Monday, February 20, 2012

Woody's Oscar integrity

"I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member." Okay it was Groucho Marx who said that. But it sure sounds like Woody Allen based on Woody’s attitude towards the Academy Awards. Woody, as most people probably know, has a policy of not only not showing up at the awards – even when his films are nominated - but not even acknowledging when he has received an award. That’s quite an accomplishment given the fact his films have won three Oscars and been nominated for 23 - 15 as screenwriter, seven as director, and one as an actor. He has more nominations than any other writer and is tied for third all-time for best director. Annie Hall won for best picture and three other awards in 1978. The last time any of Allen's films was nominated for the top award was 1986 for Hannah and Her Sisters.....In fact the only time he graced the awards stage was in 2002 when post-9/11 he urged filmmakers to keep making movies in NYC.....But now the critically and commercially successful Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams is up for four Oscars including best picture. Opened May 20 it is Allen’s best grossing film to date with more than $152 million in worldwide receipts.....The film is delightful on an artistic level but also has pleased a wider variety of moviegoers because of its whimsical nature and time-travelling story about presumed meetings with some of the most famous writers and artists of all time (Paris = artists – get it?).....But it's very hard to believe Allen will attend the ceremony. Because, as he says in last year’s Woody Allen: A Documentary by Robert Weide (Nov. 21 post) he simply believes awards are not an objective definition of merit but merely opinion.....Allen has a kind of artistic integrity – or any professional integrity – rarely seen today. Lots of people give lip service but when there is some presentation that will polish their ego virtually everyone makes an exception and succumbs.....So come Feb. 26 Woody will probably be hard at work on another movie, spending the time with his family (not watching the awards), or famously playing his clarinet.

My recent films

CRAZY (2005) – by Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, whose most recent Café de Flore (2011) I reviewed in a Jan. 2 post. The more than two hour film is about Zac, a kid growing up sexually-confused in 1960s and 70s suburban Montreal. The acting is terrific in this family-focussed drama- comedy.
EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960) – George Franju’s horror/police mystery about a doctor perfecting plastic surgery who goes off the rails when his daughter is disfigured and he kidnaps unsuspecting young women to perform facial grafts. It’s worth two-and-a-half out of five stars for suspense but is not as scary as one might suspect.
THE COMPANY MEN (2011) – This Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones vehicle by John Wells is all about the Great Recesssion of the past few years. These top execs at a Boston shipbuilding company are turfed and have to figure out how to build back their lives. It’s one of the few films, Up in the Air (Jason Reitman – 2009) being another, that deals with the personal trauma of what has happened to the American economy since 2008. Affleck and Jones are good as is Rosemarie DeWitt as the Affleck character’s wife. Unlike Up in the Air, which I didn’t like for a variety of reasons, this ends on a hopeful note.
EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED (2005). Liev Schreiber’s only directing role (he’s mainly an actor) based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer (who also wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jan. 27 post) starring Elijah Wood is various parts nerdy comedy and Jewish Holocaust memoir – goofy, hilarious and tear-welling poignant by turns. The overall word that comes to mind is “searing.”

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