Woody Allen at 80: Top 10 Picks

December 1, 2015

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We’re wishing a happy 80th birthday to Woody Allen! To celebrate the director, writer, actor and all-around filmmaker, JFI Programmer Joshua Moore has compiled a list of his 10 favorite Allen films.

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10. ZELIG (1983)

Often appreciated only for its technical wizardry- Allen inserted into old newsreel footage- Zelig is also a deeply personal story of a lonely man so desperate to belong that he develops the physical characteristics of those around him, that ultimately serves as a cautionary tale for dangers of Fascism and conformity.

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9. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989)

Rarely have both comedy and tragedy been blended together in a single film with semi-separate narratives than in this one. Alan Alda is hilarious and Martin Landau is chilling. Crimes and Misdemeanors is Allen’s most philosophic film about moral choice. As I said- hilarious and chilling.

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8. DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (1997)

Not to be outdone by Husbands and Wives, Allen’s angriest film is also his most darkly funny. Allen stars as a blocked writer in the midst of a nervous breakdown who’s visited by his past literary creations… for better or worse. More four letter words are shouted in Deconstructing Harry than maybe all of Allen’s other films put together, but the film has an energetic pulse that finds Allen at his most fearless and ferocious.

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7. HUSBANDS AND WIVES (1992)

Made during the much publicized and controversial breakup of Allen and Mia Farrow’s relationship, Husbands and Wives packs an emotional punch of a marriage on the rocks and rates among the best falling out of love films like Blue Valentine, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe and Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage. The handheld camera work by Carlo Di Palma makes this one of Allen’s most frenzied films.

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6. THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985)

Originally Michael Keaton was cast as Tom Baxter, the movie matinee idol that literally walks off the screen into the life of a lonely Depression era waitress, but Jeff Daniels delivers one his finest performances in the role. A real valentine to the power of cinema and one of the best un-happy endings in Allen’s oeuvre.

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5. MANHATTAN (1979)

The most celebrated of Allen’s longtime collaboration with cinematographer Gordon Willis and his only film shot in widescreen. Breathtaking beautifully, Allen’s Manhattan captures a New York for the ages.

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4. LOVE & DEATH (1975)

The best of Allen’s “early funny films,” sees the Wood Man as a cowardly Russian soldier attempting to assassinate Napoleon, while wooing his pseudo intellectual cousin Sonja. Sound silly? Well it is, and it’s hilarious. Made right before Annie Hall, we can already see the sophistication taking place in jokes with real meaning behind them.

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3. BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984)

Allen’s love letter to his longtime manager, Jack Rollins, is also a wonderful tribute to the underdog in all us as that see’s Allen as a theatrical manager struggling to maintain his one star client from leaving him for the big time. The ending is as heartbreaking as it lovely, and showcases the comedic prowess of Mia Farrow as a brash Jersey girl hidden behind large sunglasses.

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2. STARDUST MEMORIES (1980)

Misinterpreted upon its initial release as Allen mocking his fans for liking his “early funny films,” Stardust Memories is now appreciated as one of Allen’s most bold and artful films. Its the Jewish 8 1/2 and Allen at his most self deprecating.

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1. ANNIE HALL (1977)

Annie Hall is always the obvious choice when it comes to choosing Allen’s greatest film, and rightfully so. The film not only marked his first collaboration with legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather), but marked Allen’s transition into true auteur filmmaking. Who knew a comedy could be so cinematic!? Annie Hall still remains the standard-bearer for the American romantic comedy.

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