Director’s Spotlight: Woody Allen
With this weekend’s release of Magic in the Moonlight, I thought this would be a great opportunity to look at the career of esteemed filmmaker Woody Allen. Allen has contributed a lot to Hollywood, so below you’ll find everything from his upbringing to his lasting legacy as a filmmaker.
Without further ado, here we go:
Woody Allen wasn’t born Woody Allen. Instead, he was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York on December 1, 1935 (yes, making him 78 years old). He proceeded to grow up in Brooklyn, securing his first notoriety at around age 17 when he started selling jokes to newspaper columnists.
It’s no surprise then that Allen ended up studying film at New York University and City College of New York. However, he eventually flunked out and decided to self-educate himself when it came to film studies.
To make a living, Allen started writing for various outlets and performing stand-up comedy. He eventually started turning out TV scripts which got his name out there even more. By the time he started working in film, he had credits that included short stories, plays, and everything in between.
Allen eventually wrote a script for the film What’s New Pussycat? which led to him realizing he would personally direct movies he wrote (although this wasn’t always the case throughout his career). However, this did lead to his directorial debut, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (a modest 83% on Rotten Tomatoes with a budget of less than $400,000). He followed that up with five more films with the most critically-successful being Sleeper.
Then came Annie Hall, my personal favorite in Allen’s filmography. Annie Hall’s presence can still be felt today in various rom-coms (the good ones, that is). At the time, it was nominated for five Academy Awards (where it took home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress). This undoubtedly catapulted Allen’s name to unforeseen heights.
Allen became a frequent collaborator with Diane Keaton and then later Mia Farrow (who starred in 13 of Allen’s films). He continued to push the envelope when it came to genre, straying away from strictly comedic films. Some of his films could be argued as more tragic than comedic.
After Annie Hall, Allen’s filmography built on itself to create some greats, including (but not limited to) Manhattan, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Husbands and Wives.
Allen’s career eventually slumped out at the turn of the century. However, this slump came to an end with 2011’s Midnight in Paris. Then, last year’s Blue Jasmine proved he is still a force to be reckoned with…despite his growing age.
As of now, Allen has plans to continue making films. He has an untitled film shooting right now (that stars Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone) and has hopes to eventually make a film titled American Blues.
45: Feature films directed by Woody Allen
24: Academy Award nominations
4: Academy Award wins
3: Academy Award wins for writing (most recently for Midnight in Paris)
1: Academy Award nomination for acting (Best Actor in Annie Hall), the rest were for writing or directing
35: Annie Hall’s ranking in American Film Institute’s 100 Best Movies (it also ranks as #4 in the comedy section)
12: Number of plays Allen is credited for writing
$56,817,045: Highest grossing film that Allen directed (Midnight in Paris)
$140 million: If you adjust for inflation, Annie Hall would likely be your winner at $140 million.
1,283: Most theaters a Woody Allen film has reached (Blue Jasmine). In comparison, The Purge: Anarchy released in 2,805 theaters last weekend.
Obviously, Allen’s legacy will always involve the words “comedy” and “writer.” The guy knows comedy and he knows how to craft a script that is the right kind of funny. I say “the right kind of funny” because it is everyday-funny, not necessarily shock-and-awe. Allen got his start with slapstick comedy but his writing is nowhere near that now.
Unfortunately, Allen’s legacy may have been tarnished by accusations that of sexual misconduct with Mia Farrow’s daughter Dylan. As of now, these are still just accusations.
As a fan of Allen’s works, I can still appreciate what he’s brought to the film industry. He was a big fan of churning out film after film (he has released a new movie each year since Annie Hall in 1977) without putting a lot of emphasis on stylistic editing or extended film schedules. He makes films simply because he loves them, not calling too much attention to himself or his movies.
In that way, he’s a world-class filmmaker.
Magic in the Moonlight releases in limited theaters starting this weekend. Check it out if you get the chance.
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