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The Complete Woody Allen: A Retrospective Pt. 1 (1966-1990)

The Complete Woody Allen: A Retrospective Pt. 1 (1966-1990)

Making a film once a decade, like the Terrence Malicks of the world, is all well and good, but what’s truly impressive is making a film virtually every year for 40 years, and, generally speaking, consistently making pretty good ones. And that’s what Woody Allen’s managed to rack up since his debut as credited co-director on "What’s Up, Tiger Lily?"

The comedian (born Allen Stewart Konigsberg), got started as a comedy writer when he was a mere 19 years old, and spent the next decade as a stand-up, before finding success as a playwright and, eventually, in Hollywood — as a term, rather than a place: Allen’s always avoided the West Coast where possible. Since then, barely a year has gone by without a new project from the director, with some even bringing two, and, while the last decade has seen something of a drop in quality, Allen’s still able to attract outstanding casts: you haven’t really made it as an actor until Allen’s asked you to appear in one of his films.

The director’s latest, "Midnight in Paris," was widely received when it premiered in Cannes last week as one the director’s best films in years (our review certainly thought so) and to celebrate, we’ve decided to run down every single one of Allen’s directorial efforts. There are so many films that we’ve had to split it into two parts: today brings 1966-1990, while tomorrow will bring 1990-2011.

We’ve also asked some famous friends/recent interviewees for their thoughts on Allen, which you’ll find interspersed throughout the piece. You may not agree with some of the grades — indeed, one knock-down drag-out fight erupted in Playlist HQ about the "Interiors" write-up — but there’ll be something in here for even the casual Allen fan. Check them out after the jump (Part two of our retrospective is here).

“What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” (1966)
Allen receives credit for being an auteur, a filmmaker with a distinct voice and very specific, abstract political views on the relationships between others. But he began modestly, with the aim to make people lose their composure in a flood of laughs, and in his early years, it’s startling how easy that seemed. Allen didn’t “direct” most of “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?,” but the film is an early, brilliant precursor to the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” school of film appreciation. Using footage from two films in a Japanese series called “International Secret Police,” Allen recontextualized and redubbed key moments to turn the spy film into a search for the perfect egg salad recipe. It’s a cinematic mixtape, in other words, a fan-edit of sorts with Allen routinely popping in to remind us that he was the questionable choice by the studio to re-edit spy film footage. While more of a stunt than an actual film, the picture remains almost impossibly funny today, a testament to how prescient Allen would be in regards to the evolution of film comedy. [A-]

“Take the Money and Run” (1969)
Somehow obscured by Woody’s more serious and/or outlandish films, this solo directorial debut could, pound for pound, be the funniest film he’s ever made. Told in the format of a fake documentary, a creative decision well before its time, “Take the Money and Run" follows the story of Virgil Starkwell, a criminal who robs banks in lieu of a successful professional life in the, ahem, legal sector. As Virgil stacks up ignominies, we see the first stirrings of Allen’s romantic side, with a genuine relationship that develops amongst the madcap slapstick with Janet Margolin’s Louise. ‘Money’ manages to have this human center but still emphasizes the gags at the heart of the picture, in some ways establishing a template that would later be credited erroneously to “Airplane!” Allen would go on to make pictures with more weighty ideas and concepts, but bits like the botched stickup attempt (“Does this look like ‘gub’ or ‘gun’?”) and the rainy prison escape with a gun of soap are some of the funniest moments ever committed to the medium. [A]

“Bananas” (1971)
Opening with one of his all-time best set pieces – the assassination of a foreign dictator being covered by a Howard Cosell and edited at a brisk, dare we say experimental clip – "Bananas" is ultimately not the most rewarding of his early, wacky films, although it is still a lot of fun, combining moments of sublime silliness with more observational New York living stuff. The former, which involves Allen becoming the leader of a fictional South American country in order to impress a girl, is less successful than the latter, and seems to be based on a combination of his short story writing and somewhat surrealist stand-up routines. The latter, which makes up much of the movie’s first act, is more of a goldmine, and includes a hilarious break-up sequence when Allen and his paramour discuss "giving" and "receiving" endlessly. "Bananas" never reaches the gonzo highs of "Love and Death," and as such, feels a little flat, although with international unrest a perennial favorite, it has aged better than "Sleeper." And, yes, that’s Sylvester Stallone in an early scene as a subway mugger. [B]

“Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)” (1972)
One of the more underrated entries in the auteur’s oeuvre, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask)," based loosely on the self help book by Dr. David Reuben, is an anthology film, made up of seven segments, each posing a different question. They vary wildly in terms of tone, and allowed for Allen to experiment freely – alongside the goofy "Do Aphrodisiacs Work?" section (which features the immortal image of Allen as a court jester) are artier entries like "Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching an Orgasm?," where Allen got to explore his love of European filmmaking. While some criticize the film for being a collection of sketches instead of a cohesive whole, it’s still a jaunty, often hilarious and truthful film, too easily overlooked when thinking about his catalog. Maybe it’s just the victim of structural prejudice. [A-]

“Sleeper” (1973)
Of all the people to be unfrozen 200 years in the future by a rebel underground, somehow scientists unearthed the ice cube containing neurotic jazz-musician/health-store owner Miles Monroe (Allen). Set in a time when the country is ruled by an impossible dictator, Miles remains their only hope due to his lack of identity in their dystopia. On his way to infiltrate the government’s uber-secret "Ares Project," the hero enlists the help of reluctant hippie poet Luna (Diane Keaton), who eventually turns to the underground cause and helps the goofball on his quest for the good of man. Parodying every popular sci-fi piece at the time and pulling heavily from the works of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, "Sleeper" is boatloads of charming fun; filled with such momentous joy that it’s hard to watch without a smile. While critiquing the impermanence of scientific fact (a dialogue between two people reveals that fatty, greasy foods and cigarettes are extremely healthy, despite early reports that they weren’t), Allen also admires the "ignorance is bliss" philosophy, with both Miles and Luna being at their happiest when the former’s mind is wiped and when the latter’s hosting her extravagant dinner parties, unaware of oppressive politics. However, judging by their perfect chemistry together (and the cute ending), the director suggests that even though knowledge may bring us down, at least we’ll have each other to complain to. We believe you, Woody. [A-]

Peter Mullan on his favorite Woody Allen film: "’Annie Hall’’s okay, ‘Manhattan’’s okay, but my favorites… I love ‘Sleeper,’ that one kills me. ‘Love and Death,’ ‘Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex,’ ‘Take the Money and Run’… I love his silly stuff. I love the stuff that Woody hates. And ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo.’ He’s infinitesimally more profound in comedy than he is in tragedy. He’d hate me for saying it because he hates anyone that loves his funny stuff, but I think it’s far more moving and a far more profound cinema in that assembly of slapstick. Within the heart of the slapstick were comments on human nature that are far, far more powerful than the more decorative musings in his later work. I would always go for the early Woody Allen."

“Love and Death” (1975)
Allen’s career thus far, movies strung together by a series of gags interspersed with the stray literacy of a well-read mind, had to be building up to this. “Love and Death” is an unsung classic because it works multiple avenues. One of which is the classical comedic structure Allen had perfected, the shaggy-dog story of a loner who screws up so badly he can’t even die right. He plays a Russian named Boris in “Love and Death,” a character that registers as a bleeding-heart pacifist and a confused coward. He tries to pry his lady love Sonja (Diane Keaton) from the clutches of an invasion by Napoleon, but “Love And Death” does not ignore the difficulties of the former element, as it becomes difficult to reconcile his feelings for Sonja as the two of them quarrel over the economic and political realities of two lovers coming together. However, “Love and Death” is also one of Allen’s more conceptual pictures, dense in allusions to tragic epic romance and existentialist novels from the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, with straight-up lifts of specific dialogue enough that “Love and Death” should probably include credits for half a dozen giants of literature. [A]

"Annie Hall" (1977)
The film that bridges the so-called early funny ones with the more serious later work that would come, "Annie Hall" is also easily Allen’s most autobiographical film up to that point. Also, it landed him two Oscars, plus Best Picture for the film. But you know all this — it’s perhaps his most beloved film, named constantly by optimistic filmmakers as the Platonic form of the romantic comedy that all others aspire to. And that’s because it’s terrific; insightful, playful, moving and beautifully acted, particularly by Diane Keaton, who essentially creates the manic pixie dream girl archetype here. But we have to say, this writer would be lying if he said that a recent rewatch, for the first time in years, didn’t remind us of some real issues, found across Allen’s work, but particularly prevalent here, with women: some of the characters, particularly Shelley Duvall and Carol Kane as Alvy’s ex-wives, are painted in a faintly misogynistic manner. It’s not exactly uncommon, particularly for contemporary romantic comedies, but it did sour the film a little for us. But there’s still so much to love here, not least in the film’s formal construction, that we’ll always think fondly of it. [A-]

Steve Coogan on his favorite Woody Allen film: "’Annie Hall’ is his ‘Revolver,’ to me – it’s a marriage of both the joyfulness of accessible comedy and depth.. it’s just a perfect storm. It was 35, 36 years ago, but I saw it a year ago again and it’s so contemporary. Amazing. ‘Husbands and Wives’ – I really like that. Perfect balance between being tragic and comic."

