Wednesday Movie Night: Blue Jasmine (2013)

How people have responded to the movie is quite interesting. Some relate to Jasmine, the lead character, or others just plain hate her. Woody Allen though tells the story in his typical fashion, and it’s another one to like in a long line of movies that he has made, and for others it will be a bit of a comeback after To Rome With Love was a flop with audiences and fans. Blue Jasmine though focuses on much of the same things that Allen movies do though including affairs and singleness. This time with a bit of mental instability through in.

Summary: Jasmine is a New York socialite who has arrived at her adopted sister’s, Ginger, house to stay until she can get on her feet. With the recent loss of her husband and wealth her life is scrambled and now she is believing that maybe she can fall into the world of designing. Jasmine though has a destructive personality and her panic attacks hit at anytime, especially under deep stress. Ginger wants to help the only person she can call a sister, but she might drag Ginger down with her if she does.

Acting: The acting in the movie is really superb. Cate Blanchett was nominated in her role as Jasmine, and it was very deserving. Blanchett makes us almost feel for Jasmine, but just as she is she does something really bad. In comparison to Blanchett’s other roles as well you can see the range she has with her acting abilities. Sally Hawkins is Ginger, the sister. Hawkins portrays the sister well, and gets us concerned for her, and hoping she will learn that maybe trying to save Jasmine just isn’t a good idea. Alec Baldwin is Hal, the once husband of Jasmine, and Baldwin is very suiting for the role here. ┬áLouis C.K. appears in the movie is Al, and while his part isn’t long it gets you to hoping he finds more movie roles in the future after his appearance in this and American Hustle. Peter Sarsgaard also appears as Dwight, and for once in many of his movie roles gets us to liking him. Usually he is just so creepy!

Filming: The movie is shot in very typical Woody Allen fashion. Lately, he has been including more jazz as background music as well, which makes a huge stronger flare for his movies. There is also a very warm and inviting tone to the city that is captured even though the story itself seems a bit dark. Also, the humor is there as well, but this movie does feel a lot more serious than many other Allen films I’ve seen.

Plot: The plot was highly intriguing, and considering it’s only around an hour and a half it does leave you wondering where he will take this in such a short time. Many might be disappointed by the abrupt ending, but I felt it was just right. It isn’t really Jasmine you hope the best for after you’ve seen all that she is capable of honestly. Instead you’e just hoping that everyone can learn well enough to stay away from her. There is something you want to know about Jasmine though, and that is how she and Ginger turned out differently within the confines of being adopted in the same home. Ginger is more every day and deals with the typical struggles people might have. She is trying to find romance, she is raising two children, and she has finances to do deal with and struggle with. Jasmine got the completely different end. She married into wealth, never had children, and seems to want love more for the money than the feeling. I just want to know what caused this huge divide. Was it simply just meeting Hal and she loses all sense of anything else? Anyways, I did love the story. I love the questions it provides.

Blue Jasmine is a good, character driven story. I never felt bored at any moment while watching this movie, but more so because I was wondering when someone was going to catch on to Jasmine, or how Jasmine was going to explore next. If you were discouraged by To Rome With Love, then this one is worth returning to check out.

Rating 8.5 of 10.

240 of 1001 Movies: Manhattan (1979)

Before Midnight in Paris, many said that Manhattan was the last great Woody Allen movie made, which is pretty sad considering Manhattan was made only a little over a decade after his directing career started. I wouldn’t know though as I’ve never seen anything of Allen’s between the 90’s and up till 2011. I do know that I have liked everything I’ve watched of his. Perhaps it’s just the humor, or the way he portrays everyone as always growing in some ways in his movies that makes it alluring. He never sets out to make his characters look like good people, and they are selfish, but yet they become likable. Manhattan is set against the romantic backdrop of the city as one man tries to figure out his love life.

Summary: Isaac is a divorced New Yorker attempting to stop his ex-wife, Jill, from publishing a book about their failed marriage, and dating a high schooler, Tracy. He isn’t feeling very satisfied in his relationship with Tracy, mostly because she is seventeen and he is unsure whether anything real can come of it. Instead his friend’s mistress, Mary, catches his eye, and he begins hanging out with her all the while falling for her as well.

