Posts Tagged ‘Woody Allen’

Manhattan – Not the One I Know, Woody

Posted 31 Jul 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Manhattan, USA, 1979

Directed by Woody Allen

Manhattan is beautifully shot an well-acted, but also pretentious and self-absorbed. In the interest of returning this site to our original mission statement of “Movies I Didn’t Get,” I am now going to take on a film that is generally considered to be something of a sacred cow. I have had a long and tumultuous relationship with the films of Woody Allen, partly because, even more than the average artist, his personal life is so very intertwined with his work. Even when not playing the lead character himself, as he so frequently does, Woody’s protagonists are generally thinly veiled (or not at all veiled, as he says in the underrated 1997 film Deconstructing Harry) versions of himself, and the stories he tells are often segments of his own life story. At his best (Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, Hannah and Her Sisters), he produces smart, funny, insightful work that truly captures the human condition in a universal way. At his worst (Celebrity, the dreadfully overrated Midnight in Paris), his work can be insufferably self-absorbed and pretentious. Though the critical establishment would appear to strongly disagree with me on this, I find Woody’s 1979 “masterpiece” Manhattan to be mostly in this latter camp.  Read More

Midnight In Paris – Casts A Weak Spell

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Midnight in Paris, Spain / USA, 2011

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

Midnight in Paris is the epitome of a lowbrow-highbrow movie, a film that makes its audience feel smart without ever actually being challenging or unpredictable. Woody Allen’s latest love letter to his favorite European city is the epitome of a lowbrow-highbrow movie, a film that makes its audience feel smart without ever actually being challenging or unpredictable. It starts out promisingly enough, with a gorgeous montage of Paris locales courtesy of the great cinematographer Darius Khondji (The City of Lost Children, Se7en) and a whimsical, mood-setting score by Stephane Wrembel, who previously contributed music to Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Then, over the trademark Woody Allen credits on a black screen, the talking begins, and the film’s problems along with it.  Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Films Of 2011

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Artist is a relentlessly entertaining love letter to silent film and cinema in general. Well, it’s that time once again, and as always, I didn’t get around to a lot of the films I would have liked to see – as I write this, a DVD of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris sits on my desk, glaring at me – but there comes a time when every movie lover has to call it a year. I have somewhat arbitrarily picked today as that time, so here now are my top 10 favorite films of 2011:


# 10) MELANCHOLIAanyone with whom I talk movies already knows how much I love Lars von Trier, and though this is definitely not my favorite of his films (2003’s Dogville still takes that honor), it is nonetheless a striking and powerful depiction of the nature of depression, as well as a highly unusual and compelling look at what the impending apocalypse might feel like. The stunning opening and closing sequences alone make this film impossible to ignore, or to forget.  Read More

Please Give

Posted 06 Aug 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Please Give, USA, 2010

Written and Directed by Nicole Holofcener

Please Give is a darkly sweet comedy about the destructive and oddly uplifting power of guilt - and, subsequently, what it does to a person.When Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson), the novelist main character in As Good as It Gets (1997) is asked “How do you write such great women?” he responds, “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” Nicole Holofcener didn’t take that advice, and she’s probably the best writer of women in Hollywood, behind the indelible Woody Allen, that is; I don’t think anyone can top him, but, as he’s in a class of his own (it can be said that Woody writes Woody’s women well, and that’s it), Holofcener might be the best in the game. For a further example, seek out Lovely & Amazing, her first feature from 2001, also starring Catherine Keener. Please Give and Lovely & Amazing aren’t too similar in content, but the aftertaste is the same; you’ve just witnessed something daring and tangible, something more exciting than most things studios push out these days. Please Give is a darkly sweet comedy about the destructive and oddly uplifting power of guilt and, subsequently, what it does to a person. Or, rather, a group of people.

