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Vicky Christina Barcelona

I know this movie has been out for a good, long, while–I could tell by the scratches on the print that I saw that it was already played at some other theater. But here, behind the Redwood Curtain where I reside, it just came out last weekend.

So you know the story already by now, right? Vicky and Christina are in Barcelona and other Spanish cities with Javier Bardem.

I don’t know how to talk about this movie without giving things away. It’s a very cyclical film–the characters end where things began: listless and searching or filled with contempt for their lives.

But in between is a whirlwind of emotions that all seemed to have been fulfilled by Bardem’s character. And all those emotions get fucked up when crazy Penelope Cruz shows up after trying to kill herself. She’s always at Bardem’s throat and it’s only when she and Bardem are living with Scarlett Johannssen (Christina) that they can actually get along. For a good portion of the film, the three have a little relationship together that is strange and erotic and, well, Woody Allen.

Vicky, on the other hand, slept with him only once and, immediately, was thrown off from her perfect life she had planned. She’s married a guy who is, more than anything, amiable and career-driven. But he’s also a bit of a dick. You know the archetype: business boy who talks her ear off about inane shit, probably was in a frat, etcetera. Think of the guy that Rachel McAdams’s character was engaged to in Wedding Crashers, but written better.

So, okay. You know what’s going on. What I really want to discuss is Woody Allen’s direction and writing. What really blows my mind is that he has the ability to write something that could be a funny film with a seriousness one wouldn’t expect from him if they had only seen, say, Annie Hall or any of his funnier movies.

He directs the film with a sense of sureness, he knows exactly what he wants and he knows exactly how to extract it from the actors. Bardem did such a good job that it was only in the first portion of his performance was I thinking of him in No Country for Old Men.  Not just him, but all the characters, draw you into their fucked up little lives for the entirety of the film.

I sincerely think that Allen has come into another renaissance as a director. His recent films have revived his career, and I think it’s because he’s turned away from comedy. It seemed like, around the time of Small Time Crooks or the Curse of the Jade Scorpion, he had lost his comedic touch because he’d already released a million films by that time. So, now, he’s tapped into the creatively dramatic portion of his brain.

Which makes me hope that he doesn’t stop making films–that he falls over dead on set.

annie hall

After mentioning this film in my article on narration, I figured I’d review it.

Winner of the Best Picture Oscar in 1978, Annie Hall is arguably Woody Allen’s magnum opus. It is the story, as narrated by Alvy (Allen), of one in a series of many failed relationships. The one discussed at length is–surprise!–his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). They meet playing tennis and both are awkward. They have a lot of great laughs but Alvie is just too neurotic and set in his ways to handle a girl like Annie.

So this movie could’ve very well been a typical romantic comedy. Pratfalls, breakups, and rebirths. But that’s not what this is. At the beginning of the movie, Alvy says that they’re broken up and he can’t figure out where things went wrong. So the movie is a journey through his childhood and his adult life as a comedic writer and womanizer. We see him pushing off one of his wife’s by using the JFK assassination. We see him trying to date another woman who calls Bob Dylan “transplendent.” But no girl, in his mind, can compare to Annie. And so, after she moves to Los Angeles, he goes out after her to try and get her to move back to New York. But she won’t budge. So the movie ends where it began.

And it could’ve been one bummer of a film, given that they never get back together, but Allen has a penchant for writing some funny-ass dialog and incorporating the fourth wall into the movie. Instead of it being a simple narration, we see characters walk through scenes in his childhood, scenes in a movie line… There is a lot of interaction with the audience. And it all plays out brilliantly.

For an older movie like this–one that I have seen many times–it’s hard not to say something that’s already been said before.

So, instead, I shall pontificate upon the parts that I truly enjoy.

Near the middle of the film, there is a great cameo by a young Christopher Walken doing what he does best: being weird and scary. He talks about driving alone at night and thinking about driving the car head-on into another and seeing the flames. And then he gives Annie and Alvy a ride to the airport with Alvy in the front (or maybe back seat) being more nervous-and-tense-Jew than he usually is.

And that’s something that I really like about Woody Allen. His schtick would have gotten old long ago if he didn’t have such great comedic timing. He knows when to throw the punchlines at you, he knows when and where you will laugh exactly. Though I haven’t seen his more recent movies that have been his foray into drama and thriller type movies, I’m sure that this penchant has to have boiled over into other genres as well.

Another thing that I like is that California is portrayed as this laid back, hip, place where everyone lounges around and doesn’t do much. And New York is portrayed as a town where everyone is doing too much and is pent up with nervousness. It gives a great feel to the movie when it switches coasts because you take Alvy out of his element and suddenly he gets sick because not everyone around him is as tense and hurried as he is. He’s not used to people being laid back and it almost scares him.

And the whole Grammy Hall scene was wonderful. Woody Allen dressed as a rabbi was awesome.