Saturday, 10 July 2010

Woody Allen's six films

Ah, the modern age of blogging and social networks. A week ago in an interview with the Times (of London), Woody Allen talked about his life and his career. He also, apparently just in passing, named his six favourite films among his own:

Zelig (1984) 7,7
Husbands and Wives (1992) 7,4
Match Point (2005) 7,8

And a surprisingly large amount of people are getting worked up by these choices, because they are the "wrong" films. One example is the Guardian's film blog which says that Allen "misjudge" his films "spectacularly" and finds his "cluelessness" "weirdly endearing". Vanity Fair and New York Magazine are two other publications that are getting involved, as are of course bloggers (like myself).

But what is the problem with the list? Yes, neither Annie Hall (1977) nor Manhattan (1979) are among the chosen ones but for starters we have no clues as to what were Allen's reasons for choosing these particular films. He might have chosen them because they were the films which came as close to what he wanted to achieve as possible. Or because he had a particularly happy time when making them. Or because, today, these films are closest to Allen's view of life.

And there is nothing horrendous about those six films. I myself like all of them, they all got on average good reviews by the critics and they all got roughly the same ratings on imdb (that is the figure after the titles above). Why not compare imdb's list with Allen's:

Annie Hall 8.2
Manhattan 8.1
Match Point 7.8
Zelig 7.7

Purple Rose of Cairo comes in on 8th place, followed by Bullets Over Broadway and with Vicky Cristina Barcelona at 11th place, followed by Husbands and Wives.

It would appear then that Allen actually is a tune with the public mood, rather than being completely bonkers, as has been suggested by some commentators.

This is just a silly thing of course, and there is no need to waste a lot of time with it, but I think that the reactions reveal some things.

One is the way that people get emotional about it. This is a testament both to the power of films, and to the fact that it is personal. "I love these films and if you love those films, then that just proves that there is something wrong with you."

Another thing is that making lists is always a foolproof way of getting people aroused and upset. And it is probably partly due to the above mentioned reason.

Another thing is perhaps related to the phenomenon with people getting so attached to films (and books, comics, songs and so on) that they feel that they own it, that they have rights concerning those films. So when somebody, Allen in this case, is not giving due credit to these films, maybe people feel let down, betrayed even.

What is different with this list though, is that usually people complain because what are on the lists are conceived as being clichéd and ordinary. This time around the commentators are bending over backwards to be as conventional as possible.

If I had taken a guess as to what six films Allen would have chosen, I would have gone with the following:

Life and Death (1975) 7.6
Zelig
Purple Rose of Cairo
Hannah and Her Sisters
Sweet and Lowdown (1999) 7.2

(I cannot link to the article in the Times since Murdoch prefers to hide behind pay walls. Here is a link to the Australian instead, which admittedly is also a Murdoch paper. For an example of fans making demands on the films they love and the filmmakers who made them, why not check out the documentary The People vs. George Lucas (2010))

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