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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Woody Allen

'Midnight in Paris' gets one last hurrah in theaters

August 17, 2011 |  3:07 pm

Midnight in Paris is getting a wide release next weekend 
It's been a good summer at the box office for "Midnight in Paris" -- and it's not over yet.

Since the film's release in May, the romantic comedy has surpassed "Hannah and Her Sisters" to become Woody Allen's highest-grossing film ever -- not adjusting for inflation, of course. The movie, starring Owen Wilson as an idealist who is transported to 1920s Paris, is expected to cross the $50-million mark at the U.S. box office on Thursday.

To capitalize on that success, the studio behind the picture, Sony Pictures Classics, announced Wednesday that it will re-release the movie in 500 theaters nationwide on Aug. 26. (This weekend, the film will be playing on about 250 screens; at its peak, it was in more than 1,000 theaters in June.)

"We felt it would be a great way to go out at the end of the summer with a campaign that says, 'It's your last chance. See the movie for a second time and bring a friend to Paris,' " explained Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics.

It was difficult, he added, for the film to secure screens earlier in the summer due to the onslaught of big-budget event movies booked in the majority of theaters.

Bernard also confirmed that the company is ramping up for an awards campaign for the well-reviewed picture, which earned a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

"All the pundits seem to say that we've got a good chance to fare well, so we have an awards plan in the works for a lot of the categories, including best picture," he said.

RELATED:

'Midnight in Paris' scores big at box office for Woody Allen

Frame Grab: Who is that guy who plays Hemingway in 'Midnight in Paris'?

Woody Allen loves Paris. Is it reciprocal?

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Owen Wilson, left, and Rachel McAdams star in "Midnight in Paris." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics


His stock high, Woody Allen will return to acting

June 20, 2011 |  2:43 pm

Photo: Woody Allen, right, directing Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams on the set of 'Midnight in Paris.' Credit: Roger Arpajou/Sony Pictures Classics Woody Allen is going through a career resurgence of sorts, with his "Midnight in Paris" poised to attract a wider audience than any film he's directed in the past 25 years (and there have been a lot of films in those 25 years).

On Monday morning, the 75-year-old director said he'd soon make himself visible in another way. Allen confirmed in a press release that he would have a role in his new movie "The Bop Decameron." The film, which begins shooting in July, strings together several romantic vignettes in Rome, the filmmaker's latest stop on his European tour. It attracts the usual mix of top-tier cast members (Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg -- indeed, is there an actor who was born to star in a Woody Allen movie more than Jesse Eisenberg?).

"Decameron" will mark the first time  that Allen has starred in one of his own movies since "Scoop" five years ago, and it's hard not to notice a parallel. Back when that movie was being made the director was also undergoing a career revival, his darkly psychological "Match Point" garnering what at the time was his biggest audience in nearly two decades.

It's impossible to know the degree of connection between the popularity of "Midnight in Paris" and his willingness to again appear in front of the camera. But his return to acting certainly comes at an opportune time, with filmgoer goodwill for Allen higher than it's been in a long while.

Of course, Woody doesn't go away even when he goes away. In "Midnight," Owen Wilson's Gil Pender channels Woody, and Larry David two years ago played the Woody character to the hilt in "Whatever Works." Coming after all those stand-ins, the sight of Allen on the big screen will provide a fitting metaphor for his current career status: Just when you think he's disappeared, you realize he's been here all along.

RELATED:

Movie review: 'Midnight in Paris'

Cannes 2011: Festival fetes Woody Allen

'Midnight in Paris': Who's that guy who plays Hemingway?

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Woody Allen, right, directing Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams on the set of 'Midnight in Paris.' Credit: Roger Arpajou/Sony Pictures Classics


Frame Grab: Who is that guy who plays Hemingway in 'Midnight in Paris'?

