Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Annoying Critics' Tricks: Woody Allen Version

A.O. Scott has reviewed Woody Allen's latest movie in the NY Times. Here are the annoying parts:

"The metaphysical pessimism that constitutes Mr. Allen’s annual greeting-card message to the human race — just in case we needed reminding that our existence is meaningless — is served up in “Tall Dark Stranger” with a wry shrug and an amusing flurry of coincidences, reversals and semi-surprises."

Note that he brings up Allen's record of making a movie each year, which is an implicit criticism of the director. It is to be understood that he makes movies too fast--we don't know how fast a movie should be made, but we know one per year is too fast! He goes for a double by pointing out that all of his movies are the same, because Scoop, Match Point, Vicky Cristian Barcelona, Small Time Crooks, Everyone Says I Love You are basically identical. Except they aren't, but why think about it more than you need to when you can take a cheap shot?

"At this point in his career — 40 features in about as many years — Mr. Allen has both mastered his craft and grown indifferent to it. Does he take any pleasure in making these movies? Does he expect the audience to take any? It’s hard to say, since he seems to make films, and we seem to watch them (at least those of us who still do), more through force of habit than because of any great inspiration or conviction. Given the nonexistence of any controlling moral order in the universe, what else can we do? And what else would we want him to do"

Ha ha ha ha ha! The annoying trick used here is to imagine that Allen has become indifferent to making films. What is the evidence? Certainly not that he chooses to uproot himself from his New York home to shoot films in other countries because he can't get financing in the US. If he were truly indifferent, he would allow US financiers to give him notes, thus making it possible for him to stay at home where he is happiness. The other annoying trick is that Scott pretends to know why "we" watch Woody Allen's movies. I don't watch them out of habit, unless watching movies that I know are going to be at least decent and sometimes great. Scott watches them because he gets paid to!

"Since Mr. Allen is a notoriously nondirective director of actors, the performances in his movies tend to be all over the map, and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is more scattershot than most. Mr. Brolin, angry and sweaty, with a bad haircut and a wardrobe stolen from a graduate student’s closet sometime in the late 1970s...."

There's that indifferent Allen letting his actors go wild. If only he cared more, maybe some actors in his films might get recognized for their work with, oh, Academy Awards nominations. But wait! Lots of actors have been nominated and even won for their work in his movies. Of course, that's before he let his actors sweat and have bad clothes. Wait, is that a criticism of the movie? The hair and clothes?

"The more ridiculous manifestations of faith — notably Helena’s spiritualism, which leads her into romance with the owner of an occult bookshop — are more charming and more persuasive than the earnest pursuits of love and success that drive most of the people in this overcrowded movie. For the most part, everyone struggles through, with at best mixed success. The audience included."

Here he goes lumping himself in with everyone else. Don't say "the audience," when you mean "the paid reviewers whose preconceptions need to be overcome for them to enjoy the film." But I guess it's a hard habit to break.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A redirection to the Walsh post from another site led me to this review of the review. Well-done. I thoroughly enjoyed the takedown. I am bothered by what passes for seriousness these days... a reliance on clever or cute or witty. It's as if the NYT reviewer really doesn't believe what he wrote but enjoyed the chance to show how cutesy he could be. Then, others cluck at his wittiness, and so on. Thanks.