playing a variety of characters in four separate comedy stories. Each storyline is unique and completed unconnected – apart from being set in Rome – and to give you a summary of each would not only be tedious to write but would also ruin the films enjoyment as the unpredictably is part of the films charm.

THE GOOD

The film is an out and out comedy and generally achieves its aim at making an audience laugh. In the well-written screenplay there are moments to please any comic taste with it switching from slapstick satire to darkly humouress nostalgia and back.

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 20.10.20

Each of the stories something unique however for me it is the story of two newly-wed lovers which I found most enjoyable. As both members of the couple fall into the path of adulterous temptation; scenes from this storyline begin to play out like something from a Noel Coward play. This had hilarious results that are truly fantastic.

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 20.09.20

The performances of all the cast members (both the stars and the relative unknowns) however it has to be Allen’s own performance which stands out; as he does the usual of playing himself. His part is small and hilarious and as his character prattles on about his fear of retirement and death; it is hard not to feel as if these are Allen’s thoughts on his real-life career rather than the one of his character.

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 20.08.43

The storylines intertwine well and are tied together by a bouncy musical score which sums up the tone of the film entirely; and also the tone of life in Rome itself.

THE BAD

For all its enjoyability and funniness this film is lacking in any sort of depth. There are so many characters that they do not quite have enough screentime to become developed and are consequently more caricatures than anything. This helps with the comedy however also makes them forgettable.

The storylines are also disparate at times that the pacing of the film suffers; as the style switches from one genre to another. This makes the film a little bit of mess (as can be expected from this sort of film).

ALLEN SCALE

The film does relatively well on the Allen score. I elected to only give a quarter point for acting as Allen only appears in one of the four storylines.

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 20.05.33

FINAL THOUGHTS

To Rome With Love is a good bit of fluffy cinema; a comedy that you could watch easily and enjoy. However the entire film does feel utterly forgettable and come the end of this challenge I doubt it will be one of the first films that springs to my mind. I therefore award the film 3 out 5 which when added to the score from the Allen scale gives this film an overall of 6 Woody’s.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody


So after a brief hiatus following my David Lynch challenge I’ve begun my next challenge, which is to watch ever Woody Allen film in reverse order (just for a change). As Woody does not always act, write and direct his films I’ve decided to go for films in which he is credited in two of three roles to give me a wider range of films to watch whilst making sure that each film is a Woody Allen picture. The first week’s film was the recently released Blue Jasmine.

CN_BlueJasmine_0

WHAT HAPPENED?

Blue Jasmine follows Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) a lady who married rich and enjoyed a life of money and no work. When she loses everything she begins to suffer from depression and mental illness and is forced to move in with her adoptive sister (Sally Hawkins) on the poor side of San Francisco; something which both girls struggle to adapt to.

THE GOOD

The film is a delight to watch as it portrays the story in a unique and interesting way. It is cleverly written in that very little back story is explained yet it is instantly obvious what has happened. It is a strange balance of being completely unpredictable yet also predictable at the same time; which is something rare in a modern film.

imgres-1

The actors in the film are all cast perfectly and portray their characters exactly as you can imagine them being written; the stand out being Cate Blanchetts descent into craziness and Alec Baldwin (essentially playing an exaggerated persona of himself).

There are many comic moments in the film that balance out the drama and it is amazing how in one scene Allen can shift the perception of a character in one scene; turning a nice character into an evil one and back within just a few minutes of screen times.

imgres

THE BAD

Watching the film and thinking of it now, I honestly struggle to name an aspect which I didn’t enjoy… it was well paced, scripted and performed with the only negative point I could come up with being that at times it was unclear whether certain scenes where dark comedy or pure drama.

Watching the film in a cinema there where several scenes that got members of the audience (myself included) laughing; whilst other people (the friend I was with) acted much more seriously. Discussion after the film led me to believe that it was written purposefully in each way and cannot be defined as a bad point.

ALLEN SCALE

As a new feature I’ve decided to create a little scale to register the quality of the film based on Allen trademarks. The table below shows 10 characteristics typically seen in one of his films and a score is made for each. This total will be halved and added to my personal score to give each film a score out of 10.


Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 11.58.43

FINAL THOUGHTS

Many people dub this film Woody Allen’s best in years and whilst I do not fully agree (being a huge fan of Midnight in Paris); it is an astounding piece of cinema which must be given five Woodys. Which when added to the Allen score of 2.25 (rounded down to 2) gives the film a score of 7 Woody’s.

Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody Woody