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Manhattan 1979

The life of a divorced television writer dating a teenage girl is further complicated when he falls in love with his best friend's mistress...

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****1/2 / *****



*sigh*

Wow, what a film. Simple, yet dramatic. The brilliantly written dialogue is seemingly endless, paired with performances of characters that emit normalcy. I like that; it's moving even without fully relating to the turmoil these characters experience. Aside from the absolutely stunning cinematography the film clearly has depth. To single out one of my personal favorite scenes, when Allen lists certain things that make life worth living, I came to ponder on what I would put on my own list, were I ever to make one, and drew a blank. Momentarily, of course. Realistically though, I came to realize that so much truly is trivial. Given a second viewing, I could easily see my rating becoming a 10, but for now I'll let it remain at a strong 9; slightly surpassing my now #2 Allen film Annie Hall. With all that said, I highly recommend it. But as far as the actual content, I will merely say: with experience comes greater appreciation.
Two nines this weekend, both New York movies. I swear this place must be the center of the Universe. Why can't a movie ever be set in Newark or something?



Woody Allen's Manhattan, shot in black & white and set to the music of Gershwin, makes classic its modern tale of a narcissistic New York writer's troubles with love. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton update their roles from Annie Hall. There are less laughs out loud here, but instead of going for laughs, Allen goes for depth. That he makes his unsympathetic, wise-cracking, loser of a protagonist sympathetic is a mark of the quality of the writing and Allen's acting.
I like Woody Allen
I'm planning to get caught enough where I can actually write good reviews the day after I watch a film. I'm just going to rate this batch of films and not write reviews at the moment.

Walkabout (Roeg 71) 7.5/10
Manhattan (Allen 79) 9.0/10
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Becker 54) 9.0/10
A Man Escaped (Bresson 56) 9.0/10
Tokyo Drifter (Suzuki 66) 8.5/10


This stars Woody Allen as a 42 year old writer who is dating a 17 year old. While they are dating he meets his friends mistress and falls in love with her. So now he has to decide who to be with?
The film is very well acted and the cinematography is excellent as well. The use of black and white was excellent in this film. I use to think that Woody Allen sucked. I realize now that I was too immature to really understand him. Since, at that time I was never in any serious relationships. His dialogue about relationships always works really well and he doesn't let the story drag on. He gets right to the point and that's what I liked about this film the most. That and the perfromances by all involved were really good. Well that and the ending if you haven't seen this one it's worth seeing.
I wish that complicated characters were always written like this. Isaac takes delight in Tracy's company, but uses the excuse that 'she's just a kid' to refrain from making himself vulnerable to her. Mary is easy to write off as a snob who uses her background to withhold from forging her own identity, but even she is sensitive to Isaac's interests. Tracy is youthful effervesence personified, and yet quite fragile, as illustrated in a wonderfully delicate scene between her and Isaac, the most emotionally tender moment of the film for me, other than the ending. Isaac's a microcosm of the cynical and distrustful, always keeping oneself at a distance. It's only one when allows oneself to become vulnerable when true satisfaction and fulfillment is achieved. The black-and-white cinematography is lovely, as is the use of music. It would be a real treat to see this on the big screen.

As to whether I'm an Annie Hall or Manhattan person, I think I'll go with Annie Hall.


In seeing Manhattan I missed the playful and fully comedic style of Annie Hall, my only previous Woody Allen film viewing experience. This one is much more dramatic and works well, but never seems to elevate itself beyond a solid drama much of the time. There are laughs to be had, but the film's core is that of lost love. It's not coincidental many of the film's best scenes are shot from a distance, reminding us that these characters seem to shy away from what really suits them best. What is absolutely perfect and makes every piece of the film worth seeing is the beautiful black and white shots of Allen's beloved city of Manhattan and the use of Gershwin's music throughout.
8.5
Shaolin Soccer (Chow, 2002)
Entertainment Value: 7/10 :fresh:
Film Quality: 8/10 :fresh:

Some well delivered slap-stick with a bit a wit and some fantastic visual gags makes Shaolin Soccer one of the most fun movie experiences I've had in awhile.

