Woody Allen has to be one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time. So naturally, out of so many films, some of them are going to be better than others. And some of them are going to be just completely forgotten. The guy’s got almost 50 decades of work.
I was going to make this list by myself but realized, I can’t do this alone. My dad is also a huge Woody Allen fan, so I decided to bring him in. Sometimes you just need your dad’s advice.
Here’s what we came up with, my picks first, then his.
“Cassandra’s Dream” (2007)
I don’t think anyone remembers this one at all. Dad, you made us go see it in theaters. Well, “made” isn’t the best word. We were glad to go, we just hadn’t even heard of it. This one starred Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as brothers who are asked to kill…okay honestly, I don’t remember who. A friend of a friend of their dad’s? It’s a very dark film, and though there’s that classic Allen angst, like when they’re debating how they’re going to kill someone and what to use, it’s pretty different from most of what he’s done.
“Small Time Crooks” (2000)
This was great because of the unexpected turn the film took. Allen loves to write about criminals and criminals screwing up. I would say this was one of his more madcap films. I mean, he starred with Tracey Ullman, that kind of says it all. And this movie always makes me want to eat lots of cookies.
“Husbands and Wives” (1992)
I LOVE this one! With this film, Allen did the paradoxical realistic-fake documentary thing waaaaay before The Office. I think he chose to film it this way because this is one of his films that takes the most realistic look at marriage and relationships. Adding to that, he and Mia Farrow play husband and wife…and this film came out the same year they got divorced. That makes it even more fun to watch.
“Stardust Memories” (1980)
[DAD: to be honest, I didn’t like it. I would have to see it again.]
Well, I liked it. I liked the surreal quality it had. And honestly, also because of his fantastic apartment in the film. Woody Allen really knows how to pick a great apartment. Stardust Memories marked Sharon Stone’s first film appearance as “Pretty Girl on Train.” She’s in it in the beginning and briefly, but you really remember her, much like Jeff Goldblum’s two seconds of screen time, but delivering the classic line, “I forgot my mantra” line. When it comes to choosing actors for bit parts, he’s really a genius. Or maybe all credit goes to Juliet Taylor, his longtime casting director.
Despite being set at a beach house, it’s really depressing, really dark, and really creepy. Interiors was Allen’s first dramatic film. Maybe because it was his first, or maybe because it was so haunting, it clings to me. I don’t remember every single part of the story, but I remember the feel of the movie; that’s what stuck.
My dad chose:
That Awful Movie He Made With Helen Hunt In Which He Finally Realized He Can No Longer Be A Leading Man In His Own Films (2001)
ME: Dad, that’s “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.” If the movie’s awful, it shouldn’t be on the list.
DAD: So the point is Woody movies not well known but are not awful?
DAD: Okay. I get your premise on the Woody Allen films and so yes, “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” would not be on anyone’s list.
“Husbands and Wives” (1992)
Yes, “Husbands and Wives,” Dad, you nailed it on that one!
“I agree that clearly “Interiors” should be on the list. I saw the movie and was surprised at how good it was. It is a movie so startling, especially considering that it followed “Annie Hall.” It’s all about the deterioration of a family steeped in misery, in the best tradition of Chekov or Eugene O’Neil. The cast is excellent, starring Diane Keaton playing as far from Annie Hall as you could imagine. E.G. Marshall announcing at the dinner table, to his wife and daughters that he will be moving out as though he were announcing a decision to retire from a business, is as surprising a scene you will see. And yes it is drama, which at the time was puzzling for so many Woody Allen fans.”
“It’s conceptually brilliant and technically well done. Sets the documentary on its ear, in spoofing the genre. We have the concept of a man seamlessly blending into scenes in great moments in history, including a rally where Hitler is speaking, all with that voiceover narrative that accompanies documentaries.
It is also one of the few Woody Allen movies where so much is subject to interpretation in the absence of any obvious plot or theme. It’s funny in its audacity and technical skill of working the Allen character into old black and white newsreel scenes, and in those scenes Allen is funny without saying a word. His presence is enough.”
“Deconstructing Harry” (1997)
“How could you not like a movie that features as a writer (Allen, naturally) with the central plot of driving to a university from which he was once thrown out, in order to receive an honorary degree? Three passengers accompany him on the journey: a prostitute, a friend, and his son, whom he has kidnapped from his ex-wife. Who would you like to take to a college reunion? A lumbering prostitute who clearly is dressed like a prostitute is not someone most of us would choose. Woody did. One scene has Woody sliding out of focus, becoming blurred like one of his own characters. The prostitute helps him regain focus.”
We both chose “Play It Again, Sam” (1972) but since Allen didn’t direct it, we weren’t sure if it counted. But it’s really, really good. My dad says it was, “a perfect extension of a perfectly crafted play.”
DAD: I hated that movie where he goes blind and is directing the play that way (Hollywood Ending, 2002).
Agreed. Thanks, dad.