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VULTURE DROPPINGS OF THE WEEK: Woody Allen

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Its Friday! Which means it’s time once again for the weekly video round-up of my favorite pop culture atrocities, misfires and entertaining trainwrecks. This week’s theme: Woody Allen.

Now in his 70s, an age when most people are taking it easy in a rocking chair, Allen remains rabidly productive, releasing one or two movies a year. With such a prolific output, though, there’s bound to be some duds. For every success like Bullets Over Broadway, Sweet and Lowdown or even last year’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, he’s had more than a few misfires.

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1. ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY’ (1982)

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This is a film which Allen must have intended as a compromise between his dramatic style and more lighthearted comedic aspirations. It was completed after Manhattan and Stardust Memories, none of which were traditional midsummer_nights_sex_comedycomedies and showed him looking to his favorite European filmmakers for inspiration. In Sex Comedy, Allen channels Ingmar Bergman‘s Smiles of a Summer Night.

The setting is the early 1900s at an idyllic summer home, where Andrew (played by Allen himself) and Adrian (Mary Steenburgen), host a weekend get-together with two other couples.  Romantic complications ensue, but for all its comic energy, the movie never quite gels.

Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, wrote:

A Misummer’s Night Sex Comedy gives the impression of someone speaking fluently, but formally in a language not his own.

In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert noted that:

there doesn’t seem to be a driving idea behind it, a confident tone to give us the sure notion that Allen knows what he wants to do here. It’s a tip-off that the story is lacking in both sex and comedy.

It’s notable for the fact that it was Mia Farrow‘s first movie with Allen. She would go on to star in 13 more and we all know how the rest of the story goes. Allen would have much greater success in his next Bergman homage Hannah and Her Sisters, which is considered one of his best films. In the clip posted below a doctor (Tony Roberts) tries to convince a nurse (Julie Hagerty) to join him for a weekend in the country. The trailer follows.

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2. ‘HOLLYWOOD ENDING’ (2002)

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Upon it’s release in 2002, Owen Gleiberman wrote in Entertainment Weekly:

This may be Allen’s worst film since the embarrassing inside-Hollywood debacle Celebrity.

He’s right that Hollywood Ending is bad, but hollywood_ending1Celebrity is like the The Godfather comparatively.

In the movie, Allen plays Val Waxman, a once-successful Hollywood film director, who’s stuck in the Arctic wilderness filming cheesy TV commercials, when he gets a phone call from his ex-wife played by, the considerably younger Tea Leoni.

The high concept part kicks in when Allen loses his sight as a result of the pressure of directing a big-budget film and pretends, on the advice of his agent, played by Mark Rydell, that he can still see. The blind director premise is good, but Allen doesn’t really go anywhere with it. It’s going for screwball,  high concept comedy and, unfortunately, doesn’t quite pull it off. The pacing is sluggish and the situations are too broad to be all that funny.

Below is a clip of Allen as director Val Waxman attempting to direct while blind, along with the trailer.



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3. ‘SCOOP’ (2006)

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Scoop once again prompted a critic, this time Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post, to write that it is “the worst movie Woody Allen ever made”. It came on the heels of Allen’s highly praised and highly overrated drama Match Point which starred Scarlett Johansson as a scheming vixen.
Allen scoophas said that he wrote Scoop specifically for Johansson after working with her on the previous film, because he thought she had a “funny” side that had gone unnoticed in her other movies. It also goes unnoticed in this one.  Johansson ought to have been offended that Allen would write her such an awful role. In the movie, she plays a college reporter visiting London while on vacation. She goes to see a magician called  “The Great Splendini” (played by Allen) and volunteers for one of his stunts.
After that, she unwittingly becomes involved in a murder investigation for someone known as the “Tarot Card Killer.”

The writing is particularly lazy, even for 2000s era Allen, and the plot, ripped off from several of his earlier films including Manhattan Murder Mystery, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Oedipus Wrecks, is paper thin. You’d think that one of cinema’s greatest comedic intellectuals would have evolved above silly, juvenile farces after the age of seventy.

Posted below are clips of a chemistry-less scene between Johansson and Hugh Jackman, the film’s trailer, and a promotional interview with Johannsen where she must have thought she and Allen were making another Match Point.

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