fredag 12. juni 2009

Woody Allen's ten best movies

10. Match Point

Match Point has a fitting slow pace, unusually slow for an Allen film. Match Point's plot bears resemblance to 1989's "Crimes and misdemeanours", but it has a different style and a different feel. Match Point is expertly crafted editing-, pacing and directing-wise. It is also a return to form after 15 years of lacklustre light comedies (except The Sweet and Lowdown, Deconstructing Harry, Manhattan Murder Mystery and Husbands and Wives).

9. Broadway Danny Rose

Woody Allen in light comedic mood succeeds well in this charming movie about a manager and his hopeless adultering and drinking client. At the core, Allen employs a melancholic tale of a bygone era replaced by stronger capitalism and artists forgetting about where they came from. Allen's homage to the French New Wave climaxes in one of the final scenes when he runs after Mia Farrow in the rain, with a camera tracking shot from across the street. A deeply charming movie, with some great comedy.

8. Husbands and Wives

Allen's take on Ingmar Bergman's "Scenes from a marriage" is ultimately a fascinating movie where Allen employs his talent for writing intellectual and poignant lines. The handheld-camera and Woody's Cassavettes-like empathy for the characters suits this movie very well. One of his most successful "serious" movies.

7. Radio Days

I love the way Allen gets inspired by other directors and makes his own versions of their movies. Radio Days is clearly inspired by Fellini, but because of Allen's use of his own life and memories it is distinctly Allenesque. I love Radio Days period details, music and its romanticizing of the American 1940's childhood.

6. Zelig

This movie is incredibly well-done and probably Allen's greatest creative output. Zelig is a playful "mockumentary" that really cemented Woody's artistic talent. He really makes the audience believe his cooky kafkaesque story of a human cameleon always changing into different personalities. It really is a profound statement of human's tendency to adapt to other people.

5. Hannah and Her Sisters

This movie's got Sven Nykvist, Max Von Sydow, Mia Farrow, Diane West and Michael Caine all in good form. And it has Woody as Mickey Sachs, one of his funniest and most neurotic characters. This movie succeeds both with the funny parts, and the more serious and dramatic parts.

4. Manhattan

The images is what makes "Manhattan" stand out. Nykvist's exquisite photography of New York City really sticks in your head. Allen's script is also very good, featuring a romance with a very young girl and his problems with intellectual people. This ambiguity is very interesting and Woody employs it in several of his movies. Allen's character hates the intellectual type and at the same time is one himself. He is pushed and pulled between "simple" people and more "intellectual" people not able to define what he prefers.

3. Love and Death

This is Woody's funniest movie, where he pokes fun at the russian culture and its writers. Love and Death showcases Allen's fascination with the Marx Brothers and it works brilliantly.

2. Annie Hall

"Annie Hall" seems fresh even today. It's hilariously funny, intelligent, creative and very entertaining. Woody comments on nearly everything in popular culture and is very laconic and sarcastic all the way through.

1. Crimes and Misdemeanours

This movie has always struck me as quite perfect. The plot is simple: A man contemplates killing his mistress because she threatens to destroy his carreer and family. It shows a man riddled with guilt and moral dillemmas, a human being not percieving himself as evil, but somehow finds himself in a situation where he has to break his own moral codes to keep up his perfect appearance within society. Its Woody at his most nihilistic and it brings up alot of questions. What is morally right or wrong? Could and should we trust other people and listen to what they say? Are we ultimately on our own?

torsdag 4. juni 2009

Top ten from the 1930's

A poll on a movieforum which I frequent is having a poll of the best movies from the 1930's, so I made a list and thought I should post it here. The 1930's was the decade of sound and the rise of the "talkie" picture, which horrified silent movie lovers who loved the pictorial quality of film and not the aural quality. The free moveabout camera of the 20's was now locked up in soundisolated booths, unable to move around. This represented a major challenge to the directors of the era, who spent several years freeing the camera and recording sound in a more sophisticated way. OK, enought with the context. Here is my personal top ten:

10. My Man Godfrey (1935) directed by Gregory La Cava

This comedy has always struck me as very funny, as well as debating problems associated to class and capitalism. Powell creates a unique and very funny character and La Cava has a good eye for the visuals. The film does little to shy away from its genre, but creates a great energy with a great ensemble and a very funny script.

9. Bringing up Baby (1938) directed by Howard Hawks

Cary Grant has never been funnier than in this role. His comedic timing is spot-on and Hepburn is a great choice for his opinionated partner. Hawks mastered the fine art of the screwball-comedy, and it all comes into perfect fruitition in this movie. Great one-liners and bit-players (the sheriff is hilarious!) makes this movie utterly enjoyable.

8. Stagecoach (1939) directed by John Ford

Stagecoach really captures a special zeitgeist, and its adventure-like structure really appeals to the boy in me. The movie is very close to what I would call "a textbook western", and that is not meant in a negative way. The movie could be seen as simple and crude as opposed to more sophisticated western such as "The Searchers", but this I think is oversimpling things. It's important not to take "Stagecoach" too seriously, and enjoy the visuals, the excitement of the battle against the indians and the great performance of John Wayne.

7. The Mummy (1933) directed by Karl Freund

Karl Freund's "The Mummy" is in my opinion the best of the Universal Horror movies of the era. Freund's style is remarkably visual and he creates an atmosphere which Tod Browning was unable to create with his "Dracula". Freund was an expressionistic director of photography who turned to directing late in his career. Boris Karloff has never been more frightening and compelling as in this movie.

6. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1934) directed by Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang's fable of madness and the alure of power is really worth seeing. Lang succeeds in making a horrifying portraitt of the dangers of organized crime. It's really fascinating to read this as a metaphore for the rising Nazi-movement and it is especially interesting to consider Hitler's own madness and powerlust. The movie is utterly exciting and shows Lang's great ability to make great action/thriller movies and somehow making it seem important and politically potent.

5. Le sang d'un Poete (1930) directed by Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau creates a surrealistic world recalling his childhood, and experiments with the movie as a medium. Cocteauian themes such as the parallell world which is entered through a mirror appears here for the first time. Cocteau's use of symbols, editing and false perspective fits perfectly in this compelling short movie. Three words: Poetic, beautiful and compelling

4. Vampyr (1933) directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Vampyr transports you to a dream-world of shadows, mysticism and death. It draws upon such primitive fears as watching your own funeral from your coffin. It's visual quality is really hard to put into words, but it uses some expressionistic techniques combined with Dreyer's acute sense of realism.

3. Lady Vanishes (1938) directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The Lady Vanishes is a fun and exiting movie. It's twist and turns are really worth admiring. Hitchcock takes a funny premise and turns it into an engaging story of fun and suspense. Its combination of wacky adventure dreamworld and political reality makes this ultimately interesting and very entertaining.

2. La Grande Illusion (1937) directed by Jean Renoir

Renoir really succeeds in making the perfect anti-war movie, and destroys the illusion of the importance of war. Its humanism and understanding of the human is what makes this such a great movie. The best war-movie ever made.

1. M (1933) directed by Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang's "M" starts out as a "hunt for the killer"-movie but then turns into a harrowing piece showing human madness and mans failed sense of justice. Lorre turns in his best performance ever and etches himself into our minds as the ultimate tragic figure in movie history.