Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Woody Allen's best six movies

The Times of London asked Woody Allen to list what he thought were his best six movies. His answer rather floored me.

ZELIG
PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO
HUSBANDS AND WIVES
VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
MATCH POINT

Now granted Woody Allen has made probably 200 movies. He pops them out like they were Pez tablets. And yes, a lot of them are God awful. It’s even harder to narrow those down to six. But some worthy candidates might be…

HOLLYWOOD ENDINGS
CELEBRITY
SHADOWS AND FOG
SCOOP
THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION
WHATEVER WORKS
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY

And I don’t disagree that several of Mr. Allen’s picks are good films. BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO. But MATCH POINT? Sorry but that’s just the British reboot of CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (a great film) with the world’s dumbest police detectives. And you’ve heard me rant about VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA before. Lazy storytelling all done through narration. I thought HUSBANDS AND WIVES had its moments (namely the Sydney Pollack subplot) although it was impossible to watch with that jumpy camera technique. The only way to see that movie comfortably is to watch it in an airplane during extreme turbulence. ZELIG was an interesting exercise but hardly a satisfying film.

Plus it seems to me there are so many better movies he could have chosen. Like I said, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS was a masterpiece. HANNAH & HER SISTERS was brilliant. ANNIE HALL was the perfect romantic comedy. A case could be made for MANHATTAN. And then there are the early funny ones that Allen inexplicitly chooses to distance himself from. Give me SLEEPER, BANANAS, LOVE AND DEATH, and TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN over VICKY any day. Hell, I’d take BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX, RADIO DAYS, and his segment in NEW YORK STORIES over VICKY. I’m convinced Penelope Cruz won an Oscar for that movie not because her performance was so extraordinary, it’s because when she came on the screen the audience woke up.

So here are my six for now. Depending on my mood, the list could change weekly… or hourly.

ANNIE HALL
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
BANANAS
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
SLEEPER

Yes, I’m shallow because three of the six are early funny ones. But those are the movies that made me want to go into comedy. So that counts for, y'know... something.

What’s your list?

77 comments:

Rockgolf said...

RADIO DAYS would be atop my list. Just about the perfect intelligent comedy and the only film to star both Mia Farrow and Diane Keaton.
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE
PLAY IT AGAIN SAM
ANNIE HALL

Hey, I'm a contrarian.

DAVID BISHOP said...

My list is nothing outrageous, mostly obvious choices from mid-era Woody.

ANNIE HALL [love that subtext scene]
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY [Don't speak!]
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS [God is a luxury I can't afford]
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS [suicide averted, thanks to Duck Soup]
MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY [Is this what you do when I forbid?]
THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO [I just met a wonderful new man. He's fictional, but you can't have everything]

If I could have Woody Allen without him directing, I'd probably swap in Play It Again Sam for MMMystery.

Word verification: suseho - when name meets attitude; see also tigertail

danrydell said...

It begins and ends with "Everyone Says I Love You." Don't know why exactly, but I love it.

Craig said...

Here's the ones I can watch repeatedly:

Manhattan
Love and Death
Sleeper
Annie Hall
Stardust Memories
Bananas

To me, Manhattan is the best of Woody's career. I love that film. Sleeper would be my favorite comedy.

Charles H. Bryan said...

ANNIE HALL
MANHATTAN
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
SLEEPER
BANANAS

Those are five that I would recommend to anyone wholeheartedly.

A couple of personal favorites
SWEET AND LOWDOWN (I liked the music) and MIGHTY APHRODITE (I liked the Mira).

Laurie Powers said...

I'm with you on the outrage over most of them, although I did like Match Point. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS I think is close the the Perfect Movie. I think my favorites woud be

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
HUSBANDS AND WIVES
ANNIE HALL
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX

Peter said...

Deconstructing Harry is terriric. And Shadows and Fog is very interesting miss. Broadway Danny Rose, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Annie Hall are my top three.