“Interiors” (1978)
Famous for being his first straight-laced serious picture, this very Ingmar Bergman-indebted film (as in, were those left-over wigs and did they clone Liv Ullman?) serves as the cream in-between the fantastic "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" cookie, only it lacks any sort of sweetness. Featuring an ensemble of psuedo-intellectuals and would-be artists, sisters Renata and Joey (Diane Keaton and Mary Beth Hurt) are devastated when their father decides to take a trial separation from their mother Eve (Geraldine Page). Nasty suicide attempts by the heart broken mother follow, and in-between the siblings either complain about their responsibilities or attempt to keep their other halves in check while they nurse their parent out of her rut. However it’s only until the recent bachelor returns with Pearl (Maureen Stapleton), his new bride-to-be and polar opposite of all, that the film really gets going. Pearl is inarguably most important character – the one they look down upon as a simpleton, but for all of their philosophical and deep discussions, she’s the only one that’s happy. Unfortunately, Allen’s script is much too on the nose, and while his form and style here are undeniably impressive, its distant behavior and lack of heart keep it from resonating at all. What we have here is a somber piece from start to finish, something that feels like a play full of one-note characters and overly pronounced themes. It’s a shame, too, because it might be his most visually astonishing film to date. [C+]

“Manhattan” (1979)
This writer was only 13 years old when Woody Allen made a once-in-a-lifetime appearance at the Academy Awards, with a plea that directors revitalize the scarred city post 9/11. The applause was thunderous, the standing ovation lengthy. Perhaps some of the industry’s finest recalled those effervescent first notes of Gershwin‘s "Rhapsody in Blue" buoyed by an immortal skyline. Shot in black and white, the titular city takes front and center stage while Allen refines the tragi-comic storylines he’d visit time and time again. This time Isaac (Allen) pursues 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), while close friend Yale (Michael Murphy) cheats on his wife with Mary (Diane Keaton). Allen’s writing here is typically sharp and his musings on "Why is life worth living?" is a darling moment for the typically dour auteur. What stands out above all else is a picture of the Big Apple, one of the greatest committed to film — and a force that shapes and rejuvenates Issac. "Manhattan" is funny and sad, wise and a notch in Allen’s long-running showering of love on New York City. Hey Woody, we could use some of that old magic now. [A-]

“Stardust Memories” (1980)
"Stardust Memories" has been called an homage to Fellini‘s "8 1/2," though as Tony Roberts says in the movie — “Homage? We outright stole it.” Allen breaks a number of social (and filmmaking) conventions before the film ends. He talks about the emptiness of success and celebrity (which is the ultimate American taboo) and the futility of romantic love. These are, of course, subjects Allen has touched on previously in his other films but never with such a heavy hand. "Stardust Memories" is tinged with a feeling of tired despair from Allen — despair with his fans, the critics, his work and the world in general. Though he is still trying to answer some of the big questions, the usual quips and punchlines don’t hold the same lively charm.The dream (or nightmare) feel of the film owe a lot to cinematographer Gordon Willis, who easily turns the black-and-white footage from lush to surreal to stark, with surprising fluidity from shot to shot. The flashbacks that we aren’t sure are flashbacks are equally as fluid, while the Godard-ian jump cuts and self conscious script all add to the dizzying feel of the meta film-within-a-film narrative. The characters are like caricatures, or more likely two-dimensional memories brought to life, lacking depth but overflowing in significance. "Stardust Memories" (despite Allen’s frequent denial) feels personal and revealing. However the futility of searching for meaning within a movie is also one of the last jokes of the film — ”What do you think was the significance of the Rolls-Royce?” someone asks. ”I think it represented his car,” is the answer. [A]

