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Woody Allen gets 2-part American Masters profile

Probably the only television exposure more prestigious than a 60-minutes segment in peak Oscar season, a profile on PBS American Masters is a rare honor reserved for national treasures. All the more rare when it spotlights a subject as chronically shy and elusive as Woody Allen.

Allen has agreed to finally open up about his life and career for a two-part PBS “American Masters” documentary tentatively titled “Seriously Funny — The Comic Art of Woody Allen” which will debut Nov. 20 and 21. The documentary will feature vintage clips of Allen performing stand-up on variety shows in the 1960s, show him visiting his old New York neighborhood and showcase clips from several of his landmark movies, including “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” and “Match Point.”

The special also comes as the 75-year-old filmmaker is enjoying his greatest recent success with “Midnight in Paris.”

Robert Weide, who produced the documentary and conducted several interviews with Allen, said it took persistence over several years to persuade Allen to give insight to his work, but he finally convinced him in 2008 that “it was time.” The project was highlighted Sunday at a panel discussion during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Assn. gathering in Beverly Hills.

…Allen deserves to be recognized as the “quintessential independent filmmaker,” Weide said. “The people who finance his films don’t read his scripts, they don’t even get an outline. His thing is, he delivers his films on time and on budget, and no one can mess with that. This is the scam he’s had going on all this time.”

He’s also shown as an artist who is very specific and critical about his work. Using a grading system, “he says he’s made a couple of A’s, a few Bs, a few Cs and a lot of Ds and Fs,” Weide said. He counts “The Purple Rose of Cairo” as one of his favorite films, while downplaying more popular films such as “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan.”

Allen doesn’t give a lot of feedback or direction to his performers, said two actresses on the panel who have worked with him. Mira Sorvino, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress for her portrayal of a troubled prostitute in “Mighty Aphrodite,” said he encouraged her to use the script only as a blueprint, and to use her instincts to flesh out her character.

“It was like being treated as an artist, not a craftsman,” she said. “It was very freeing and very terrifying.”

(full story at the LA Times Showtracker)

17 Comments on this Post

  1. Although I’m afraid MIP will not play a big role in this year’s Oscar Race. I know AMPAS (used to) love Allen, but I think it petered off in the last decade. Especially when Allen started doing weaker movies. MIP might be his late “comeback” though.

    OT: Early german reviews give Rise of the Planet of Apes excellent marks, praising especially the screenplay and the extensive use of CGI-capturing. First RT-reviews fresh as well.

  2. Although I’m afraid MIP will not play a big role in this year’s Oscar Race. I know AMPAS (used to) love Allen, but I think it petered off in the last decade. Especially when Allen started doing weaker movies. MIP might be his late “comeback” though.

    OT: Early german reviews give Rise of the Planet of Apes excellent marks, praising especially the screenplay and the extensive use of CGI-capturing. First RT-reviews fresh as well.

  3. I don’t think that Allen started doing weaker movies (I love Match Point, VCB, TDS(!!!), MinP, etc) so much as the his reviewers started becoming progressively worse and have lost track of what consitutes a great film. Also, it was only three yeara ago he directed a very well received Academy Award winning movie. So give me a break with all this comeback talk. In any case, I think Allen more than earned the right to make the kinds of movies he wants without having to have himself questioned at every turn, just because he can’t please all the subsets of his audience at the same time. For my money (and I can go into extensive detail as to why and will once I have enough time – TDS is an even better movie than MinP).

    Also, I don’t think Woody Allen can be described “chronically shy and elusive”. He’s done plenty of interviews (seriously), interracted with countless actors and is more outgoing that your regular person. Plus, he started out as stand up comic! You make him sound like Terrence Mallick (no offense intended, of course).

    Won’t argue with “National Treasure” label though.

  4. I don’t think that Allen started doing weaker movies (I love Match Point, VCB, TDS(!!!), MinP, etc) so much as the his reviewers started becoming progressively worse and have lost track of what consitutes a great film. Also, it was only three yeara ago he directed a very well received Academy Award winning movie. So give me a break with all this comeback talk. In any case, I think Allen more than earned the right to make the kinds of movies he wants without having to have himself questioned at every turn, just because he can’t please all the subsets of his audience at the same time. For my money (and I can go into extensive detail as to why and will once I have enough time – TDS is an even better movie than MinP).

