Tag Archive: Diane Keaton


Best of Movies: 351-400

Man. I’ve reviewed 400 films for this blog now (plus hundreds of reviews for TV shows and short music posts). That blows my mind. For those who are newcomers to my blog, every fifty films, I make a superlative list of the movies that I’ve reviewed with hyperlinks back to the original review so that my readers who don’t have the time to read all of the reviews I write (and I don’t blame anyone for that) have a way to get a quick summation of what I think are the best things I’ve watched in the last three months or so. And, that’s how it worked out. It’s been three and a half months since the last one of these lists (which can be found here), and I’ll probably have the chance to do one more before I we get around to my blog’s three year anniversary next February.

Here are some quick notes about this particular 50 film block. Natalie Portman now joins Edward Norton as the only person to top one of my categories more than once. Ed Norton was my Best Supporting Actor for 201-250 for Primal Fear and my Best Actor in a Dramatic Role for American History X for 251-300. Natalie Portman was my Best Actress in a Dramatic Role for Black Swan for all the way back in 51-100. You’ll see what she wins for this time around later. Also, at first, this particular block was without question the lowest scoring block I had ever done for my blog, but then the last fifteen or so films was heavily loaded with great movies so it evened out towards the end. Hopefully, you guys can find some good stuff to watch here.

 

Best Picture – Drama:

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1. American Psycho

2. Downfall

3. Good Will Hunting

4. Women in Love

5. Rachel, Rachel

 

Best Picture – Comedy:

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1. Annie Hall

2. (500) Days of Summer

3. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

4. Raising Arizona

5. Bad Santa

 

Best Director:

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1. Woody Allen: Annie Hall

2. Oliver Hirschbiegel: Downfall

3. Oliver Stone: Any Given Sunday

4. Ken Russell: Women in Love

5. Marc Webb: (500) Days of Summer

 

Best Actor in a Dramatic Role:

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1. Bruno Ganz: Downfall

2. Christian Bale: American Psycho

3. Daniel Day-Lewis: The Boxer

4. Matt Damon: Good Will Hunting

5. Al Pacino: Any Given Sunday

 

Best Actress in a Dramatic Role:

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1. Kate Winslet: Revolutionary Road

2. Joanne Woodward: Rachel, Rachel

3. Glenda Jackson: Women in Love

4. Alexandra Maria Lara: Downfall

5. Bryce Dallas Howard: The Village

 

Best Actor in a Comedic Role:

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1. Billy Bob Thornton: Bad Santa

2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt: (500) Days of Summer

3. Woody Allen: Annie Hall

4. Nicolas Cage: Raising Arizona

5. Matthew Wilkas: Gayby

 

Best Actress in a Comedic Role:

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1. Diane Keaton: Annie Hall

2. Zooey Deschanel: (500) Days of Summer

3. Holly Hunter: Raising Arizona

4. Lauren Graham: Bad Santa

5. Audrey Hepburn: Sabrina

 

Best Supporting Actor:

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1. Dustin Hoffman: Rain Man

2. Robin Williams: Good Will Hunting

3. Michael Shannon: Revolutionary Road

4. Oliver Reed: Women in Love

5. Samuel L. Jackson: Eve’s Bayou

 

Best Supporting Actress:

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1. Natalie Portman: Léon: The Professional

2. Judi Dench: A Room with a View

3. Jennie Linden: Women in Love

4. Uma Thurman: Tape

5. Corinna Harfouch: Downfall

 

Well people. That’s it. Come back in about three and half months or so for the next fifty movies. And, I actually realized something during this particular review. Diane Keaton has also won twice. She has won twice now in Best Actress in a Comedic Role. The other was for a different Woody Allen film, Love and Death. Now, I’m actually done. Enjoy people. I hope you find a film that looks interesting to you.

 

 

 

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Every movie lover has that one film that you can put in a million times, and every time you watch it, you get something new out of it. With our favorite films, repeat viewings become not only a type of security blanket where we can bask in the predicted pleasures of a treasured piece of art, but they increasingly become extended sessions of wonder that one team of filmmakers (from the director on down) were able to get things so perfectly right. They are films that infiltrate every aspect of our lives and we learn and evolve with these experiences so that sometimes, if the film is great enough, something about the film grows to define part of you. I am a lifelong film lover, but 1977’s Annie Hall is my favorite film of all time, and not only is it the crowning jewel of Woody Allen’s career, it’s the most important romantic comedy ever made.