Roger Owen Green said...

Well, Annie Hall is my favorite film. Period.

Zelig, Hannah, Manhattan for sure.

Dave said...

Bananas. And I loved it so much as a teenager, I painstakingly created my own soundtrack album complete with track names, like "Fielding's Food Train." Every bit of music fits that movie like a glove.

Ryan Roe said...

It's interesting that Mr. Allen's list is so different from what most fans would come up with. You would think Annie Hall would have to be at anyone's list... Mine would probably have to include Love & Death and Everyone Says I Love You somewhere.

Did you really like Whatever Works and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion? Those just might be the bottom two Woody Allen films for me...

Ben said...

Couldn't agree more with you on:

SLEEPER
ANNIE HALL
BANANAS
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN

"Take the Money and Run" never seems to get the praise it deserves. Woody Allen is fantastic when he does comedy. Not comedy, not so much. (I always think of "Annie Hall" more as comedy than anything else...)

And please, someone shoot me if I ever have to watch "Interiors" again...

gjs said...

Wow. You've opened up a can of worms. I can't wait to see the differences in everyone's lists.

I totally agree with you on "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

ANNIE HALL
ZELIG - For wringing out every possible bit of humor from a unique comic idea.
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE - Underrated. Watch it again.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY

And special mention to WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY.

Tom said...

General agreement with all the good films (I recall going to see Sleeper weekly for about two months when it came out), but wanted to note that A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy might be the worst film I've ever paid to see, and Interiors was very little better. Someday I'll make myself watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona long enough to see Penelope Cruz's supposedly great performance because I turned the DVD off after about 10 minutes (the narration was more than I could take) and went to do something fun like pull weeds in the yard.

Sérgio said...

* Love&Death (the absolute nr.1)
* Manhattan
* Annie Hall
* Broadway Danny Rose
* Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask
* Hannah and her sisters

Gary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

I can't give you my six favorite, but I know ANNIE HALL is one of my favorite movies ever, and I think his list gives you a really weird insight into who Woody Allen is. I mean, can you imagine making THE perfect romantic comedy and then not even including it on your list of your own best works. I'm not sure what it says, but it says something. I mean, it doesn't excuse sleeping with your stepdaughter but it does show that his brain, for better or for worse, doesn't work like the most of ours.

bevo said...

I like:
Annie Hall
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Bananas
Take the Money and Run
Manhattan
Play It Again Sam

Celebrity just misses the list but it does represent Allen's best commentary/satire

wv: submetsb - The bench or b team for the Tidewater Mets.

-bee said...

Purple Rose of Cairo is the only Allen film that I really emotionally connect with.

I think the only other film of his I LIKE a lot was the short film that he did for part of a trilogy called something like "New York Stories".

I give Annie Hall a lot of credit as groundbreaking romantic comedy, but after a string of what I thought were terrible films, the trainwreck of "Hollywood Ending" - was the last straw for me and I have not seen another Allen film since.

Gary said...

I agree w/Ken, the early stuff is his best, when he knew he was a comedian and he wrote comedies. His strange "personal growth" issues just screwed up most of his other films and his reputation. I haven't anxiously anticipated his next film in I don't remember how long. But, that aside, I'd watch Bananas, Sleeper, Take the Money...Annie Hall & The Purple Rose, any time.

estiv said...

Love and Death
Annie Hall
Manhattan
Stardust Memories
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Purple Rose of Cairo

But like you, that's today. Bullets Over Broadway, for instance. And I'm glad someone mentioned Tiger Lily. "Spartan pig!"

To his credit, almost all of his films have at least one perfect, or at least memorable, moment. Liam Neeson's offscreen entrance into the multi-part argument in Husbands and Wives...Woody's smile when the swords pierce the box in New York Stories...the dancing Grouchos in Everyone Says I Love You...the buildup to the car destruction scene in Say Anything (okay, maybe that's because I'm now getting challenged by young jerks in public)...plus, as sloppy as the late scripts often (usually) are, there's frequently some careful craft to the ending, as in Celebrity and Match Point. But that scene in Match Point where we watch him dismantle the shotgun? Unbelievably lazy story-telling. Could've made it twelve seconds long instead of fifteen years.