May 30, 2011 |  6:57 pm

Editor's note: A-list actors may draw us into theaters, but often what's most delightful about seeing a movie is an unexpected performance from someone who's unfamiliar or only registers with faint recognition. So you leave the multiplex wondering something like, who was that gal who played the sweet shop clerk? Or where have I seen that guy who played the doorman and stole the scene?  24 Frames aims to shine a spotlight on these performers with our new feature, Frame Grab. 

Corey1 There are many perks that come with starring in a Broadway play opposite Scarlett Johansson. But for Corey Stoll, one of the biggest benefits of appearing in “A View From the Bridge” with the actress last year was getting to meet one of her A-list friends.

“I remember telling Scarlett before we started the run, ‘I know all of these famous people are going to come backstage. But I don’t care about meeting anybody other than Woody Allen,’” the actor, 35, recalled. “And then one day she came up to me and said, ‘Oh, he came yesterday, but he was too shy to come back and meet everyone.’”

Stoll was disappointed — after all, as a boy, he had plastered pictures of Allen on his wall — but as fate would have it, he’d hadn’t missed out on his chance to meet the filmmaker. A few weeks later, as Stoll was bowing during the curtain call, he noticed the legendary director in the audience. The following day, he received a call from his manager that Allen wanted to meet him.

The filmmaker was interested in Stoll for a part in his new film, “Midnight in Paris,” which stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a struggling novelist on a trip to Paris. Gil, a nostalgic, longs for 1920s Paris, when writers and artists flocked to the City of Light. Gil begins wandering the cobblestone streets late at night, and is transported back to the era he has romanticized, where he meets icons such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Stoll got the role of Hemingway, and his performance has caught the attention of many who’ve seen the film since its recent opening. If you’re wondering about him too …

Continue reading »

Woody Allen loves Paris. Is it reciprocal?

May 25, 2011 |  6:30 am

Pari
It was almost midnight in Paris, which seemed as good a time as any to see "Midnight in Paris."

It wasn't as if I could have avoided it even if I wanted to. Woody Allen's new romantic comedy came out in this country a week before it did in the U.S., and since then has been as steady a presence as the corner brasserie. Three separate theaters within walking distance of my hotel were showing it, a feat of ubiquity that hasn't happened since Jerry Lewis hung up his acting shoes.

Besides, there was an eerie art-parallels-life component to seeing the film -- which tells of Owen Wilson's malcontent screenwriter luxuriating in a contemporary and period Paris, in contrast, he suggests, to the spiritual deadness of Southern California -- in the city in which it takes place.

Of all the potential movie-world settings, few have been so entwined with their real-life counterparts.  In fact, the city shots that open Allen's film include a street scene in front of the theater from which I was watching the movie, causing the audience to let out a reaction somewhere between amused and tittering. (The response was no doubt repeated at another theater down the street that's also portrayed in the montage.)  Woody surely had a feeling his movie could play in these theaters, so he cleverly slid in an homage.

As the film went along, the response was warm. But the warmth was mostly reserved for the parlor comedy about period figures such as Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali. The Paris beauty shots didn't evoke much of a reaction among much of the crowd; in fact, judging by the chatter afterward, those who liked those shots most were the scattered Americans in the audience. It turns out the film doesn't functions as a love letter to Paris -- it function as a love letter to the people who write love letters to Paris.

On the Metro earlier in the week, I struck up a conversation with a well-spoken 20-something. He winced a little when the topic of the Allen film came up. "It's a movie Americans may like more than people from France," he said. "We'll all go to see it, of course, but it's a touristic view of Paris."

It reminded me of something that began happening to Allen later in his phase of making movies about my hometown of New York (something that may partly explain why he picked up and began his European tour). After nearly three decades of creating films about the city such as "Manhattan" and "Hannah & Her Sisters," Allen became so associated with the town in which he told his stories that it started to create a backlash. It wasn't uncommon to meet people from outside New York who loved Woody and the city as one. But if you mentioned an Allen film among New Yorkers in, say, the early-mid 1990s, there were always those who rolled their eyes. We were, for better or worse, a lot more than intellectual types in uptown apartments debating our favorite writers and obsessing over marital problems.

