Woody Allen is one of the most prolific writer directors working today. Having made over fifty movies in his time, he remains a staple of contemporary cinema. Why not shuffle down memory lane with THN to relive his finest moments?
5. VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008)
This low-key effort depicts the romantic entanglements of two best friends (Rebecca Hall and Scarlet Johansson) and a bohemian Spanish artist (Javier Bardem). Allen’s direction perfectly captures the beauty of Barcelona, using its unique artistic look to bring colour and shape to the film. But the heart of the movie lies in its dissection of love, romance, and relationships. It seeks to investigate the nature of happiness, normalcy, and whether the most romantic love is that which is unfulfilled.
The performances are strong throughout, particularly from Bardem, and Penelope Cruz even nabbed a best-supporting actress Oscar for her turn as sexy mentalist Maria Elena. Sweet and affecting, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA manages to remain interesting and original in an era when romantic movies are largely cut from the same mould
4. BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (1994)
This brilliantly conceived satire follows David (John Cusack) the under-appreciated ‘artist’ whose work is severely compromised when a mobster bankrolls his latest play (if only to make a star out of his not-so-bright gal, Jeniffer Tilly). David must fend off interference from all angles, from mob heavy Cheech (Chazz Palminteri) to has-been diva Helen (Diane Wiest – picking her second Oscar after HANNAH AND HER SISTERS), each one trying to change his work according to their own vision.
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY is filled with great comic performances, such as Jim Broadbent’s chronic eater Warner, and features a career best turn from Palminteri. Not only is it hilarious throughout, but Allen’s astute commentary on the nature of art brings a subtle intelligence to the movie. A genuine classic.
3. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)
This charming ensemble is one of the true gems in Allen’s canon, and features a sterling cast – the likes of Diane Wiest, Max von Sydow, Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, and Michael Caine make this a line up to remember. It also has a number of blink-and-you’ll-miss moments from Daniel Stern, J.T. Walsh, John Turturro, and many others.
Following the lives of Hannah (Farrow) and… well, her sisters over the course of two years, the story focuses on the imperfections within each of their lives – even for the seemingly-perfect Hannah. This is punctuated by trials of hypochondriac Mickey (Allen), who desperately tries to find God in an effort to make sense of it all. Over the course of the story we witness love, heartbreak, affairs and pregnancy, all perfectly plotted to encapsulate the trials and tribulations of ordinary lives. Often funny and relentlessly sweet, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS remains one of Allen’s finest films.
2. MANHATTAN (1979)
This marks a darker turn from Allen, as he introduces us to a number of intertwined relationships involving largely unlikable characters. There’s Issac (Allen), a seriously-flawed divorcee, Yale (Michael Murphy) his adulterous best friend, and Mary (Diane Keaton), the pretentious socialite for whom they both hold a candle. Having less to do with New York than the title would suggest, MANHATTAN is very much study of relationships, with the underlying feeling that neither of them is going to end well.
Shot in black and white, MANAHATTAN has a timeless feel. It also boasts a witty and insightful script, with some of its best moments coming from the berating of New York’s pseudo intellectuals. A downbeat offering from Allen, but a classic none-the-less.
1. ANNIE HALL (1977)
ANNIE HALL is undoubtedly Allen’s most beloved and celebrated movie. It remains one of the finest romantic comedies to have ever shuffled neurotically across cinema screens. The movie not only marked a change of direction for Allen himself, but it also featured a number of stylistic conventions that proved to be years ahead of their time – breaking the fourth wall, non-linear narrative, and a self-referential approach are all evident here, ensuring ANNIE HALL as something of a seminal rom-com, and feeling very much as a precursor to such movies as SAY ANYTHING and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER.
Following the on-off relationship of neurotic stand-up Alvy (Allen) and dim-but-fun Annie (Diane Keaton), the film never succumbs to Hollywood convention, proving itself as one of the most subversive romantic comedies in movie history. Both sweet and funny, ANNIE HALL boasts great performances from both Allen and Keaton, and is driven by a razor-sharp script, which includes one of cinema’s finest ever lines – ‘Thirtyish academic wishes to meet woman who’s interested in Mozart, James Joyce, and sodomy.’
Often imitated but rarely bettered, ANNIE HALL has stood the test of time (and then some), and will no doubt be remembered as Allen’s defining moment.