Emily Blake said...

Small Time Crooks is the only Woody Allen movie I ever liked, and that was largely because of Michael Rapaport.

There, I said it.

Art said...

Great suggestions here, but for 6 I would have to go in order.

Annie Hall
Crimes and Misdemeanors
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Manhattan
Bananas
Love and Death

However, in talking about one director, I find it interesting that it is hard to limit the list to 6 movies.

Also interesting is how most of us commenting tend to skew to earlier Allen, whereas Allen tends to skew to later in his oeuvre.

kent said...

Substitute MANHATTAN for SLEEPER and I'm right there with you.

Matt Tauber said...

SWEET AND LOWDOWN
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
HUSBANDS AND WIVES
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
ANNIE HALL

Paul said...

It seems like he listed those movies because he knew it would get people to go watch them, when listing classics like Annie Hall wouldn't have that promotional effect.

Mike in SLO said...

My guess is those films were the most satisfying film making experiences for Woody. Maybe it was the mix of cast and crew. Who knows? For instance, I hate "Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" but it was one of the funnest experiences I ever had on stage. You usually equate your "best" with your "best experience".

As to my list, it would include everything as I always enjoy his films (even when they are bad) although for me "Sleeper" is the film that introduced me to Woody Allen and it still makes me laugh hysterically. "Bullets Over Broadway" is a close second. Yeah, it'a all about the comedies.

Tom said...

I've often wondered in Woody Allen is the Shakespeare of our time, but, just like people in the Shakespeare era didn't realize what they had, I suspect Allen will someday be considered a creative genius.

Sure, he's had some clunkers...i mean some serious mother-fawkin duds...but the volume of his work is almost overwhelming. And, frankly, most of it is good or great.

I'd put CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS at the top. It's almost the perfect movie. Very funny in spots. A real riveting murder mystery (the first time you see it). Incredible human drama. Family issues. Multi-layers. Love and jealousy. And, of course, Woody's usual angst about the one certain thing we all will have in common: death.

My 2nd favorite would be PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO. But that may be because I was totally stoned at the time.

Rick said...

I'm too lazy to find a revealing Woody Allen quote that appears in a bio (or one of the conversation books with him); but to paraphrase the quote, Woody explained that he his *earlier funny* films seem appallingly facile to him because they required so little intellectual effort to write...

I wish I could tell Woody "maybe so...but as far as meaningless empty experiences go, those are some of the best."

My list:

ANNIE HALL
LOVE AND DEATH
MANHATTAN
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS

I also think very highly of TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, MIGHTY APHRODITE, PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, and DECONSTRUCTING HARRY.
I exclude PLAY IT AGAIN SAM only on the grounds that I limited myself to films he directed: otherwise it bumps HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.

Ellen said...

I am totally on board with your best list. (Annie Hall is my favorite movie.) But I wouldn't put Deconstructing Harry on my worst list. Some truly lovable moments in that one.

Also, surprised there's no mention of Alice here. That had some memorable scenes. Ditto Sweet and Lowdown and Mighty Aphrodite.

gottacook said...

I have no complaints about our host's list of six. The first Allen movies I ever saw were BANANAS (Marvin Hamlisch's finest hour?) and SLEEPER, freshman year of college - but TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN would have been an equally funny introduction: Within the first five minutes we see Virgil playing his cello in the marching band, which always cracks me up.

As for ANNIE HALL, I saw it with a bunch of college friends about a week after it was released - we had more reason than most viewers to laugh at the "Brandeis" line in the first scene with Carol Kane - and if there had ever been a book about it analogous to Pauline Kael's The Citizen Kane Book, I'd have been the first customer.

