Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Top 5 Woody Allen movies

I am an unabashed Woody Allen apologist, so you won't find a "Top 5 Worst" list from me. Only the good stuff. He's missed on a few, though none badly, and despite his age he continues to churn out brilliant dialogue, thought-provoking themes and lush backdrops in his movies, which he still dutifully produces at a clip of one a year. This may be my youth speaking, but I think he's in another career-defining phase like the one he entered in the late 70s. It only gets better.

Plus, the man can deliver witty self deprecating one-liners like few others.

To the movies! These are my faves, for the record, not necessarily the most critically acclaimed.

5. Hannah and her Sisters

The witty repartee in this film reveals nearly all of Allen's most endearing qualities as a filmmaker. The movie won three Oscars (Michael Caine for best actor in a supporting role, Diane Wiest for best actress in a supporting role and best screenplay) for its nuanced view of family and the misshapen venn diagram created by the scattered interests therein.

Interestingly, Caine won his Oscar in the midst one of the worst runs of any top-billed actor in modern film history. Less than a year after Hannah was released, Caine dropped Jaws: The Revenge on us. He accepted his Oscar via satellite from the set of this massive turd. He plays Hoagie Newcombe in one of the dumbest, most befuddling movies ever made. But it was hilarious.

4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Hidden behind the entrancing Spanish guitar licks that float over every scene, the immutable beauty of Barcelona and the lure of the Spanish countryside is a compelling storyline of longing, the slow death of unhappy marriage and the fluidity of youth.

It also features the brilliance of Penelope Cruz, who plays a mentally imbalanced artist in a fiery relationship with Javier Bardem straight off the pages of A Moveable Feast. Scarlet Jo and Cruz also share a kiss scene in a darkroom. Aaalrighty.

3. Manhattan

Manhattan was Act Two in Woody Allen's immaculate run in the 70's that produced some of his most challenging work. It is, in essence, a black-and-white ode to the city that created and cultivated Allen's neurosis, biting wit and culturally-themed work. It also put a beautiful face on Gershwin's timeless Rhapsody in Blue.

2. Midnight in Paris

So this is Woody's newest. As I just saw it last week (and again this week) I'm extremely high on it. It may be a smidge impulsive, but this is one of his masterworks that should live comfortably alongside his very best.

It hits all my high notes: an imperfect but intelligent interlocutor in a never-ending search for meaning (Owen Wilson), an incredible setting (Paris, my most favorite of cities) and heaping helpings of cultural high history. Well-acted facsimiles of Picasso, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Degas all make cameos as Wilson's character travels back in time to unknowingly gain life-altering perspective. Plus, Rachel McAdams.

1. Annie Hall

The legend that really boosted Allen's career. Not much to say on this monster of film that hasn't already been said. At its core it will forever define relationships in the 70s, but it stands up remarkably well across the decades. Ninety three minutes of bliss.

- Will Parchman


The Clueless Yank said...

What's up Tiger Lily > all

Matt said...

The exchange with Christopher Walken in Annie Hall is one of the best in all of his movies. The one that ends with "Uh...I'm due back on the planet Earth now.."

JNoble said...

What about Sleeper?

Will said...

I could have made a pretty extensive Honorable Mention list. Sleeper is good, but it's more of a lighthearted jaunt into Woody's satirical slapstick side than a film of true impact for me. I view the absurdity in What's Up, Tiger Lily in the same manner.

As Woody defined his neurotic tics later in life, he started really digging into his take on the human condition. That, I think, is where his best work is produced.

BTM said...

"Crimes and Misdemeanors" is easily top 3 Woody Allen for me, but I understand it's all a matter of taste.