    Also, I don’t think Woody Allen can be described “chronically shy and elusive”. He’s done plenty of interviews (seriously), interracted with countless actors and is more outgoing that your regular person. Plus, he started out as stand up comic! You make him sound like Terrence Mallick (no offense intended, of course).

    Won’t argue with “National Treasure” label though.

  5. I can hear all the moaning and whining in about four months from now. How could it happen? How could something not as great as so and so manage to grab a place in the list? Ya know there’s not a damn thing wrong with being entertained even if it is fluff. Ya see I hated Annie Hall and still do but I loved Purple Rose and Broadway Danny Rose. Midnight reminds me of Purple Rose. What better promo to the awards season can you get than a PBS two part homage? And lets be honest the man deserves it whether you’re a fan or not. I can remember when Interiors was released and everyone was running around going oh look he’s doing Ingmar. He’s had some great accomplishments. Hannah and Zelig. Ya just can’t resist a comeback and for Midnight to really be such a success at the Box Office and still hold on is not such a bad thing coming into the season.

  6. I can hear all the moaning and whining in about four months from now. How could it happen? How could something not as great as so and so manage to grab a place in the list? Ya know there’s not a damn thing wrong with being entertained even if it is fluff. Ya see I hated Annie Hall and still do but I loved Purple Rose and Broadway Danny Rose. Midnight reminds me of Purple Rose. What better promo to the awards season can you get than a PBS two part homage? And lets be honest the man deserves it whether you’re a fan or not. I can remember when Interiors was released and everyone was running around going oh look he’s doing Ingmar. He’s had some great accomplishments. Hannah and Zelig. Ya just can’t resist a comeback and for Midnight to really be such a success at the Box Office and still hold on is not such a bad thing coming into the season.

  7. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Also, I don’t think Woody Allen can be described “chronically shy and elusive”.

    I’m talking about on-camera interviews. He never does this. When’s the last time you saw Woody Allen on a talk show, or any filmed footage of him speaking outside of a festival press room?

    “…a filmmaker who is private personally and professionally due to what one of his favorite actresses, Scarlett Johansson calls a ‘crippling shyness.’ “

    The project was highlighted Sunday at a panel discussion during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Assn. gathering in Beverly Hills… “He can’t stand it,” said Weide of Allen as he referred to the filmmaker’s aversion to being the center of attention or to receive honors. If the Kennedy Center were to include him in their annual salute to artists, he might spend most of his time backstage “throwing up,” Weide said.

    Your impression of Woody Allen as outgoing and gregarious does not match what we hear from his producer and stars.

  8. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Also, I don’t think Woody Allen can be described “chronically shy and elusive”.

    I’m talking about on-camera interviews. He never does this. When’s the last time you saw Woody Allen on a talk show, or any filmed footage of him speaking outside of a festival press room?

    “…a filmmaker who is private personally and professionally due to what one of his favorite actresses, Scarlett Johansson calls a ‘crippling shyness.’ “

    The project was highlighted Sunday at a panel discussion during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Assn. gathering in Beverly Hills… “He can’t stand it,” said Weide of Allen as he referred to the filmmaker’s aversion to being the center of attention or to receive honors. If the Kennedy Center were to include him in their annual salute to artists, he might spend most of his time backstage “throwing up,” Weide said.

    Your impression of Woody Allen as outgoing and gregarious does not match what we hear from his producer and stars.

  9. Paddy M

    Maxim, what film is TDS?

  10. Paddy M

    Maxim, what film is TDS?

  11. I believe Maxim is referring to Tall Dark Stranger as in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Took me a moment though too to see that.

  12. I believe Maxim is referring to Tall Dark Stranger as in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Took me a moment though too to see that.

  13. James Francis McAnderson

    Annie Hall is probably the deepest movie I’ve ever seen.

  14. James Francis McAnderson

    Annie Hall is probably the deepest movie I’ve ever seen.

  15. Just my personal opinion, but I think Allen’s films are boring, and full of crackpot truism.

  16. Just my personal opinion, but I think Allen’s films are boring, and full of crackpot truism.

  17. Cinderella Dodridge

    Check out complete movie films totally free

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