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Woody Allen Round-Up

Woody Allen Round-Up

I’ve now posted on all 18 of the Woody Allen titles listed in Peary’s GFTFF — which happens to cover every single feature he directed (and/or starred in) up to the time of the book’s release. Interestingly, I’m voting all but one as “Must See” — providing evidence either of Allen’s indisputable genius during the first half of his lengthy career, and/or my personal fondness for his work:

For Allen fans, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite title from the above list, or even a few favorites, given that so many of his earlier movies delight on a variety of different levels. Like many others, I have a personal fondness for Annie Hall (it’s probably the Allen title I find most consistently clever, enjoyable, and romantic) — but I also wouldn’t want to live without repeat visits of Sleeper or Zelig (close runners-up). Manhattan earns my dubious vote as the most highly regarded Allen film which I find least personally satisfying, though (naturally) there’s much about it to appreciate — and I’ll try it again in later years to see if my opinion has changed.

Having recently rewatched so many of Allen’s films during a short period of time, I’m once again enormously impressed by the trajectory of his creative vision — shifting from his “early, funny” films (each an enjoyably gonzo comedic treat), to the heartbreaking yet life-affirming insight of Annie Hall, to the devastating emotional rigor of Interiors, to the complexity and joy of Hannah and Her Sisters. Meanwhile, those interested in tracing thematic trends across an auteur’s lifelong vision will surely have a field day with Allen’s work, given how much of it is based so closely on elements of his own life — carefully crafted as fictional narrative, yet oh-so-clearly a manifestation of his own idiosyncrasies and interests. Some parallels are obvious — i.e., the close overlap between the three grown sisters in Interiors and those in Hannah and Her Sisters. Others are subtler — i.e., as Peary astutely points out in Cult Movies 3, the connection between Alvy Singer’s initially liberating yet ultimately claustrophobic “mentoring” of “naive” Annie Hall, and the “imposing, Nosferatu-like” role played by “Max von Sydow as Barbara Hershey’s possessive, soon-to-be-dumped mentor” in Hannah and Her Sisters.

Any discussion of Allen’s career would, of course, be incomplete without mentioning what he’s produced since 1987 — which amounts to an astonishing film-a-year, much of it (unfortunately) not worthy of a film fanatic’s attention. Below is a chronological list of his theatrically-released full-length features as of 2012:

  • September (1987)
  • Another Woman (1988) (not must see, but recommended)
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) — MUST SEE
  • Alice (1990) (not must see, but recommended for Allen fans)
  • Shadows and Fog (1991)
  • Husbands and Wives (1992) (not must see, but recommended)
  • Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) — MUST SEE
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
  • Mighty Aphrodite (1995) (not must see, but recommended simply for Sorvino’s performance)
  • Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
  • Deconstructing Harry (1997) (not must see, but recommended once for diehard Allen fans)
  • Celebrity (1998)
  • Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
  • Small Time Crooks (2000) — MUST SEE
  • The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) (not must see, but recommended for Allen fans)
  • Hollywood Ending (2002)
  • Anything Else (2003) (not must see; skip this one)
  • Melinda and Melinda (2004)
  • Match Point (2005)
  • Scoop (2006) (not must see, but recommended)
  • Cassandra’s Dream (2007) (not must see, but recommended)
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) (not must see)
  • Whatever Works (2009) (not must see)
  • You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) (not must see, but mildly recommended)
  • Midnight in Paris (2011) (not must see, but recommended)
  • To Rome with Love (2012)

It’s been too long since I’ve seen many of these films to say definitively whether I’d vote them as “modern must-see” titles or not — but the ratio of essential to non-essential titles in this list will certainly be much, much lower. I’ll check back in later, as I rewatch the second half of Allen’s oeuvre and carefully select the wheat from the chaff. [ADDENDUM: I’m casting my votes now, as I rewatch these later titles; as predicted, very few are “must see”, though a surprising number are recommended — at least for Allen fans.]

P.S. (8/9/12): I recently stumbled upon this indispensable website/blog for Allen fans:

It’s dedicated to much the same project I’ve been engaged in myself recently, albeit on a grander, much more detailed scale. You’ll find yourself unable to stop clicking from title to title, reading Trevor’s insights into each Allen film as he watches them in chronological order and makes extensive thematic connections. What’s most interesting to me is how strongly we differ in our critical opinions of many of Allen’s later titles, demonstrating once again how fickle and subjective Allen-allegiance can be; I think it ultimately comes down to each viewer needing to decide for him/herself whether any given (post-1987) title is worth watching or not. At any rate, definitely check his site out!

Animated Disney Round-Up

Animated Disney Round-Up

Now that I’ve finished watching all the pre-1986 Disney animated features listed or reviewed in Peary’s GFTFF, it seemed like a good time to provide a summative rundown of which ones are must-see:

That’s nine out of thirteen titles — plenty of must-see viewing for film fanatics to enjoy! Feel free to disagree with my choices by posting your own opinion.