Perhaps Allen disdains ANNIE today because it came together in a sloppy fashion by his present standards - by which I mean the whole murder-mystery subplot that I've read was excised, which apparently gave rise to MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY years later, as well as a number of fantasy elements that were dropped (I have a still from a cut scene where Annie, Rob, and a very nervous-looking Alvy are on one of those sidewalk freight elevators with a guy who looks like the Devil in a business suit).

CRIMES and HANNAH are the only two post-1980 Allen films I've found rewarding on repeat viewings. I haven't seen one in the theater since the dire SHADOWS AND FOG, which no reviewer at the time seemed to realize was adapted from the play "Death" in Without Feathers and should have been much funnier. Lately, Allen seems to have lost the ability to reliably self-edit his stories, as evidenced by the ending of CASSANDRA'S DREAM (spoiler alert: "Oh, the two brothers, our lead characters who got themselves into so much trouble? They died. Offscreen.").

Debby G said...

My favorites:

Hannah and Her Sisters. Definitely #1 for me. I love the message about the importance of art and family. And the acting is great.

Annie Hall

Purple Rose of Cairo

Sleeper

Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask

I used to love Manhattan too, but the sex-with-the-teenage-girl thing is so creepy in light of his real life that the movie's been ruined for me.

Jonathan said...

Seven that I love (in no particular order):
ANNIE HALL
PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO
MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY
MANHATTAN
SLEEPER
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE

Debby G said...

Hey, Gottacook, I saw Annie Hall on campus at Brandeis U. when I was a student there. (You too?) The Brandeis mention sure got a big laugh.

gottacook said...

Debby G: No, we all went to see it in Boston during the first week of its theatrical run, April 1977. (Probably three of our group of 10 or so were Brooklyn or Manhattan natives, the usual Brandeis proportions at the time.) I'm sure it turned up on campus every year or two after that. The campus film series when I was there featured not only comedies such as BANANAS and HORSE FEATHERS but also the greatest, oddest double feature I've ever seen: DUEL and PATTON.

YibbleGuy said...

My six are your six, Ken ... except for "Hannah and Her Sisters," which I have never understood the world's enthusiasm for. It always felt to me like the world's longest "I Love New York" commercial, and, Oscar be damned, it's the only time I've ever seen that great actor Michael Caine give a bad performance (and I've seen "Jaws The Revenge," folks ....)

What would I substitute? Hmmm ... believe it or not, probably "Stardust Memories." Despite the critical lambasting it got when it was released, it's sourness seems honest, and it conveys a vision of the world. Watching it, you *know* why he would never again make a comedic masterpiece like his "earlier, funnier movies" ....

Max Clarke said...

Annie Hall
Love And Death
Manhattan
Bullets Over Broadway
Sleeper
Play It Again, Sam

William Goldman wrote about the quality of movies released in 1939, I think. He presented a list of great movies, then pulled the rug and said those weren't the best of that year. He presented another list and pulled the rug again. Even those weren't the best of that year. The final list contained familiar names, such as The Wizard Of Oz.

Annie Hall is the all-time champ, but you can put another list in and pull the rug, and you'd still get more great films.

Hope he makes a lot more movies, we need the eggs.

blogward said...

Sad, really. Woody Allen's latest used to be the one of the few reasons wife and I used to make a point of going to our local independent cinema. Now we can't even watch the old ones because Woody milked that character so much, it's just irritating. Which was the one Kenneth Branagh basically did an inpression of Woody throughout? Dreadful.

Bob Gassel said...

Broadway Danny Rose
Radio Days
Stardust Memories
Bullets Over Broadway
Manhattan
Annie Hall

Honorable Mention:
Hannah & Her Sisters
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Sweet and Lowdown

and I don't understand the hatred towards "Hollywood Ending", while it's nowhere near his best film it has more genuine laughs than anything he's done in the last 15 years.

Dennis Steers said...

