Dylan Farrow Aside, Does Woody Allen Stink as a Film Director?

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Cate Blanchett in 'Blue Jasmine'

There's no doubt the Dylan Farrow - Woody Allen back-and-forth has raised serious issues. Questions like how does society deal with allegations of child abuse? And how do audiences respond to an artist's work after he has been accused of a deeply immoral act? If on Oscar night, Woody Allen happens to win the best original screenplay award for Blue Jasmine, the full range of 140-character opinions on such matters is going to, within seconds, criss-cross the globe.

If Allen does win, I'll be crying foul not because of any moral transgressions on the director's part, but because I thought his movie stunk. Last summer, when many other critics were hailing Blue Jasmine as a masterpiece, I was busy writing a piece called How Woody Allen Became a Hack, asserting that the director's sloppy moviemaking and derivative screenplays over the past 20 years should have landed him in movie jail for various aesthetic crimes and misdemeanors.

Of course, I'm well aware I'm living on a planet other than Earth when it comes to this topic. No less a critic than David Thomson, one of the most astute film minds around, in my opinion, called Blue Jasmine "the best film (Allen) has ever made."

So we thought that now, the day before the Oscars, was a good time to publish some of the online reaction we received to my Woody Allen piece, much of which expressed the opinion that:

A) Woody still has a lot on the cinematic ball.


B) I'm a moron.

My favorite reaction:

You are an imbecile. Probably a Republican? How you ever got to write anything is a surprise to me. Your logical reasoning is almost on par with a five year old. Please die soon and rid humanity from this banter. You are a waste of space. --Zetret

I'm thinking Marshall McLuhan wrote that one ...

More below. Feel free to chime in. Oh wait. This is the Internet -- what an unnecessary invitation. (And by the way, if you think I was hard on Woody, check out Joan Didion's takedown of his films and his audience, published in The New York Review of Books in 1979, smack in the middle of the director's glory years.)

Responses to How Woody Allen Became a Hack (culled from KQED Arts Facebook and the comments on the post):

Totally disagree with this article. Midnight in Paris is brilliant. Blue Jasmine is not as good, but Cate Blanchett's performance (Oscar for Best Actress for sure) is one of the best you will ever see. --John Leibee

When he's good, he's made some of the most fantastic movies. He has captured humanity in an amazing and excruciating way. With a career as long as he has had, is it fair for us arm chair critics to be so errr.... critical? Maybe... but have you created anything as brilliant in your lifetime? So you don't like his new movies as much... big deal. What's so great about being a critic anyhow? --Josh Alper

I thought To Rome with Love, Match Point and Cassandra's Dream were all excellent. They're not Stardust Memories or Manhattan but are still intelligent, entertaining and well acted and crafted. --Victor Milin

He's still got more originality than Quentin Tarantino. --Chris Knight

Bitch, bitch, bitch. Yeah, Woody's done some classics and some stinkers. But there's no one I can think of who's matched his output and few who can claim ownership of so many brilliant films. Criticism is easy, creating is difficult. --Mike Woolson

Blue Jasmine was brilliant. --Louis

How moronic. Can't imagine what the idiots who deride Woody think passes for good screenwriting. Iron Man? Kevin James flicks? --Chris Faraone

His latest is always the greatest because it hits the current nerves of the time. --Lee Embrey

Long may Woody entertain us as only he can! --Tim Street-Porter

Another tired old putz complaining that Woody Allen hasn't made a good film in 20 years. Here's a suggestion -- stop seeing the new ones and just watch Annie Hall and Manhattan over and over again. --Steven Kaye

I think many of the criticisms here are really strengths for what Allen does with them and certainly aren't anything new to his work. The man works in a limited arena, but he always does it well. Also, to call Stardust Memories a Fellini knockoff and leave it at that is criminal; it's Allen's best film and better than 8 1/2 IMO. --redflagblackflag

And then there were those who agreed with me, more or less:

Have not been very enthusiastic about anything by Woodman since Annie Hall or so. Found Midnight in Paris a bit silly for a director in his 70s. Could not watch more than a few minutes of newer films --DeWitt Cheng

You are right on with this stuff. I will certainly not see the new one. And I have a very hard time understanding how anyone who like the old Allen stuff could also like this new stuff. I agree that the "quicker and cheaper" goal is primarily to blame, but I think it's even more than that. I think Allen used to write about characters he knew, or at least felt. Now he's all over the place -- well any place except for his own heart/mind/intellect. And it's out of those places that real comedy -- and real pathos -- springs.

Sitting in the theater for Midnight In Paris its opening weekend, hearing laughter coming from all around, I was convinced that it was laughter at how bad the film was -- how ridiculous the acting was, how flat and unbelievable the characters -- really how terribly simple it all was. --CORE2THEMAXX

Truthfully, the last film of his I liked was Hannah and Her Sisters. --RC

I kept saying ... "it's about time someone said this" in my head as I read this essay. I think most people know that Woody isn't making masterpieces anymore, but there's not nearly enough
acknowledgement of how dreadful his work has become. This author's take on Midnight in Paris isn't even in the realm of opinion as far as I'm concerned, it is stating an obvious case. And like the author of this piece, this is coming from someone who thinks Woody Allen was pumping out a great film almost every year for about a 15 year period. --Soxfan111111

My favorite answer to the question: Who is the most over-rated director of our lifetime? Plus, he is a major sleaze. --Paul Hurdlow

I feel like Woody exhausted all his ideas long ago, now he's like a family member telling the same old stories over the holiday dinner table. His films have all the surprise and urgency of a new Stones record. --Dan Buskirk


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