This was really three movie's worth jammed into one, unfortunately. Why not make three movies exploring the lives of the main characters and providing a sense of what is happening on the planets they inhabit? And I'd like to know why there's an Asian Ninja guy who talks a lot about the Force yet isn't a Jedi? And so on (they could have even spent some time on how the main robot character came to develop a conscious, whereas his robot buddies did not!). As others have said, this felt rushed, yet some of the dialog was rather stiff, but to me the biggest problem was the acting. The "universe" felt like Star Wars but the main characters felt like they were from somewhere else, a boring galaxy far away, perhaps. While I disliked the Asian Ninja guy character most (seems like they did this to appeal to the Asian viewing markets), it's easy to overlook the one character and enjoy the rest. But after a while I began thinking that if one of the characters went to a refrigerator and took out a can of Coke or Pepsi, it would not be at all surprising!
I liked the idea of the film though as I said it should have been divided by three, and the action scenes were good, but to me it registers as a good Star Wars-ish action film. If that's what you want, you'll likely get it. However, I don't think you'll get anything "deeper." For example, why not spend some time on showing us why the "average Joe" is tempted by the Dark Side? Instead, we get boring or basic/stiff dialog that had a deadening effect on the film. The previous effort wasn't very good, but it felt like a kind of kiddie version of a "good" Star Wars film, whereas this one has more of a "mish mash" feel. I can imagine an excellent film after what I saw (or two or three), but I wish I had seen that film!
If you want to know not just about "Alien" but also about Hollywood at the time or about what screenwriters deal with or about the special effects technology of the time or about how actors are chosen for a film or about audiences (at least back then)... You get the idea. If I were to teach a course on the history of film or about the film industry there's a good chance I'd want all my students to see this. There may be better ones but I can't think of any off hand. Of course it helps if you enjoyed "Alien," but if you don't at least respect it as a landmark film then you might be one of the few people who wouldn't like it. If you enjoy jumping over couches or texting while a film is playing then you also may not get much out of this.
The first few minutes were great - why didn't Ford just keep going? He could have made a totally absurdist/surrealist film that might have worked! There were hints of such a film here and there - the guy sitting on the toilet outdoors, the ridiculous dress that looked like the main component was electrical tape, etc. If you want to "challenge" the audience, that would be one way to do it. As it stands, I don't know what he was trying to accomplish here.
Another film that featured a novel being read is the little-known piece of soft-core Eurotrash called "Honey"/"Miele di donna" (1981), and while that didn't work either, one could easily figure out how it would have been a lot better. There were also bits and pieces that did work or at least were satisfying on some level. By contrast, I don't want to think about "Nocturnal Animals" any more - in fact, I was bored while I was watching it! The only thing one could do here, in my opinion, is to go into total absurdism - just present one bizarre scene after another, in a Felliniesque way.
The reason why this film fails so badly is because it's clear that the Amy Adams character feels so deeply about the story she is reading is because she pictures her ex-lover as the main character. Now that certainly makes sense for her, but not for the audience, leading to boredom (because we think of the novel as simply fiction in this context) and in some cases outright comedy (the novel is sort of like "Dirty Harry"/"Death Wish" but with an unhappy ending, so it's not exactly special in any significant way). So we are left with a woman who "has it all" but decides that being among the "1" leaves something to be desired. Perhaps the next Ford film can be about Americans who don't have health insurance, if the new President gets his wish - at least I could feel sympathy for those people, even those who stupidly voted against their own self-interests.
And the glowing reviews for this remind me to never trust "professional reviewers." Remember "Eyes Wide Shut?" Remember the glowing reviews for that one? That was worse than this film! And what about Woody Allen's recent films? We are living in "world turned upside down" times, with more people believing "fake facts" than obviously real ones, it seems (and opera singers who can't sing their roles, "reality TV" shows that clearly don't reflect reality, etc.). And that is when absurdism is needed most. Tom, call me if you want some help with your next film. You don't have to pay me or give me credit - I just want to see one director do something that speaks to the times. I think you are someone who can do that, but you appear to be too concerned about impressing the "special people."