TOP 12
Six where Woody delivers the funny:

Take the Money and Run
Sleeper
Love & Death
Play it Again Sam
Bananas
and for me... Broadway Danny Rose

Six where Woody delivers perfection:

Annie Hall
Manhattan
Hannah and Her Sisters
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Purple Rose of Cairo
and for me... Everyone Says I Love You

Five I'd watch on a rainy day:

Bullets over Broadway
Zelig
Radio Days
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Sweet and Lowdown

Anonymous said...

Three obvious ones:

Annie Hall
Hannah and Her Sisters
Crime and Misdemeanors

Three others:

Radio Days (A film that always bring a smile to my face)

Love and Death (A film I love to quote. "Wheat. I'm dead and they're talking about wheat.")

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (The last segment, inside the male body during sex with Tony Randall and Burt Reynolds, is a comic gem.)

One he starred in but did not direct:

The Front (With one of my favorite final film lines of all time.)

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Tom said...
I've often wondered i[f]n Woody Allen is the Shakespeare of our time,"


Boy, you certainly have a low opinion of Shakespeare.

I think its all been downhill since Young Frankenstein.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I'm not sure I've seen a Woody Allen movie since Mighty Aphrodite, and it looks like I need to catch up. Of the ones I've seen my list would include:
Hannah and Her Sisters
Annie Hall
Mighty Aphrodite
Play It Again, Sam
Broadway Danny Rose
Manhattan

Tom K Mason said...

Even though it's not Allen directing, I still love Play It Again, Sam. My six:

Sleeper
Love & Death
Take The Money And Run
Bananas
Radio Days
Annie Hall

Manhattan used to be on the list, but it seems kinda creepy now.

sephim said...

Which was the one Kenneth Branagh basically did an inpression of Woody throughout? Dreadful.

I thought HAMLET was pretty good.

A. Buck Short said...

Not just Woody, but the entire world of motion picture comedy as we knew it began its downward spiral in the mid-1980’s, following the cancellation of a series entitled AfterMash, when a man by the name of Robert McKee gained control of a metaphorically nuclear 3-day seminar.

I’ll generally take and find a way to enjoy whatever Mr. Allen gives us, but I’m with you on the aptly named Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Nearly got a hernia trying to convince myself its predictability was some sort of Calvinistic allegory.

Martin Landau once provided a clue as to the auteur’s need for total control over his films, referencing Scenes from a Mall, which Allen starred in but neither wrote nor directed. He told me virtually all the Beverly Center interiors were shot at Kaufman-Astoria studios, when Woody’s agoraphobia about leaving New York met his hypochondria about leaving New York for a few scenes at the Stamford Town Center mall in Fairfield County. Woody said he was afraid to go anywhere in Connecticut because, “You could get Lyme disease.”

A. Buck Short said...

Hope it’s not too soon for a Friday BASEBALL question from one of your Texas readers? The Rangers’ fan who plummeted 30 feet from the upper deck onto four other first level spectators last night is now reportedly in “fair” condition despite skull and ankle fractures. But if something like this had occurred at Dodger Stadium and the plunge proved fatal, how would National League rules determine which of the four vying for the plumettee would be the lucky fan who gets to keep the fractured skull and take it home as a baseball souvenir? And how much value would a Nelson Cruz autograph add to it on eBay?

Alice said...

I loved:
MIGHTY APHRODITE
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY is wonderful
and I feel like The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is largely underrated.

Vermonter17032 said...

I've always been partial to Play It Again Sam.

Annie Hall never did much for me because I just found Annie so damn annoying.

Pat Reeder said...

Thank for you finally mentioning the St. Vitus Dance camerawork in "Husbands and Wives" that made what might have been a good movie into an unwatchable headache inducer. What was the point? Were all those people being followed by a documentary film crew? Why? Just seemed like an annoying and distracting affectation.

