I’m gonna say that starting after “Bullets Over Broadway” he started to head downhill. “Deconstructing Harry”. “Sweet And Lowdown”, and “Match Point” being three exceptions. Thoughts?
To my eye, Woody’s never been all that consistant.
Not to say Woody’s work hasn’t faltered; but, for a film maker that has turned out over 40 films in 30+ years; his consistency is stunning. But, Evan, I would say your point is well taken; and while I disagree with Matt’s assertion that Woody has never been consistent; by the same token, I like to think Woody has suffered in recent years from “inconsistency” more than he’s “jumped the shark”.
But, then again, I’m a bit of a Woody fanatic. I tend to be defensive of all his work. Kind of like when Issac (Allen) became enraged by Diane Keaton in Manhattan, when she began running down his hero Ingmar Bergman.
I will say Evan, to place the downward trajectory post-Bullets Over Broadway, is actually very close; but, I personally can’t omit Mighty Aphrodite (1995); which I think is one of the very best comedies of the 90’s.
No, I would say the “inconsistency” began in the 2000’s, after Sweet and Lowdown (1999); with the Wood-Man making a nice comeback in the last 4 years with Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), and I would include his latest, Whatever Works (review forthcoming).
If interested, please check out my piece on this very matter:
1-Stardust Fkng Memories.
2-He never came back.
While it’s true that Woody has never been consistent, he jumped the shark with Small Time Crooks. I remember this as when he decided to go to Dreamworks and his budgets started growing and his films started getting released during the summer as opposed to the fall. I recall some delusional interviews he gave about reaching a new audience or something in accounting for the move. Personally, I don’t think he has a good movie left in him but Woody Allen apologists will generally defend him to the death (so hence why a film as flat-out awful as Mighty Aphrodite can get called “one of the very best comedies of the 90’s” above. I mean, I’d guess I’d see it again if I had to pick between that and Bio-Dome but come on!).
Ouch! Ari, were you ever a fan? I wonder.
Francisco, you really didn’t like Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)? Or Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)?
Or Zelig (1983)…
Could someone recommend the good films from 1990 to the present? I’ve only seen Shadows and Fog, and Sweet and Lowdown, and I’d like to avoid the clunkers.
Deconstructing Harry, Bullets Over Broadway, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
I’m a pretty big fan. I’m about 4 or 5 films away from having seen his entire filmography. It’s interesting to hear the ideas in this thread. I would say, first of all, that I don’t think he’s made any kind of “comeback”. I liked “Whatever Works”, and I had some good feelings about recent films like “Match Point” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (but I wouldn’t even consider those two among his best films). I think the only way to approach this discussion is to look at the period of time where he was most consistent in his output. Personally, I like to encourage people to watch his filmography from 1977-1987. In those ten years, I believe that he was most consistent with making great films. I’m not saying that none of his work before or after is good (we can’t ignore “Crimes and Misdemeanors” for example), but I just feel that “Annie Hall” (1977) is where the so-called glory days began for him, and they ended after “Radio Days” (1987). Everything outside of that was hit & miss. Within those ten years:
Radio Days (1987)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
Stardust Memories (1980)
Annie Hall (1977)
Apart from perhaps “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” (1982), I would consider all of these very good films (many of them great films). Anybody disagree?
Not Manhattan Murder Mystery? I heard that was pretty good…
It’s one of the several films of his I’ve not seen. Heard good things though. I also enjoyed Scoop and Whatever Works on purely comedic terms. They’re overall lower grade Woody Allen to me though.
Manhattan Murder Mystery is Allen at his most neurotic. A film that drops any pretense of a deeper meaning and succeeds at some light and frivolous fun. It’s definitely within my top 10 of his work having seen around 33 from his filmography.
Thanks Michael and User.
“Francisco, you really didn’t like Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)? Or Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)?”
Well I’ve seen (and own) every one of his films and I can honestly say there isn’t one I didn’t enjoy. I think his best films are:
Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989)
Annie Hall (1977)
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
Love & Death (1975)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Husbands & Wives (1992)
Hannah & Her Sisters (1986)
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
And his worst:
Melinda & Melinda (2004)
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
Curse of The Jade Scorpion (2001)
Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
Shadows & Fog (1991)
Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
Although I still like these films they’re not in the same league as his best efforts. All the other films I think range from above average to very good. Of his recent output I think Match Point is a very interesting film, the performances in Vicky Cristina Barcelona were excellent and I thought his performance in Anything Else was hilarious. I don’t think he’s jumped the shark and for me probably never will – it’s just that his films are different now than before. Contrary to what a lot of people think he does try new things, and inevitably some of those will work better than others, but they’re all interesting in their own way. Just my two cents worth.
In my opinion Vicki Christina is his best work since Crimes and Misdemeanors. I thoroughly enjoyed Whatever Works although it’s a throwaway. I don’t think there’s any question that his best films are behind him – I can’t imagine he ever producing anything on the level of Annie Hall or Hannah and Her Sisters. But he’s still making films, some of them quite watchable, and that in and of itself is an achievement for any filmmaker.
Did somebody saw that Match Point was a return to form? You have got to be kidding me? It has one of the worst British actors of recent years in, Rhys-Meyer. It’s excruciating watching it. Vicky Christina Barcelona was a return to form yes but aside from a couple of funny moments from Ferrel in Melinda And Melinda he’s not been worth watching since Deconstructing Harry which was above average. I did enjoy Manhattan Murder Mystery a lot though.
M.G., I used to be a huge fan of Woody which might explain my present day disgust with his recent work. His last great film was Deconstructing Harry. I also love Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, Crimes and Misdemeanors and, of course, Annie Hall and Manhattan (Manhattan was once upon a time one of my 10 favorite films). I think Woody had something to say, he said it, and has been running on fumes ever since.