There is some "redeeming value" to this latest horrific effort!
Yes, this is a terrible movie, telling us more about the mentality of the director than anything else. But there are some things that those with an interest in history might find interesting, especially the instances of anachronistic use of language. For example, when did people start thinking in terms of "addictive personalities?" I don't remember anyone using such a phrase until the 1980s or perhaps later. More disturbing, though, is the playful jazz music being played (in the soundtrack) while people are executed by mobsters. I guess that's something only Mr. Allen understands. And that led me to realize that he doesn't have much of a sense of humor, if we put mockery aside, along with trying to make murder seem humorous. This has been largely ignored, perhaps because he often mocked the main character, played by himself. If I had to guess, my thought would be that he's an embittered, frustrated, lonely, and out of touch individual, the problem being this is reflected in his recent films! Some will say the cinematography here is wonderful, but I suggest watching something like "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" instead. "Cafe Society," by contrast, is a mess, with subplots that are either of no interest or seem to be better ideas for the main plot, a thin main plot that is groan-worthy at times, actors who don't seem to know what they're supposed to do, main characters who are not sympathetic, an unnecessary narrator whose voice pops up now and then for no apparent reason and comes across as a control freak with vocal cord damage, etc.
It would not surprise me if Mr. Allen actually thinks this is a great movie, which makes it even sadder. Lately, he seems to want to make "charming" movies, but it's like going to an older relative's house and constantly being asked if you want candy or cake, with various such items shoved in your face. After a while, you just don't want to go there any more, no matter what else the visit might include, good or bad. I suspect this forced charm is what leads to the many glowing reviews some of Mr. Allen's recent "stinkers" garner, but I will "call them as I see them." Add to this how he portrays murder, and one really has to wonder about his mental stability at this point. My conclusion, after so many films like this, is that Mr. Allen is simply not talented at what he has been trying to accomplish, though I'd be the first to say that his "screwball comedies" of 40+ years ago were quite entertaining, at least in terms of the sensibilities of that age.
I can understand that someone who is confronting his mortality, especially who has been bemoaning it his entire life, apparently, might want to make films like "Midnight in Paris." But what is one to make of this film? It's yet another Woody Allen "puckish satire... aimed more at the heart than the head," though that is only true, I imagine, for the heartless. At least in this case we get a literal "Ivory Tower" situation, so the disconnects from the realities just about all of the rest of us must deal with can be swept under the rug to some degree. In a recent interview, WA talked about how he enjoys his "middle class" lifestyle (with a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" bank account, I'd guess), and didn't want to spend more than approximately a year to make a film because it would cut into the things he really enjoys doing. Thank you, Woody, for being honest about where these disappointing films originate !
If you want to know what Woody Allen could be doing now, given his early "classics," watch "The Mend" instead of this! Of course, WA's fans/lackeys will continue to post glowing reviews, but let's face it, hardly anyone is going to see a WA film after reading a positive IMDb review. Others have spoken to the issues, so I'll mention some points I thought are most noteworthy. First, this is not the real world. People don't have any mobile devices and there are no "people of color." The main character finds out about the judge's background by "looking on his computer" (I think that's exactly what he said). There's a narrator at first, for no apparent reason, but then the young main female character (Emma Stone) becomes a narrator at the end, stating that she learned a valuable lesson, but it's not clear what it was. She mentions her "boyfriend," who "stayed loyal" to her, but she doesn't say that she should not have idolized a person simply due to his "credentials."
The plot makes no sense at all. It would have made some sense to show the main character having some sort of mid-life crisis, perhaps giving him a daughter who is going away to college (his wife could have divorced him or been said to have died). However, you don't decide to kill someone to get out of your mid-life crisis! And then try to kill a second person (after giving her time to tell others that you are a murderer, including the police). That makes the person a serial killer (and a dumb one at that!), and then the viewer has to ask the question: why did you want us to feel sympathy towards this character, earlier on? This is basically "Ed Wood bad," though at least those are campy fun to many people.
