Allen. I’m a great admirer of the work of Woody Allen. I hesitate saying “fan” because I feel like that implies some sort of personal affinity or preference and I don’t think that’s an accurate description of my appreciation of his films. It’s certainly tough comparing Woody with his large oeuvre (edges out Hitchcock with 1 for an astounding 33 archiveable films) which admittedly, has many lightweight artistic entries (Take the Money and Run, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Mighty Aphrodite), with those like Leone, Malick, Dreyer, Griffith, Eisenstein, Tarantino etc with fewer films but undoubtedly a higher quality per-film ratio. The bottom line is the only directors with more films in the all-time top 500 are Hitchcock, Bergman, Ozu, Kubrick and Ford so his filmography get in in the 17th slot but he can’t quite touch the stylistic mastery of a few that have slipped past him.

Best film:  Manhattan. Another tough decision for me here. Manhattan is his most beautiful film in Allen’s filmography and Annie hall his most innovative and formally groundbreaking. I’m fine with either as his best film. Manhattan is wonderfully shot—it’s Gordon Willis’ best work along with The Godfather and Godfather II which is saying something because he also did some amazing work for Pakula as well.

Allen’s greatest shot- it’s perfect with the background, the silhouette, the b/w coloring and widescreen format

total archiveable films:  33

top 100 films: 2 (Manhattan, Annie Hall)

mise-en-scene bliss here in the sober conclusion to Annie Hall
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the shot after that in Annie Hall- the lines of disconnect in the mise-en-scene is pure Antonioni

top 500 films: 7 (Manhattan, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, Broadway Danny Rose, Stardust Memories)

two narratives collide here brilliantly in Crimes and Misdemeanors

top 100 films of the decade: 11(Manhattan, Annie Hall, Love and Death, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, Husbands and Wives, Match Point)

most overrated:  Zelig. Zelig is overrated. It’s not the 6th best Allen film nor is it the 715th best film of all-time in my mind as TSPDT would argue. I still admire the film and it does have its admirers as a “groundbreaking mockumentary” but really Bunuel was doing this long before and that’s a pretty specific genre to be praising something for its pioneer-ness.

most underrated:  Husbands and Wives. There are a ton of candidates here including Interiors (growing on me) Match Point, and even Hannah and Her Sisters at #537 all-time but leaving off Husbands from the top 1000 is the most egregious I believe.

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another Antonioni’ism from Manhattan
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this is work Kar-Wai Wong would do in In the Mood for Love
but this is Woody Allen 20+ years before

gem I want to spotlight:  I’ll just spotlight the entire 80’s period (or work with Mia Farrow which is technically 1982-1992) for Woody Allen because I think it gets overlooked too often. Everyone talks about his films with Keaton, his early “funny” films, and his recent mixed results in this century are all well-known and discussed…. but his 1980’s films, from is 8 ½-inspired Stardust Memories to Husbands and Wives, Woody made 12 archivable films in 13 years, 7 top 10 films of their year, and a whopping 6 top 5 films of their year…. Wow… it’s an amazing run and that’s coming off Annie Hall, Interiors and Manhattan from 1977-1979.

stylistic innovations/traits:   Allen is not just a writer (though he’s amongst the best in the history of cinema). His best work has great visual prowess (Manhattan) and/or incorporates a rigid formal structure (Hannah and Her Sister with the titles). Allen’s greatest stretch (certainly from 1977-1989) have spectacular images (as you can see here). Gordon Willis who I mentioned earlier on Manhattan  made 34 total films as DP and 8 of those are with Allen (from 1977 with Annie Hall and ending with Purple Rose in 1985). A great period of director and DP collaboration. He worked with Antonioni’s DP (Blow-Up) Carlo Di Palma from 1986-1997), Sven Sykvist (famous frequent Bergman collaborator of course) on Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors and I honestly think there will be a delayed appreciation for Allen’s most recent work with Vittorio Storaro in Café Society and Wonder Wheel (Storaro from Apocalypse Now and The Conformist).  Unfortunately, we have his missteps this century fresh in our memory that sometimes it seems like gems like Blue Jasmine, VCB, and Match Point are few and far between. When he was at his heights his films were sumptuously shot and inventively edited. Think of how Annie Hall must have looked to people in 1977. I think the cuts to cartoons, breakaway dialogue segments and interaction with memories, the narrator, etc seem common today but were anything but in 1977. Clearly Allen was influenced by Bergman but equally he was influenced by the Marx brothers and his best work combines the two (amongst other things including Russian literature and Greek (and really all including kant) philosophy). Of course Allen incorporates his love of jazz music, his simplistic black and white titles, reoccurring narrative things on love, sex, neurosis, infidelity, psychoanalysis.

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replication in the body of work — simple titles, jazz
Broadway Danny Rose here- another strong visual entry from Allen during his period where he collaborated with Gordon Willis

top 10

  1. Manhattan
  2. Annie Hall
  3. Hannah and Her Sisters
  4. Crimes and Misdemeanors
  5. Husbands and Wives
  6. Broadway Danny Rose
  7. Stardust Memories
  8. The Purple Rose of Cairo
  9. Match Point
  10. Love and Death
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a stunner from Interiors – always be weary of negative reviews from an auteur’s film following a masterpiece– this one is after Annie Hall
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this could be Fanny and Alexander from Bergman — but it’s Allen in the ambitious and underrated Interiors

By year and grades

1969- Take the Money and Run R
1971- Bananas R
1972- Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But were Afraid to Ask R
1973- Sleeper HR
1975- Love and Death MS
1977- Annie Hall MP
1978- Interiors MS
1979- Manhattan MP
1980- Stardust Memories MS
1982- A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy R
1983- Zelig HR
1984- Broadway Danny Rose MS
1985- The Purple Rose of Cairo MS
1986- Hannah and Her Sisters MP
1987- Radio Days HR
1987- September R
1988- Another Woman R
1989- Crimes and Misdemeanors MP
1990-Alice R
1991- Shadows and Fog R
1992- Husband and Wives MS
1993- Manhattan Murder Mystery
1994- Bullets Over Broadway
1995- Mighty Aphrodite R
1996- Everyone Says I Love you R
1997- Deconstructing Harry R
1999- Sweet and Lowdown R
2005- Match Point MS
2008- Vicky Christina Barcelona R
2011- Midnight in Paris R
2013- Blue Jasmine HR
2016- Café Society R
2017- Wonder Wheel R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives