Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Written and directed by Woody Allen
(number 275)

Okay so I’ve only watched Woody Allen movies because of this list, and I’m already seeing a lot of repeated themes. It’s kind of funny watching this movie after seeing a discussion online where someone wrote that people shouldn’t bother with forced diversity in their fiction. I wonder what Woody Allen would say that that – if you assume that showing Jewish people and customs is diverse and not the norm.

Anyway, it’s actually a pretty compelling movie. I dreaded it being like Love and Death but it’s not actually a parody which was a relief. Instead it’s an overly intellectual sort of romantic comedy. If people in rom coms talked like existential philosophers and cheated on their partners with no remorse. That makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it – I did. The characters are all interesting and have a little depth to them, the story is twisty and unexpected and I enjoyed all the references to old movies.

Does it make me love the people? Woody Allen’s character is pretty off putting, Clifford, much like Harry in When Harry Met Sally, makes everything that happens around him about him. His sister has a horrifying hookup through a personal ad and he makes it about his failing marriage. The girl he’s into (outside his marriage) gets a great career opportunity and he goes sad sack because he won’t get to see her for four months. This character’s only redeeming quality is that he’s lovely to his niece.

I liked Angelica Houston, not that her character is groundbreaking but she is played by Angelica Houston so there’s a gravitas and a charisma there. Mia Farrow’s Halley is pretty adorable even if she exists in a world where men just lust after and adore her and try and ignore that she has stuff she wants to get done. Alan Alda is the jerky jerk but he’s so charismatic as well.

Bechdel test: Yes, there’s a tiny interchange between Jenny and Wendy where Wendy says ‘don’t you have homework to do?’ and Jenny says ‘yes’.

Best line:

Lester: Comedy is tragedy plus time!

Professor Levy: You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.

State of Mind: Its not the joyful nostalgia of Radio Days, and it’s not the cringe-fest of Love and Death. This is a good middle ground kind of Allen film. I’m not sure it’s one I’d seek out to watch again, but I didn’t hate it the way I feared I might. It’s got some interesting things to say about the human experience and decisions and how we define ourselves, but I kind of wish Allen would get out of his own way and let the script breathe a little rather than being SO intellectual ALL the time. Good soundtrack.

Watched movie count

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Love and Death (1975)

Love and Death
Written, directed by and starring Woody Allen.
(number 310)

This is the kind of Woody Allen I thought I was getting into when I watched Radio Days. It’s just so not my style of comedy. It’s a comedy about Russian literature, but the jokes are all about anachronisms and Jewish comedy, which is all well and good but not my thing at all. It very much reminded me of the Naked Gun movies, or Men in Tights or similar.

I watched this with a happy little bun of a cat beside me. She curled up and slept in a patch of sunlight and I have to say she had a better time of it than I did.

That said I appreciated a couple of the particularly silly bits such as:

Napoleon: This is an honor for me.
Boris: No, it’s a greater honor for me.
Napoleon: No, a greater honor for me.
Boris: No, it’s a greater honor for me.
Napoleon: No, a greater honor for ME.
Boris: Well, perhaps you’re right. Perhaps it IS a greater honor for you.
Napoleon: And you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Sonja: No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Napoleon: No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Sonja: No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Boris: No, it’s a greater honor for me.
Napoleon: I see our Spanish guests have a sense of humor.
Boris: She’s a great kidder.
Sonja: No, you’re a great kidder.
Boris: No, you’re Don Francisco’s sister.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno. I feel like I’m annoyed with the characters more than caring about them. Diane Keaton does brilliantly in her role, and she’s very winsome but her character is kind of bland. She’s a moutpiece for Allen, a woman who’ll sleep with anyone and magically falls in love with him like a fantasy girl should.

Oh hey, he talks about bisexual people! No bi erasure here, which is pretty nice.

Bechdel test: Anna and Sonja have a long conversation which is pretty amusing, but it is about Ivan and the things he left behind. So, it’s a no, because it’s about the guy, but it is a pretty fun bit.

Anna: You’re praying for Ivan?
Sonja: Yes. Your husband, I loved him, as you know.
Anna: I wanted you to have some of his possessions.
Sonja: How kind.
Anna: I kept his sword and gold watch… but here, I’m giving you his mustache.
Sonja: I’ll cherish it.
Anna: Also some string. Ivan saved string.
Sonja: I know. It was one of the reasons why I loved him.
Anna: I understand that. I loved him for his string, too.
Sonja: Anything else for me?
Anna: I thought we should divide his letters. Do you want the vowels or the consonants?
Sonja: His vowels, you keep the consonants.

Oh wait, later in the film Sonja and Natasha talk about love and suffering so yes, it does pass in the end. Oh and yes, and then wheat.

Best line:

Sonja: I want to have children with you, three of them
Boris: One of each
(Which, I know is a facile joke about how dumb Boris is, but I like the idea that he is acknowledging the existence of non-binary people)

State of Mind: Okay so I do enjoy the reference to The Seventh Seal with Woody Allen dancing with Death at the end. but overall I was pretty glad when this was over. I’m not sure this type of humour has aged so well.. I imagine this will be what it feels like to watch Shrek in 20 years, which I think I said about Airplane as well. It had its moments, but it’s not a patch on Radio Days. I’m not sure why this is on the list to be honest.

Watched movie count

Radio Days (1987)

Radio Days
Written and directed by Woody Allen
(number 313)

I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a Woody Allen before. I’m very into this one, it’s hilarious, full of great music and very funny jokes. I know Allen is pretty problematic, but I think that’s hidden in a period piece. Instead you can just soak in the lush period costumes, settings and music and ignore the other stuff.

I watched this with Ellen, which was a nice nostalgia fest in itself from when we used to flat together and watch movies off this list. It’s a funny little film, more of a collection of stories rather than one over arcing plot. It stars baby Seth Green and a huge bundle of actors which had us constantly checking the imdb page to work out where we knew them from. The voice of Marge Simpson plays the mother! I mean. So many familiar faces.

The way the stories are set up I found myself thinking of memories associated to each song. Such as thinking of how lovely Amy Adams and Lee Pace sing ‘If I didn’t love you’ in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, or Mairzy Doats reminds me of Twin Peaks and of course John Barrowman performing Night and Day in De-Lovely. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia encompassed me, I really hadn’t expected that.

Does it make me love the people? Yes! It starts with little baby Seth Green and then every one in the family is adorable and then Sally the cigarette girl and yeah. It’s a movie all about how loveable perfectly ordinary people are, with all their silliness and flaws and squabbles. One of my favourite moments was the sister dancing and lip synching to a Carmen Miranda song and the uncle and father wandering in, grins on their faces. You can kind of imagine they’re about to make fun of her, instead they join in on the ‘ai yi yi’ back up singers and join in with her. It was so sweet, a family moment that felt so true.

Bechdel test: Yes, Bea talks to Ruthie who talks to Tess. Lots of lovely named women characters and they talk to each other all the time, sometimes about men and sometimes about each other and sometimes about the war or the radio.

Best line:

Sally: who is Pearl Harbour?

Tess: Boy, what a world… it could be so wonderful, if it wasn’t for certain people.

State of Mind: The end felt a little anticlimactic but overall I very much enjoyed it, sharp, witty script, brilliantly acted by tonnes of named actors. As I said the sets, costumes and music are all gorgeous, sumptuous and not a stitch out of place. Ellen was put out that they named the baby Ellen and then we never got to see the baby… But I was pleased overall. I liked this film and will happily watch it again. In fact I feel like I need to because the dialogue comes so quick, the stories move so quickly I’m sure I’ve missed stuff.

Watched movie count