I am a Woody Allen completist, and successfully so. I have seen every last one of the director’s feature films, including those he wrote but didn’t direct. I’ve seen his 1994 TV version of “Don’t Drink the Water,” and I’ve tracked down the un-aired TV program “Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story,” only available at the Paley Center for Media in both NYC and LA (and totally worth the trip). I’ve enjoyed each and every last moment of the experience, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I haven’t yet seen “Midnight in Paris,” but I’ll be on it at the first available opportunity.
This tends to raise eyebrows, even from some Allen fans. “Why bother slogging through all of the mediocre stuff?” And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I love him so much. Maybe it’s because I grew up during what’s generally considered his worst period, and therefore his weaker films still have nostalgic significance for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a neurotic urbanite Jew myself. But I think it mostly has to do with his extraordinary consistency. His casting is generally exceptional, and he can get a solid performance out of almost anyone. He has a practically unequalled knack for putting together soundtracks, with those wonderful opening credits that lure you in every time. And he’s simply a great writer. Even in his least impressive movies there are always a few great one-liners or moments of brilliant articulation that come through.
To celebrate this I’ve put together a list of quotes, one from each theatrically released film, which I think make my point for me. First though, lets kick things off with perhaps the clearest example of his gift: the Concert for NYC short from 2001, “Sounds from a Town I Love.”
“What’s New Pussycat?” (1965)
Victor Skakapopulis: We played strip chess. She had me down to my shorts and I fainted from tension.
“What’s Up, Tiger lily?” (1966)
Teri Yaki: I’d call him a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse.
“Take the Money and Run” (1967)
Virgil: After fifteen minutes I wanted to marry her, and after half an hour I completely gave up the idea of stealing her purse.
“Don’t Drink the Water” (1969)
Walter Hollander: I don’t eat oysters. You have to eat them alive. I like my food dead. Not sick, not wounded — dead!
Fielding Mellish: I had a good relationship with my parents. They very rarely h-… I think they hit me once, actually, in my whole childhood. They, they, uh, started beating me on the 23rd of December in 1942, and stopped beating me in the late Spring of ’44.
“Play It Again, Sam” (1972)
Allan: I had to go to Washington once when I was married, and even though I was the one leaving, I got sick; and when I returned, my wife threw up.
“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask” (1972)
Victor: I don’t know if you’ve read my book, “Advanced Sexual Positions: How to Achieve Them Without Laughing.”
Miles Monroe: I’m what you would call a teleological, existential atheist. I believe that there’s an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey.
“Love and Death” (1975)
Natasha: I never want to marry, I just want to get divorced.
“Annie Hall” (1977)
Alvy Singer: My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks.
Pearl: You’ll live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to.
Isaac Davis: I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.
“Stardust Memories” (1980)
Sandy Bates: To you, I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the loyal opposition.
“A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” (1982)
Andrew: He’s a wonderful guy and a terrific doctor. Never lost a patient. Got a couple of them pregnant, but never lost one.
Leonard Zelig: I have an interesting case. I’m treating two sets of Siamese twins with split personalities. I’m getting paid by eight people.
“Broadway Danny Rose” (1984)
Danny Rose: I drove up here today. I love driving. You run across so many interesting people.
“The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985)
Cecilia: I just met a wonderful new man. He’s fictional but you can’t have everything.
“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)
Mickey’s Father: How the hell do I know why there were Nazis? I don’t know how the can opener works!
“Radio Days” (1987)
Narrator: Despite his bravado, Mr Manulis panicked and bolted out of the car. He was so frightened by the reports of interplanetary invasion that he ran off, leaving Aunt Bea to contend with the green monsters he expected to drop from the sky at any moment. She walked home. Six miles. When Mr Manulis called for a date the next week, she told my mother to say she couldn’t see him. She had married a Martian.
Diane: Oh God have you got my make-up kit? It’s got my diaphragm in it… isn’t it silly? I still travel with it. It’s my lucky charm, maybe I should donate it to the antique fair.
“Another Woman” (1988)
Marion: I wondered if a memory is something you have or something you’ve lost.
“Oedipus Wrecks” (1989)
Sheldon: I’m 50 years old. I’m a partner in a big law firm. You know I’m very successful, and I still haven’t resolved my relationship with my mother.
“Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989)
Clifford Stern: Honey, you’re the one who stopped sleeping with me, ok. It’ll be a year come April 20th. I remember the date exactly, because it was Hitler’s birthday.
Joe: There’s nothing sexier than a lapsed Catholic.
“Shadows and Fog” (1991)
Kleinman: A deranged person is supposed to have the strength of ten men. I have the strength of one small boy… with polio.
“Husbands and Wives” (1992)
Sally: It’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics: sooner or later everything turns to shit. That’s my phrasing, not the Encyclopedia Britannica.
“Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993)
Larry Lipton: I can’t listen to that much Wagner, ya know? I start to get the urge to conquer Poland.
“Bullets Over Broadway” (1994)
Cheech: Sylvia Pincus. Big fat Jewish broad, had a little tiny husband. She chopped him up with an ax and mailed his pieces all over the country. I don’t know what she was tryin’ to prove.
“Mighty Aphrodite” (1995)
Linda Ash: And so there I am on the first day, on the set, and there’s this guy fucking me from behind, right, and there’s these two huge guys dressed like cops in my mouth at the same time and I remember thinking to myself, “I like acting. I wanna study.”
“Everyone Says I Love You” (1996)
Bob: How did I end up with a kid on the other end of the political spectrum? How did I fail? Steffi, get me a copy of my will… and an eraser.
“Deconstructing Harry” (1997)
Harry Block: I think you’re the opposite of a paranoid. I think you go around with the insane delusion that people like you.
Tony Gardella: Tom Dale. *Big* star. He’s in New York filming an adaptation of a sequel of a remake.
“Sweet and Lowdown” (1999)
Emmet Ray: Wanna go to the dump and shoot some rats?
“Small Time Crooks” (2000)
Ray: Ever heard of the Polish carpool? Every day they meet at work.
“Curse of the Jade Scorpion” (2001)
C.W.: Are you going to take your coat off? It hasn’t rained in this apartment in 20 years.
“Hollywood Ending” (2002)
Val: For me, the nicest thing about masturbation is afterward, the cuddling time.
“Anything Else” (2003)
David Dobel: Let me tell you, I am of the Hebrew persuasion, but that guy who handles you is a member of one of the lost tribes of Israel that should have remained lost.
“Melinda and Melinda” (2004)
Laurel: Melinda had a reputation for being Postmodern in bed.
“Match Point” (2005)
Christopher “Chris” Wilton: It would be fitting if I were apprehended… and punished. At least there would be some small sign of justice – some small measure of hope for the possibility of meaning.
Sid Waterman: Oh yes, she can’t swim. She sinks like a stone! It’s a family trait, actually, lack of buoyancy. Her siblings suffer from it too.
“Cassandra’s Dream” (2007)
Father: Like the poet said: “The only ship certain to come in has black sails.”
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008)
Juan Antonio: Maria Elena used to say that only unfulfilled love can be romantic.
“Whatever Works” (2009)
Melodie St. Ann Celestine: Don’t use that line, because Boris said he dreamt about me last night, and I really doubt that it’s mathematically possible for me to be in two dreams at one time.
“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” (2010)
Enid Wicklow: Poor Jonathan; his wife died recently and he’s been trying so desperately to contact her.