Wednesday, June 1, 2011


JER: Greetings readers…both JC and I are coming out of a Memorial Weekend and really didn’t have much time to put thoughts together because JC was also out of town. With that said, we carried through with me kicking things off again this week. My ‘Recommendation of the Week’ is more diverse, yet selective this week. In a fit of desperation with the desert lifestyle, seeing that I currently live near the Palm Springs area in California...I long for a little East Coast state of mind! I love my L.A., don't get me wrong, but it's good to leave the hustle and the heat and take on a cooler and sophisticated route that made me select this week's contender, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.

Woody Allen, by this point, had already made a reputation for acting/ writing/ directing intelligent and thoughtful comedies, but really fine-tuned his craft with HANNAH! A Superb cast: (Best Supporting Actor winner) Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Diane Weist, Mia Farrow, Max Von Sydow and Allen... the dialog is engaging and smart. I would love to spend a day with any one of them and talk classic art and stroll through a museum discussing the fall of the social and artistic view of the Western Civilization within the last century! (You see what I mean?)

To give you a brief summary of the storyline, HANNAH (played by Mia Farrow) is the eldest daughter of three sisters growing up in New York. The other two sisters are Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Diane Wiest). There is a complexity to involving ourselves in the lives of these sisters… marriage, divorce, happiness, neurotic behavior, dating and raising a family.

Hannah, the sister, works as a balance point for the family. She is stable, a loving wife and mother and supporter of her younger sisters’ lives. However, things begin to go ‘off- balance’ when Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine) falls in love with Lee. A ‘courtship’ almost begins as Elliot tries to pursue Lee. Not knowing exactly how to perceive things, Lee is also involved in a relationship with stuffy-shirt Frederick (Max Von Sydow). Hannah’s ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen) thinks he might be dying and re-enters Hannah’s life to try to do right by her for his wrong-doings. Meanwhile, Holly is single and in need for a little attention as we follow her desperate attempts at capturing men’s attention.

A great infusion of drama, heart-break and comedy... HANNAH was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning three for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine), Best Supporting Actress (Dianne Wiest) and Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen). It still remains to be a peaking point for Allen that, alas, has failed to reproduce since. So, pour a nice glass of wine and snuggle up to a comfy coach and enjoy this modern classic!

JOHNNY CHAZ: It is sensational to see you highlight a Woody Allen film this week.

The truth is Jer, that if you spent any time with these characters (key word: characters) - you would spend about 10 minutes discussing art and culture and the rest of your time playing psychiatrist to their internal struggles, unreasonable relationship demands and maniacal childhood memories whilst going home alone and feeling suicidal.

These characters hate NYC when they are there, and love it when they are not - that is the bare truth. This is ultimately happens when people are unhappy with "who" they are. These are, bar none - neurotic (perfect example would be the Diane Weist character), corrupt (internally) New Yorkers.

Hershey truly overshadows Mia in this film - at least that is my opinion. Michael Caine is also wonderful in his role and Woody Allen's appearance saves the film ultimately.

What is sad though is that this is, for many - their first experience and look at a Woody Allen film. We have seen Woody Allen slowly dwindle and become weak as time has marched on. As in virtually any other film out there, the 60's and 70's were, without a doubt the finest hour for Woody Allen. Between 1976 and 1979 we were treated to such gems as: ANNIE HALL, INTERIORS, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, HUSBANDS AND WIVES and MANHATTAN which are all films that rank in my top 200 and one of them in my top 2 of all time. Then, we see some experimentation in the 1980's - audiences became bored and needed something "visual" to entice them - and less writing. Along comes ZELIG, “Hannah and da Sistaz”, and of course RADIO DAYS. I enjoyed them all - ZELIG the most out of the three, but the "feeling" - the "aura" just was not there for me the way it was in the 70's. We then move into the modern era with disasters like "SMALL TIME CROOKS, THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and the ultimate disaster, MATCH POINT. Scarlett Johannsen is no "muse" and never will be. Can we really compare her to the likes of Diane Keaton in the scenes of ANNIE HALL? No, no no. Still, I will give some credit to VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA as that was a nice blast to the past mirroring the work of Woody Allen in the 70's.

With HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, we have a decent blend of comedy and drama. All 3 of these actresses are very good in this film. As a matter of fact, probably one of my favorite moments in the film is towards the end when the three women are having lunch and the camera pans around giving us a real inside look at the characters. Another saving grace in this film is Woody himself as his character finally jolts some energy into a lackluster film at that point. His wittiness, hypochondriac behavior and his facial expressions are priceless.