If you were going to go with such a ridiculous plot, the main character could have accepted his fate and decided to confess to the police. He would tell the Emma Stone character (while visiting him in prison) that his life had become "revitalized" by teaching in prison. She could tell him that she learned the lesson of treating everyone equally and judging them by their actions, rather than what they say or have written (at least if a personal relationship is involved). Isn't this the kind of thing one's parents are supposed to teach them? Instead, what is this movie? It's not funny, there's no mystery, it's not a character study (if it is, it's a rather bad one), and as usual (in WA movies) the characters are not especially pleasant (though here they are not as detestable as they often are).
The main character seems like a depressed college professor who took himself a bit too seriously at first, then it turned out he was a serial killer, yet there is no psychological insight here, which is nearly an accomplishment (not a positive one, obviously). I almost felt sorry for WA after watching this, as it suggests the director is totally lost on multiple levels. But he says he's happy with his "middle class" life, so I'll take him at his word. And if he wants to keep making such films, I suspect they will be viewed as comedies in the near future, though not at all as he intended!
The problem is, I don't really care anymore, as the magnitude of "suspension of disbelief" required at this point is beyond my tolerance threshold, by a wide margin. I don't mind that bits and pieces are borrowed from "The Prisoner," "The Twilight Zone," "Cube," "The Village," "Dark City," "Twin Peaks," "Persons Unknown," and a bunch of other movies and TV shows, but to come up with something like this is quite irritating. However, before I get to the plot, I want to mention that the often cardboard acting is a problem here, because the plot can't keep your mind off of it. I'm particularly disappointed in Matt Dillon's performance - it often feels like they gave the lead role to someone who can't do more than be a background character actor! Better acting for his role might have helped quite a bit, at least until the level of silliness became clear.
As to the plot, it's just ludicrous, but it would have at least made more sense to say that people decided to experiment with genetic manipulation to create "super humans," but a small group was kept to be the old type humans, just in case something went terribly wrong, which in fact would have to happen for it to play out in a similar way. The worst thing here, beyond super humans who can violate the laws of physics, is the idea that teenagers are the psychologically strong ones and can keep secrets! Wouldn't you tell the adults first, because they would want to ensure that their children are protected and can live a reasonably good life? Don't parents tell their children about the "hard realities of life" most of the time? How did that get reversed? And if the adults "freak out," well, we saw that there was no hesitation about executing anyone!
So, we have this fake town where the kids know an incredible truth but don't tell their parents, but if an adult wants to know about the truth he or she is publicly executed in a gruesome way with the kids watching and cheering. Yes, what a wonderful way to preserve good old American values! And if you are a species on the verge of extinction, why are you executing members who just want to know the truth or speak their minds? Unless this all turns out to be someone's nightmare, I can't see how this is going to hold any water. It's ridiculous on multiple levels - scientific, social, psychological, and technological. I like the idea of these kinds of presentations, so I suggest that those who have the same preferences watch the ones I mentioned above - who would have guessed, after watching a few episodes, that "Sleeper" would come across as more serious than this !
I'm giving this a 5, but it's important to explain that the reason is that I think it will please those who like these kinds of films and/or will enjoy the jazz. I agree with those who have pointed out that there were too many drill sargent/basic training type scenes, and while professional musicians put in a lot of practice time, what was portrayed here way way over the top. The Simmons character in particular was played with an almost sadistic quality (and little else to his personality), but for me that detracted greatly. I would like to have had some "backstory" on the two main characters, but instead it's just the same sort of thing, over and over again, with at least a mildly unrealistic ending that put it in the "Karate Kid" category.
At least in "Searching for Bobby Fischer" we were compelled to ask if children should experience that kind of stress on a regular basis, but what's the essence of this film? Does it matter if this young man becomes a "great" drummer? I really don't care one way of the other. For all I know he is a rather nasty person who deserves to fail - nothing in the film suggested to the contrary! How can such a film me made with such obvious flaws? If it was made in someone's back yard with basically no budget, the story would be understandable, but it isn't here!
