Tag Archives: Woody Allen

I’ll Take Diane

As my friends and family know, I am hard to beat in an Oscar poll.  The reason for this is after years and years of watching Oscar-nominated films, I’ve learned a thing or two.  Mostly that the films that get honored are big, splashy, historical dramas.  OK Lincoln didn’t win this year.  But it should have.  Mental illness is also popular.

Comedies get short shrift.  If you look at Oscar winners for Best Picture (here is the list:  http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/best-pictures.html) you have to go back to 1977 to find a comedy that won.  There were films that had elements of comedy (Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, and The Artist) but straight comedy?  The last Best Picture Winner was Annie Hall.  Which, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, brings me to the topic of this post, Diane Keaton.

Comedy Don’t Get No Respect.  What gets respect is drama.  Meryl Streep is amazing, for sure, but which performance was better – Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give, or Meryl in “It’s Complicated?”  I’ll take Diane.  Herewith, I’d like to pat Diane Keaton on the back for 30+ years of great comedic performances.

Diane Keaton is a gifted comic.  She is an adorable, vulnerable, loveable klutz.  She is beautiful, relateable, and (along with Meryl) one of the few older actresses that have eschewed plastic surgery and facial fillers.  I should note here that unlike Meryl who is deft in both comedy and drama, Diane’s dramatic performances are, to be kind, a mixed bag.  Here is an example of Diane’s terrible acting from Godfather 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g9RI0GgRIQ

Diane Keaton started working in 1970 and has amassed 62 acting credits and counting.  She’s hilarious.  She’s prolific.  She’s a gem.  Below, my five favorite Diane Keaton movies:

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  1. Something’s Gotta Give:  Diane has had a long and fruitful relationship with Nancy Myers.  Something’s Gotta Give is a completely enjoyable, satisfying romantic comedy.  We have Diane, plus Jack Nicholson, plus a surprisingly hot Keanu Reeves.  There’s also house porn.  What’s not to love?                                                   Image
  2. The First Wives Club.  Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler are delightful in this comedy about spurned wives seeking revenge on their ex-husbands.  A movie that proved that an audience will pay to see Actresses of a Certain Age.  Although this has been demonstrated again and again, Hollywood studio executives always seem to forget this and greenlight big budget action movies instead.  Wait, that’s another blog post.  Image
  3. Baby Boom.  In Diane Keaton’s first pairing with Nancy Myers, she plays “Tiger Lady” JC Wiatt, a workaholic who, after inheriting a baby after a distant relative dies, buys an old farmhouse in Vermont and starts an organic babyfood company.  Sam Shepherd is adorable as her love interest, a vet.Image
  4. Annie Hall.  I saw this movie with my friend Donna several months ago in the magnificent Michigan Theater.  Little known fact – the movie was initially supposed to be about Alvy (the Woody Allen comic character) but the film editor encouraged Woody Allen to recut it and make the movie about Annie.  He did, and a classic was born.                                                                          Image
  5. Sleeper. Early Woody Allen.  Diane is a ditzy self-absorbed poet from the future who finds herself on the run with Woody Allen.  Slapstick, silly, ridiculous, laugh-out-loud funny.

So thank you Diane, for your contribution to film.  You are loved.

Blue Jasmine

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Class Dismissed

Cate Blanchett is a great actress.  But Blue Jasmine is not a great movie.  In my humble opinion, it’s not even a good one.

This is an unpopular view.  Blue Jasmine received great reviews, and is considered one of the best Woody Allen movies in years.  Having recently seen Annie Hall (more on that topic on a separate blog post) nothing compares to old Woody Allen films.  Even the middle period has some gems (I am a particular fan of Bullets Over Broadway, in which Chazz Palminteri kills Jennifer Tilly for being a bad actress).  Some of Woodoy’s recent movies, including Midnight in Paris, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona), are fun and worth seeing.

And the funny thing about Blue Jasmine was I couldn’t figure out what I didn’t like about it.  (I’d never make it as a real critic, don’t quit your day job Alice).  Cate Blanchett’s performance is wonderful. Even the way she clutches yet caresses her Birkin handbag is somehow Oscar-worthy. Alec Baldwin is great as Jasmine’s Shyster husband.

My brother Richard figured it out.  He said, “Woody Allen can’t write working class characters.”  And that is the problem.  The story is about a  Madoff–like wife who has lost her husband as well as tremendous wealth due to Ponzi fraud.  She is forced to move in with her sister, a working class woman in San Francisco.  All the working class characters (Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, and even much-loved Louis C.K.) are stilted.  They’re not funny, they’re not believable. and their scenes drag.  And without giving away the story, the arc of the movie is frustrating.

Woody Allen shines depicting educated, affluent, neurotic New Yorkers.  In the past several years, his movies have featured these kinds of characters located in European cities for budgetary reasons.   When Woody writes what he knows, it works.  Blue Jasmine falters when Woody Allen steps out of his comfort zone.

Rating:  ** (out of ****)