Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)… “I’d fix Ted up with Helen Dubin, but they’d probably get into an argument over penis envy; the poor guy suffers from it so.”

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Manhattan-Murder-Mystery

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 7.4

IMDB link: Manhattan Murder Mystery

Dearest reader,

Being a huge Woody Allen fan, it kills me to find one of his films that I do not want to give 10 out of 10. Not that this is not a good film, it is just that it is my least favourite film of my favourite director…

Every time Woody Allen and Diane Keaton star in a film where they are lovers or in some way involved (I am now specifically referring to Annie Hall, Manhattan and this film, in chronological order) it feels as if Woody Allen is exploring the different ways the original relationship between Alvy and Annie (in Annie Hall) could have taken. Allen is therefore constantly referring to himself and his previous films; his whole oeuvre (or his first “Manhattan cycle”) seem to be an intertext.

-I haven’t done any research on this, but it would be interesting to see in which ways these films are connected-

As always, this film is about the city. It is about New York, and the way it has a complex love-hate relationship with its inhabitants. More than that, this film is based on the classic murder-mystery narrative.

If you ever read a Nancy Drew, or just watched a Scooby Doo you will recognise the characteristics; the murder takes place, something suggests foul play, the clumsy protagonists investigates, nothing is as it seems and just when they are ready to give up they solve the mystery and apprehend the villains.

The film is filled with Allen’s customary wit and cynicism. Diane, on the other hand, displays her usual charm and together the form a perfect yin and yang. Their relationship is simple in some ways and complicated in other- the perfect combination!

There is one particular scene which shows so much artistic genius that I just have to mention it. Hitchcock and Sirk is known for their extraordinary work with mirrors. In this film, Allen pays homage to that by adding a scene (the one where Larry confronts the “killer”) in the theater that uses multiple mirrors and different lightning- a perfect scene!

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Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)… My mental impressions are cloudy. Are they cumulus clouds or cirrus?

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MagicintheMoonlight

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 6.9

IMDB link: Magic in the Moonlight

Dearest reader,

I have never made any secret of the fact that I adore Woody Allen. I believe him to be one of the only true geniuses of our time. But what is it about him that I find so great? Is it his narcissistic wit? His ability to write the perfect female roles? His love for spaces and cityscapes? His fascination with the magical? His eye for breathtaking cinematography? Or just merely the fact that he can write, direct and star in his own film and it would still be great?

Yes, all of the above! And all these things are once again evident in Magic in the Moonlight. Colin Firth as Stanley is Allen reincarnate with his cynic attitude, his clever wit and borderline Oedipal-complex. Every shot he takes of Emma Stone as Sophie, underlines her youthful, natural beauty. She is also a strong character and in one or two ways even stronger than Stanley.

Beside the beautiful shots of Provence and the two of them driving through the majestic countryside, there is an amazingly beautiful scene in the observatory. Stanley opens the roof and the two of them just bask in the moonlight.

This is not the first time that Allen had opted to delve into the magical. For example in Scoop he himself plays a magician and again the theme of trickery is prominent. Illusions are another form of trickery that Allen investigates and which is also seen in this film.

The film definitely contains some of the traditional RomCom characteristics, which does add a certain charm to the film, but in true Allen fashion, he never succumbs to sentimentality or over-acted happy endings with no artistic support.

Is it Allen’s best film? No. Is it worth a watch? Yes, even if you are an Allen newbie, you will love this gentle comedy about the trickery of life and love.

Want to read more on Magic in the Moonlight? Try these…

Magic in the Moonlight – A Fairly Incoherent Review.

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Why watching Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” made me ask: “Do I sound like that?”.

Manhattan (1979)… “I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics”

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Manhattan

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 8

IMDB link: Manhattan

Dearest reader,

Make no mistake- I love Woody Allen! I believe him to be one of the greatest directors of our time. Furthermore, looking at the way that he revolutionised not only comedy, but the cinematographical representation of the city, his impact on film will still be felt for a while to come.

As the poster shows, the movie contains one of the most iconic images in cinema. Manhattan is shown through Allen’s dorky, in this case black and white, lenses. His love for the Big Apple is more apparent than ever!

Allen explores not only the romance of the lead characters, but also the romance of the city. This romanticising of New York City is emphasised by Allen’s decision to film the movie entirely in black and white. The use of lighting, together with the black and white leaves the film with a romantic glow, which causes the viewer to see New York exactly as Allen does.

