Category Archives: Woody Allen

Scoop – “Magic Trick”


SPANKY: Nice to watch a movie we just sat through a few months ago.

JOHN: But don’t really remember, because…

SPANKY: Because you were so taken with Scarlet Johansson you didn’t remember anything else.

JOHN: This is a Woodly Allen movie in which he was breaking away from Manhattan. He plays a two-bit magician and Scarlet’s would-be father. Continue reading


Frances Ha – “Messy Rooms”

Frances Ha 


Directed By: Noah Baumbach, 2013

John:  Ever go to a movie and when you leave, notice you are the only guy there? The rest are women? Older women? That’s the showing I just came from of this film.

Spanky: Ever go to one where there were all dogs? Like Scooby-Doo?

John: Here’s the interesting thing that I thought about all the way home. Continue reading


our Roger Ebert 

EbertJohn: I grew up in Chicago where this guy started out with Gene Siskel on the local PBS station. Forty years later I was still watching different incarnations of the Ebert formula. In fact I had suggested to a friend that we do the same thing on the web. I said I would even write both parts if he wanted. When that didn’t fly, I did it with my dog instead—

Sparky: I don’t blame the guy; you even got my name wrong. It’s Sparky, John, Sparky not Spanky!

John: Well I always liked those “Spanky and Our Gang” early shorts. But one way or another we’ve had almost 16,000 viewers from all parts of the globe (Norway, Taiwan, etc). And now we do old movies as well as new releases since many people watch Netflix or other movie options.

Sparky: So getting back to Ebert (if that really was his name), why do you think he was the best known movie critic?

John: People loved the discussion. It wasn’t just Pauline Kael telling us what to think, but two people discussing something they were participants in. It reminded me of college, arguing over Plato and the Existentialists. We felt we were a part of the dialogue—no, the best part of the dialogue. And Siskel and Ebert or Ebert and Roper demonstrated how that could be.

Sparky: So how is that different from today?

John: Now we are consumers, manipulated by the film industry. There’s big money at stake so they aren’t taking any chances. But with Ebert we were…artists, searching for meaning. Finding the memorable. Some people, like Hitchcock and Bergman, had enough confidence in their audiences to let them be players. Now, I don’t know. Roger Ebert’s time, our time, is over. Still it’s hard not to love a man who emblemized something so special.

Spanky: And we do that by keeping his spirit alive in our blog.

John: Four “Barks” out of four, my friend. Four “Barks” out of four.

Match Point – “Still in the Game”

Match Point, 2005, Woody Allen, director

John: Two things stand out for me: 1) early in the movie the central character’s reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment;and, 2, the look in his eyes in the final shot. Luck has given him freedom, but he is doomed to a life of remembering. The movie doesn’t tell us this, it shows it in ways that are subtle and profound and real—Crime and Punishment. This is masterfully done from the title, to the complex plot, to the final resolution. And it is better (or at least less distracting) not having Allen, himself, in the film. Scarlet Johansen is appealing, demanding and insistent in a way that drives this story forward.

GO, GO, GO, GO (4 GOs out of 4)

Spanky: Watching the DVD I thought what a pleasure it is to be walked through London by Woody Allen at the same unhurried pace that he’s taken through Manhattan all these years. Instead of Gershwin, we have opera to accompany us, the soundtrack packed with plaintive arias. There are a few characteristic scenes: people talking while walking down the street together and encounters in an art gallery (The Tate). But, like the main character, we in the audience are hooked into little decisions that end up big ones (reminds me of Patricia Strangers on the Train Highsmith). This is one of Woody’s classics, but, unless you have severe short time memory problems, I wouldn’t watch it too close to Crimes and Misdemeanors.

BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK (4 BARKs out of 4)

MANHATTAN – “Rhapsody in Black & White”

Manhattan, Woody Allen, 1979

SPANKY: You probably remember the stark panarama shots of the New York skyline against a lush George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”  But wait. Looking at this movie with John all these years later, things aren’t quite what is remembered. The movie voice-over is of the central character writing a novel and several times reworking the first chapter–each version expressing a different emotion.

When the movie first came out Continue reading

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS—“I Have Measured My Life in Woody Allen Films”

Midnight  In Paris – Woody Allen, writer/director, 2011

JOHN: The movie begins with a ten minute picture montage (with vintage jazz) of city scenes—morning, noon, rain, by the river, streets, intersections lit by streetlights at night. This is not Manhattan, but Paris. Paris today and the Paris of Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Dali, Gertrude Stein and Hemingway. And not only we, but Woody Allen has arrived. Oh, there were some unpleasant detours on the long journey—Stardust Memories, Interiors, Hollywood Ending. Self-conscious efforts to be serious, to be profound. But in the last few years there were also Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Match Point. Continue reading

ANNIE HALL – “Breakthrough Movies”


Director Woody Allen

JOHN: Given the state of modern films Spanky and I thought it might be interesting to look back over the last fifty years of movies and find some that were breakthroughs for directors, actors and/or audiences.

Before Annie Hall, Allen seemed to be caught between being a nerd among Playboy bunnies and a stand-up comedian popular with college intellectuals. But here there is more. Continue reading