Movie review: Café Society

The Woody tropes are there, including disdain for all things Los Angeles.

cafe-societyI view the new Woody Allen movie Café Society at the Spectrum Theatre. At the end of the film, the man in front of me asks, “That can’t be the end of it, can it?” The next day, The Wife sees the film, and she says pretty much the same thing.

Conversely, I enjoyed the ambiguity of the ending. I have had a few relationships like that.

In 1930s New York City, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg is the Woody character) lives with his mother Rose (Jeannie Berlin) and father Marty (Ken Stott), a jeweler. With few prospects there, Rose calls her brother Phil Stern (Steve Carell), a very successful agent in Hollywood, hoping that Phil could find a job for his nephew.

After days of waiting around, Bobby finally gets to talk with Phil about his prospects. Phil has his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart in arguably the best performance in the film) show Bobby around town. Bobby is taken with Vonnie, but she tells him she has a boyfriend, a journalist named Doug.

And then emotions get turned around. There are three scenes, pretty much in a row, that I particularly loved – they made my wife really sad – where the characters discover missing pieces of the puzzle.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Rose and Marty (Ken Stott) have two other children: schoolteacher Evelyn (Sari Lennick), who is married to philosopher Leonard (Stephen Kunken), and nightclub owner and gangster Ben (Corey Stoll).

There is really only one section of dialogue that is laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s near the end, a conversation with Rose and Marty about Christianity v. Judaism.

The movie also stars Blake Lively as Veronica Hayes and Brendan Burke as Evelyn and Leonard’s nasty and obnoxious neighbor Joe.

There are good and not-so-good Woody Allen movies in the 21st century. Café Society is pretty good, #20 in this list of All 47 Woody Allen movies – ranked from worst to best. The Rotten Tomatoes summary called it “amiable,” which is quite accurate. Yes, the Woody tropes are there, including disdain for all things Los Angeles, but it works here.
Woody Allen’s Biographer Tells All Id meet ego. Ego, id. The celebrated, controversial, highly self-aware filmmaker’s new ‘Café Society’ is about himself — but who is that? By David Evanier

Diane Keaton is 70

I do want to watch the movie Marvin’s Room.

Diane_KeatonMy love for the movie Annie Hall is well-documented. Diane Keaton is wonderful in it. I always appreciated the fact that Diane’s given last name was Hall, so all those references about Grammy Hall seemed more genuine. La-de-dah, la-de-dah.

Yet, I remain convinced that, though she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in the Woody Allen film, she was picked as much for the much darker film from 1977, Waiting for Mr. Goodbar. Or, at least, it added to her “body of work” that year that allowed an actress in a comedy to win an Oscar.

Her first claim to fame was performing in the original Broadway production of Hair, in which she refused to disrobe at the end of Act I when the cast performed nude. This was actually controversial at the time, though being naked was contractually optional.

She has appeared in a number of Woody Allen films, starting with Play It Again (1972) through Manhattan (1979), with a cameo in Radio Days (1987) and another starring part in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), all of which I have seen.

Interesting, and I could have noted this last month on Woody Allen’s 80th birthday, I now wait for the reviews and decide whether to see a Woody film. In the days when Diane was his costar, I saw everything he made. That’s probably more a reflection of his filmmaking than her star power, but there it is.

I’ve also Diane Keaton in The Godfather (1972 – she’s in all three films), Reds (1981 – nominated for a Best Actress Oscar), Crimes of the Heart (1986), Baby Boom (1987), Father of the Bride I and II (1991, 1995), The First Wives Club (1996 – which I liked a lot), Something’s Gotta Give (2003 – nominated for a Best Actress Oscar), and The Family Stone (2005).

I haven’t been drawn to see her more recent films, and I see her only in L’Oreal commercials. But I do want to watch the movie Marvin’s Room (1996), for which she received her fourth Academy Award nomination.

“Keaton wrote her first memoir, entitled Then Again, for Random House in November 2011. Much of the autobiography relies on her mother Dorothy’s private journals, in which she writes at one point: ‘Diane…is a mystery…At times, she’s so basic, at others so wise it frightens me.'”