“A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” (1982)
You’d think a movie called "A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy" would have been a whole lot less boring. But you’d be wrong. An often agonizing grind, the film is loosely based on Allen favorite Ingmar Bergman’s "Smiles of a Summer Night." (Watch the Criterion Blu-ray of "The Seventh Seal" to hear a wonderful Allen monologue about why Bergman was so amazing.) Everything about "Comedy" is dull – its period setting, its straightforward philosophical discussions that border on rote dissertations, and the flat cinematography. Even the talented cast (including Mary Steenburgen, Tony Roberts, and Jose Ferrer among them) can’t do much to up the energy levels of this hopelessly sleepy film. It’s the cast, though, that provides the one interesting footnote, when looking at it in the context of Allen’s filmography – this was the first movie to star his future-wife Mia Farrow. And we all know how well that went – about as well as this movie. [D]

“Zelig” (1983)
A curio in a filmography that is distinguished by repeating themes, “Zelig” masks Allen’s typical gripes and philosophizing with a mockumentary sheen. Presented as a black-and-white documentary on Leonard Zelig (Allen), the “human chameleon”, the film is a portrait of a misfit accepted by society when he discovers the power to literally metamorphose into the people around him. With the use of then still-innovative blue screen tech, Allen hobnobs with Calvin Coolidge and comes within shooting distance of Adolf Hitler. The efforts to make the film look like an authentically aged piece of history are impressive but in this day and age of “Grindhouse”, they unfortunately don’t do much else then remind you of the artistry going on behind the scenes. A romance between Zelig and Dr. Fletcher (Mia Farrow) is sweet but ultimately thinly plotted. See the film for the historical cameos and modern day legends Saul Bellow and Susan Sontag keeping a straight face while commenting on the phenomenon as if it happened. [B]

“Broadway Danny Rose” (1984)
While Woody Allen is rightly regarded as a film legend, what most people often forget is that the writer/director is also one of the last remaining links to an early showbiz world that no longer exists. Allen started his career as a comedy writer for folks like Herb Shriner and Sid Caesar. This was a time when particular type of stand-up comedy was enormously popular and an era when showbiz promoters were often as colorful as the acts they represented. Enter "Broadway Danny Rose." Played by Allen himself, he is the hilarious archetype of every huckster, smooth-talking salesman selling an act that ever graced the streets of New York City. The black-and-white film is told in flashback as comedians sit around at a table at the famed Carnegie Deli and swap stories about Danny Rose, and we get to see the tallest of all the tales. It seems that Danny Rose has done the impossible and resurrected the career of a formerly washed up tenor, landing him a gig the Waldorf. But of course, getting there is the issue. Tasked with getting the singer’s brassy girlfriend Tina (an inspired Mia Farrow) to the show, Danny quickly runs afoul of her mafioso boyfriend and the result is a classic on-the-run tale. But Allen uses the format to celebrate an era that is best remembered in the oral histories passed along from entertainer to entertainer. While he pokes fun at those showbiz days of yore the film is also imbued with a nostalgia for it as well. "Broadway Danny Rose" is a reminder that while the lights may have faded on the entertainers of the past, their stories will never be dulled. [B+]

“The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985) –
Woody Allen made quite a few excellent movies with his ex-wife Mia Farrow in his middle period, but none were better than this one about a battered wife (Farrow) during the Great Depression. When she goes to the movie theater to escape her troubles, one of the characters in “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” Ted Baxter (Jeff Daniels), breaks the fourth wall and comes off the screen to declare his love for her. Hijinks ensue in which Hollywood bigwigs try to separate the world of fiction from reality. The film is one of Allen’s best, and he’s even said it’s his favorite that he’s made. Farrow is adorable as the leading lady, and it’s easy to forget that Daniels was quite a good actor back in his day. There’s also a lot going on in terms of theme: what does it mean to be fictional or to be real, and what’s so good about living in the real world? [A]

