A few thoughts on the whole Woody Allen situation.

For over two decades now, my official second-favorite film of all time has been The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). An image from the film’s final scene is embedded in the banner at the top of every post on this blog. Thirteen months ago, I selected this film for a screening and discussion group at a film festival in Texas. Six weeks ago, on Boxing Day, I even got to see the film on the big screen for the first time ever — a 35mm print, even! — as part of the VanCity Theatre’s year-long Woody Allen series.

So I’m something of a fan — not just of this particular film, but of Woody Allen’s films in general, at least for the first two decades or so of his directing career. In truth, the last film directed by Woody that I really enjoyed was Bullets over Broadway (1994), and the last film to star him (or at least his voice) that I really enjoyed was the DreamWorks comedy Antz (1998). Since then, it has seemed to me that most of his films recycle themes that he did a better, more interesting job of exploring in his earlier films; and it has sometimes seemed to me that the moral urgency he brought to films like Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) has given way to a more cynical complacency in similarly-themed films like Match Point (2005).

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Review: Elizabeth: The Golden Age (dir. Shekhar Kapur, 2007)

elizabeththegoldenageOn the face of it, you might think Elizabeth: The Golden Age would not have to deal with the same sorts of problems that plague other sequels. While the creators of fictitious franchises have to walk a fine line between recycling their earlier movies and offering something new, the Elizabeth movies are supposed to be based on history, and you might think that each film, by focusing on a different part of the reign of the original Queen Elizabeth, would be somewhat unique. But alas, that is not how it turns out. Yes, The Golden Age has a sea battle and one or two other new bits, thanks to its presumably bigger budget. But for the most part, it plays like a pale retread of the film that earned Cate Blanchett her first Oscar nomination nine years ago.

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Review: Elizabeth (dir. Shekhar Kapur, 1998)

elizabeth1998Historical films, at their best, can bring the past alive and transport their audiences back to a time when the world was brimming with possibilities. At their worst, they can make the past seem like a stodgy pageant of vaguely connected costume changes.

Elizabeth, the new film about the consolidation of political and religious power under Queen Elizabeth I, falls mostly into the former category, but it packs so many issues — not to mention 16 years of tightly-woven history — into its two hours that there is little room left in which to engage with these characters on a more personal and dramatic level.

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