12 July 2010

Woody Allen: Day Fifteen

It is hard to judge New York Stories against all other Woody Allen films because it is an anthology featuring three shorts from three directors. The three directors, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen, were three of the most celebrated American directors when the film was released in 1989.

Martin Scorsese's Life Lessons tells the story of an acclaimed painter (Nick Nolte) and his relationship with his assistant/former lover (Rosanna Arquette).

Francis Ford Coppolo's Life Without Zoe is about a spoiled young girl (Heather McComb) and her attempt to reconcile her divorced parents.

Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks stars Woody Allen as a man with an overly critical mother (Mae Questel). She disapproves of his fiancee (Mia Farrow) and he tries to get them to bond by going to a magic show. His mother is selected as a volunteer for a disappearing trick and does not reappear. He thinks he can finally relax with his mother gone but soon she appears in the sky over New York City and makes conversation with strangers about him.

Woody Allen's short is the highlight of the film that is hampered by Francis Ford Coppola's weak effort. It is not amongst his best or most creative films but Martin Scorsese helps make New York Stories a decent film worth watching.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of Woody Allen's most complete films and should be regarded alongside Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan and Annie Hall as one of his masterpieces. The film is wonderfully written and performed, with a standout performance by Martin Landau, which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The film follows two men who are experiencing ethical dilemmas. Judah Rosenthal (Landau) has been having an affair with a woman named Dolores (Anjelica Huston) for two years and she is now threatening to tell his wife Miriam (Claire Bloom). He eventually turns to his brother Jack (Jerry Orbach) and struggles with the idea of paying to have Dolores killed. Cliff (Woody Allen), a struggling director, is married to Wendy (Joanna Gleeson). Wendy's brother Lester (Alan Alda), a successful television producer, pities Cliff and asks him to director a documentary about him. During shooting Cliff falls in love with Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), a producer of the documentary.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of Woody Allen's most well-rounded films. The juxtaposition of the moral crises of the two characters is brilliant.

Alice is one of Woody Allen's more whimsical films. The film is interesting and clever but failed to really grasp my interest for the entire film. There is an fun story within Alice but I mostly feel that the actors kept their emotions at a distance and it was difficult to be invested in the film.

Alice Tate (Mia Farrow) has been married to Doug (William Hurt) for fifteen years. She spends her days shopping with friends and gossiping. She meets and begins a brief affair with Joe Ruffalo (Joe Mantegna) but her guilt manifests itself in the form of a backache. She is referred to Dr. Yang (Keye Luke), an herbalist, who first gives her some ancient herbs that force her to act on her feelings towards Joe. The next time she sees the doctor she is given herbs that make her invisible. She uses this to visit Joe's ex-wife (Judy Davis) and even listens in as her friends gossip about her. Alice reveals many of her deepest yearnings to the doctor and his herbs allow her to act on her own desires, even letting her communicate with the ghost of a former lover (Alec Baldwin).

Alice has quite an intriguing concept but ultimately fails in its delivery. This is the first time that I feel Mia Farrow was miscast in a Woody Allen film.

Next up: Shadows and Fog.

My list:
1. Hannah and Her Sisters
2. Manhattan
3. Annie Hall
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors
5. Radio Days
6. Another Woman
7. The Purple Rose of Cairo
8. Broadway Danny Rose
9. Love and Death
10. Interiors
11. Sleeper
12. Zelig
13. Stardust Memories
14. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
15. Take the Money and Run
16. Oedipus Wrecks from New York Stories
17. Bananas
18. What's Up, Tiger Lily?
19. Alice
20. September
21. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy

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