Friday Morning Film Reflection

Woody Allen’s film concepts range from the brilliant to the brainless, and his execution from masterful to mediocre.  I’ll usually give his movies a shot, in hopes of seeing his genius on display, but I can pretty much tell within the first ten minutes if the movie’s worth my time, and on occasion I’ve turned off whatever I was watching.  Years ago, while in college, I went on a Woody Allen spree, watching somewhere between a dozen and twenty of his works.  I don’t remember exactly.

A couple weeks ago the wife unit and I checked out Midnight in Paris, which we’d heard was very good.  We weren’t disappointed, but I wouldn’t list the title among his finest works.   The concept and execution were both excellent, but neither the underlying plot of Owen Wilson’s self-discovery nor the thematic treatment of nostalgia was anything special.  I did appreciate the magical quality of the story (spoiler alert!): I liked that Allen didn’t try to explain the midnight time-travel.  It just happened, and the characters and we went along with it.  I was reminded of Allen’s musical, Everyone Says I Love You, another fancifully magical movie that just let the impossible be.  In a way, I wish Tim Burton would have ended Big Fish with the same quality; instead, he downplayed the unbelievable to make a point about storytelling.  A reasonable point, granted, but damn it, I wanted the big fish tales to be literally and fully true!

But I digress, and so back to Allen.

His very best film, in my opinion, is Crimes and Misdemeanors, a philosophically-profound morality tale that perfectly balances the comic and the dramatic, the humorous and the tragic.  In it, Allen challenges the traditional notion that sin, namely murder, ultimately leads to misery.  Can a regular person, who has a conscience, commit murder and live happily and meaningfully and in good conscience with the consequences, or will he follow in the shadow of Macbeth, concluding miserably that life signifies nothing?  Allen says the former–a subversive and chilling thought.

I also enjoyed Hannah and Her Sisters, which has the most awesome movie take-down of superficial Christian piety, Mighty Aphrodite, Another Woman, and his spoof of the Russian novel, Love and Death.

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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11 Responses

  1. Love and Death is among my favorite movies of all time. The sequence when Allen accidentally smacks Diane Keaton with a bottle and then is forced by circumstance to keep doing so while she smiles gamely makes me laugh uncontrollably.

    I found precious little comedy in Crimes and Misdemeanors. It was disappointing to me for that reason, though it has some fantastic acting and is a very good movie.

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    I liked Bullets over Broadway for its careful logical development of the theme: what does it mean that the artist creates his own moral universe? But the gags were tired and disappointing.

    And another thumbs up for Love and Death. “I have a piece of land!”

  3. greginak says:

    Another vote for Love and Death. Zelig is a great movie also. What could be just a gimmick works well in service of the story. I think it holds up better then some of his other stuff. Take the Money and Run is a masterpiece. Its immensely silly, funny, madcap and somehow also sweet and caring.

  4. Tod Kelly says:

    At the risk of being too common: Annie Hall will always be my favorite.