And I've been one of those dummies! The last several episodes, however, I've just fast forwarded through, watching a few seconds here and there. Every episode seems like the last one, and they go something like this: "damn, what are we going to do about the major setback we had? Oh wait, we can do this other thing, and if we do, we might unlock the secret of the island." Then at the end we are led to believe they are on the verge of some sort of "great discovery."
In between, we get the same diagrams, "facts" about the island, tales about a boyhood dream that originated in the Reader's Digest (or wherever), and speculation about the Holy Grail, ancient Phoenicians, the Lost Ark, Knights Templar, Vikings, Captain Kidd, the Founding Fathers, ET aliens, the JFK assassination, chemtrails, Shakespeare, dowsing rods, Bigfoot, the Voynich Manuscript, Excalibur... oh wait, perhaps it only feels like we get all that, but we certainly do get way too much of that stuff, that's for sure!
At this point, it's clear that there will be no "major discovery," unless you consider an old coin or two to be such. So, you can watch some environmental destruction for the purposes of chasing nonsense if you like but I'm hoping the Canadian government will step in and put an end to it. At least nobody else will likely get killed seeking "lost pirate treasure" if they do, and some other ridiculous show can take its place, which can't be any dumber than this one!
Of course, you can probably just search google news for oak island discovery or something like that to see if they ever do make a "great discovery," but then you wouldn't get to experience that 22 minutes or so of silliness that we have all grown to love, right?
At first, I thought this one might be like the great "Memento," but about halfway through it turned into an episode of "24," more or less, and became more of an action film rather than a mystery/thriller. Everything gets "wrapped up" neatly at the end, though with a few "good" (or somewhat good) characters getting killed along the way to add that touch of tragedy so that it wouldn't feel too "light." Overall, there's really nothing about it that would lead me to think that it was worth my time. If you are bored and want to keep your mind occupied for an hour and a half or so, sure, go ahead and watch it. But it's like the kind of meal you enjoy though you find that a bit more than an hour later you are hungry again. Don't expect any great insights into human psychology or the "human condition" here, that's for sure!
Wow, this is the cutest ugly/mean film I've ever seen !
I've really enjoyed some of Anderson's films, and even "Moonrise Kingdom," which wasn't good, had some thought-provoking qualities. This one, by contrast, was awful, and to me it suggests he has become "full of himself" or is "mailing it in." It's not funny, nor insightful, nor compelling on any level. At the very beginning, the worn, 1960s decor was amusing, and overall I got the sense that this was going to be about a small number of "quirky" hotel guests in the mid 1980s. These were people who were trapped in the past, but didn't know how to move forward because they had enough money to keep them at the "luxury resort hotel." I was really looking forward to that kind of presentation, but instead we are then taken to another flashback !
We are then introduced to a "lobby boy" and a hotel manager (who is "full of himself" and rather unappealing) who are living during the heyday of the hotel, several decades earlier. Now I'm thinking that this still might be about quirky hotel guests, but of a different period, and seen through the eyes of these two (or at least one of them). Instead, the film degenerates into a ridiculous plot about the manager (Fiennes) being framed for murder, then plotting to escape, then trying to clear his name. Not long after he does this, he is killed by Nazi-like soldiers (why couldn't they be actual Nazi soldiers?). The lobby boy's wife dies in childbirth, along with the child, for no good reason, and we have to be told that this happens - we don't see the lobby boy and his wife as a married couple (so there is no character development).
There are a few crude jokes, and several murders, one of a cat that seemed like it was something from a "Beavis and Butthead" episode. Overall, this was a very unpleasant cinematic experience, and even the special effects, which tried to create a cute and "magical" atmosphere, did not fit in well - some were used over and over again, to the point of being irritating. If you are not going to create realistic characters, then there needs to be something compelling. The special effects certainly don't make up for this shortfall, as can be the case in action or sci-fi movies, nor is there anything in the plot that works, such as an elaborate murder mystery. It's not even a "feel good" film with a message about "personal redemption" or "doing the right thing."
