Monday, November 28, 2011

LAMBS In The Director’s Chair: Woody Allen

For those who don’t know, The LAMB has a series where bloggers get together each month to write reviews of a particular director’s work. Here at Never Too Early Movie Predictions, I look forward instead of backward, so I thought it might be fun to look ahead at what the director of the month has coming up on his calendar for the next several years.

This month’s director is Woody Allen, a man who is very consistent in making one film a year, but not always as consistent in terms of quality. He has been Oscar nominated 6 times for his directing, once for his acting, and 14 times for his screenplays, and he has won 3 times: for writing and directing Annie Hall, and for writing Hannah And Her Sisters.

Midnight In Paris will most certainly add another Original Screenplay nomination (and possible win) to Allen’s list, and both Best Picture and Best Director nominations are distinct possibilities, especially if films with late releases begin to fall. However, it is also important to note some drawbacks. Both of the films that have garnered him wins and best picture nominations in the past (Annie Hall and Hannah And Her Sisters) also received multiple nominations for other categories (5 and 7, respectively). While it is certainly possible that Midnight In Paris will surprise with some costume, art direction or supporting acting nods, or that the new 5% rule changes the dynamics of the race, it is also possible that the combined impact of the other guild’s accolades will leave the film overshadowed for all but a screenplay nomination. Still, it is the most financially successful of all Allen’s films, so perhaps the past statistics won’t apply.

Paris Manhattan will continue the French theme, with Allen in front of the camera instead of behind it. Directed by first time French director Sophie Lellouche, the film is a romantic comedy starring Alice Taglioni as a pharmacist who is obsessed with Woody Allen. Her family is concerned about her obsession, and attempts to cure her by setting her up with French hunk Patrick Bruel. The film promises to be great fun for anyone familiar with Allen’s work, and is said to use many quotes from Allen’s previous films as part of the dialogue.

Nero Fiddled is Allen’s next directorial project. Formerly known as The Wrong Picture and Bop Decameron, the film will feature four vignettes set in Rome. I’m often wary of these vignette films when it comes to Oscar predictions, but I must admit that Allen has assembled an impressive cast that includes Oscar winners Penelope Cruz and Roberto Benigni, as well as Oscar nominees Judi Davis, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg and Alec Baldwin. The film will also feature Greta Gerwig, Alison Pill and a host of Italian actors. He’s also re-teaming with Oscar nominated cinematographer Darius Khondji and costume designer Sonia Grande (both of whom worked on Midnight In Paris), as well as production designer Anne Seibel and set decorator Raffaella Giovannetti.

Plot details are still scare, but Allen has said that it will be a broad comedy, and includes a number of travel stories, which could make for an interesting perspective on this tourist city. In one vignette, Allen will be married to co-star Penelope Cruz (who won her Oscar in Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona), as they go to Rome to meet their future son in law and his family. Another vignette will reportedly feature Alec Baldwin as a California architect who comes to visit friends (and I have to wonder, will he also check out the architecture of this famous city?). I suspect that we’ll also see some of Allen’s trademark disorientation as another segment features Italian stars Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi as newlyweds who get lost in the city, while Roberto Benigni will play a man who gets mistaken for a movie star. There’s even rumored to be an homage to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita at Via Veneto.

Allen will also be featured in three documentaries. The first, American Masters--Woody Allen: A Documentary, has already premiered on PBS, and features a plethora of stars talking about their experiences working with the director, as well as original footage from his film sets and his childhood home. A second documentary, Casting By (directed by Tom Donahue) is an inside look at the role of the casting director, which is certainly one of the most important yet little understood jobs in Hollywood, and will include interviews with a large number of famous actors and directors, including Allen. And finally, Masha Vasyukova is directing a documentary short entitled Woody Before Allen, which centers around an attempt to place a statue in Allen's honor in the Russian city of Kaliningrad. You can learn more at the film’s website:

So readers, what do you think of Midnight In Paris’ Oscar chances? Does Nero Fiddled feel like a successful follow up, or does the vignette format leave you as worried as I am? Could Paris Manhattan break into the foreign language race, or Casting By or Woody Before Allen be a surprise documentary winner? Let me know in the comments!

You can keep track of Woody Allen’s Oscar chances for each of these projects on my Director And Screenplay page.
Read what my fellow LAMBS have written about Woody Allen HERE.
Search for other directors featured in LAMBS In The Director’s Chair HERE.  
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  1. The film promises to be great fun for anyone familiar with Allen’s work, and is said to use many quotes from Allen’s previous films as part of the dialogue.

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