Friday, August 15, 2014


I know a lot of folks who refuse to see a Woody Allen movie and have for years, and I respect their choice. For me, I did that at a certain point in my life, decided I'd get rid of all my books by T.S. Eliot for his obvious anti-Semitism and racism etc. But then I realized I'd have to do it for books by Ezra Pound for the same reasons, and Hemingway, and etc.

Charles Lindbergh was a hero to my mother's generation (she even flew one of those old bi-planes, or in one I should say, back in the 1920s, and refused to despise him because of his initial sympathy for Hitler and Nazi Germany, even after she had two sons who went off to WWII). Some revisionist historians claim there's proof Errol Flynn was a Nazi sympathizer (others offer proof he wasn't) but that doesn't keep me from watching him in ROBIN HOOD every time it comes on.

I have a ton of Jewish friends who love Wagner's music, and according to Lauren Bacall, who was Jewish, director Howard Hawks was blatantly anti-Semitic on the set of her first movie and she regretted ever after not calling him out on it (saying she was afraid it would end her career which was just starting, but I find that confusing since her real bosses, the heads of the Hollywood studios, including Hawk's boss, were Jewish).

We can go around and around about all that, (there are people who refuse to read or honor in any way the poetry of Allen Ginsberg because he supposedly advocated or at least supported supporters of man/boy love, as it's called by some). So, somewhere in my evolution I stopped trying to avoid the work of people who may not be great human beings if it indeed seemed to me to be important or seminal or even just good work despite the person who created it.

All that just to say I never saw a Woody Allen movie I didn't like. I have close friends who've seen tons of Allen movies they didn't like but not me. There are some that are classics, and some that are mere fluff, but I never leave the theater sorry I went in. His latest, MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is pretty much formulaic fluff, like its title, and yet the main plot twist surprised me (hard to do since I wrote and doctored screenplays for a living for a while and pretty much can see most plot points a mile away).

And some scenes delighted me so much I could hardly contain myself. I get pretty excited when I experience great art. In this case it wasn't so much in the story or the characters, but in the dialogue and the performances, which you have to give Allen some credit for since he wrote it and directed it. Watching Colin Firth and Eileen Atkins (playing his character's eccentric aunt) in any scene they were in together was exhilarating, to say the least.

And Emma Stone is always good, even when she might be slightly miscast as some might think she was in this movie. And all the actors played their parts perfectly, including a tour de force comic performance by Hamish Linklater as the earnest rich boy enchanted by Stone's character and trying to impress her with his ukulele skills (an extended and typical Allen gag, but for me it worked every time, had me spitting out my dibs)...

So, if you want a little escape that's entertaining and light this may be it. Though Allen haters have already shown their displeasure by citing the age different between Firth and Stone as some sort of not-so-hidden defense of Allen's May/December marriage (which has lasted much longer than many Hollywood marriages, or any other, where the spouses are more age equivalent, and the one time I spent any time around them they seemed perfectly matched and happy together), much like there are those who could not acknowledge the artistry of Elia Kazan, even in his masterpiece ON THE WATERFRONT, especially that movie, because they saw it as a not-so-hidden defense of his ratting his friends out to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (can you believe we actually had a Congressional committee called that!?). But for me ON THE WATERFRONT is a classic, just like HANNAH AND HER SISTERS and THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and a lot of other Woody Allen movies are in my estimation.

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT isn't. But some scenes in it are, which makes it worth seeing to me.


AlamedaTom said...

Example of your position: Jon Voight. He has had some great roles through the years, and now is blowing me away as the father in "Ray Donovan." Of course in real life he is a reactionary ass.

~ Willy

Lally said...