“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)
Borrowing the loose, holiday centered structure from his hero Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny And Alexander” (except with Thanksgiving instead of Christmas) Allen’s tale of the loving yet complicated relationship between three sisters is one of finest achievements of the 1980s (alongside “Purple Rose Of Cairo” and “Crimes And Misdemeanors”) and certainly one of the best films of his career. As you might guess from the title, the story centers on Hannah (Mia Farrow) and explores the lives of her siblings Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (a heartbreaking and wonderful turn by Dianne Wiest) who orbit her life. The former bounces from a relationship with intense Frederick (Max Von Sydow) to an affair with Hannah’s husband, while the latter struggles simply to find her place in life, dependent on her sisters’ support of her various career ventures. Both tender and outrageously hilarious, Allen once again captures the foibles of follies of middle age life and love with a keenly observed eye for the minor frustrations that can build into resentment over time. But one of the biggest highlights of the film has little to do with the plot at all. Lee and Holly are both pursuing David (Sam Waterston) and one evening he takes them both on a driving tour of New York to talk about the architectural wonders of the city. Right up there with the opening of “Manhattan,” this sequence is one of Allen’s most poignant postcards to his native city, shot gorgeously by Carlo Di Palma. “For all my education, accomplishments and so-called wisdom, I can’t fathom my own heart,” says Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine) and it serves as a perfect encapsulation of the film’s thematic core. And while that may seem typically existentially morose for Allen, it’s also one of his most optimistic, positing that even miracles are possible even when your life seems inevitably fated for disaster. [A]

“Radio Days” (1987)
Wedged somewhat awkwardly between one of Woody’s outright masterpieces and his run of explicitly ‘experimental’ fare, "Radio Days" often gets lost in the shuffle of the filmmaker’s busy period during the tail-end of the 1980s. It’s a shame as, helped by the director’s relationship with Orion Pictures, the film’s one of his most sophisticated, least self-consciously contrived and ego-driven pictures; engaging in the stuff of romanticized autobiography (comparisons with Fellini’s "Amarcord" and Neil Simon’s "Brighton Beach Memoirs" abound) without tipping over into his customary brand of self-aggrandizing neurotica. True, there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before. It’s in part a panacea to dead technology and a dead time – in voice over, Woody laments the voices of old radio stars that grow “dimmer and dimmer” – and it mimics a lot of the concerns of "The Purple Rose of Cairo," whilst its heaving ensemble even makes room for superfluous cameos from Tony Roberts and Diane Keaton. But it’s an ode to eccentricity, an aping of the foibles of family life during the late 1930s and early 1940s, a work that straddles the divide between the bleaker impulses of his output (Dianne Wiest’s lonely spinster a case in point) and the epigrammatic niceties of his New Yorker humor pieces. [B+]

“September” (1987)
Marked by a fabulous performance by Elaine Stritch, who plays an awful, incorrigible, selfish and self-centered mother, Allen’s "September" is well-known as a theater-play that’s been filmed and is marked by long takes and few cuts. An ambrosial picture about secrets and lies, unrequited love, and crushed hopes, the autumnal "September" is a somber, slightly Bergman-esque chamber drama about a family and friends and the deceits and romantic betrayals that occur during a late summer weekend getaway in upstate New York. The bitter and bittersweet drama stars Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Jack Warden, Denholm Elliott and Sam Waterston, where past family resentments bubble over between Farrow’s depressive character and her overbearing and thoughtless mother (Stritch), and characters pine for objects of affection they can never attain. While the picture is no "Autumn Sonata" (Bergman’s 1979 late-era masterpiece, which the film vaguely resembles), "September" is perhaps a little small stakes at times, but it’s not without its powerfully emotional scenes, generally between Farrow, Weist and Stritch. Interestingly enough, the picture was shot twice, as early attempts with Sam Shepard, Maureen O’Sullivan and Christopher Walken failed to create sparks. [B]

“Another Woman” (1988)
Woody Allen’s late-late ’80s (post “Radio Days”)-early 90s period is like his golden brown period, insofar as it seems to be a detour into a different period of work (all of it done with DPs Sven Nykvist and Carlo DiPalmi), more dramatic and generally focusing on female protagonists’ distresses, and recurring themes of infidelity (ironic given the fact Mia Farrow is the lead of all of them and he would leave her for Soon-Yi Previn very shortly after this period would end). Starring Gena Rowlands, Farrow, Ian Holm, an underused Gene Hackman and Blythe Danner, the rather uninvolving "Another Woman" falls squarely into this camp. The Bergman-esque (of course), small-scale picture (tellingly shot by Sven Nykvist) indebted to “Wild Strawberries,” centers on a woman (Rowlands) who begins to overhear the problems of a despondent woman (Farrow) during her neighbor’s psychiatric sessions. Fascinated with this woman, these conversations precipitate Rowlands to reflect on her past through her own dreamlike flashback and realizes she has sheltered herself from her true emotions her entire life, while having cluelessly alienated many of who she now realizes are former friends. While the two women’s stories come full circle in a rather brilliantly written way, there’s no denying "Another Woman" isn’t exactly Woody’s best Bergman-esque homage. Still like many of Allen’s average films of this era, some strong performances do give it some value. [C+]

