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Diane Keaton (#110 of 7)

The 10 Best Woody Allen Movies

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The 10 Best Woody Allen Movies
The 10 Best Woody Allen Movies

Forty-four features over 48 years. That’s a lot of cinema to emerge from the mind of one man, however tireless and prolific. Woody Allen’s approach to filmmaking shares more in common with the routine, unfussy diligence of the classical studio era than modern auteurism, which is to say that Allen treats his vocation less like a tortuous calling than, well, a job, something to sit down and do every day. His latest feature, Magic in the Moonlight, arrives in theaters this week, maintaining a release streak that has brought us nearly a film a year for going on five decades. Allen has a reputation for discarding each film as it passes him by, not bothering to reflect on their importance or worry about their legacies; his attentions are drawn to what’s next so quickly that he hardly has time to bother with his own history. It’s safe to say that Allen wouldn’t have much time for a list such as this. Still, the canon cries out for rejuvenation, and so we size up another annual Allen tradition: the commemoration of his greatest hits.

Poster Lab: The Big Wedding

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Poster Lab: <em>The Big Wedding</em>
Poster Lab: <em>The Big Wedding</em>

It would appear that one of the biggest challenges facing movies with huge, starry casts is getting all the actors together to shoot the poster image. Like New Year’s Eve before it, the treacly-looking ensemble comedy The Big Wedding comes with a one-sheet whose pretty faces couldn’t look more disparate. The designers thankfully avoided the dreaded grid approach, but one wonders if a paper-doll Photoshop assemblage is even worse. As the central couple, whose pre-marriage plight involves conflicts too tired and dull to mention, Amanda Seyfried and Ben Barnes are perhaps the only two actors who genuinely seem to have been photographed together. A case could also be made for Susan Sarandon and Robert De Niro (who, like their younger costars, have the credibility factor of joined hands), but there’s still something vexingly posed, airbrushed, and artificial about their shared moment, as if even the laughs were digitally grafted.

Everyone else may just as well be on another planet, especially Diane Keaton, whose halfhearted smile and overall bemused awkwardness support the notion that she’s in fact prepping for her latest L’Oréal Paris ad. The one star whose directional gaze seems appropriate is Christine Ebersole, who offers an uncomfortable sneer while eyeing up the crackpots to her left. Also the only actor to not receive billing, Ebersole almost looks relieved to have been kept at a certain remove, and she plays viewer surrogate as she bitingly judges the mess in her midst.

Poster Lab: Darling Companion

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Poster Lab: <em>Darling Companion</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Darling Companion</em>

In general, this column isn’t designed to verbally tear bad posters in half, but when something as shoddy as the one-sheet for Darling Companion is put on the market, it’s pretty hard not to chime in. Almost shockingly unpolished, this blandly conceived fiasco reads like the rushed efforts of a first-day intern, who was tasked to cook up something to be shuffled out the door, and in an over-caffeinated panic, made a sinful hybrid of Lassie, The Devil Wears Prada and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Hell, maybe that leg even belongs to the intern’s boss, whose blurry blob of a platform heel recalls those digi-bras used in VH1’s “Movies That Rock” broadcast of Showgirls (come on, y’all know which ones I’m talking about).

It’s a good thing the intern remembered to include the collie, because this design otherwise reflects next to nothing that’s conveyed in the movie’s trailer, which promises over-50 ensemble kookiness, not working-woman minimalism. Maybe if that foot were wearing a saddle shoe and slacks, we might at least believe it belongs to lead star Diane Keaton. As is, it implies a tony glamazon who leaves Fido with a sitter. If there’s any half-decent design sense to speak of, it’s that the woman’s leg provides line quality and hugs the dog’s left side, thus offering a literal visual of the titular theme of pet-owner closeness. In all likelihood, though, it was probably just that poor intern’s way of scaling down the clipping-path duties, which, given the number that was done on the paw, was probably a blessing.

The Real Tuesday Weld

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The Real Tuesday Weld
The Real Tuesday Weld

Tuesday Weld will not be attending the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s retrospective “American Girl: Tuesday Weld,” running from September 21—25, which will showcase 10 performances by the unconventional actress. Weld hasn’t made a public appearance in more than a decade. Perhaps she’s gone into self-imposed exile a la Marlene Dietrich, wanting to preserve the public’s memory of the brazen, luminous beauty that made her an icon of the ’60s and turned the heads of everyone from Elvis Presley to Pinchas Zukerman. But then again, Weld has made a career of not giving the public what they want, or expect.

From the time she first entered America’s consciousness in the ’50s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, it was obvious that Weld was different from the Sandra Dees of the world, and not just because of her improbable first name. Weld’s apple-pie looks hid a dark, dangerous undercurrent. In her characters, sex and violence were inevitably linked. Her persona was innocent yet amoral—a fille fatale. Weld was Kubrick’s first choice for Lolita, but she turned him down, later claiming “I didn’t have to play it. I was Lolita.”

Sopranos Week: I Believe in America

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<em>Sopranos</em> Week: I Believe in America
<em>Sopranos</em> Week: I Believe in America

With the final episodes of The Sopranos soon to air on HBO, it’s worth considering where the show fits in the pantheon of great mob stories that have been committed to film. Yes, The Sopranos is a TV show, but as such it is sui generis and can only be compared to films.

In one self-referential scene, Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) and her family are eating dinner while her ex-husband laments how Italian-Americans are portrayed in movies about the Mafia. Her son, Jason, counters that mob movies have replaced westerns as the dominant narrative of the American experience. A self-serving viewpoint, perhaps, from a show like The Sopranos, but it’s also an observation that is hard to dispute.

Deadweek: From Caesar to Corleone—The Dramatic Evolution of Deadwood

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Deadweek: From Caesar to Corleone—The Dramatic Evolution of <em>Deadwood</em>
Deadweek: From Caesar to Corleone—The Dramatic Evolution of <em>Deadwood</em>

In fighting off waves of melancholy over Deadwood’s premature demise (HBO and creator David Milch will wrap things up with a couple of TV movies), it’s helpful to reflect on the improbability of the show’s existence. Poised to enter its third season as a modest hit, and riding a wave of critical admiration, the series has flourished amidst inhospitable conditions. A densely plotted serial belonging to the least popular of genres, the western, Deadwood owes as large a debt to high school civics class as it does to the shoot-out at the OK Corral. With its pug-face character actors, horseshit-speckled costumes, convoluted dialogue and the foulest disposition you’re likely to find outside of the local drunk tank, the show is what you’d charitably call “an acquired taste.”

What’s so remarkable about the show is not just way it’s forced an audience accustomed to spoon-feeding to surmount its own prejudices, but the fact that it continues to do so in astoundingly break-neck, Byzantine ways. While network mates (both deceased and soon to be) Carnivàle and The Sopranos leisurely genuflect over the comings and goings which shape the world around them, Deadwood lays down track scarcely before it rolls over it, leaving the flat footed choking on its dust. Like the mayfly, a season of Deadwood has a very short lifespan—typically a matter of weeks. But oh, the things it accomplishes in that time.