Just for the record, the following are all the pre-1986 Disney animated features NOT included in Peary’s GFTFF; as far as I know, none should be considered “Missing Titles”, though all are likely of interest to true Disney fans:

  • Saludos Amigos (1942)
  • Make Mine Music (1946)
  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
  • Melody Time (1948)
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)
  • The Sword in the Stone (1963)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)
  • The Aristocats (1970)
  • Robin Hood (1973)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
  • The Rescuers (1977)
  • The Fox and the Hound (1981)
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Finally, the following is a list of post-1986 Disney animated features, along with my tentative recommendations about which should be considered “Must See” (though I really need to go back and rewatch them to verify, and many I’ve never seen):

  • Oliver & Company (1988)
  • The Little Mermaid (1989) — MUST SEE
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) — MUST SEE
  • Aladdin (1992) — MUST SEE
  • The Lion King (1994) — MUST SEE
  • Pocahontas (1995)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  • Hercules (1997)
  • Mulan (1998)
  • Tarzan (1999)
  • Fantasia 2000 (2000) — MUST SEE
  • Dinosaur (2000)
  • The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • Lilo & Stitch (2002) — MUST SEE
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
  • Brother Bear (2003)
  • Home on the Range (2004)
  • Chicken Little (2005)
  • Meet the Robinsons (2007)
  • Bolt (2008)
  • The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  • Tangled (2010)
  • Winnie the Pooh (2011)
  • Frozen (2013) — MUST SEE
Reflections on Website — July 15, 2011

Reflections on Website — July 15, 2011

Greetings to my fellow Film Fanatics,

I’ve never used to blog about my ongoing progress with the site, or to share my thoughts in general on watching and writing about the unique niche of “pre-1986 must-see films”, but I’ve thought about doing so for quite a while — so, here I finally am.

Since posting my first brief review on March 4, 2006 (of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Moon in the Gutter), I’ve added 1,405 reviews to the site — which is roughly one-third of the 4300 titles included in GFTFF (for those who care to keep track). At this rate, it should only take me another 10 years or so to complete this project! Not that completion is the goal per se… By the time I finish (re)watching and writing about all the titles in Peary’s book, I’ll probably be ready to visit and/or comment on many of them again. Or I may finally get serious about diving into my site, which I’ve had to put on hold for now… In addition to maintaining this site, I’m married with two little kids and a full-time job, so time and energy are severely limited!

(I’ll post more on this topic another time, but I actually find that having a really busy life with limited time for movies helps me appreciate them all the more. I may complain quietly to myself on a daily basis that I wish I had more time to devote to the site, but ultimately, a diet of pure cinema has never been a healthy choice for me; hence, my decision to enter into a non-film-related career. Peary himself admits to burning out after writing GFTFF, which should be taken as a cautionary warning of some kind.)

At any rate, recently I’ve found myself watching and posting on movies in thematic “clusters” — I’ll suddenly notice I’ve been watching a bunch of a particular actor or director or producer’s films, for instance, and decide I might as well finish watching all of them to really get a sense of the gestalt of that particular person’s work (as selected by Peary, and only up until his 1986 publishing deadline, of course). My most recent attempt has been to finally finish up rewatching and posting on all of the 41 Hitchcock films included in GFTFF (I only have 7 left at this point). He’s probably my favorite director (if I had to choose), and it’s been a true pleasure to revisit the majority of them. 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (a well-meaning but horribly pretentious and flawed book, btw, yet nonetheless the one used by most modern film fanatics as their go-to checklist, so I continue to reference it) lists no less than 18 of his titles, which is impressive, and speaks (I believe) to their enduring power.

In contrast, I also recently watched nearly the entire Universal Studios Frankenstein series — a project it made sense to attempt in one go, given that serialized films like this really are best reviewed in comparison with one another, and at least relatively in order (to get a sense of their chronological progression). However, while there are very few GFTFF-Hitchcock titles I’ve voted “no” on (and even those “no” votes are, I believe, worth a one-time look by serious film fanatics), Peary’s inclusion of ALL the Universal Frankenstein titles in his book is an example of what I refer to repeatedly as his sense of “completism” — a symptom either of his inability to decide which of the many titles are must see (so why not include them all??), or his genuine belief that any true film fanatic will WANT to have seen all the titles in a particular “series” or franchise (no longer really a sustainable choice, given the wealth of new titles produced all the time — a film fanatic only has so much viewing time to spread around!). Since beginning the site, I’ve been working hard to sift through all such titles and make critical decisions on behalf of my fellow film fanatics — which, of course, you can and should feel free to disagree on.

Just as mysterious to me is Peary’s random inclusion of certain titles by a particular performer and/or director — say, Danny Kaye or Jerry Lewis — to the exclusion of others. While he nearly always includes all the “big name” titles of a star (for obvious reasons), I’m puzzled why, for instance, Peary includes Lewis’s lame The Sad Sack in his book when there are other “bigger name” titles he could have chosen to include instead, if he really wanted to beef up the number of Lewis offerings (which he DIDN’T need to do!). At any rate, ultimately this kind of thing comes down to personal taste — and I’ll admit that a tiny part of me is secretly tickled by Peary’s blatant favoritism. He’s not afraid to call a personal favorite a Must See title — and while I may fervently disagree with his choices, he’s at least (covertly) admitting that subjectivity is an inherent element in any such daunting undertaking.

I’ll continue to post occasional “check-in” blog entries in future weeks and months, on various topics that have occurred to me — including:

* how I decide which film to watch and review next (partially touched upon here)
* how my thinking about which films are must see or not has evolved over the years (and continues to evolve)
* my summative thinking on the oeuvres of various actors or directors whose Peary-listed work I’ve finished reviewing (including Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, Abbott and Costello, and others)

Back to viewing and reviewing! Thanks for reading.

–Film Fanatic