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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The gospel according to film

Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the First Hundred Years
By W. Barnes Tatum
Polebridge Press, 245 pp., $18

John Dominic Crossan, co-founder of the Jesus Seminar and one of the wittiest historians working today, began his landmark work The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant with the quip that historical Jesus scholarship had become something of a bad joke. The same could be said of that peculiar genre of films based on the life of Jesus, but for a very different reason.

Crossan was responding to the many competing and contradictory accounts of the life of Jesus that have been produced by modern historians. But moviegoers tend to be cynical for a very different reason. In their efforts to please as wide an audience as possible, filmmakers who tackle the gospels have tended to make Jesus a rather bland, anemic figure who has remained surprisingly constant and unchallenging over the years. Even revisionist films like The Last Temptation of Christ emphasize his weaknesses more than his strengths.

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