For example, you call Match Point a comeback but to me it’s just a mediocre and humorless riff on Crimes and Misdemeanors (and set in a context in which he’s completely clueless – his portrayal of England and the English is laughably bad in its out of touchness).
He’s watching the final at Wimbledon at this moment, so he’s obviously a tennis fan, but yeah Match Point was disappointing. I liked Manhattan Murder Mystery, but he’s not really been up to standard since 1989, and his best film Manhattan was 30 years ago now.
I agree on Rhys-Meyer being really bad in Match Point. The only Woody Allen film I’ve seen that I can say I disliked.
Shadows and Fog is really an amazing film. Interiors is perhaps his most powerful dramatic piece.
@Ari – ‘his portrayal of England and the English is laughably bad in its out of touchness’. A lot of people would argue his portrayal of Americans is out if touch too :o)
I agree that Rhys-Myers was pretty bad.
Manhattan Murder Mystery has some good moments sure, but coming right between Husbands and Wives (probably his best film of the ’90s) and Bullets over Broadway (probably his funniest from the ’90s (ok, maybe Mighty Aphrodite) it seems a little diminished.
He derailed after Sweet and Lowdown (which was just a jump on an otherwise downward trajectory) and has yet to recover, in my opinion. I kind of keep hoping he’ll end up like Philip Roth and return to America after a decade in England and just start producing masterpiece after masterpiece.
But he’s always been uneven, and he’s at his worst when he attempts to be “serious” (in interviews he shows a real immature, almost undergraduate attitude towards art, lauding “high-seriousness” over comedy, even though his best films say the exact opposite, and much more convincingly).
These “serious” films are his worst: Interiors, September, Another Woman; those are the absolute low-point of his career (Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Hollywood Ending are equally bad in the other direction, barely recognizable).
Personally, I also have problems with some aspects of Hannah and her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors (there is some really clunky, obvious dialogue in those films, but they are wholly redeemed by Allen’s performance (his story in Crimes and Misdemeanors especially)).
I think you struck on a pivotal point: “clunky, obvious dialogue in those films”
I think if a viewer has trouble with Allen’s more stilted and mannered dialogue; they are not going to enjoy the majority of his films. But, fans like myself, actually enjoy Woody’s unique brand of dialogue (influenced by years of watching foreign films).
And I agree as well, that Husbands and Wives is without a doubt Woody’s last great masterpiece.
I dig where you’re coming from. It’s clear you know your Woody. Again, it’s nice to see a cinephile give Husbands and Wives the props it deserves.
And I don’t think Match Point is by any means a great film; but, I find it hard to believe someone could watch that film, and not be entertained.
“his portrayal of England and the English is laughably bad in its out of touchness”; Really? We’re looking for realism now, in a Woody Allen film?
You got it: “A lot of people would argue his portrayal of Americans is out if touch too”
Oh, and Marko, it appears pretty much everyone in this thread would disagree; I think we’re in the minority here.
Allen can be very tasteful and sophisticated; I don’t begrudge him wanting to create his own world. Like most of the funny comics, the demons aren’t too far back in his closet. He needs fantasy.
Right on, Justin. Oh, and for a post 1990 film? I would definitely go with Husbands and Wives, if you’re in a dark mood; Manhattan Murder Mystery, if you’re in a lighter mood; and regardless of what some say on this thread, Mighty Aphrodite is a very, very funny film, with a great performance by Mira Sorvino.
M.G., by out of touchness, I don’t mean lack of realism but something deeper – Woody, at his best, used to be able to engage in contemporary culture (obviously Annie Hall and Manhattan are perfect representations of their particular milieu). But at some point in the past few decades, he appears to have cut him off completely from the world around him and it gives his films now their particular stale and moldy quality.
For example, Anything Else (to cite a fairly mediocre recent film of his) has two scenes that might seem minor to you but to me are perfect examples of Woody’s out of touchness. First, there’s this scene (and I haven’t seen the film since I saw it in theaters so I’m paraphrasing here) where Jason Biggs’s character extols the virtues of vinyl over compact discs. Okay, if Woody had written the film fifteen years earlier, that scene might have made sense (like in 1990 – although given Woody’s penchance in the present for pulling out old scripts and jokes from his file cabinet, this is a possibility) but no 20 something in the post-Napster era would be having such a conversation (talk at least about reduced audio quality on MP3s for christ’s sake!). Next, on their first date, the couple end up going to some Diana Krall concert (no 20somethings I know would be caught dead at a Diana Krall concert but that might just be my circle). Again, Woody tries to cite someone contemporary but ends up picking some awful middleaged and middlebrow version of lite jazz.
Again, perhaps you might say I’m harping on a minor detail but you get this sense with Woody that contemporary culture for him ended in the 1960s. That popular music ended with jazz (pre-free jazz or jazz fusion – I can cite numerous examples of his aversion to rock music), philosophy ended with Sartre and existentialism, literature ended with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, and cinema ended with Bergman, Fellini and the New Wave. And not only did it end for him, he only has scorn for what exists in the present. I find this quote noxious. This is what leaves such a bad taste in my mouth when watching his films. I haven’t seen Whatever Works yet but it seems to suffer from the same thing.
Match Point is a definite return to form.
I don’t think he ever jumped the shark. Yes, he aged…he became more inconsistent, but that’s life. He’s made a few real great ones recently (Match Point, Vicki Christina Barecelona). Being so prolific stacks the odds against him…he’s going to have more clunkers than some less productive directors. Unless of course the director is terrible and has nothing but clunkers (I’ll leave that up to you to decide).