May rambling #2: Leterman, and Vivaldi’s Pond

James Taylor interview by Howard Stern on May 12

Mother Teresa.quote
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Obama To Posthumously Award “Harlem Hellfighter” With Medal Of Honor For Heroism on June 2, 2015. That would be Sgt. Henry Johnson, who I wrote about HERE.

On July 28th, 1917: Between 8,000 and 10,000 African-Americans marched against lynching and anti-black violence in a protest known as The Silent Parade.

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The Milwaukee Experiment. How to stop mass incarceration.

The Mystery of Screven County by Ken Screven.

From SSRN: Bruce Bartlett on How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.

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The linguistic failure of “comparing with a Nazi.”

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James Taylor interview by Howard Stern on May 12, in anticipation of Taylor’s new album release on June 16th, listen to HERE or HERE. A friend said, “it was Howard at his best. James forthright, thoughtful and plain honest.”

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Dustbury on Procol Harum.

I suppose I should complain, but it’s so weird. Twice now in the past month, someone has taken a blogpost I’ve written and put it on their Facebook page. The person has kept a citation to my original post, which I imagine could be stripped as it gets passed along. But I’m so fascinated someone would even bother to do so that I haven’t commented – yet.


Roger Green, Art Green’s grandfather, “was born and bred in Rangitikei, and ran the family farm, Mangahoe Land Company, during the 1960s until they put a manager on it in 1967.” (Arthur Green is in New Zealand’s version of The Bachelor.)

I’ll take the cheap applause

I send off the package, downhearted, because librarians like to provide THE answer.

applause2Mark Evanier pointed to what is likely Woody Allen’s first-ever podcast interview. (Likely because Woody has no idea what a podcast is, he noted.) I listened to it – it’s 35 minutes long – and I got one takeaway.

The interviewer asked him how he felt about that instant applause that established comedians get when doing stand-up. They don’t have to do anything except walk on stage; sometimes just having the name announced. Isn’t this just cheap applause?

Woody will take it. When he was a struggling, unknown stand-up, the effort to win over the room was much more difficult, sometimes impossible, while his comic predecessors were getting kudos just for showing up.

I feel the same way at work sometimes. I’m working hard to find some piece of information, and either it doesn’t exist, or it’s not available except at a price beyond our price range. I send off the package, downhearted because librarians like to provide THE answer. But the comment I get back is that the data I DID provide, which approximated an answer, was just fine. Maybe even great.

Now is this really true? Or am I getting a bit of a pass because I’ve been providing such good information for the past two decades? I’ve decided that I don’t particularly care.

MOVIE REVIEW: Magic in the Moonlight

The movie Magic in the Moonlight that was about sleight-of-hand was rather slight,

magic+in+the+moonlight+posterWednesday night at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, the Wife and I went to see Magic in the Moonlight. There are still several films we want to see, but at 97 minutes, this was the shortest; when you hire a child watcher, time is definitely money.

I am a huge Woody Allen fan. Afterward, I thought it was a better than OK movie, though my wife thought it lagged in the first half. Maybe it was that we’d see too much in the preview?

We knew that a magician, Stanley (Colin Firth) is brought to the south of France by his friend Howard (Simon McBurney) to try to debunk this American “mystic”, Sophie (Emma Stone), before she defrauds the Catledge family: mother Grace (Jacki Weaver, who for some reason reminded us both of Sally Struthers), smitten son Brice (Hamish Linklater), and daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen, with not much to do).

Much to the consternation/irritation of the arrogant Englishman with a dislike of spiritual claims, yet he has difficulty discovering how Sophie pulls off the ruse if it IS a ruse.

Most of that I knew from the ads, and to say more would be a spoiler, except that whatever laughs to be had are in the second half, after all the above is established. Oh, and that the biggest delight of the movie is Stanley’s aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) in a movie that also features Catherine McCormack as Stanley’s girlfriend, Olivia, and Marcia Gay Harden as Sophie’s mother.

A lot of the reviews were lukewarm towards the movie. Several critics made a similar pun/suggestion that the movie that was about sleight-of-hand was rather slight, and maybe that’s the issue. The film touches upon the issues of God, Nietzsche, and faith versus rationalism, yet perhaps isn’t substantial enough to bear the weighty topics.

I liked it well enough, particularly the period outfits and cars from the 1920s, and it has a suitable ending. But after seeing recent Woody movies such as Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, this is clearly a lesser effort.

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