The greatest film Woody ever made remains "Crimes and Misdemeanors." "Match Point" is basically just a remake of half of that movie and still isn't 50% as good. I also love "Radio Days," both for the film itself and the subject matter. Ditto for "Zelig." "Manhattan" I always thought was overrated, but I love "Broadway Danny Rose," for the Borscht Belt comics and anecdotes and because it's the only movie that features Alba Ballard and her costumed parrots (see http://tinyurl.com/29x9t65 )

I also liked "Purple Rose of Cairo," but if you think it's a blazingly original idea, you need to see Buster Keaton's "Sherlock Jr."

Like you, my comic sensibilities were greatly shaped by his early, funny films (that might be why I'm unusually partial to "Stardust Memories," with the aliens advising Woody, "If you want to do mankind a favor, tell funnier jokes." That became my credo.) They're all great, but I think "Love And Death" is the ultimate. It's the best written, best constructed, funniest and most cohesive of them all. It was also the last pure comedy he ever made. Maybe he decided he couldn't top it. I think of it as analogous to the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup." They took their comedy as far as it could go, and it could only go downhill from there, so the sentimentality started creeping in.

J S Swanson said...

I'm a bit late to the party bu here's my list:

Radio Days
Annie Hall
Zelig
Bullets over Broadway
Sweet and Lowdown

TIM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
louiseele said...

I watched all the movies of Woody Allen. But of all them,"Sleeper" was the best movie.
Colotox

Mac said...

Love and Death
Play It Again Sam
Bullets Over Broadway.
Annie Hall
Sleeper
Manhattan
Vicky Christina Barcelona is not entirely unwatchable due to it's one awesome redeeming feature - Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johannson snogging.
Yes, I know I'm shallow.

Kendall said...

I'll say Annie Hall, Hannah & Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors are in the cannon, so I'll only do two:

Manhattan Murder Mystery - If I recall correctly (IIRC), this was a subplot of the original Annie Hall? Great to see Woody, Brickman and Keaton doing great work. Funny and brisk. Loved it.

Everyone Says I Love You - The film as a whole is so-so, but the scene with Allen and Goldie Hawn on the river bank at the end is just... I dare you to put that against anything ever preserved on film and say that it's not in the top ten moments.

Bob Harlow said...

Crimes & Misdomeanors
Hannah & Her Sisters
Purple Rose of Cairo
Take The Money & Run
Everyone Says I Love You
Annie Hall

and "Manhattan" for the great B&W cinematography

Daniel said...

Woody Allen is one of my favorite filmmakers. Here's my list of his five best films:

MANHATTAN
(Probably the most beautiful film I've ever seen. Every time I watch it I have a smile on my face from beginning to end)

ZELIG
(An intellectual and technical exercise, but one which is exceedingly well done. Whenever I see a clip from the dreadful "Forrest Gump" my estimation of "Zelig" goes up even more)

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
(My second favorite film of all time ("Rear Window" is my absolute fave). I watch it at least once a year (usually around Thanksgiving) and it continues to boggle my mind by just how good it is)

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
(Great film that explores complex ideas about morality without feeling didactic and preachy. It also has two of the funniest jokes I've ever heard in a movie: the first one is Woody's reaction to his wife's reaction to his sister's recent disastrous date ("What explanation could I give you that would possibly satisfy you?); the other is when Woody mentions to Mia Farrow that he cribbed most of his love letters to her from James Joyce ("You were probably wondering why all the references to Dublin"))

HUSBANDS AND WIVES
(I think this is an underrated masterpiece, shaky camera work and all. I just watched it again about a month ago and it's still brilliant, especially Sydney Pollack's performance)

-------------------

Other films of his that I like quite a bit but which don't quite make the cut.

"Annie Hall" used to be a favorite but the older I get the more I think the second half of the film (especially after they go to L.A.) just doesn't work that well.

"Purple Rose of Cairo" is pretty great, but I find that I have no desire to ever go back and revisit it.

