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Woody Allen

...because Woody Allen is one of the most prolific masters of American film. While "Annie Hall" is the greatest romantic comedy of all time, the man has also directed silly comedies, dark dramas, fantasies, crime capers, science fiction, mockumentaries and thrillers. Whether he hits or misses, Allen continues to put out a film almost every year, an amazing accomplishment for any director in contemporary Hollywood. His work has defined comedy for more than a generation, particularly the romantic comedy genre.



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Somehow, when you do the math, Woody Allen has directed more than a film per year since 1965. Okay, to be fair, this includes short films and television productions. And while not all of these are classics, a dozen or so of them probably are, with many others worth watching at the very least. That’s a pretty high bar for any filmmaker to match. In that span, Allen’s also found time to act in other people’s work when the occasion strikes him! His films also offer a good education in great directors of the past, often alluding to or reflecting the plots of Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, among others. And when they aren’t inspiring you to see some of foreign cinema’s greatest works, his films will make you want to read Kafka, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, the other major influences on many of his films – even the funny ones, like "Love & Death." And what’s Woody Allen up to these days? In addition to his annual film output, he’s also developing a web series with Amazon.

Woody Allen is considered the godfather of the modern romantic comedy genre. While Allen frequently denies this assertion, most likely to avoid association with any Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson related vehicles, it’s hard not to see the influence of films like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" on pretty much every worthwhile rom-com of the past few decades. Allen himself continues to contribute to the romantic comedy pool, with works like 2011’s "Midnight in Paris," which incorporated fantasy and literary elements into the genre, as well as winning Allen his third Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. In addition to featuring Allen’s trademark intelligence and wit, these films counter the painful ups and downs of romantic relationships with off-beat, idiosyncratic humor. More than pretty much any writer, Allen knows that, especially when it comes to love, there’s a very thin divide between comedy and tragedy.

Perhaps Allen’s greatest accomplishment as a filmmaker is his ability to bridge traditional “low-brow” humor with “high-brow” literary intellectualism. Or, to put it more simply, Allen is probably the only director with as much appreciation for Groucho Marx as Ingmar Bergman. While critics and audiences tend to divide his work into the funny, earlier movies like "Bananas" as opposed to the more serious later work like "Hannah and Her Sisters," this distinction probably reveals less about Allen’s intentions. For instance, "Love and Death," which most people might categorize as funny and joke-oriented, is a thoughtful parody of "War and Peace." Allen has always loved to make people laugh, yet he has also used film to explore ideas that interest him, as well as great works of philosophy, film and literature. It’s allowed him to pioneer his own distinct brand of humor that imbues all his films, no matter how diverse in content, with his unique voice.

Resources

Documentary

Woody Allen, A Documentary

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Shakespeare and Woody Allen

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Essay

Woody Allen’s Lovably Anxious Schlemeils

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Journal

Woody Allen: The Phenom among the Phenomena

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The Complete Prose of Woody Allen

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The Films of Woody Allen: Critical Essays

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Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking

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Woody Allen on Woody Allen

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Journal

Getting Even: Literary Posterity and the Case for Woody Allen

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Essay

Deconstructing Woody

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Journal

Woody Allen and the Comic Tradition in America

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Woody Allen – Senses of Cinema – Great Directors

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