I always looked at HANNAH AND HER SISTERS like this: A decent way to kill a couple of hours in your day; Good performances; nice blends of comedy and drama; little substance and marginal writing. It does not surprise me that Woody Allen was never really a big fan of this film - in fact, he scorns it. And what is it with 80's and 90's films that always have to take place inside someone's dining room over Thanksgiving dinner? Pass.

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is a good film, but in this critic's opinion - not nearly one of Allen's best. Still, it is a much more appealing piece of work than what Allen is placing on the screen in this modern era. I hate to say this, but frankly I find it a little dull - the sets, the aura, the energy and the writing just simply do not compare to the likes of ANNIE HALL or MANHATTEN.

And why does the film feel the need to give us a title prior to each scene detailing what the next scene was going to be about? That is ridiculous. A Screenplay nomination and winner in 1986? How did that happen? It would have never been nominated if it had been released 10 years earlier - and that is a guarantee.

In sum, I guess the way I look at HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is this way: You know when you go out for a fabulous dinner and then the next night you eat all the left-overs from that meal in the fridge? Maybe that's what has happened in this film - we get the same elements, but not as tasty. We get decent characters, but little plot. We get people on the screen backstabbing one another, but the audience really cannot "mentally" get into this film - thus creating an experience that really is not that enjoyable. Leftovers - a blend of prior Woody Allen films tossed onto a cutting board and then cut-up up with a $9.95 Slap Chop kitchen device.

It is lines like: "I don't want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light." that make the early Woody Allen films so great - so stylish, and so opinionated that something such as HANNAH AND HER SISTERS simply cannot compare on any level.

Film Grade: 6.5/10

JER: With all due respect, I think that you are still fully giving HANNAH the respect it deserves. I will agree with you, JC, that Allen just cannot seem to capture the essence of the winning characters and stories he once had complete control of…but HANNAH is still a wonderfully made film in my eyes.

I will agree with your comments about the films that followed…I couldn’t get on the MATCH POINT bandwagon. I couldn’t see what everyone enjoyed about that depressing work. Don’t get me started on VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA! What was that all about???

A film I will mention discovering most recently was 2002’s HOLLYWOOD ENDING. This probably as close to ‘classic’ Woody Allen as we will get. Now that movie brought the funny along with the neurotic while keeping a pulse on Allen’s creative story writing and character development.

The focus here will remain on HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. A sophisticated, humorous and complex story wrapped up with equally sophisticated, humorous and complex characters…a fun film to watch and relish in the classic telling of Woody Allen’s point of view of life in New York with three sisters!

We will kick things off in high gear next week when JC takes the wheel with his subject of choice…so, until then, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!


  1. Woody Allens' "HANNAH AND HER SISTERS" was entertaining, but in no way compares to what Woody put on screen a decade earlier. 'Hannah is a good movie, but simply does not rise to the level of other Woody films (Lee, Pasco WA).

  2. Hello CC: - I have posted with your blog a couple of times before. I saw my first Woody Allens movie with my mom and it was 'Hannah and Her Sisters' and really enjoyed it. I am sorry to say that the only other movie by this director that I have seen is 'Matchpoint' and even though I kinda liked it, most people hated it. Are Allens' movies / films of the seventies really that much better? Just curious so I know what I should rent. thanks much - Alicia @ FLINT, MI.

  3. Greetings to both Lee and Alicia!

    Let me start off by addressing Alicia's question about earler Allen will notice that Lee's comments state the fact that Allen's earlier films were really that much better than his later films!

    The 'go- to' film will always be ANNIE personal favorite has always been LOVE AND DEATH and other 'must-see' titles would include BANANAS, SLEEPER and MANHATTAN! Just bare in mind that Allen's earlier films like SLEEPER, BANANAS and even TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN are very slapstick-based comedies...they aren't as intelligent as ANNIE HALL or MANHATTAN...but are very fun to watch!

    Lee, I think your comment speaks for itself and I hope you will agree with my recommendations listed above as the better earlier works!

  4. Hello cinema counterpoint-

    I think that Hannah and her sisters gets better each and ever time I watch it. I have seen some of Allen's other movies and this ranks right up there as one of his best. It has a great story line and great acting. I guess some people like the older movies from Woody Allen in the seventies, but I think that this one is just as good....Renae from Santa Clarita CA.

  5. woody allen has gotten worse and worse with time. i agree with you both that his movies from long ago were so much better including the plots, the acting and even his comedies. sorry, but woody just is not doing the same quality of work these days.......chris (Vermont)

  6. Hello Renae, I will agree with you in regards to HANNAH. It does get better with every viewing! It is a great film with many layers that peels back and shows new sides to it everytime! So glad you enjoy it!

    Hello Chris, it is a huge shame that such a talented writer/ actor/ director is wasting away to who he has become today. All we can do is revisit the older classics and enjoy what he has given us!

    Thank you all for comments!