Manhattan may be deeper; Midnight in Paris may be more whimsical; and Crimes and Misdemeanors may be more tragic, but no other film in the Woody Allen canon has transformed cinema to the extent of Annie Hall. Taking the most overdone film genre of all time, the romantic comedy, Annie Hall turned every genre convention on its head. From expectations for a happy ending to the classic manic pixie dream girl archetype to the notions of linear storytelling to a respect for the existence of the fourth wall, Annie Hall obliterated the standards of 1970s storytelling and prior with a rapturous disregard for the way movies were meant to be made. Clearly enthralled with Fellini and Bergman, Woody Allen brought foreign art-house sensibilities into the mainstream.

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Like so much of the best cinema, Annie Hall is an especially autobiographical film. In a vein similar to Chasing Amy (or even Allen’s later Husbands and Wives), Annie Hall is a cinematic portrayal of a crumbling relationship played out by the real life partners in the relationship itself. Neé Annie Hall in real life, Diane Keaton (Love and Death) plays the titular object of Allen’s desire. Diane Keaton was Woody’s greatest muse of the 1970ss, and with Annie Hall, Allen fuses a fantastical and romanticized embellishment of his youth thrown into the tragic downfall of one of the great relationships of his life.

Thus, Annie Hall is the decades spanning tale of the life and loves of Alvy Singer, a purposefully transparent stand-in for Woody Allen. A marginally successful stand-up comedian, Alvy lives in New York. With his best friend Rob (Tony Roberts) and two ex-wives, Alvy’s life isn’t exactly a shining example of having your life together. And his world is only complicated when he’s introduced to the ditsy, sensitive, and complex Annie Hall who bounds into Alvy’s life like an electric jolt to the heart. But the gulf in their intellectual ambitions and Alvy’s own cynical, pessimistic outlook on life spell an inevitable doom for their on-again/off-again relationship.

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If you have ever been in a failed relationship, Annie Hall is a sprawling, exquisitely detailed roadmap of everything that could have possibly gone wrong. Even if you’re a 24 year old kid from rural WV who had never even been to NYC until years after watching this film for the first time, Woody’s tale of lost love, regret, and the rush of dawning romance is timeless and universal in its appeal. I remember watching this film for the first time as a sophomore in high school and immediately being overwhelmed by a sympathy with Alvy Singer, and the relatable nature of this story has only gotten more painfully intense as I’ve gotten older and had more experience in the type of tale Woody has crafted.

And, that attention to detail and brutal effectiveness in detailing a relationship on its way up and just as quickly on its way out is what has made Woody Allen one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time. It would have been too easy to paint a one-sided portrait of the collapse of his time with Diane Keaton, but instead, Allen showed an honest, subtle look at the dynamics between men and women and the ways that we desire different things in life and how those desires can spell doom for love. Annie has become one of the go to examples of the “manic pixie dream girl” but if you actually watch the film, it’s clear that Annie is meant to deconstruct that typical male fantasy.

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But it isn’t just the effective realism and honest intentions of the film that makes Annie Hall the classic it’s become (though that’s certainly a major part of it). Annie Hall stands head and shoulders above its peer because it was the first major film to successfully incorporate serious themes and an actual emotional message with laugh-out-loud fourth wall shattering humor. Over the course of Annie Hall, Woody Allen doesn’t just lean on the proverbial fourth wall; he takes a chainsaw and demolishes it until you’re not sure if the fourth wall ever existed in the first place.

Having his characters directly address the camera, incorporating not only flashbacks but flashbacks where the present day characters can interact with the people in the past, using animated interludes, devolving into downright fantasy, and using sardonic thought bubbles to explain the actual thoughts of characters during dialogue, Annie Hall isn’t afraid to remind you that you’re watching a movie, and it’s better off for it. Some great films have aped this style since ( (500) Days of Summer an obvious example), but no movie has so successfully married the heartwrenching, the hilarious, and the surreal as well as Annie Hall.

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Diane Keaton won a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar at the 1977 Academy Awards for her portrayal of Annie, and the only performance by a woman in a comedy that I can think that is better than her turn in this film was Jennifer Lawrence last year in Silver Linings Playbook. Diane Keaton may have essentially been playing herself, but it was a fierce and now iconic portrayal. What makes Woody such a great writer is that he writes such complex roles for his female leads, and Annie is possibly the best role he’s ever written. Diane Keaton sees Annie through virtually the complete human emotional experience, and she never falters along the  way.

Woody lost that year for Best Actor to Richard Dreyfuss for The Goodbye Girl, and I actually agree with that decision from the Academy. Woody’s turn as Alvy is probably one of the top three performances of his career, but there’s simply no denying that Woody is better behind the camera than in front of it. There are moments here and there where Woody stops acting (even if he’s supposedly conversing with a friend in the film) and just starts performing one of his stand-up routines and the difference in his cadence is too apparent. Still, when the scene calls for it, Woody Allen too hits all the right emotional and dramatic points required for the film.

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I could go on an on about how Annie Hall is a perfect snapshot of life in the 1970s or how brilliant the “It Had to Be You” interludes are or how Allen’s neurotic, nebbish Alvy Singer became the basis of a million rom-com heroes to come, but I think I have probably bored all of you enough with my adoration bordering on worship of this masterful film. I’ve written three unpublished screenplays, and it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Annie Hall is (with Chasing Amy and Pulp Fiction) the reason I want to be a film-maker. If, in my life, I can write a film that is one-fifth as good as Woody’s opus, I will consider my career a success. I’ll leave you with a quote.

Alvy Singer: [narrating] After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I… I realized what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.

Final Score: A+

 

Love and Death

(Quick aside before my actual review. I told you all that I was on a hot streak. This movie was simply amazing and I’ve basically been bouncing around between “A”s and “B+”s for two or three weeks now. The selection of films that I currently have at home say this trend could possibly continue. Got to love it.)

Like many great artists, Woody Allen’s film career can be divided not-so-neatly into periods. His career started out with his screwball, slapstick comedies such as Take the Money and Run or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. Then, there was the transitional period between his more comedic films and his later, more serious work such as his magnum opus Annie Hall and Manhattan. Of course, there’s the serious period of Interiors, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Hannah and Her Sisters. And finally, you have Woody’s wonderful current renaissance where he’s back to bridging the gap between the comedic and the serious (i.e. Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Match Point, or Midnight in Paris). 1975’s Love and Death is often considered the last of Woody’s slapstick films, but it seems instead to be a great merger of his raunchy sensibilities of his early days with the more philosophical bent of his later films.

This is the Woody Allen film for the person in your life who knows his way around the works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky better than the average American knows reality TV. With allusions abound to War and Peace, Crime and Punishment (whose title would later be the source of the pun of the title of Crimes and Misdemeanors) and The Brothers Karamazov (as well as weirdly enough, the films of Ingmar Bergman, particularly Persona ), Love and Death is simultaneously a spoof of classic Russian literature (and silly philosophical/ethical debates) while celebrating some of the elements that make those particular novels so beloved in the first place. That Woody Allen manages to tell an epic tale of love, war, silliness, and morality in only an hour and a half is astounding.

At the onset of the Napoleonic wars between Russia and France, Woody Allen plays Boris, a nebbish Woody Allen stand-in living as a peasant in rural Russia. He yearns for the heart of his cousin Sonia (Diane Keaton), but she is in love with Boris’ brother, Ivan. Boris is a lover and an intellectual (or at least he thinks so), and when war breaks out between Russia and France, he wants no part of the battle. Yet, he’s branded a coward by his family and sent off to fight anyways. I don’t want to ruin much more of the plot because in typical early Allen fashion, it snowballs in brilliant slapstick fashion but let’s just say there are plots against Napoleon, classic pistol duels, and bawdy sexual hijinks.

This is one of those classic comedies that is operating on just a million different levels and modes of humor. You have direct spoofs of classic Russian works such as a dialogue that name drops most of the major characters of Russian fiction (especially the works of Dostoyevsky). You have some sight gags, whether they’re direct film shout-outs such as the famous perpendicular faces from Persona or Cries and Whisper. You’ve got endless classic Woody monologues and dialogues having characters butcher formal logic (intentionally) or Woody just riffing on the ostentatious verbiage of classic Russian literature. There’s great awkward situational humor such as Boris’ attempts to seduce a beautiful (and busty) Countess. And then of course, there’s absolutely silly (but rhythmically perfect) slapstick abound. The jokes never stop in Love and Death.

Woody is never going to be the world’s greatest actor (although he does have some great performances, Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors spring immediately to mind), and he’s essentially playing himself in this film. Except instead of a nebbish, Jewish Manhattanite, he’s a nebbish, Russian orthodox Moscovian (is that the proper term). As great of a writer and director Woody is, it’s easy to forget how great he was at physical humor in these early films. He would have made Chaplin and Keaton proud. Diane Keaton was the real scene-stealer (as she was in Annie Hall). She is simply one of the most talented comedic actresses of all time. She manages to be a deliciously sexual concoction as Sonia as well as (at specific points in the film) a great doppleganger for Bergman regulars like Liv Ullmann.

The film may not carry the emotional weight of Annie Hall or Manhattan, but it’s certainly more laugh-out-loud funny than the latter (not so much the former which is why Annie Hall is so perfect). That doesn’t necessarily make it any less consistently thought-provoking as you can see in this film all of the bits and pieces that would ultimately go into making Annie Hall. Everyone loves to call Annie Hall Woody’s ultimate transition film, but Love and Death is just as deserving of that title. It’s a gut-busting triumph of smart and witty humor, and if you can handle your Woody Allen in almost total comedy mode, this film’s a home-run.

Final Score: A