Tag Archives: Woody Allen

Do what you love

Casting directors and agents in New York City often advise wannabe actors to create their own projects.

That way, they can do the kind of work that they want to be doing.

fading gigoloJust ask John Turturro.

He wrote, directed and stars in Fading Gigolo, the story of a guy with money problems who, with the encouragement and salesmanship of a good friend — portrayed by Woody Allen — finds himself the hired lover of a group of lonely middle-aged women.

It’s a great cast:  Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Liev Schreiber, and in a star-making turn, Vanessa Paradis (better known as Johnny Depp’s long-time-but-not-so-much-anymore girlfriend).

The movie was very funny at times, and at other times, very serious and soulful.  The changes in pacing and tone were unexpected and unexplained.  I felt like I was watching two movies that didn’t quite gel, and there were jokes that flew over my goyish head that cracked up the rest of the art house crowd.

That being said, I enjoyed the individual performances and getting glimpses of my Upper West Side businesses and doorways in this very New York City film.

Change is good

Sometimes a change in scenery is good, sometimes time runs out in a certain spot. — Phil Nevin

Leaving New York City is very good for Woody Allen.

I loved Match Point, set in London, which Allen completed in 2005. Oscar voters loved Vicky Cristina Barcelona, giving Penelope Cruz the Best Supporting Oscar nod.

And Allen’s newest endeavor, Midnight in Paris, may be the biggest charmer of them all.

Allen is not in the film.  That is a good thing. Owen Wilson plays the Woody role, but he plays it as an optimist. I swore I saw the sun shining in his eyes a few times, he is so upbeat (even when he is sad).

His counterpoint is Rachel McAdams, his fiancee and generally unlikable person.  Her parents are even less so.  There is a big “THUD” when they appear on screen because there is no nuance to their characters, but perhaps they are supposed to be the dose of reality.

Because the rest of the film is magic.  Owen’s love affair with the city of Paris.  The people he meets…and he meets some pretty fantastic people.  The unexpected cameos and brilliant performances by actors not mentioned in any promotion for the film.  (I was surprised; I want you to be, too.)

I enjoyed Midnight in Paris so muchIt was, quite simply, a delight.

Guess where I’m jonesin’ to go now?

Russian revolution

I love Ray Romano.

And apparently, so do the Russians.

The sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, which was loosely based on the lives of Romano and producer Phil Rosenthal, ran for nine seasons on CBS.  It was nominated for the Best Comedy Series Emmy seven times and won twice.

When they decided to end the series in 2005, it was still in the Top 10, a spot it had occupied since its third season on the air.

Exporting Raymond is a documentary that opened in very limited release in movie theatres last Friday.  It follows Rosenthal’s efforts to produce a Russian version of the sitcom… which is probably even more difficult than you would think.

And really, really funny.

This isn’t a documentary about Ray Romano.  He’s not in it, except in copious clips from the sitcom.   This is Phil’s baby, and he — who I had never seen on camera before — is hilarious in his own right.

He’s wide-eyed and nervous and tentative.  I definitely saw flashes of Woody Allen in his manner (thankfully without the annoying stammer).  But when it comes to Everybody Loves Raymond and helping it come alive for the Russian audience, he is strong and certain and somewhat single-minded.

Goodness knows he runs into obstacles.  The studios there look like bombed out buildings.  The writers and actors are doing two or three shows simultaneously and have extremely limited time and resources.  And the people ‘in charge’ bring somewhat questionable expertise to the table.

It takes a translator, vodka, a kindly driver, a real Russian family, more vodka, and a bit of give-and-take before the pilot episode is complete.   The entire process is really fascinating to watch.

So, how was the Russian version of Raymond received?  I shouldn’t tell you the end.  (Let’s just say it lives up to its name.)