The trouble with Woody

Here’s That Little Round-Headed Boy reviewing Woody Allen’s last decade or so. He finds that Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Melinda and Melinda are the best of the bunch. What?!?! So, okay, we’ll have to agree to disagree. (My choices post-1995 are Small Time Crooks, Sweet and Lowdown, and the ebullient Everyone Says I Love You.) But he offers smart commentary:

In sitting through seven other recent Woody films, though, I think I see the pattern—and the problem. Woody’s a master of casual character sketches or clever ideas (A Greek chorus and a porn star! A jazz guitarist and a mute girlfriend! The Kramdens become nouveau riche! A blind man directs a Hollywood movie! A love story as both comedy and tragedy!). All of them would work perfectly at about an hour. But when stretching them to 90 minutes or beyond, Allen’s stories just don’t have enough depth or colors to sustain the longer running time. So, he’s forced to pull out his dithering Woody shtick or put another ’40s jazz number on the soundtrack or have his characters walk the streets and gesticulate and argue. It’s all basically filler, and he starts to repeat himself (in Mighty Aphrodite he makes the same brown water joke he made years earlier in Manhattan. Ditto with the constant cracks about Hitler and Mussolini.)

This is further proof that great minds think alike. Here’s what I wrote in my open letter to the Woodster, back in April 2005:

In a feature-length movie, however, a filmmaker needs more than a trifle, no matter how good it is. For most of the last decade, you’ve thought up some terrific confections, but have confused them with full-course meals. You start with a great conceit—a washed-up filmmaker goes blind just before he begins the shoot of his comeback picture (Hollywood Ending); a detective gets hypnotized by a thief, and is forced to commit crimes that he can’t remember later (Curse of the Jade Scorpion); a writer undergoes severe writer’s block just as he’s about to accept a major award for his work (Deconstructing Harry); the aforementioned Melinda and Melinda. But you’ve either lost interest, or forgotten how to, create interesting characters and plots to drive these conceits.

TLRHB suggests that Woody could invigorate himself if there was a market for short films. I suggested that Woody should stick to humorous prose pieces until he found a project that truly demanded a full-length feature. We offer different means that lead fundamentally lead to the same end. Woody needs to think shorter, and get rid of the padding that he uses like a crutch. If he takes our advice, there’s hope for him.

In any case, go read TLRHB.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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