It’s time for our Annual Woody

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Naughty, naughty! What are you thinking? The “Annual Woody” I refer to is, of course, Woody Allen’s release, each year in the fall, of a brand-new movie.

In recent years, it’s been a painful experience for all us Woodyphiles who cling to memories of the Woody Allen films we know, love, and re-watch obsessively. But my darlings, the days of “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo” are long gone. The ol’ Woodman seems like he’s set up moviemaking shop in Europe now; probably because no one over there cares one way or the other about people marrying their own children. And his patented sense of humor seems to have also faded into the past.

Which brings us to “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” the 2008 entry. Rumor had it that it is his best in years. I was, frankly, disappointed. A lot of yadda-yadda about characters I didn’t much care about and minus the usual snap, crackle and pop of Allen’s humorous dialogue.

Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall star in this snoozer, and by the time it’s nearly over I was wishing Bardem had some of his “No Country for Old Men” character left over so that maybe a psycho killer would show up and blast everyone to smithereens. No such luck. It drags on, seemingly well beyond its scant 96-minute running time.

It’s all about two girls, Vicky and Christina, who spend a summer in Barcelona alternately boinking a handsome Spaniard. Complications ensue, of course, but it all seems like a pointless (and endless, thanks to the droning on of the increasingly-annoying Spanish guitar background music) series of jibber-jabber conversations. Unfunny ones, to boot.

Patricia Clarkson and Penelope Cruz join the party, and momentarily it seemed like things were going to happen. No such luck. Even though most of the film critics applauded this jaw exercise, a few of us (the few, the proud, the curmudgeons) saw through the golden glow of summertime Spain and realized it’s nothing but pixie dust.

Perhaps Woody might have pulled it off if he, himself, had narrated it. But he recruited Christopher Evan Welch for the job, and it’s done in a flat, so-what manner.

Some critics see it as an examination of morality, others as a romantic drama and still others as a waste of good popcorn. Try it yourself, if it comes anywhere near Augusta County, which is not likely. Woody Allen movies have been poison ivy in the valley for some years. Not many of us hinterlanders seem interested in seeing or hearing what “that damn li’l Yankee pervert bestid” has to say. It’s a shame. He began as a truly brilliant writer for classic TV comedy variety shows, and when he moved to movies many of them became classics of cinema humor. Like him or not, he’s one of the great ones.

Looking ahead at the films to be released by Hollywood over the rest of the summer, we find scant pickin’s. We may be forced to retreat to TV and/or DVDs to get our Movie Jollies. I secretly enjoy it when good new films are scarce; gives me the chance to rattle on about obscure movies that people have either neglected or forgotten.

That’s the reward of writing movie reviews – not being disappointed when our Annual Woody pops up and fizzles.


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