Acting: Woody Allen stars as Isaac, the man who is caught in between this on. If you enjoy most of the other Allen characters that he’s portrayed in other movies then you’re bound to enjoy this as well. It isn’t too different from what he usually portrays, but he does it well, and makes his character very funny. Diane Keaton is Mary, and somehow even Mary gets the viewer to understanding why all these men may be drawn to her. She isn’t near as quirky as Annie was, but she brings more of nerd side to her character. She seems so lost, and you are asking the whole time why she is settling for what she is if she thinks that she is such a great cast? Michael Murphy is Yale, the man who is having the affair with Mary. Mariel Hemingway portrays Tracy, and becomes one of the more interesting characters of the movie. She balances the youth of the character well with some of her deeper revelations that seem to even leave her older boyfriend, Isaac, baffled. Meryl Streep is also in the movie as Jill, but she isn’t in the movie too much, so if you’re a Streep fan don’t just watch it for her.

Filming: Allen works the magic that he is good at in this movie. He can put you in any city anywhere in the world, and find every romantic aspect about it to make you want to be in that moment, even if the guy has the worst relationship case ever going on. The shots of Manhattan give you landmarks you’ll want to see. There is a shot of the city lit up at night as Isaac and Tracy take a horse carriage ride, and a scene of Mary and Isaac at dawn at the bridge that make for memorable moments. Sadly, the horse carriage ride though thing is about to be a thing of the past in New York, so the movie will soon has a historic moment in it. Something else you will notice is that the movie is filmed in black and white, and lots of classic music is being played. It makes you feel you are watching a movie that tries to capture all the classic essence about Manhattan.

Plot: The plot is mysterious in the way it builds the atmosphere of the city and shows the relationship crisis that Isaac is still going through even later in life when he probably expected to still be married. A good observation is that Tracy might be the only on who knows what she wants in a group of adults who seem to be very confused. Along with the pondering on romance though Allen weaves in some of his bigger picture thoughts on the universe and faith that he has done in other movies as well. The aspect that is likable about Allen’s films is that no matter what age you are or become there is something for everyone in his movies that will always make it a movie you can watch and enjoy. It doesn’t just feature lessons you learn when you’re old or young, but ones that just show people always struggling with life no matter their age.

So far the liking Woody Allen movies streak continues on for me. I like the style and the simplicity. The black and white, the scenery, and the story make this a movie set apart from his others, and one of my favorites. It’s art without having to over do it. It also provides many humorous moments, and good lines to remember after it’s long gone.

Rating 8.5 of 10.

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200 of 1001 Movies: Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Did it out do my current favorite Woody Allen movies Midnight in Paris? Not quite, though it gives it a high run for it’s money in my opinion. I just preferred the fantasy vibe of the other. Crimes and Misdemeanors really did surprise me. I had heard it was one of the better reviewed one, and there is a reason. It’s not only pondering of life and relationships, but also the characters own morality and faith. It’s one of Woody Allen’s more ambitious movie.

Summary: Judah’s life is unraveling when his mistress,Dolores, is fed up with hiding their relationship and wants to reveal it to his wife, Miriam. She may have underestimated how far Judah is willing to go to stop their relationship from being revealed on top of the things she knows about his business. In another story that is occurring throughout the movie, Cliff finds his marriage to Wendy suffering. The situation is worsened by her arrogant brother who has hired him to help make a documentary about himself, which he insist is to help Cliff’s career. Cliff does find a benefit to doing the documentary though, and that is his growing feelings for his coworker, Halley.

Acting: The acting is really good, and Woody Allen’s strongest character that he portrays, Cliff. Cliff seems so self-assured about at least his faith, but the twist in that and his relationships make for a good ending that is left up in the air about how this will affect him. Martin Landau is Judah and I think he does a great job at getting inside the character’s head and exploring the turmoil raging between his faith and ethics regarding how he’s going to deal with Dolores’ confrontation. Angelica Huston also does a good job with Dolores and in the short time she is on screen she makes you feel for her despite her unlikable circumstances. Mia Farrow is also Halley and shows that she makes sense considering her charm with luring the guys in. Then there is Alan Alda as Cliff’s brother in law, Lester, and he does a great at making the guy comedic and unlikable.

