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Woody Allen

Armie3
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Woody Allen#1
Posted: 8/14/18 at 9:41am

Putting the allegations against him totally aside for a sec, what I'd like to discuss is this:

Just how talented is he?

He for sure has made some great movies and I have really loved a lot of his work...but doesn't he borrow too heavily from his various influences to be considered a bona-fide genius?

He has copied Ingmar Bergman with Interiors, September, Another Woman etc.

He has ripped off A Streetcar Named Desire for Blue Jasmine.

Buster Keaton for The Purple Rose of Cairo.

His unorthodox story-telling in Annie Hall had already been done by the French New Wave. JL Godard had used dramatic inter-cuts decades before Woody did it in Husbands & Wives.

Alice was Juliet of the Spirits.

Shadows And Fog was Murnau.

Stardust Memories was 8 1/2.

Crimes & Misdemeanors was Russian lit lite.

 

I'm sure there are other examples.

Now don't get me wrong, he has made some really great movies that I have loved, but is he really the American film genius? Am I right or am I right?

KFC1991
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Woody Allen#2
Posted: 8/14/18 at 12:30pm
My criteria for judging film makers who make homages is this: is the younger artist paying homage a unique voice in his own right? When it comes to DePalma, Tarantino, or Allen, I say yes. I think Interiors and Stardust Memories are both good movies, even though it is obvious who they draw on.
I do think there is something arrogant about Woody saying " hey, what if I make a film about ME, but in the style of 8 1/2?" But it is funny, and Rampling is lovely.
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John Adams
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Woody Allen#3
Posted: 8/14/18 at 12:44pm

Armie3 said: "Putting the allegations against him totally aside for a sec [...]
Am I right or am I right?
"

Regarding the latter question, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", so I couldn't say that you're right. [EDIT: See KFC1991's comments above] yes

Regarding the former caveat, that is an issue I struggle with regarding other artists, also. Bill Cosby comes to mind right away. What's to be done when there's a conflict between a person's social/moral behavior vs. their artistic/social contributions?

For now, I'm in the mindset of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater; akin to a separation of church and state. I do believe that there can be a balance of seeking and achieving criminal justice without having to erase/disappear/negate any of the good a person actually DID do.

...hmmm... As I think about it, that might make a good premise for exploration within a play, or even a musical. I'd pay to see a play or musical that thoughtfully explored that premise.

RE: Allen specifically, I think you're being a little harsh by implying that his works were direct copies, or rip-offs. For myself, I wouldn't categorize him as a 'genius', either.

Still, I LOVE a lot of his films with "Bullets Over Broadway", "Radio Days" and "Purple Rose of Cairo" being a few of my favorites. Personally (again), I wouldn't boycott his work, or cease re-watching his films because of his personal, moral issues. I think the courts can handle those issues effectively, and that the possibility for any kind of justice is available, should it be pursued. 

I don't feel like erasing any "good" would ever be an equitable compensation for punishing any "bad". ...at least for now. I'm sure my mind can be changed by some reasonable and well thought out argument! wink

Updated On: 8/14/18 at 12:44 PM
Armie3
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Woody Allen#4
Posted: 8/20/18 at 8:02am

Small Time Crooks is ripped from Larceny Inc..

____________________________________________

I understand the moral dilemma, but the difference between Woody and Bill Cosby is that one has a criminal conviction and the other was never even charged with anything. Cosby has a whole bunch of accusers and Woody has just the one. I guess in his case we have to go on our gut feeling.

 

Updated On: 8/20/18 at 08:02 AM
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henrikegerman
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Woody Allen#5
Posted: 8/20/18 at 12:23pm

Crimes and Misdemeanors, one of his greatest, isn't Russian lit lite.  The Landau-Huston plot is clearly influenced by Dostoevski.  The Allen-Farrow-Alda plot is very much Woody Allen, urban neurotic romantic angst, with perhaps, as often happens in Allen, a touch of Chekhovian melancholy.  The Allen-Farrow-Alda plot is very much like another of his triumphs, Hannah and her Sisters, though the outlook on the world and love in Hannah is far more optimistic.

Love and Death is a great movie unabashedly devoted to Russian lit, but turning it on its funny bone.

Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, Radio Days and Danny Broadway Rose are great films and also very much his own.  And Manhattan Murder Mystery may be as or almost as good.  Sure there are influences to be identified in them - Chaplin and Runyon and Hammett among them - but that's to be expected.  If you are expecting pure originality with not an ounce of the derivative, almost all movies are going to disappoint you.

Ironic that while you've mentioned Stardust Memories, unlike the extraterrestrials in that film, who love Allen's early funny movies, you have not mentioned Sleeper, Take the Money and Run, or Bananas... all of which have a style which could be best described only as Early Woody Allen....  or What's Up Tiger Lily?.... which is a sui generis one-off kind of spoof.   

I don't see Allen's oeuvre as being nearly as defined by the derivative as you do.  However, an artist can be derivative and still have talent, particularly when the sources are mixed up, modified, and cleverly juxtaposed, as Allen's (in derivative mood) often are.

Moreover, some of Allen's most deliberate homages - Interiors, September - are among his very worst movies.  I'd go further, they are movies that would have greatly benefited from more his own comic energy.

If Allen had no style of his own, we would not so often hear other directors' works described as having been influenced by Allen. 

Updated On: 8/20/18 at 12:23 PM
Ravenclaw
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Woody Allen#6
Posted: 8/20/18 at 6:06pm

Nothing is ever truly 100% original. Furthermore, Woody Allen has never really tried to cover up his influences or pretend that his homages are original ideas of his own.

As for whether nor not we can put aside the allegations against him, I always think the more nuanced approach is the better one. I've seen so many people in recent times say things like "and his movies weren't even that good!" about Allen and other men accused of sexual assault and abuse. My problem with that is that "don't look at this predator's work--it was never that great anyway," or, more specifically regarding Allen, "we should have known he was a creep--look at the predatory behavior in his movies" relies on the same logic as "but he can't have done those horrible things--look at the movies he made!" It's easier to sort people into boxes and say good people make good art and bad people make bad art, but in order to actually address the issues at hand, we need to be able to recognize that some of the best art has been created by some of the worst people, and vice-versa.

That said, yes, of course, Woody Allen's oeuvre has run the gamut from insipid to breathtaking and everything in between. I'm not saying that anyone who decides not to watch Woody Allen films is wrong--I think that decision needs to be made on a more personal and individual level--but it always sits with me strangely when I hear people say "Woody Allen wasn't even that good of a filmmaker anyway!"

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Mister Matt
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Woody Allen#7
Posted: 8/21/18 at 10:01am

Layering his own voice and POV onto the derivative is precisely what makes up Woody Allen's style.  That's what his films are all about.  All of his films are love letters to the films, eras, directors, performers, cities, families and music he loves most.  I do think for the most part he's been a genius filmmaker.  He went from writer to stand-up comedian, then figured out how to leverage his talents and his personality to create an instantly recognizable international iconic film style.  The second the opening credits start, you know you're watching a Woody Allen film.  Like all directors, the quality varies, but he's insanely prolific and his film releases are so understated, he'll have released three films before you realize you've missed them.

I hate what's been going on with him on a personal level, but I admit to still loving a number of his films that would be difficult for me to reject, especially Hannah and Her Sisters, which I still consider to be not only his masterpiece, but one of the greatest film comedies of all time.

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Armie3
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Woody Allen#8
Posted: 8/21/18 at 10:04am

I suppose he also has the excellent good taste to poach Bergman's cinematographer and surround himself with other talented people like regular costume designer, set designer, casting director and so on. Their skills I would argue go largely unheralded so Woody gets the reflected credit that is really theirs.

Another reason I would demote him from "genius" to "talented" is his dialogue. He can only really write the upper middle class speech and even then a lot of the times all his characters sound the same, though I don't suppose this should come into play when considering his merits as a director. 

The only reason I didn't mention his early funny movies is because I wouldn't consider those to be what his reputation rests upon.

Updated On: 8/21/18 at 10:04 AM
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Woody Allen#9
Posted: 8/21/18 at 12:56pm

Armie3 said: "Another reason I would demote him from "genius" to "talented" is his dialogue. He can only really write the upper middle class speech and even then a lot of the times all his characters sound the same, though I don't suppose this should come into play when considering his merits as a director."

