Day 174: Manhattan Murder Mystery

518B34J685LManhattan Murder Mystery is one of my favorite Woody Allen films.

It’s not a heavy movie.

It’s not an essential movie.

It’s just a fun movie.

I like the pairing of Alan Alda, Diane Keaton, and Anjelica Huston with Woody.

It’s the first time Diane Keaton has appeared in a Woody Allen film since Manhattan in 1979. (Interesting that the word “Manhattan” is in both titles featuring Keaton.) It’s Alan Alda’s second appearance in a Woody film, the first being Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Here’s the plot of this 1993 comedy, the 23rd Woody directed:

Woody and Diane are married. They live in an apartment across the hall from an elderly couple whom they befriend. One day, the old woman drops dead from a heart attack. Diane suspects foul play, however, and enlists the help of friend Alan Alda who, together, ratchet up their suspicions until they’re convinced the old man murdered his wife.

Did he? Or didn’t he?

Ahh, that’s why Continue reading

Day 159: Manhattan

51vEMCaXeXLManhattan, one of Woody Allen’s most poignant films, is almost too poignant to watch.

It’s the story of a middle-aged man in love with a girl (Mariel Hemingway) who’s still in high school. This isn’t just a May-December romance, this is an Embryo-December romance that borders on creepy.

Or even pedophilia.

It’s a bittersweet movie, with a terrific cast, that delivers the goods.


Day 158: Interiors

41PDMR1B9PLWoody Allen’s 1978 movie Interiors – his first serious drama – opens with shots of interiors of homes, just sparse, empty rooms.

A woman we soon come to know as Joey (Mary Beth Hurt, 1948- ) appears and walks over to window. She stands, silently, peering out.

Then, a woman named Renata (Diane Keaton, 1946- ) appears on screen. She, too, looks out a window. She raises her hand to gingerly touch the glass. It’s a pretentious gesture that is hard for me to accept coming from Keaton, who I had just seen as Annie, a ditzy actress, in Annie Hall.

Then, a man we later learn is named Arthur (E.G. Marshall, 1914–1998) is seen from behind. He’s wearing a suit and he’s looking out a window in a high-rise office building. He’s speaking.

The overall effect of all of these images and scenes is one of loneliness, alienation.

Then, a man we later learn is named Mike (Sam Waterston, 1940- ) appears on screen. He’s sitting, alone, at a kitchen table speaking into a tape recording, saying something about Marxist-Leninist ideologies. We later discover he is married to Joey.

A woman named Eve (Geraldine Page, 1924-1987), whom we later learn is an interior designer married to Arthur, rings the doorbell, interrupting Mike. She enters Continue reading

Day 157: Annie Hall

51vM7IV5W5LI love this movie.

In fact, I’ll go far as to say that Annie Hall is my #1 favorite Woody Allen film.

This romantic comedy is easy to explain on a thematic level. It’s the story of a couple (an insecure, neurotic comedian named Alvy Singer, played by Woody Allen, and an actress named Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton) from first meeting to break up, told with incredible pathos, such sublime insight into the human condition, that it still resonates deeply with audiences nearly 40 years after it was released in 1977.

What’s harder to explain is the leap in quality between Annie Hall and Love and Death, which was released just two years previously. And it’s incomprehensible to me that Annie Hall comes a mere 10 years from Woody’s first turn behind the camera in What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (albeit not as bad as Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex*).

Annie Hall marks a turning point in Woody’s career, an Oscar-winning turning point.

According to its entry on Wikipedia,

Annie Hall won four Oscars at the 50th Academy Awards on April 3, 1978. Producer Charles H. Joffe received the statue for Best Picture, Allen for Best Director and, with [Marshall] Brickman, for Best Original Screenplay, and Keaton for Best Actress.

Keaton is amazing in his movie. Not only is her wardrobe noteworthy (it touched off a fashion trend in the mid-1970s) but so are her mannerisms, including the way she delivers her lines.

For example, when Annie and Alvy first talk after a tennis match, she utters the phrase “La-di-da, la-di-da, la la” in such a cute way that it’s one of my favorite lines from the movie, and the scene one of the best.

Ever since the recent story about one of Woody’s adopted kids accusing him of Continue reading

Day 156: Love and Death

51S3BR0E4TLLove and Death (1975) is Woody Allen’s sixth outing as director.

This movie breaks from tradition in that it doesn’t open with Dixieland jazz playing over black-and-white credits. This time around it’s Mussorgsky’s The Great Gate at Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition over black-and-white credits.

But not breaking from tradition are two of Woody’s favorite cinematic themes: love and death.

My favorite parts of the movie are:

  • Woody’s voiceover narration, which is witty and clever. As usual.
  • Woody as a child: “I recall my first mystical vision. I was walking through the woods thinking about Christ. If he was a carpenter I wondered what he’d charge for book shelves.” (Suddenly, the young lad encounters Death.)
  • The philosophical debates conducted in earnest seriousness despite the incongruity of the setting.
  • The opera scene with Woody flirting with Countess Alexandrovna, played by Olga Georges-Picot, a French actress who committed suicide on 19 June 1997. She was 57.

Death is a recurring topic in Woody Allen movies. So is a protagonist with Continue reading

Day 155: Sleeper

416YXJA6TWLSleeper, the 1973 comedy, marks Woody’s fifth turn behind the camera.

This is a better DVD transfer than his previous steamer, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*. And, frankly, it’s a much better movie.

But that’s still not saying much. These early Woody Allen movies are way too frenetic for my tastes. It’s like watching Keystone Cops films. Slapstick doesn’t even begin to describe them.

This picture marks the start of his Diane Keaton (1946-) phase. It also continues his love of starting films with Dixieland jazz music. And for smoking. There’s somebody smoking in virtually every Woody Allen movie.

Sleeper is the story of a Woody Allen-like character named Miles Monroe who is put under for a minor operator in 1973 and discovered two hundred years later in a capsule in the woods and awakened. The country is American but a post-war America run by an oppressive government. (Sounds a lot like 2014 to me.) His existence has to be kept secret, however, because if those in power discovered him, he’d have to have his brain scrubbed.

After a bit, the scientists admit they defrosted his capsule to use him to penetrate the government in the Western District to get the lowdown on the Aries Project. In short, the scientists, knowing Woody’s character has no identify, no fingerprints on file, and no way to be traced, want him to aid the revolutionary movement against the government.

The humor really gets rolling when Continue reading