Manhattan (Allen, 1979)
Entertainment Value: 6/10 :fresh:
Film Quality: 10/10 :fresh:

When I originally saw Manhattan a few months ago I wrote down a 6/10 for its score. But, thinking back to the film now I only recall fond memories and I don't know why I didn't give it at least a 7. For now, however, I'm going to stick with my original score and plan on revisiting the film sometime.

Anyway, it's a great story of people switching from one desire to another, wanting what they see until they have it then missing what they had. Mix in some jealousy, secrets, and some of Allen's witty dialogue and you have a great film.

Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1950)
Entertainment Value: 5/10 :rotten:
Film Quality: 10/10 :fresh:

As Moltar once said "The trueness of one's truth, Zorak, is clearly based on their vernacular inaccuracies." Rashomon is about honesty, honor, and deception. And we are left to wonder who is telling the truth or, more importantly, who lied about what and why did they lie. It's one of those tremendously important and influential films that I completely respect but don't really care for. (And it's probably another one I'll get yelled at for not liking.)

Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)
Entertainment Value: 9/10 :fresh:
Film Quality: 9/10 :fresh:

A mix of compelling and mesmerizing stories that drive you deeply into each character as their lives fall apart and come together in numerous ways. The film deteriorates, however, as the characters begin to wallow in self-pity and it all concludes with an original but uninspired ending that is the very definition of Deus Ex Machina (or maybe I just didn't get it).

Edit: I raised Magnolia's rating after a second viewing. It felt much less like it was 'deteriorating' this time.

Crash (Haggis/Moresco, 2005)
Entertainment Value: 7/10 :fresh:
Film Quality: 7/10 :fresh:

An interesting film to watch after having just seen Magnolia. In some ways it's a better film. The stories are all inter-mixed thoroughly with numerous crossover characters and while the stories are dependent on one another for development they don't come to a singular, all-encompassing conclusion. In some ways, however, Magnolia is better. Crash's major problem is that it doesn't overlap its story-telling to bring you to simultaneous climactic points in the character's lives. Instead it builds towards one climax, reaches it, then moves on to the next, builds up, climaxes, and moves to the next. Although pretty much all the stories are done well, this poor technique diminishes the film's quality significantly.

Also... this may be my personal opinion, but the subject matter is really, really beaten to death.
I will be 17 years old tomorrow! In other news, I've had an incredible number of joyous film experiences recently, and these next three films have quickly become some of my very favourite films. Man, it's becoming harder and harder to come up with an all-time top-10 list. So many are getting left out. :( Anyways, on with the show!

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Vertigo is the fourth Hitchcock film I've actually fully watched - I know, I'm way behind - and I'd say it's equally as great as the masterful Psycho, although it's rather different. (I've also seen Rebecca, and Notorious... ages ago.) This one doesn't have the same unrelenting pace and wall-to-wall suspense, and it's quieter, slower, and more complex and profound - but it is equally mesmerizing. It involves Jimmy Stewart as Scottie, a former policeman whose career was brought to an end by his acute fear of heights, who now has more time on his hands. This time becomes filled up with spying on a woman - the wife of Scottie's old college chum, who hired Scottie to follow her around after becoming suspicious of her day-to-day behaviour. Scottie eventually falls in love with his target, the distant, ravishing blonde Madeline who seems, mysteriously, to be possessed by the ghost of a woman who killed herself years before.

The story gets gradually more complicated, layered, and intriguing. James Stewart is utterly magnetic (this is the darkest performance I've seen him give), fully expressing the remarkable range of emotions of a man alternately haunted, fearful, enraptured, and betrayed. The score by Edward Herrmann is subtly brilliant. And Vertigo eventually becomes a truly profound exploration of the uglier side of love, human interaction, and the connection between "image" and the psyche. The movie's many topics - including obsession, manipulation, male domination, and futility - are all fully explored, and the movie manages to be remarkably intriguing, captivating, and suspenseful, in addition to being amazingly intelligent. It's a full-blooded, thought-provoking dazzler. A