This is the reason I can't tolerate Allen, or Mamet for that matter. I can never get into the story because I never feel like I am listening to the characters. I always feel like I am listening to the author.

Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
ScottyDoesn'tKnow2
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Woody Allen#10
Posted: 8/21/18 at 4:11pm

artscallion said: "Armie3 said: "Another reason I would demote him from "genius" to "talented" is his dialogue. He can only really write the upper middle class speech and even then a lot of the times all his characters sound the same, though I don't suppose this should come into play when considering his merits as a director."

This is the reason I can't tolerate Allen, or Mamet for that matter. I can never get into the story because I never feel like I am listening to the characters. I always feel like I am listening to the author.
"

Funny enough, that's how Tilda Swinton feels about all theatre.

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devonian.t
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Woody Allen#11
Posted: 8/27/18 at 7:19am

I understand the moral dilemma, but the difference between Woody and Bill Cosby is that one has a criminal conviction and the other was never even charged with anything. Cosby has a whole bunch of accusers and Woody has just the one.

Exactly.  And that accuser is part of a very clear revenge agenda.

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sabrelady
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Woody Allen#12
Posted: 8/27/18 at 9:12pm

I don't listen to Wagner if I can avoid it.

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haterobics
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Woody Allen#13
Posted: 8/30/18 at 4:42pm

Amazon just shelved his movie, which was already completed, because of the uproar (despite most of the uproar coming from people who would never pay to see a Woody movie to begin with)

Armie3
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Woody Allen#14
Posted: 9/4/18 at 9:26am

I guess we're in trouble if Amazon are now the moral arbiters, huh?

Why can't they just release it and let people decide for themselves if they want to see it? Market forces will decide if his movies will be viable in the future, I don't see why they should leave one sitting in the can unseen. 

KFC1991
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Woody Allen#15
Posted: 9/4/18 at 1:18pm

Armie3 said: "I guess we're in trouble if Amazon are now the moral arbiters, huh?

Why can't they just release it and let people decide for themselves if they want to see it? Market forces will decide if his movies will be viable in the future, I don't see why they should leave one sitting in the can unseen.
"

Market forces have decided, as I see it. Amazon no longer feels like investing more money/time/energy into promoting his film. They already released a series by him and one film, I believe. I'm sure their success or lack thereof was a determining factor in shelving as well. 

Netflix has a Spacey film in the vaults, also several big Weinstein films have never seen the light of day. I'd be interested in seeing some of these, but they won't be released unless someone feels they can turn a profit from them.

 

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devonian.t
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Woody Allen#16
Posted: 3/6/20 at 4:41pm

https://variety.com/2020/tv/news/hachette-drops-woody-allen-memoir-staff-walk-out-1203526376/

Hey why not have a good old book burning?

Personally I think the civilized option would be to publish the book and then those who wanted to buy it could, and those whose preferred to ignore it, could do so too.

carnzee
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Woody Allen#17
Posted: 3/6/20 at 7:34pm

devonian.t said: "https://variety.com/2020/tv/news/hachette-drops-woody-allen-memoir-staff-walk-out-1203526376/

Hey why not have a good old book burning?

Personally I think the civilized option would be to publish the book and then those who wanted to buy it could, and those whose preferred to ignore it, could do so too.
"

It's not a question of being "civilized" or not. It's a question of can a publisher make a profit off of his book or not. Hachette has to decide if it's in their business interests to do so; if no one wants to publish it, Allen could always put the text online for free for all the world to see if he wanted to.

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Woody Allen#18
Posted: 3/9/20 at 10:03pm

>Hey why not have a good old book burning?

>Personally I think the civilized option would be to publish the book and then those who wanted to buy it could, and those whose preferred to ignore it, could do so too.

So you'd be cool with a publisher putting out a book about a person's crimes (Which Catch & Kill was not entirely but there are sections) and then turning around and publishing the subject's memoir? Hachette was attempting to eat out of both sides of their mouths while keeping all information about the Allen's book on DL from key staff members as well as the guy's son who wrote a book detailing in part the molestation of his sister by him...

Hachette knew what they were doing was underhanded and that's why they did it in secret. Don't try this freedom of speech bull****. 

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