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FUTURISTIC MICE ONE: THREE TIERS OF WOODY ALLEN CINEMA

Woody in PLAY IT AGAIN SAM with Diana Davalos
To deconstruct the entirety of what we'll refer to, through this introduction and, thereafter, numerous yet sporadic, ongoing posts for WOODY ALLEN CINEMA, enveloped in a snappy two-word, single-punchline reference from one particular film, FUTURISTIC MICE, since each write-up will hold a "little something" for the next time, and it sounds funny...

A with such a long-running timeline from either EARLY, MIDDLE or LATTER Allen Cinema, it would take three volumes to cover, and WAR AND PEACE (his inspiration for the First Tier's last picture, also the best and funniest) had only two volumes: So let's make do and, as quickly as possible, summarize Woody's Three-Tier, Career-Long Cycle, before delving into article-reviews in following posts, starting with The First, which we'll call EARLY FUNNY ALLEN, relying mostly on machine gun paced comedy (that Allen called "Slap-Dash") with genre-based themes being satirized in the process, going from 1969 to 1975 covering classic themes like American Crime, Science Fiction or Russian Literature, with TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and LOVE AND DEATH serving as Tier One's bookends (actually, his first "directorial" was a dubbed-over Japanese movie retitled WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY?, but it's not organic enough to start with)... And to note, PLAY IT AGAIN SAM is an important part of the canon despite the fact it's Woody's hit play adapted to the screen by director Herbert Ross... According to actress Jennifer Salt in a personal correspondence, Woody was in pretty much in charge, at least during her scenes... PLAY IT AGAIN is the vehicle that made Woody's First Tier more conventional, and less completely-bizarre... Not that that's a bad thing...

Second of First Tier Early Funny Allen Cinema
The Second Tier is his most famous and critically-acclaimed, as Woody's character didn't land the beautiful ingenue through accidental circumstance or, on the girl's part, sheer reluctance and, playing a character much like himself (like many of Stephen King's antagonists are authors who don't write blockbusters and are usually struggling writers, allowing for a far more inconspicuous and ambiguous adventure to follow suit)...

This eclectic Second Tier, that we'll call PIVOTAL ALLEN, also included extremely-serious Ingmar Bergman style dramas (which we'll cover, when it happens, in one fell swoop... painfully!) and went from 1977's smash hit ANNIE HALL all the way to, let's say... even though his all-time classic-creative peak was in the first of many Dostoevsky-based/Film Noir hybrids, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS... his cathartic shaky-cam calm before the game-changing storm in the documentary-style HUSBANDS AND WIVES: To many, after the Woody vs Mia Farrow controversial split hit not only tabloids with the jarring subject of "Marrying One's Very Own Step-Daughter," a girl he'd been around as she was being raised, from a very young age, by his longtime girlfriend/common-law wife and cinematic ingenue, Woody was seen in a brand new light, mostly covered in an (at that time) impenetrable veil of creepy darkness – others, including and especially die-hard, lifelong fans, felt it didn't make any difference, hiding their heads like a giant ostrich, and that you can and should separate an artist's private life from their art...

Third of Second-Tier Pivotal Allen Cinema
And then, there are those, in-between (like yours truly), who feel the departure of the Mia Farrow collaboration altered and hindered Allen's actual work, beyond the real life drama or moral ramifications but instead, based entirely on the quality of his artistic endeavors, going slowly downhill compared to the others, beginning with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a reunion with not only his prime 1970's starlet Diane Keaton but his ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN co-writer Marshall Brickman, making what HALL was originally intended to be before being edited (and/or re-shot, it's never entirely clear how it transformed) from a Quirky Mystery into the groundbreaking, Oscar Winning Neurotic Romantic Comedy (the tagline, "A Nervous Romance") that would influence the generation-next-door including John Hughes's work (Ferris talking to the camera, and all the navel-gazing teens). Also, Woody helped spout creative wings for the likes of stand-up comics Richard Lewis and Paul Reiser, and trained actors that leaned to comedy, like Billy Crystal and especially the Woody Allen who's a tad more easy on the suburban wife's eyes, that being Albert Brooks – all these men who strived on witty, pessimistic neurosis and, on the big screen or small, their girlfriends and wives (or kids) were far more grounded than they were...

Six years into the Third Tier, Woody & friend in SMALL TIME CROOKS
Long story short, and ironically, having to do with the Art of the Short Film, the Third Tier, LATTER ALLEN, follows the Joke-Driven "Early, Funny Ones" (as described in STARDUST MEMORIES, where Woody plays a celebrated director who, like himself, was altering his style) and the Second more Character-Driven middle-aged, perpetually whining guy: Leading to more plot-heavy yarns wielding twists and turns (seeming as if based on one of many Woody Allen short stories) that, after a while... in lacking the close-knit stock troupe (like Diane Keaton or Mia Farrow along with Tony Roberts, Sam Waterston, Diane Wiest, Jessica Harper or reoccurring smaller parts to John Rothman, Wallace Shawn, etc.), who brilliantly flanked the spectacle-donning anti leading man, being replaced with "flavor of the month" actors given their chance to prove themselves within the arthouse spectrum i.e. giving big stars a chance to really prove their worth: Meanwhile, in the Third Tier movies, in which he rarely appeared, his personality was handing off to the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Will Ferrell and Anthony Hopkins: Herein, Woody's verbal jabs didn't flow as easily as he, and others, were no longer starving "young" artists up against a circle of pretentious and shallow pseudo-intellectuals (unless you count Jason Biggs in ANYTHING ELSE, which is severely forced and awkward): So with that introduction to the THREE TIERS OF WOODY ALLEN CINEMA behind us, the upcoming FUTURISTIC MICE posts will, in no particular order, mostly cover two or three films at a time, providing not only reviews but similarities into plot and punchlines, philosophies, and everything connected the Woody Allen canon together...
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