Even Parisians would acknowledge that this film gets certain things right. After all, the shots of the city are beautiful, and Parisians aren't bashful about embracing their city's virtues.  But those who live here also know of the ethnic divisions, the socioeconomic tensions and, of course, the political scandals. And when someone comes from outside and ignores all of that, you feel some discomfiture. (Of course Allen might say that he's hardly depicting a glowing Paris as much as he is showing his misty-eyed protagonist's view of the city, though that will strike some as a distinction sans difference.)

At the end of the film, Wilson's character gives a little speech in which he says that the present is always a little unsatisfying compared with the past. The same might be said of Woody and his approach to European cities relative to those in his native America -- it's always a little better somewhere else.

Besides, even as Allen describes a France that puts art ahead of commerce, it's a lesson his own film may play a role in disproving. Though "Midnight In Paris" landed in a strong second place on its opening weekend here, it was beaten out for the top spot by a rather different sort of movie: "Fast Five."

RELATED:

Review: "Midnight in Paris"

'Midnight in Paris' scores big at box office

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in "Midnight in Paris." Credit: Just Jared


Cannes 2011: Festival fetes Woody Allen and 'Midnight in Paris'

May 11, 2011 |  2:30 pm

 
Woody2

A Woody Allen premiere is as much a fixture of the Cannes Film Festival as paparazzi and overpriced hotels. This year, the prolific director landed a high-profile slot, with his "Midnight in Paris" chosen as the opening-night movie.

Allen's film, a whimsical romantic comedy, stars Owen Wilson as a nostalgia-minded writer who, while on a trip to the City of Light, finds himself transported from the present day back to the 1920s, where he meets period figures ranging from Gertrude Stein to Salvador Dali. Wilson is struggling through a bad relationship with his shrew of a fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and finds solace in an idealized past. (Said idealization, incidentally, allows Allen to film numerous beauty shots of Paris both past and present.)

At the festival Wednesday evening, Allen's film played to the tuxedoed mix of cinephiles and society types who populate the gathering's opening night, with festival head Thierry Frémaux and jury chief Robert De Niro among those who took the stage before "Paris" premiered.

The movie then screened to an appreciative crowd, which no doubt enjoyed the gauzy tones in which the director paints their capital. 

Earlier in the day, after his film screened to a largely warm reception for media, Allen spoke at a news conference about his own attitude toward the past.

"[It] sounds seductive but it's a trap," said Allen, now 75. "There was no air conditioning; when you went to the dentist there was no Novocaine. There weren't a lot of the things we've gotten used to that make life bearable."‪ ‪

Of her off-putting character, McAdams told the news conference that she "was so excited when Woody told me, 'You won't be playing the object of desire.' "

Marion Cotillard, who plays a period muse but was not at the news conference, said in an earlier interview with The Times that, despite the neurotic and sometimes dark tone in Allen's work, little of that was in evidence on the set.

"He has this vision of things that's a mix of humanity, love, humor and sarcasm," she said. "Most of it is this smile he has in everything he does, the smile he has in his eyes when he looks at someone, with tenderness and humor."

Allen's last two releases, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" and "Whatever Works," were relatively low profile after his 2008 hit "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." "Midnight in Paris" will open in the United States on May 20.

Woody As for his inspiration, Allen said that "I was going to do a film set in Paris and first I thought of the title, which sounded romantic. But I didn't know what was going to happen at midnight. Months went by and I couldn't think of anything," he said. "Then it occurred to me one day that a car would pull up and take him someplace. This time I was lucky -- I could have thought of something foolish or I could have thought of nothing and changed the title."‪

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-- Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France

Photos: Top: Rachel McAdams and  Woody Allen attend the "Midnight In Paris" premiere in Cannes, France. Credit: Getty Images. Bottom: Owen Wilson and Lea Seydoux with Allen prior to the screening.  Credit: Associated Press


Woody Allen conjures up mystery after midnight [trailer]

March 28, 2011 |  1:14 pm

If it's spring it must be time for a new Woody Allen movie, and another beautifully shot location.