“New York Stories” (1989) (Segment: “Oedipus Wrecks”)
A short film in the omnibus picture “New York Stories,” which featured fellow shorts by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, Allen scores the distinction of being the “just OK” short sandwiched between one great one (Marty’s) and one largely mediocre one (Coppola’s) Allen’s love note to his mom and being a mama’s boy was front and center in "Oedipus Rex," a lighthearted comedy about a mother disembodied and transported into the ether above New York City after a magic trick goes awry (check the pre-‘Curb’ Larry David-with-hair cameo). She proceeds to visibly appear as a gigantic apparition over Manhattan’s skyline announcing embarrassing facts about her son’s personal life that New Yorkers soon become accustomed to; tolerating and then even ignoring her awkward motherly gushing about her son (how cute he was he was as a child and generally airing his dirty laundry, and typical indifferent New Yorkers quickly brush it off). A little bit more high-concept and surreal from Woody than we’re used to, but essentially, it was much the same old gag we were used to about neurosis and self-deprecation without as much funnybone tickling. [C+]

“Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989)
"I remember my father telling me, ‘The eyes of God are on us always.’ The eyes of God. What a phrase to a young boy. What were God’s eyes like? Unimaginably penetrating, intense eyes, I assumed. And I wonder if it was just a coincidence I made my specialty ophthalmology.” So speaks Judah Rosenthal (for Martin Landau, a career best?) in Allen’s bleakly funny rumination on the nature of justice, divine and otherwise. For Judah, an affair with Dolores (Anjelica Huston) has spoiled and turned poisonous to his actual marriage and reputation in an upstanding largely Jewish community. The means by which he plans to remove Dolores will force Judah to face personal responsibility that has the potential to eat away at him from the inside out. Allen fills in for a lighter subplot as Cliff, a failed filmmaker tasked with covering the every-day exploits of pompous producer Lester (Alan Alda). While the film features some choice zingers (most notably Lester’s proud observation “If it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, it isn’t.”), Judah’s plotline is at the forefront and features some of the best character writing Allen’s ever done. Shot by Bergman-collab and cinematography giant Sven Nykvist, ‘Crimes’ features scenes of startling beauty and great sorrow. It’s an elegant film about the most inelegant people, and one of Allen’s’ finest. [A]

Rob Brydon on his favorite Woody Allen film: "So you want my favorite? Here you go, you ready? ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ – fantastic. I love ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery,’ too."

“Alice” (1990)
A dissatisfied and spoiled middle-aged Manhattanite who gave up her career to raise a family (Mia Farrow) has her mundane, yet hyper-privileged world turned upside down when she meets, what she believes is the man of her dreams (Joe Mantegna) at her children’s school. Feeling guilty about the adultery she hasn’t even committed, Alice seeks out a Chinese herbalist and this is where the picture gets incredibly whimsical and romantic. One herb gives her sexual confidence, another grants her powers of invisibility which she abuses to spy on the object of her affection, and another brings back a ghost of her past (Alec Baldwin, playing a reckless old boyfriend as an apparition) which allows her to relive old memories. Co-starring William Hurt, Blythe Danner and Judy Davis, while mildly cute with its magical tangents reminiscent of “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” the forgettable picture — a loose rework of Fellini’s “Juliet of the Spirits” — is one of the first major (but still at this juncture, harmless), misfires in the Allen oeuvre. [C-]

Here’s Part 2: 1990-2011

Kevin Jagernauth, Mark Zhuravsky, Cat Scott, Sam Chater, Christopher Bell, Rodrigo Perez, Oliver Lyttelton, Drew Taylor, Cat Scott, Sam Price, 

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Kitty C.

In Hannah and Her Sisters, Holly and her catering partner, played by Carrie Fisher, were competing for the attention of Sam Waterston's character, NOT Holly and Lee.

Emmett Booth

Imagine what the Woodman who made Sleeper would’ve done with Anchorman had it been his.


like many Allen has a special place in my heart/mind that most other filmamkers never will…and when I see each new film year after year my views are never confined to that film alone (for good or bad)…I always see each film as an additional piece of the larger Woddy Allen World…so they tend to average out, the outright classics bringning up the lesser efforts…

Catherine Scott

About Jeff Daniels what we meant was not that he is no longer a good actor, but that, as you’ve pointed out, his good roles today are few and far between (even though he often does a good job in his films).