Filming: I always like the quality of Allen’s film. They are very warm in nature with a romantic glow that is suiting to the romantic, but dark climate found in is movies. This movie definitely doesn’t shy away from getting dark, and by the end it leaves us with the appropriate questions from the characters lives about our ethics, faith and relationships with thought provoking questions. You also have the very characteristic Woody humor and the shots that add to the funny with silence and straight forward shots.

Plot: The plot weaves itself together well. While there are two different stories happening they align each other very well. They are about two different things. One where a guy seems to feel no guilt at his wrong doings and shortcomings and one where a guy can’t seem to get his mind off of them. On both sides good by paralleling themes are explored and by the end the way the characters wind up seem to balance our overall feelings toward the guys. How they approach to solve their problems are very different. You could have easily made two movies from this, but it turns out perfect.

If you’re going to start with any Woody Allen to watch then Crimes and Misdemeanors is the safest bet to recommend. It has an all around strong working to the movie. The story is good, the characters are well developed, the film is well shot, and you have ideas that stick with you afterward. It also leaves you with a bit of suspense and romance.

Rating 9 of 10.

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Wednesday Movie Night: To Rome With Love (2012)

Not everyone can relate to artists, actors, and writers leaving in Rome can they? They can’t, but one can dream I suppose. To Rome With Love is a visually stunning movie. With all the food and buildings popping with color. What may be difficult to get around is the characters who are difficult to relate to. The movie though does deal with Woody Allen’s style in the heaviest. With plays on everyday fantasies and comical sayings by making them a reality. It’ll probably be a movie only the heaviest Allen fan can like while others will be more focused on the confusion of the unexplained parts.

Summary: Several different characters are brought to Rome for different reasons. Antonio and Milly are newlyweds who are split apart for the day after Milly becomes lost in the city, it leaves Antonio on a date with a prostitute, and her with a huge Italian actor. Leopoldo finds fame unexpectedly when reporters focus on him as a new celebrity and follow his every move. There is also Jerry who finds that his daughter’s new love’s father has a talent for singing in the shower, and wants to have a play with him leading the opera. Then there is Jack who is caught between the new affection for his girlfriend’s visiting friend, Monica.

Acting: The acting is quite superb in the movie. Everyone seems excited and into their characters, even Jesse Eisenberg who usually seems about as happy to be there as a doorknob. With the huge cast there has to be some characters that just disappear behind the more exciting ones like Milly and Antonio, whose endeavors are less than exhilarating anyways. Ellen Page is the stand out though as Monica. Somehow she really does draw you into the character, and conveys who very quickly changing feelings very well. Alec Baldwin, is well like himself in all those commercials you seem him in now, and I keep wondering how he played a character so calmly that was so confusing.

Filming: What does really stand out among the jumbled stories is the visual color. It pops so much that it is difficult to stop watching the movie. There are scenes where the characters are browsing the markets, and or walking through the city that are just beautiful. There are lots of warm colors that flow throughout the movie in oranges and reds. It has the texture that much of Midnight In Paris did though, so if you want a movie that pops it is one probably to go to instead in his work.

Plot: The plot is where I think most lose this movie. There are one too many characters, and had it been trimmed down to a few it would have been much better. Like the couple that loses each other in the city, and the guy who becomes famous could have just been cut out. You also have Alec Baldwin’s character who really you just don’t get. He is supposedly Woody Allen’s older self talking to his younger self, but since the explanation is so vague as to how the other characters interact with him and such it does take away from the flow of the story.

To Rome With Love will be for fans who like the style of Woody Allen’s work. It does have some interesting story lines that compel you. The setting seems to be on that is imitating bringing the stage to life as if everyone is on the same stage in Rome, and we are just seeing an observer provide commentary on the lives that run through Rome. That is fun, but with one too many stories you do lose it at some point as far as plot. The colors, comedy, vibe, and acting do revive the movie though.

Rating 8 of 10.

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