Besides the cinematography, the movie contains Allen’s usual blend of romance and comedy. Pairing, again, with the enigmatic Diane Keaton and young Meryl Streep, Allen plays the divorced and out-of-work television writer Isaac. Woody Allen has been criticised time and again for his narcissistic, cynic male leads. Although Isaac reminds one a lot of Alvy from Annie Hall, there is still a certain kind of romanticism to Manhattan that Annie Hall lacks.

Allen’s later films Midnight in ParisTo Rome with Love and even Vicky, Cristina Barcelona are as much odes to cities that Allen has fallen in love with as Manhattan or New York City was his first big love.

What really makes Allen’s earlier films unique is the evolution of Allen’s own personal style of comedy that can so clearly be mapped and that has become so iconic. It is not only his very dry sense of humour, or his almost existentialistic view on life that separates him from the rest, it is the combination of all these elements together with the detailed feminine roles that he writes and his separation from really obvious humour (that has become so popular nowadays).

This is most definitely my favourite Woody Allen film. Although I have not seen all of them, I believe that this film is such a visual and comedic treat that everyone will be able to take something beautiful from this movie.

Want to read more on Manhattan? Try these…

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Annie Hall (1977)… “Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat… college.”

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Annie Hall

My rating: 10

IMDB rating: 8.2

IMDB link: Annie Hall

Dearest reader,

Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The… the other important joke, for me, is one that’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud’s “Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious,” and it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing – um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.

 I am starting and ending this post with quotes from the film, because I wish that I could memorise every single thing that is said in this film seeing that it is so honest and endearing that it speaks to both the neurotic and romantic inside of you.

You know how you read about a film again and again, and you just convince yourself that it simply cannot be as good as they make it out to be? Well, this film is nothing like that! I have been a Woody Allen fan from the first time that I saw Midnight in Paris. I fell in love with the way he not only sees the world, but with the intellectuality he uses to approach subjects such as love.

Then with his films To Rome With Love and Fading Gigolo I saw more of the original Woody Allen wit and I was mesmerised! Gathering up all my courage, I set out to watch Woody Allen’s most famous film and it made my year!

Relationships are hard, this Allen underlines again and again, and when you find that special somebody you have to hold on, right? What if you can’t? My favourite modern English writer, Elizabet Gilbert, says (describing soulmates): “A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.” 

That, for me, is the case with Alvy and Annie. They are a perfect fit; Alvy opens Annie up intellectually, while Annie works on Alvy’s narcissism. The un-chronological timeline supports this idea that although you can see these two people are a good match, you know that on some level they are disconnected- the one always expecting more than the other one is willing to give.

I think that it is often true, and the film also speaks about this, that on a subconscious level we believe that our significant other should either make our faults disappear or overshadow them with their own good attributes. In reality, a relationship highlights our bad qualities, just as Alvy gets more neurotic and Annie gets more ditsy.

While giving the account of this (failed?) relationship, the camera often turns to Woody Allen where he addresses the audience directly. He pleads with them to understand, to get them on his ‘side’. Still, and that is how brilliantly the movie is made, you know the pleading is useless. You know he only has himself to blame and although the story is told from his perspective, he gives a very objective overview of the relationship.

I can understand why some people do not like this film. It speaks to a lot of the really personal things one experiences in a relationship and how you usually want a film like that to end is with a massive declaration of love, but that is not life. Most probably one will agree to stay friends and not see one another for years thereafter, but their impact will remain bigger than any of those that comes before or after them.

Alvy Singer: I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.

Want to read more on Annie Hall? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Annie Hall

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Annie Hall (1977).

Easy A (2010)… sharpening your pencils?

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Easy A

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 7.2

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1282140/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

Olive: That’s the one thing that trumps religion: capitalism.”

If you had to ask anyone in my family what my family movie is, they would without a doubt say Easy A, just another one of my little guilty pleasures!

The reason why I love this film is just because it is so damn witty. Emma Stone, who I firmly believe is just as witty in real life, just plays the role of Olive perfectly as the story chronicles a different type of coming-of-age film. Olive comes of age by exploring her religious beliefs, friendships and reputation.