Kate (Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) live an interesting life; they’re essentially ambulance chasers, but in the antique business. They run a local furniture shop and get their goods collecting from the children of the recently dead. Kate is a woman with a warped sense of guilt; she gives seemingly large amounts of money to the homeless and does her best to volunteer for charities. Nothing seems to help, especially because she’s married to the charmingly goofy Alex, who treats her like a partner in everything. Nothing seems to be enough for her. They live next door to a cantankerous old woman named Andra (Ann Guilbert) who is pushing 90 and who hates just about everything in everything she sees. She’s cared for by her two granddaughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet), who have their own reservations, either because of prior plans or their own dispositions. Mary can’t stand the old woman, and Rebecca wouldn’t know who to care for without her. Sarah Steele plays Kate and Alex’s teenage witch, Abby. Read More

Absolute Corruption – Three Films About Power

Posted 29 Jul 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead

Citizen Kane has been widely cited as the greatest American film ever made. Citizen Kane, USA, 1941

Directed by Orson Welles

Scarface, USA, 1932

Directed by Howard Hawks

Beauty and the Beast, France, 1946

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Never before or since has any director made such an impressive feature film debut as Orson Welles did, at the astonishing age of 25, with Citizen Kane (1941). Despite having no prior experience in filmmaking, Welles was given carte blanche on the film, and he delivered the most original, innovative and provocative film of its time. Even today it is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it is a standard by which all other films are judged. According to the great critic Andrew Sarris, as quoted in his 1967 book Interviews with Film Directors, “Citizen Kane is still the work which influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation.” Read More

25th Hour – Lee’s Love Letter

Posted 25 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

25th Hour, USA, 2002

Directed by Spike Lee

25th Hour is a film I can watch over and over again, and always learn something new.I’ll be the first to say that I am not a Spike Lee fan. Outside of a few films, I think the man refuses to see past his skin color and the world in anything other than black versus white, but in 25th Hour, the story of a white drug dealer’s last day before seven years in federal prison, Lee pushes aside his normal agenda and shows us shades of gray that he’s ignored for the majority of his career. It harks back to his breakthrough film Do the Right Thing (1989), in that it asks its viewer a very important question: what do we do now? In what might be the first mainstream film to openly deal with a post-9/11 New York, complete with long shots of Ground Zero and open allusions to the late firemen who dealt with the evacuation and clean-up of the fallen Twin Towers, he reverses his stance and puts it, literally, in another color.

Edward Norton is a powerful actor, without ever doing too much; he lives in the simple parts of his characters and portrays very basic human emotions, but does so with such a natural swagger that you can completely forget you’re watching an actor. His Monty Brogan is the best example of this alternative approach. Here we see a drug dealer get touched and spend his last day of freedom with him. The city has changed, and so has Monty; the lifestyle is gone, and of all the filmmakers to propose a love letter to New York after her fall (we’re still waiting, Woody), in retrospect, Lee should have been the obvious choice. With his extremely candid points of view and the temper he gives all of his projects, it was the right move at the right time. I heard someone refer to the film as a bandage for the city’s wounds and I was insulted, as the point of a bandage is to cover up the wound. Lee’s film is a part of the healing process, for sure, but he never attempts to cover anything up, and literally tells it exactly like it is. Read More

Starter For 10 – Revenge Of The Nerd

Posted 23 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

Starter for 10, UK / USA, 2006

Directed by Tom Vaughan

Starter for 10 is a British/American film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his own novel Starter for Ten. The oddest thing about a film like Starter for 10 is that it seems to be almost completely pointless until the last thirty minutes or so, and the most unfortunate thing about the project is that the first hour is almost completely alienating. This isn’t the type of film where the audience is required to root for anyone in particular, nor are we given much of a climax to look forward to. We follow a young college student in England in 1985 as he enters Bristol University and attempts to find his place and enter a quiz show club, in which one does their best to win championships on television. We follow him through bum friends, a failed and unrealistic attempt at a relationship, and a conventional attempt at knowing everything.

The good news is that James McAvoy is watchable enough to excuse most of that. The bad news is that even though McAvoy is a watchable actor, of some considerable skill, the film itself is hollow and flatter than paper. It’s peppered with calm and collected performances, but that and a bad screenplay don’t make a good movie. Make no mistake, Starter for 10 is enjoyable, albeit conventional and formulaic. However, it’s great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, and McAvoy himself that magically make the film worth watching more than once, even if you just want to catch all the reaction shots from Cumberbatch that you might have missed the first time; as with everything else in which he appears, he’s a complete joy. Read More