The trailer for "Midnight in Paris," which opens the Cannes Film Festival in just over six weeks, reminds that that time is upon us again. Indeed, as the trailer unfolds for the ensemble picture (Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard and Michael Sheen all star), we see the titular city in the bright light of the morning, the golden light of the afternoon, the twinkling lights of the evening. (The romantic dramedy is the first Allen movie to be set partly or wholly in Paris in more than a decade.)

We also get the couples-out-in-a-restaurant setting that's an Allen trademark -- and, more notably, the first glimpse of Owen Wilson as the Allen stand-in character. Wilson is a man conflicted by an unidentified torment, with an appealing mystery about where exactly he disappears to when it's well, you know.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 

 


How deep is Woody Allen's fan base?

September 27, 2010 |  7:00 am

Stra

By the simple standard of limited releases, Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" performed well this weekend.

But by the standard of Woody Allen releases, the matter is ... less clear.

After grossing about $50,000 on Wednesday and Thursday, the Sony Pictures Classics film, a marital comedy packed with stars such as Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts and Freida Pinto, tallied $164,000 over the weekend. That’s an average of about $27,300 per screen — a number most small films would be ecstatic about, and rightly so. (By comparison, Lionsgate's "Buried," which also opened in limited release, averaged only about one-third of that total.)

But Allen has always had a hard-core coastal fan base that comes out to see his films on opening weekend. So high per-screen averages are not exactly surprising. And when you look at it a little closer, "Stranger" shows a less favorable result. Many Allen films in the past decade have generated as much as $40,000 or $50,000 per screen on opening weekend (in lay terms, that's a few hundred people at each showing).

This one, on the other hand, had a lower average --- in fact, the lowest per-screen average of Allen’s last seven movies that have opened in limited release. (You have to go back to 1995’s "Mighty Aphrodite" to find a lower one.)

It's too soon to say what this weekend's numbers will mean for the final commercial verdict on the director's 41st feature. Allen's films tend to hang in there, holding theaters months into their release. And the 74-year-old filmmaker has of course had a commercial resurgence with some of his recent efforts. Two of them -- "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "Match Point" -- have even topped $20 million, the first time in more than two decades he's hit that milestone.

But there have been signs that he's reverting to a fallow period that preceded "Match Point." In early 2008, just seven months before "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," the heist picture "Cassandra's Dream" bombed, failing to even take in $1 million. And despite the presence of star Larry David, last year's "Whatever Works" topped out at only about $5 million domestically.

The reviewers haven't loved "Stranger" and its black comedy take on modern relationships -- the film failed to hit the 50% fresh mark on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Times' Betsy Sharkey was not alone in noting the feeling of an "empty-calorie letdown." It's hard to deny that that Allen is breaking little new ground with some of his recent work. Mostly he's offering something reliable, comedic comfort food for the misanthropy set. The question is how many people keep scarfing it down, and for how long.

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

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Cannes Critical Consensus: 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger'

May 15, 2010 | 10:02 pm

1


Been there, done that.

That seems to be the early critical reaction to the latest Woody Allen movie, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," which premiered Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival.

The French festival has always been fond of showcasing films from auteur directors, but the reviewers of Allen's latest effort seem to have had their fill of the idiosyncratic New York filmmaker.  Sony Pictures Classics will release "Dark Stranger" on Sept. 23, and if it's to do much business, the notices better improve.

Here's a sampling from Cannes:

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune: "I wish I liked the new Woody Allen film better, especially in light of his previous Cannes-launched picture 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (his most satisfying in years). This one's a doodle.. a picture less seriocomic or bittersweet than simply uncertain of its comic and dramatic effects."