Another thing that I love about this film is the fact that it has such a strong female character. One often finds that films where teenage sexuality is explore like American Pie and Fired Up, that they have stronger male characters while women are reduced to mere objects with which said exploration can take place.

Other than that, the family dynamics touched on in this film is also quite interesting. And one can of course not mention this film without mentioning the religious aspects that this film is not afraid point out. Marianne, who is super-religious spreads the rumour, judges the most harshly and above all tries to convert Olive in a intervention-type of situation. Whether one is religious or not, it is easy to see why Christians are often judged very harshly for their self-righteous methods.

If you love Emma Stone, this movie is definitely worth the watch. Also, see the trailer for her new movie, Magic in the Moonlight, directed by Woody Allen.

Want to read more on Easy A? Try these…

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Fading Gigolo (2013)… feminine lust

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Fading Gigolo

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 6.4

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2258345/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

I have no idea why this film received such bad reviews. There are several things that I liked about this film, the first is the fact that Fioravante never exploits the feminine body, he actually is a real fighter for the feminist cause. He views the feminine body with respect and passion. At one point he even says to Avigal that men had never wanted women to read, underlining a fundamental issue of feminism which is the empowerment of women through knowledge.

Another point that this film raises is the intricate, restrictive and conservative views and practices of the religious. A woman’s place within religion is also explored as Avigail is portrayed as the faithful, pious Jewish widow. When Fioravante touches her for the first time, she is emotional not because she is being touched by someone other than her husband, but because she had not felt intimate since before her marriage (which also produces 6 children!).

I would therefore argue that there is a juxtapositioning of views of lust by women, especially in the religious sector. The two high society women use lust and the sexual, devoid of religious bondage, as a means of empowerment in a society where they are ruled by the views and wishes of their wealthy husbands. On the Jewish, religious, side Avigal also uses lust and the sexual as a means of empowerment, emancipation from herself and most importantly the concious step away from religious oppression.

The film explores al these nuances most interestingly as it is combines with Woody Allen’s off-beat humour, characteristic hand gestures and quirky style. Turturro does a great job of acting/directing/writing and portrays the brooding, sensitive and satisfying Fioravante. I do not know what it is about Vanessa Paradis, but she is just stunningly beautiful.

I think that it is just important to enjoy this film for what it is; a comedy that delves a bit deeper and sees a bit clearer.

Want to read more on Fading Gigolo? Try these…

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Fading Gigolo.

 

Scoop (2006)… before Woody Allen fell in love

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Scoop

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.8

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457513/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

I have to start by saying that I am one of the biggest Woody Allen fans out there. I do not, though, consider myself an expert on his oeuvre, but I have never seen one of his films that I did not like… But with this film, I cannot truly say that I loved the film, and my theory is that it is because Allen himself did not love the film….

Let me explain…

Woody Allen falls in love with his actors, his story and most importantly his setting and it shows. In Blue Jasmine, he is completely taken by the character of Jasmine. He loves her ignorance and her inability to have perspective on her own life, and it is clear from the story.

With both Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Allen is smitten with Paris, Rome and Barcelona. Critics can rave about his weak story lines or narcissistic writing, but they cannot say a thing about his love for these cities as portrayed by beautiful shots of, not only famous parts of these cities, but back alleys and lesser seen parts.

With Scoop though, it seems that Allen has hit a dry spell. His trademark off-beat comedy is still very present in the film, for example this hilarious line:

Sid Waterman (Woody Allen): “I was born of the Hebrew persuasion, but I converted to narcissism.”

But there is no sign of the love that is so essential to Allen’s artistic success.

And Johansson, who was once widely recognized as Allen’s muse following her three movie (Match Point, Scoop and Vicky, Cristina Barcelona)  run on his direction, plays a part that I cannot help but describe as a bit childish. The Nancy Drew-type of persona that Johansson portrays here is far below the really in-depth acting that we know she is capable of.

It really kills me to call this movie by Allen a “fluff-piece”, but unfortunately that is what it is. And in that sense, this film is really enjoyable, there are tons of funny moments, as well as some suspense and a bit of a love story. True to Allen form, the story is centered around a woman that eventually outsmarts the man.

Killing of his character at the end of the film, may be the most important part of this movie, because all the Allen films that followed is a step away from the narcissistic narratives that we have gotten so used to from him. In that sense he literally kills of the greatest burden to his artistic success and that is himself.

Want to read more on Scoop? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Scoop

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