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Blog // Thoughts
November 25, 2006

Scoop

There was a time when I greeted every new Woody Allen release as an adventure, something of a cinematic challenge. Growing up, it is probably fair to say Allen was one of the first directors I was aware of and even in junior High School I had the sense there was something unique and important […]

There was a time when I greeted every new Woody Allen release as an adventure, something of a cinematic challenge. Growing up, it is probably fair to say Allen was one of the first directors I was aware of and even in junior High School I had the sense there was something unique and important about his work. Each new release was a pilgrimage (often the old cinema on New South Head Road, Double Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs). Films like Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, Mighty Aphrodite, Deconstructing Harry stand out for me not just as great films, but as great nights out at the cinema.

But, Woody’s latest films have not, for me, had the same appeal. Sure they are still clever, often charming and witty, but that just isn’t enough. Hollywood Ending was thoughtful and promised much, but in the end disappointed. Anything Else was cute but nothing more, whilst Melinda and Melinda despite a strong cast was deeply forgettable.

Then came Match Point, and interesting shift as Allen focussed on making a very London-oriented film. There was a lot of hype around the film but it proved disenchanting on almost every level. Despite a strong cast, it was wooden. Despite some powerful scenery and locations it was dull to look at. Despite a plot that was clearly considered and despite having well drawn characters it was passionless stale. Forced and stilted dialogue is always a potential problem in Allen’s films, given how dense the scripts are. But, in Match point the conversations were almost robotic.

Well, Woody Allen is back again and back in London, this time with Scoop. For me, this is far and away the worst, most boring and most emotionally haphazard Allen film I have ever seen. It’s been a long time since I walked out of a feature film, but I was pondering doing just that after 20 minutes. L asked not once, but twice if I wanted we leave, but something Рmaybe misplaced loyalty, kept me in my seat.

It’s not worth relaying the plot, any review, heck even the poster itself reveals everything. Allen. Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson play the lead roles Рeach poorly drawn, poorly contrived and doomed to be forgotten before you drop your overpriced drink in the rubbish bin. There’s no drama, little comedy and even less sexual tension. Allen gets a few witty lines, but is mostly just annoying, Johansson tries to setup camp at the intersection of innocence and ingenue but just gets lost along the way and Jackman is little more than a cliche-ridden piece of eye-candy.

Plot and character faults aside, the truly odd thing about this film (much like Match Point before it), is Allen’s view of London. Sure, it is an outsider’s view of London, but it is also such a superficial one. Wealthy club, Dorchester Hotel, Curry place, country home. Names and locations are dropped with a tourists ear to impressing. Everything happens with a postcard backdrop. I bet if you gave a video camera to a college kid from a foreign suburb you would get a similarly jagged pastiche of travel guide endorsed locations.

It is this superficiality, perhaps combined with ill-conceived characters that dissatisfies me the most. I always thought of Allen as the supreme filmic analyst, the fl?¢neur, the acute observer who saw the ways that everyday urban living intersected with the big conceptual shifts in culture and how that intersectection revealed so much about the human condition. But now, maybe he just isn‚Äôt looking that closely any more.

[tags] Woody Allen, Scoop [/tags]

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