Avoiding Woody Allen? Give 'Midnight in Paris' a try
Lately I have been reviving my love for Woody Allen movies.
Recently, I saw a two-part documentary on Allen that reminded me of his prolific output as a writer, comedian, playwright and director. I began reading the short stories of Woody Allen in high school, some 40 years ago. That’s where I started seeing films such as “Bananas,” “Take the Money and Run,” “Play It Again, Sam,” “Sleeper” and “Love and Death.”
Then, in 1977, Allen made “Annie Hall.” It was both funny and poignant. For many people my age, it captured the bittersweet nature of relationships and perfectly summed up its wisdom in the punch line of an ancient vaudeville joke. While some of us were watching, Allen had turned into a serious filmmaker.
But his films were almost never box office hits. “Annie Hall” won four Academy Awards, but its box office take even now totals just $38 million. Some of his films earn just a million or two. I acknowledge that for some people, Allen is a pill, unfunny and creepy because of the origin of his relationship with his wife, Soon-Yi Previn.
Despite his lack of clout at the box office, Allen kept making movies. He usually makes one a year. Some are likable, and some are forgettable. Some are comedies, and others, such as “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” are heavyweight dramas. (In “Crimes,” a man literally gets away with murder.) Every few years, he creates a gem. And there is always method to Woody’s madness. He’s always pursuing a new theme or some refinement of an old one.
Recently, I saw his latest film, “Midnight in Paris.” It’s one of those cinematic diamonds and one of his best in a long time. On Jan. 24, Allen received his seventh directing Academy Award nomination. He also was nominated for his original screenplay.
“Midnight” is a marvelous film: relaxed, funny and wise in a loose-limbed sort of way. Owen Wilson basically plays Woody. He’s an unhappy Hollywood screenwriter who regrets never having tried to go to Paris to write novels. Visiting the City of Light with his beautiful but shrewish fiancee, Wilson revels in the city’s charms. He also manages (in the kind of plot turn Woody is so good at) to meet some of the great artists who lived in the city in years past. It’s whimsy elevated into art.
A couple days later, I turned up the film “Scoop” and enjoyed it. It’s not on a par with “Midnight,” but it’s still quite enjoyable as Scarlett Johansson tries to solve a serial killing with the help of a recently deceased newspaper reporter played by Ian McShane.
My point here is that if you have never tried a Woody Allen film, give “Midnight” a whirl. You might be surprised. If you haven’t seen one in a while, this is the one to try.
Do you have a favorite Woody Allen film? Or do you hate his movies?
Follow Shawn Sensiba on Twitter at @shawnsensiba.