Woody Allen DocumentaryBy Shlomoh
December 13, 2011
I knew there was a Woody Allen documentary on recent TV but didn't know where or when. When I tried to TIVO it, I couldn't find it. My friend, Dietz, told me it was on PBS American Masters. Frankly I didn't even know where PBS is on my cable service. Since leaving New York, it's hard for me to even find NBC, CBS, or ABC, much less WOR or WEVD.
Anyway, I did TIVO American Masters but it was too late. Both parts of the documentary were over and gone. Then my friend Dietz suggested I go to the PBS website and that I probably could watch it there, and he was right. So far I have seen part one and it's not easy to watch an hour or more of a TV show on a small PC screen. But I did it.
I know a lot of people don't like Woody as a human being and I also fell out of love with because I am disappointed in him as a person. But how can you not love a guy who comes up with stuff like:
"Don't knock masturbation - it's sex with someone I love’
"I am a great lover but that's because I practice a lot when I am alone."
"A hypocrite is an atheist who writes a book and then prays that it will sell."
"I was involved in an extremely good example of oral contraception two weeks ago. I asked a girl to go to bed with me and she said 'no'."
I was a typical Manhattanite. I fell in love with Woody Allen when I saw Annie Hall. I had never seen Woody's stuff before that and everyone I knew was flabbergasted that I was unaware of BANANNAS, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, and EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX. I knew that Woody Allen had written for Sid Caesar but he
seemed to me to be such an unattractive person who was also obnoxious.
Annie Hall changed that and then I managed to rent all those earlier films that I had missed. Annie Hall was a breakout for Woody. He wanted to do a film that was not
only funny but also contained a real human interest story. He succeeded in making a movie about a man who has a love affair and then loses the girl. Yes, it was funny but also poignant. After that, he made INTERIORS. What a gamble but it put a new face on Woody Allen and he gained many more fans. His next film, MANHATTAN, carried the
theme along, man meets girl, man loses girl, against an intense background of noir black and white and Gershwin music. At the time I saw it i loved it. After all, it was a film about my town. Looking back, my opinion has changed. I now see it as contrived and pretentious. I have been too influenced by a film that no one seems to care about, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. Crimes, I think, captures the real essence of Woody's dilemma, the existential uncertainty of life and why there must be death when one
does not believe in an afterlife. It's really unfair and the movie speaks to the human condition. I am surprised that not many people are so fond of it. It's also a film weaving comedy and drama together, and although some of it seems choppy, the message is clear. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer a real Jewish Jobian theme. What's not to like?
I thought all America loved Woody. After all, America loved Seinfeld which I refused to watch because I knew that I would find it stupid, trite, and unfunny. When I was asked to try it just once by someone whose opinion I value, I did watch three episodes, hoping I was wrong. Wrong! I was right! It's a typical network sitcom that just doesn't do it for me. It's not fun. I am just too used to Howard Stern and George Carlin and Chris Rock and even Saturday Night Live. How can network do ANYTHING even remotely funny when the puritanical, ultra-conservative, family values FCC is breathing down its neck? It's also one reason that I no longer listen to terrestrial radio now, only satellite.
I was shocked the first time I came across someone who did not like Woody Allen. A friend of mine living in Texas told me that he just didn't get Woody's New York Jewish humor, and then another friend in St Louis told me that she just didn't think he was funny. And I realized that Woody just did not appeal to the mass of Middle
American gentiles. Maybe it's because he is too cerebral or maybe it's not that at all. Maybe the nuances that New York people, especially Jews, can appreciate, land cold on the sensibilities of the American Other. Woody is the essence of the New York Jew as a stereotype and as a reality. The scene in Annie Hall where Annie has taken him back home to visit her family at Thanksgiving time where the family outwardly expresses their discomfort with him as one would with a Martian brought home for the holidays is priceless. Dianne Keaton, around whom the character of Annie is built, said plainly that the way the family is portrayed in the movie is exactly the way her family is, and she is frankly embarrassed by them.
Well maybe by now there are Woody Allen movies that people living on the west side of the Hudson River can appreciate. I hope so. But we who stem from New York will love all of his work, or at least most of it because we understand him. He is, after all, US!
Every now and then you hear that Woody Allen has had his day. But as afar as I am concerned, he always manages to surprise me with his new movies, many of which i only see on TV because I don't hear of them in the theaters. He is a comic genius and also a serious movie maker.
If you missed the 2 part documentary, you can see it here
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