What we probably should have said was that he was worthy as a leading man on top of being a good actor, since we don’t see him taking many lead roles today; it’s easy to forget that he was once leading man material.

In Defense of Jeff Daniels

“and it’s easy to forget that Daniels was quite a good actor back in his day.”

This statement truly offended me. Jeff Daniels has made many bad movies over the years, but is still a great actor. In the last decade he’s had some really strong performances -“The Squid and the Whale” “The Lookout” “Goodnight and Good luck” come to mind, and show that he is still at the top of his game in the last 10 years, how dare you insinuate he was only good “back in his day.”

Not to mention he owned the 90’s with his performances in “Dumb and Dumber” and “Gettysburg.”

Carry on.

The Playlist

The urge to grade them in relation is understandable and frankly, it’s how we *generally* do them, but in this case we didn’t for whatever reason.

But it’s kinda the way one should review films. Like if “Sucker Punch” gets a C-, but like “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” gets an F, one might say, “how do you give POTC4 an F* and Sucker Punch a C-???” and then answer is well 1) like all reviews, it’s subjective and 2) we’re not grading them in relation to the film, we’re grading them on the film itself and how good, bad, successful or failing they are.

*i made those grades up, i cannot recall what they were graded other than they’re both ass. :)


That’s a good point, I wasn’t thinking about how different critics were reviewing different movies. And someone who reviews Take the Money and Run shouldn’t check with the person who reviews Manhattan to make sure their grades match up.

Christopher Bell

I’ll have to agree with the grade for “Another Woman.” Interesting premise but painfully dull and quite a slog. I like “September” better, but I really do feel like those straight up dramas (which includes “Interiors”) feel rather hollow at times.


Reducing Annie Hall’s grade for any whiff of “misogyny” seen in 2011?

The Playlist

The grades are worth fighting over, yes, but remember, they’re subjective. Yes, there’s no way those early Woodies are A’s over the aforementioned classics, but that’s MY opinion. Also the person who graded say, Take the Money and run, didn’t grade say, Annie Hall and if they were being done in relation to each other (as they sometimes/usually are) it would have been different.


Both Zelig and Another Woman are completely underrated.

Zelig is not only one of the greatest parodies of all time, but a groundbreaking film in FX development and brilliant cinematography by Gordon Willis. People talk about the “brilliant FX work” in Forrest Gump when Hanks meets Kennedy. Guess what? Allen did that almost 15 years earlier and much more brilliantly than Forrest Dud.

Another Woman might be his greatest straight drama. Gena Rowlands gives a superb performance completely ignored back then. Allen describes this film as one of his most personal.

Except those two, good restrospective ,guys.


I recall missing the earlier pictures, started in ’77 with Annie Hall. After that I was so hooked on Allen I went to Interiors like my GF made me buy an artsy lamp, meanwhile holding out hope for the next year’s Woody, looking forward to a comedy. It turned out to be Manhattan. To me Manhattan was in the same league as that year’s Apocalypse Now. As a devout worshipper of the Woodman, in 1980 I sped to his next, Stardust Memories, expecting it to be Manhattan 2, instead hit it like going face-first into a brick wall at 80 mph. That movie was where the ’70s ended.

Oliver Lyttelton

Correction: That Manhattan write-up is an English rose.


You know, it’s funny – I’m one of the most devoted Woody fans out there, but I wouldn’t rate anything he did before Love and Death higher than a C, and I think Interiors and especially Another Woman are great flicks. I would even put Another Woman in my top five of all Woody movies.

Guess I’m the opposite of the fans depicted in Stardust Memories!


sorry, that Manhattan write up was really weak.


Great work, but that write up was really weak.


There’s no way Love and Death and Take the Money and Run are As if Manhattan and Annie Hall are A-. Annie Hall maybe, but Manhattan?! Crazy.

Hayden Maxwell

And let me champion Alice a little. The Alec Baldwin scene is beautiful.

Edward Davis

Whoa, generous grades, guys. Count me in for the “Interiors” dust-up. That’s A-grade all the way.


Allen may make a film every year, but in many of those years the output has been mediocre. I’d rather have Malick’s once a decade, but high quality output then Allen shoot until it sticks approach. That being said I saw “Midnight in Paris” two nights ago and it is fantastic, his best in years.

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