August 16, 2008

Woody Allen

In anticipation of Woody Allen’s latest film Vicky Christina Barcelona starring Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johanson, and Penelope Cruz, here is my beginner’s guide to the career of Woody Allen.

Before I begin let me say this: contrary to popular belief, his films in the nineties and two-thousands (do we have a working phrase for this decade yet?) DO NOT suck. He made some of his best work in the last 18 years.

He has made four virtually undisputed classics. They are, as follows:
Annie Hall (1977)

Manhattan (1979)

Hannah & Her Sisters (1986)

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

If you’ve never seen an Allen film, start with one of those. If you like those films, then here is my ranking of the rest of his films:

Top Tier (Masterpieces):
-Another Woman
-Husbands and Wives
-Match Point

Second Tier (Great Films/Classic Woody):
-Stardust Memories (I can’t decide. Maybe it’s a masterpiece. I dunno) -Anything Else (the most under-rated film in his canon)
-Deconstructing Harry
(my room-mate, the biggest Allen fan I know claims this is his best movie -so, there’s that)
-Manhattan Murder Mystery
-Radio Days

Third Tier (Allen Fans Will Love Them):
-Play It Again, Sam
-Melinda and Melinda
(a little clunky at the beginning, but once it gets going…)
-Bullets Over Broadway

-Love and Death

-Sweet and Lowdown
(Sean Penn's greatest performance?)
-Cassandra’s Dream
-Purple Rose of Cairo

-Broadway Danny Rose

(The “serious” one)
-Sleeper (the best of his early comedies)

Fourth Tier (They have good moments):
-Mighty Aphrodite

-Small Time Crooks
(The first half-hour is completely brilliant, and then it becomes mediocre) -Shadows and Fog

Avoid, unless you’ve just got to see everything he ever made:
-Hollywood Ending
-Curse of the Jade Scorpion

-A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy


-Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask


There’s still a handful I haven’t seen. Also, I didn’t include any that he wrote or starred in, but did not direct.

Any thoughts?


Leif Pederson said...

First, have you seen Scoop?

Second, I think they are doing like they did in the 1900s, and referring to it as the Aughts.

(Example: 2002 is Aught-Two.)

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Scoop: I've heard it's a mediocre effort, but have not seen it myself. Have you seen it?

Aughts, eh? Eight years in and I'm just finding this out now? Thanks.

Leif Pederson said...

I saw it with Joel. I thought it was okay, but definitely not one of my favorites.

Oh and I just heard the term used a couple of weeks ago, so I doubt it is very common knowledge.

jon said...

The aughts? I like it, but I've never heard it either. What do you do with "aught eight"?

Annie Hall and Crimes and Misdemeanors were amazing, but beyond that I'm fairly unschooled in Woody Allen. Thus this guide will be greatly helpful!

nathan davies said...

i think i could watch manhattan every day of my life and i would still love it. the movie is remarkable and my favourite of his by far. and i completely agree with you about anything else. i was blown away by the film.
i also just rented stardust memories from the library and am very excited to see it.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Yeah, Manhattan's my favourite too.

I saw Anything Else in Paris and I thought it was so good I went to it three times, and laughed harder with each viewing. Mind you, I was in a real Woody Allen phase then, so his humour was hitting me even harder than usual. But yeah, great picture.

Leif Pederson said...

I just bought Small Time Crooks (I've always been intrigued by the cover, and it was $2.00) and watched it tonight. I laughed so much until they started the franchise, and then I agree, it wasn't as good after that. I was halfway through when I started to wonder when it would end.

The first third of the movie, however, I laughed so hard I almost stopped breathing. For that I am glad I bought it.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

yeah, it's such a shame the movie dwindles after that explosive start.