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Manhattan strikes the perfect balance between witty, spiky comedy and bittersweet romance. It's not only about the tangled, failed love affairs that Woody Allen's character - Isaac, a high-culture, neurotic, and indecisive TV writer - goes through, but also Allen's own unbridled affection for New York City. There's a somewhat melancholy, wistful tone as we witness Isaac's romantic wreckage. He is involved with Tracy, a smart, down-to-earth 17-year-old played beautifully by Mariel Hemingway, before he gets skittish about the age difference and "doesn't see a future" for the relationship - not realizing that in many ways, ironically, Tracy is more mature than he is. Isaac drifts over to Mary (played, post-Annie Hall, by the always dependably amusing Diane Keaton), the extremely bright ex-girlfriend of his friend Yale (Michael Murphy) whose intelligence masks her feelings, but then he realizes what a good thing he had going with Tracy, and regretfully tries to go back to her.

Meanwhile, Manhattan captures the real feel of Manhattan in the sterling, brilliant black-and-white cinematography of Gordon Willis, journeying through various exciting NYC locations that only a true New Yorker knows of; a scene between Isaac and Mary in a dark planetarium is especially well done. The music (by George Gershwin) and dialogue also sparkle, striking just the right tone. Manhattan is a blissful, utterly enjoyable experience that is one of the strongest comedies ever made. It's only the highest praise when I say the film is just as good as similar films like Annie Hall or Sideways, and perhaps even better - a clearer, fuller, and even more perfectly orchestrated expression of that wonderful Woody Allen sensibility. A

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Billy Wilder's The Apartment is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable movies I've ever seen. Like Manhattan, it achieves a perfect balance - this time between light, nearly farcical comedy and harsh cynicism about the modern working world. Jack Lemmon gives a wonderfully endearing, multi-dimensional, empathetic performance as C.C. Baxter, an Everyman who works for a huge, soulless insurance firm and lends his apartment out to the top executives at the firm to make their sneaky extramarital affairs easier; they in turn reward him with promotions and cushier working spaces. There's a real, palpable twinge of sadness at seeing Baxter turn himself into a corporate whore, but he does this willingly - his work is his life.

That is, until Shirley Maclaine, as Miss Kubelik the clever, cute, aloof elevator operator at the firm enters the picture. Baxter falls head over heels for the girl, not knowing that she still has unresolved feelings for the big boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). Things get more complicated between the three at an office Christmas party where sorrow and bitterness and petty gossip drown out any booze-induced glee in the room.

These characters are all remarkably well-developed. Just the little details - the way Lemmon strains his spaghetti with a tennis racket, his expressions ("That's the way it crumbles... cookie-wise"), the look of subtle yearning on his face when he has to stand outside on a cold night, looking up at his lighted apartment that he isn't in - add so much. And Maclaine makes Miss Kubelik a smart, fragile woman with her own private sorrows and feelings, who is seriously tired of all the gossip that goes on between the women in her workplace, and of the crushing lies she is told by the sleazy men. The script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond is full of funny, witty, and wise dialogue, and Wilder's direction is simply expert, handling all The Apartment's different comedic and tones - ranging from simple farce to observant, humane comedy to sentimental romance to biting cynicism - with smooth, seamless skill. I really need to search out more Billy Wilder movies. This is quite simply the most touching and perfectly crafted human comedy ever made - and the best comedy ever after Dr. Strangelove. And that's truly the way it crumbles... cookie-wise. Now shut up and deal. A
A lot has happened since my last update. Really.

First, I flew up to Chicago with my family so I could move into my dorm. Then, that Friday, we drove to Cincinnati for my cousin's wedding. That Sunday, we dropped my mom and sister at the Dayton airport, and my dad and I drove back to Evanston. So that was a busy weekend. The best part, aside from seeing my family, was the cuisine. Bob Evans? Skyline Chili? Graeter's Ice Cream? Big Boy? Check, check, check, and check. That, plus my dad and I got Giordano's once we returned to Evanston. Now that's what I'm talking about.