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "The film is notable, if that’s the word, for being the first movie Allen has made in London that is every bit as bad as his most awful New York comedies, like 'Anything Else' and 'Melinda and Melinda.' There should, by now, be an award for worst actor forced to impersonate Woody Allen in a Woody Allen film. I would probably give the award to Kenneth Branagh in 'Celebrity' (with Scarlett Johansson as a close runner-up in Scoop). But if Josh Brolin, in 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,' doesn’t quite enter the make-it-stop stratosphere of whiny fumbly stuttering embarrassment, he’s still got to be the least likely actor ever to play a faux-Woody neurotic intellectual."

Justin Chang, Variety: "By now it's clear Woody Allen doesn't much believe in God, destiny or the notion that life has any larger meaning, a message he tubthumps to increasingly feeble and unpersuasive effect in 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.' Fitfully amusing and nearly saved by its distinguished cast, this London-set ensembler is another of Allen's patented ironic ruminations on marital angst, vocational discontent and the overall pointlessness of human existence, so why not sit back and laugh at the futility of it all?"

Continue reading »

Woody Allen: Have I mentioned I love Paris?

April 22, 2010 |  7:16 pm

Allen
Woody Allen has been saying for years that he's happy to explore new means of financing --  er, urban backdrops -- and has pretty much backed up that promise/flexibility by jumping between England and Spain for his past half-dozen films (including one detour to his native New York).

The director hasn't stopped off in Paris yet, but that will change with the movie he's getting ready to make, whose title he revealed Thursday as "Midnight In Paris" and which he'll shoot in the city this summer. He also confirmed that French actress/model and First Lady Carla Bruni will play a supporting role in the picture.

That's all well and good for those who want to see Allen take on the City of Light. But could it be a coincidence that Allen made the announcement just several weeks before he's about to premiere another movie in France, the England-set "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," which will play Cannes?

Allen is famously terse about his upcoming releases, and yet on Thursday he not only revealed these details about "Paris" but also made a comment in which he pays homage to the French capital.  "The film celebrates a young man's great love for Paris, and simultaneously explores the illusion people have that a life different from their own is better," he said.

As fans of the excellent Allen documentary "Wild Man Blues" know,  the French adore Woody; the lovechild of Jerry Lewis and Michael Moore could walk down a Paris street and not generate as much excitement.

But Allen's last few stints at Cannes have been air kisses to other European hot spots, including Barcelona ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") and London ("Match Point.") And with "Stranger" again shot in the land of fish 'n' chips, it probably doesn't hurt Woody to remind the French audience about to judge his new effort that he'll sometimes have Paris, too.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Woody Allen riffing on the clarinet. Credit: Britta Pedersen / EPA


Woody Allen, moviedom's Joe DiMaggio

March 3, 2010 | 10:56 am

Wood Woody Allen has released at least one movie each year since 1982 -- a remarkable achievement, the filmic equivalent of Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak and Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak combined. (We'll count Allen's "Cassandra's Dream" as a 2007 picture -- it hit all the festivals that year and was to come out then before the Weinstein Co. pushed the release a few weeks back into 2008).

This year, Allen, closing in on 75, will continue his Iron Man performance. His "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" will be released in the fall, having now been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, as the company announced this morning.

Of course, working that diligently or quickly isn't always synonymous with quality (just ask Clint Eastwood). Not all of the Allen movies have been masterpieces; in fact, sometimes, he seems to alternate between good movies and questionable ones. The messy "Scoop" followed "Match Point"; "Whatever Works" came after "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." (Which should augur good things for "Stranger," the London-shot film starring Naomi Watts, Freida Pinto and Josh Brolin).

But in an era when directors dither, financiers futz and pre-production can last longer than entire geologic eras, it's encouraging to see filmmakers still crank them out.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Woody Allen. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times


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