"Broadway Danny Rose" was an average film that had a great, great ending. The last ten minutes of the film almost saved the rest of the movie. "Manhattan Murder Mystery," on the other hand, was a perfectly good film up until its final ten or fifteen minutes at which point it just fell apart for me.

"Mighty Aphrodite" almost works. There's just this tinge of bitterness that runs through it and most of his post-Mia work that I find unfortunate.

"Take the Money and Run" is one of the funniest films I've seen. But the story isn't strong and my interest almost always wanes after about 45 minutes or so.

"Another Woman" was probably my favorite of Woody's "serious" films, but it still feels a bit too derivative of Bergman.

I also think it's interesting to view his failures (when a great artist fails, they fail big). For my money his three worst films are "September," "Everyone Says I Love You," and "Deconstructing Harry."

Tom said...

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Tom said...
I've often wondered i[f]n Woody Allen is the Shakespeare of our time,"

Boy, you certainly have a low opinion of Shakespeare.


YES...WS is greatly overrated.

Emmett Flatus said...

There's just something about seeing the words Woody Allen and best movies in the same sentence that strikes me as oxymoronic.

TIM said...

According to USA Today, upon Hanna
& Her Sisters original release, a movement was afoot to try to make Allen's script the first screenplay to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Anonymous said...

Fun subject.

Take a look at "Manhattan Murder Mystery" again. It it the most purely charming film he's ever made. Totally enjoyable.

Also, "Zelig." I loved it when it came out and saw it again recently. It holds up in story and technique. Plus, it's nice after what feels like decades of phoned-in movies, to see one with some ambition.

And, come on Woody: "Annie Hall" is tops!

Cybermoniker said...

Fun subject.

Take a look at "Manhattan Murder Mystery" again. It it the most purely charming film he's ever made. Totally enjoyable.

Also, "Zelig." I loved it when it came out and it holds up remarkably well in story and technique. Plus, it's nice after what feels like decades of phoned-in movies, to recall one with some ambition.

And, come on Woody: "Annie Hall" is tops!

Kirk Jusko said...

Take The Money And Run
Bananas
Play It Again, Sam
Annie Hall
Manhattan
Hannah and Her Sisters

normadesmond said...

yes, i like many of the same y'all have listed, but my favorite is "radio days".

sadly, i read mia's book, believed every word and now gag at the thought of him.

Michael in Vancouver said...

Agree with most of what you say, Ken. Longtime Woody fan here since childhood, and his films "grew up" at the same pace I did, so it was a great lifetime experience to mature as a fan along with his works.

You mention that Woody coulda/shoulda picked Manhattan for his "best" list. Here's the thing I don't understand about Woody's insight into his own films, that one in particular.

Woody has noted in more than one source (his semi-authorized biography by Eric Lax, for one) that he was so unsatisfied with Manhattan upon completion that he offered the studio, UA, to do his next two films for free if they burned the negative. But UA had such faith that they declined the offer.

It astounds me why he had such little faith in that film.

Regarding the lists, though, Husbands & Wives is still one of my faves. The shakey-cam never bothered me, even though that style is nauseating in other films. And I thought Match Point would have been perfect if it hadn't been a remake of half of Crimes & Misd.

BlueGuyRedState said...

I'm one of those people who the Woodman mocked in Stardust Memories because I fondly recall only "the funny ones" he used to make.
(Take The Money & Run, Bananas, Sleeper, Love and Death, What's Up Tiger Lily, Parts of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex) They may not have been the best "movies," but when his movies stopped being "Woody Allen" comedies, no one stepped up to consistently filled the void

BlueGuyRedState said...

I forgot to say this: Zelig. While other people (Siskel, for one I remember) tried to squeeze all sorts of sociological significance out of this one, I thought it was more like the old days of Take The Money and Run and What's Up Tiger Lily...Zelig in a Yankees uniform or disrupting a Hitler speech...silly fun that was a relief after Interiors and Stardust Memories.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

So late to the party I must be writing this to myself. Oh well.... My list, which I made after reading the first line of the post, is identical to Ken's. And the only one I'd add to his honorable mention list is Play it Again Sam.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Oh, I just remembered, What's New Pussycat and What's Up Tigerlilly.