So far, junior year (holy shit I still can't believe I'm a junior) has been... different. My friends are spread out all over campus this year, since most upperclassmen choose not to live in dorms. I have friends in apartments, friends in frat houses, and friends in other dorms. Then there's the friends who are abroad. Me, I chose a single on campus. It's a nice room, and it's great for studying and sleeping. However, I don't know that many other people in here. Most of the people in my dorm have their own friends already and don't need to meet new people. Neither do I, of course, I just have to work extra-hard to be social. And since I'm not used to that, I've spent some weekend nights by myself. Not cool. I'll snap out of this, besides, I turn 21 in a couple of weeks and can finally hang out with my friends who have fakes/are 21.

................

Classes are good, for the most part.

Documentary Film History and Criticism: Disappointing. The material is interesting in a sense, just to see early documentaries and how issues of the time haven't changed - Nanook of the North is just as inauthentic as Bowling for Columbine. The professor isn't a douche, but he's not very professorly. In fact, he's kind of lazy. Oh, and it's a 9AM MWF class. It's a good thing I like documentaries or else this would really suck.

American Lit - A Nation of Immigrants: So far, so good. Besides, we already watched Chaplin's The Immigrant and we're going to watch The Godfather. Can't complain.

Intro to Russian Lit - Only two books, but they're The Brothers Karamazov and Anna Karenina. The reading is a bit of a hassle, but the prof is cool (he reads the books in character) and people who have taken it before say it's amazing.

Armed Forces and Society - Our professor is a bit of a legend. He's an emeritus prof and he came up with the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. The discussions are topical and the reading is interesting. This should continue to be awesome.

..............

Quick movie reviews:

Manhattan: I'm not sure whether Woody Allen wants us to identify with these characters or not. If it's an examination, it's biting, I guess. If it's an honest love story, it doesn't work. Every character in the film lacks passion. If that's the point, then that's a lot different if it's just the script's fault. At least the black and white cinematography is gorgeous.

The Immigrant: It's fun. I liked it. It's almost like a live-action cartoon sometimes.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride: Looks great, but otherwise it's lifeless (ha ha ha). The love story, oddly enough, could have benefited from a more serious approach.

Trainspotting: Not sure why it's a cult/college classic. Okay movie. Good style, some substance, but the plot dawdles.

A History of Violence: More interesting to think about and discuss than it is to actually watch. The questions it raises are interesting, but the delivery of the story is muddled. For instance, the son's subplot is badly handled: the evil jock is a blatant villain who gets pissed because the son caught his fly ball in gym class; the son says that his father, after gaining notoriety, could appear on Larry King Live. The character becomes important later on, and his actions and dialogue are understandable but it's too late to take him and his story seriously. Viggo Mortensen is perfectly cast, and Cronenberg handles the violence excellently. It's at first exhilirating, then jarring. He knows how to make an audience uncomfortable in an intelligent way.

..........

Anybody ever see ComedySportz in Chicago? They performed on campus a couple weeks ago. I've seen better Chicago theater/improv, but they were okay.

Kanye is coming to NU. I'm sooooo pumped.

Running With Scissors is a twisted and insane memoir. Therefore, it's brilliant. Every chapter has something in it that makes you think "WHAT?". I'm definitely checking out more of Augesten Burroughs' work. Highly recommended.

Now that I have shared iTunes (thank you, dorm), I've been downloading music like crazy (thank you, ourtunes). A lot of Radiohead, some Guster, The Killers, Interpol, The Decemberists, Neutral Milk Hotel, The New Pornographers, and the Shins. I'm so evil. Reviews of it (and some music that I've actually purchased) to follow once I've listened to all/most of it. Here's some advance words: Neutral Milk Hotel - no; The New Pornographers - yes.

I've already decided that next summer, the ideal plan is going to be getting an internship in Chicago and getting a summer sublet. Because staying at home again just won't cut it. I love my family, and free home-cooked meals are always good, but... I just have to get out. Know what I mean?

No more rambling. This is entry is long enough already. I'm out.
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