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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

« In Which Calista Flockhart's Husband Has A Problem With Us | Main | In Which We Remake You Into Hulkish Oblivion »
Wednesday
Jun182008

In Which Your Slightest Look Easily Will Unclose Me

Woody's Best

by ALEX CARNEVALE

10. Celebrity, 1998

An underappreciated classic with an awesome performance from Kenneth Branagh that is by turns weird and wonderful, this black and white beauty is well worth seeking out. Woody cast Branagh as himself, which was such a bad idea that it came around to being good again. Celebrity never comes together as a complete picture, but that's sort of besides the point. Great Charlize Theron performance.

Kenneth, Leonardo, Adrien, also Gretchen Mol just for funsies

9. Mighty Aphrodite, 1995

Woody's way better version of Pretty Woman, this one features a great performance from Mira Sorvino and having her and Woody really click is the difference between this movie, and like, Scoop.

8. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, 1982

Written quickly to get a production deal going, this one holds up great and probably cost nothing to make. Woody's better than anybody at making simple characters and situations entertaining.

7. Sweet and Lowdown, 1999

Sean Penn is Emmet Gay in one of my all time favorite performances. A gorgeous cinematic and musical tribute to a time and place.

6. Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989

5. Everyone Says I Love You, 1996

I loved this movie. The singing is far from amazing, but the songs are. Natasha Lyonne is funny as Woody's daughter, and the fact that you can see an aging Woody and Julia Roberts as a believable couple is a testament to how engrossing and winning this film is. It's a shame it was a bomb and Woody never did the promised spiritual sequel, as you can learn in Eric Lax's new book.

His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking

4. Manhattan, 1979

My analyst warned me, but you were so beautiful I got another analyst

Manhattan:

Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um... Well, There are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. uh... Like what... okay... um... For me, uh... ooh... I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh... um... and Willie Mays... and um... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues... um... Swedish movies, naturally... Sentimental Education by Flaubert... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... um... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh... the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh...Tracy's face...

this is from Melinda and Melinda which is kind of a classic, also Omar Epps Chiwetel Ejiofor is phenomenal in it. Woody is one of the greatest casting directors ever.


3. Annie Hall, 1977

Allison: I'm in the midst of doing my thesis.
Alvy Singer: On what?
Allison: Political commitment in twentieth century literature.
Alvy Singer: You, you, you're like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y'know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.
Alvy Singer: Right, I'm a bigot, I know, but for the left.

Almost every scene of Annie Hall is now iconic. Lacking the depth of Allen's more substantial masterpieces, it's still the perfect comedy.

2. Husbands and Wives, 1992

A more serious film for a more serious decade.

1. Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986

At only 103 minutes, it's a precious little film with a Soon-Yi cameo to treasure. Michael Caine is wonderfully creepy here. The Caine storyline takes over and Woody's usual fear of death schtick takes a backseat. The amazing thing is that he barely taps the potential of the Caine character, and it's still one of the greatest things ever done with a voiceover in cinematic history.

mia farrow's proust questionnaire

Michael Caine uses this poem to seduce Barbara Hershey. It's also a great break-up poem.

'somewhere i have never travelled'

by e.e. cummings

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He hasn't seen Play It Again, Sam. He lives in No. 4.

JANIS WE LOVE YOU SHOW IT TO US

"Summertime" - Janis Joplin (mp3)

"Piece of My Heart" - Janis Joplin (mp3)

"Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" - Janis Joplin (mp3)

"Cry Baby" - Janis Joplin (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

New Yorkers try and build something interesting.

Movies to intrigue.

We welcome Tess to the proceedings.

Reader Comments (14)

love and death, anyone?

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdan

Yeah, that's not Omar Epps in Melinda and Melinda. It's Chewitel Ejifor.

I really like Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex, But Were Afraid To Ask personally. And Sleeper!

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersean witzke

I think it's commonly assumed Chewitel and Omar are the same person.

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralexcarnevale

No wonder this blog hates Obama, these whiteys are probably confusing him with Robert Mugabe!!!

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterD'Aziz

I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.!

what about Bananas? it has its moments.

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteryvonne puig

verify this/find the relevant youtube clip

Anything Else

at the very end of the movie Woody Allen says something like "pssh love, sometimes its shitty but you know you gotta work at it cause its like anything else."

it was one of his weaker entries for sure. Ricci was hot in it though. there's a pretty funny scene where Woody takes a baseball bat or a crowbar and beats up a car with a loud car alarm noise and really goes to town on it.

June 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMolly Lambert

You have Celebrity in Woody's top 10?!? That's just crazy.

June 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRed

That final scene in Manhattan kills me every time. It's also what made me read Sentimental Education.

I would have added Take the Money and Run and Zeilig, but to each his own.

June 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterArjewtino

Husbands and Wives: "Rape!"

April 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteven augustine

Zelig must be in contention.

April 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike C.

No mention of Stardust Memories so far, which deserves its place for its amazing Fellininess.
Tough to kick any one of these to the curb, but Sweet and Lowdown and Celebrity are underwhelming compared to some of the others unmentioned -- such as Match Point and the wildly unappreciated Deconstructing Harry.

How about a Woody reprise, 11-20?

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Celebrity, Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy and Everyone Says I Love You should be axed. Replaced by Zelig, Stardust Memories, Bullets Over Broadway, Broadway Danny Rose, Sleeper, Radio Days and/or the Purple Rose of Cairo.

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEtchasketchist

Alice should be on the list. Celebrity should not be. I agree with the previous posts that Stardust Memories, Zelig , Bullets, and Purple Rose have been wrongfully left off here. And Deconstructing Harry is good too. And way funnier than Sleeper, Sex Comedy, or Play it Again. But really, Alice absolutely should be on the list. If you haven't seen it, you must.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

"this is from Melinda and Melinda which is kind of a classic, also Omar Epps Chiwetel Ejiofor is phenomenal in it. Woody is one of the greatest casting directors ever."

I don't know why it says this. That excerpt on #4 is not from Melinda and Melinda, it's from Manhattan.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTabby

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