Ray said...

I did love Woody's films but that was so two or three decades ago. I don't dismiss them entirely, but at least for now I don't have much desire to revisit them. I think the decision he made in his personal life got to be too much even for me- too egocentric. As I've gotten older that does influence how I perceive an artist, and Woody's films do very much mirror his personality.

Back in the day some of my favorites were:

Stardust Memories
Annie Hall
Manhattan
Crimes and Misdeanors
Hannah and her Sisters
Sleeper

scottmc said...

Sleeper ('73)
Love and Death ('75)
Annie Hall ('77)
(As good a back to back to back as any writer/director has had.)
Manhattan ('79)
Broadway Danny Rose('84)
Hannah And Her Sisters('86)
(If only it had ended two minutes earlier with the Michael Caine voice-over and not the tacked on happy ending that even Woody has disowned.)

itzik basman said...

Broadway Danny Rose in a walk.

Cristo said...

First Team:
Crimes And Misdemeanors
Hannah And Her Sisters
Manhattan
Annie Hall
Love And Death
Broadway Danny Rose

Bench:
Bullets Over Broadway
The Purple Rose Of Cairo
Radio Days
Sweet ANd Lowdown

Eric Schiffer Fan said...

Annie Hall is an awesome movie!i

Paul Guay said...

Woody's top twelve, in order:

Excellent:
Annie Hall (1977)
Love and Death (1975)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) [or ahead of Love and Death]
Interiors (1978)
Sleeper (1973)

Very Good:
Play It Again, Sam (1972)
Manhattan (1979)
Radio Days (1987)
Husbands and Wives (1992)

Good (top three only):
Take the Money and Run (1969)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Bananas (1971)

Mandeep said...

It is unwise to put a uniform gauge on Woody Allen movies. He is/was a prolific film maker who made movies based on his sudden urges. How many of us are creatively endowed to do the same in other walks of life (over which we claim lordship)?
Movie making must obviously involve many more external variables (outside of film maker's control) than say painting or photography. So it is not possible to produce a consistent product. When Woody Allen ranks his movies, he is probably only ranking those over which he felt he had greater creative control.
He is a great mind who makes entertaining films and characters. Every work of his deserves multiple viewings (and unsurprisingly, feel even more satisfying). Though some of us may not have enjoyed some of his works, none of his attempts are frivolous. As somebody put it before, his works may best be categorized as good or great.

Steve Burton said...

I wonder how many of the posts from now on will include Midnight in Paris? - it's definitely shot into my top six, along with:

Radio Days
Crimes and Misdemeanours
Sweet and Lowdown
Annie Hall
Manhattan

My honourable mentions have to include:

Broadway Danny Rose
Deconstructing Harry
Play it again Sam &
Hannah and her Sisters

...all of which should also really be in my top six too!

I really feel that Midnight in Paris is a major return to form, noting that there appears to be very few votes for the films made between 2000 and 2007!

Anthony: The Theatre & Film Buff said...

Woody Allen took years to grow on me, but now I adore several of his films but yes he went through a major slump for quite some time.

Of the six he listed, only one would make my top 5 and it actually is one the battles between my first and second choice and that is THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.

The others listed are either overrated (BULLETS OVER BROADWAY) or mildly successful (ZELIG) or good but not spectacular work (MATCH POINT and VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA).

My list of his best would be:
#1-The Purple Rose of Cairo
#2-Hannah and her Sisters
#3-Radio Days
#4-Annie Hall
#5-Crimes and Misdemeanors
#6-Love & Death
#7-Stardust Memories
#8-Sleeper
#9-Midnight in Paris
#10-Interiors