Now I'm all for "dark" films about subjects like "losing faith" (which often contain insights one can't help but ponder), yet you're not going to get anything like that here either! As my title suggests, this is a bizarre "cute" yet mean and nasty effort, and I gave it an extra star because it's outright weird, conceptually. I was not impressed by "Moonrise Kingdom," but I think I understood the "coming of age" idea behind it; with this film, I am left wondering what Anderson was trying to accomplish. If you enjoy this film, that's fine with me, though I have no idea what you could have found compelling or humorous, but if you think it's some sort of contribution to the history of cinema, I think you would benefit from taking some college courses on this subject. If you are a fan of old, silly-looking decor, go ahead and watch the first ten minutes, but after that, I can't imagine what anyone could enjoy about it, other than a few seconds here or there.
Did the other reviewers watch the same film that I did ?
I'll begin by mentioning that the production values, special effects, and acting are far from excellent, but that is not the worst part of this film, IMO. And I couldn't disagree more with the reviewer who stated: "...the mood is meltingly David Lynch, this one would put big smiles on the faces of Nick Roog, Brian DePalma, and even Hitchcock." Instead, for me this is not compelling at all. There are all kinds of "loose ends" and unappealing or uninteresting characters - that's what you get for the first forty minutes, approximately. Then things "get cooking," resulting in what I would call "silly horror." If you enjoyed "Mystery Science Theater 3000" back in the day and are in the mood to throw some snarky quips at a "B movie" you haven't seen before, this might be what you're seeking. If you are looking for a ghost/haunted house horror film that is at least mediocre (even by today's standards), I don't think you will consider the time you spent watching this to have been worthwhile.
To be frank, it comes across as almost a "vanity project," with some nudity included that I'd guess some viewers will find gratuitous. I was mostly bored by this, and struggled to pay attention, though once in a while there was something I found amusing or humorous that didn't seem intended to provoke such a reaction. My thought was, "this director doesn't seem to know how to make a film!" It's confusing (in terms of all the things that are "thrown at" the viewer), yet there is nothing that is compelling enough for the viewer to think that he or she should "stick with it." We get a general sense of where things are headed within the first few minutes, yet all manner of "supernatural" things occur that seem designed only to keep an underdeveloped plot moving along. This is neither a competent, standard, feature-length horror film nor something more daring. However, I do think it could be edited into a solid three minute music video, if the accompanying music was appropriate, of course.
Woody has finally found a new path for his career !
After abandoning the successful early film ideas for an approach that includes the usual jazz music, pretty city scenes, obnoxious characters we don't care about, and a thin, boring, facile plot (with some kind of "happy ending"), we get something very new here. The fact that it's beyond awful (others have pointed out how laughably flawed it is in several significant ways) may not be all that important. It's been time for Woody to move on for a long time now, and now he has, producing a movie that demonstrates how clueless he can be. Up to this point, my sense was that he had become largely detached from society (and his films were never specifically political, and rarely indirectly political), though in this film it's almost like he wanted to tell us that explicitly. Moreover, one wonders if he is experiencing mental lapses, and I truly fear for his health.
If that's not the case, then the other explanation that makes sense to me is that he is exploring a new kind of self-deprecating absurdism. It's a fresh new idea, and while it falls flat on its face here, one hopes that Woody can figure out what went wrong (which could take quite a bit of time, due to the quantity) and reorganize it into something that actually works. My advice would be to introduce clearer and more frequent magical realist elements, as was the case in some of his early films. He is one of the few Americans auteurs who was willing to "go there," and he did it successfully. Instead, he creates something like this; the thought that kept entering my mind while watching it was, "Woody, what are you going for here?"
"Blue Jasmine" is "all over the map" and not enjoyable in any way. Everything Woody tried to do here has been done already in a much more convincing way. After his recent "successes" (as some apparently believe), why shouldn't Woody explore his "dark side" in an upcoming film? How often have we heard him talk about his fear of death? Why isn't that in any of his recent films, as he is now of an "advanced age?" If he has come to terms with his mortality and is at peace with it, why not make a film about it and "let us in?" He could have done that vicariously through the Cate Blanchett character, but instead we see a pampered woman who has to face the "tragedy" of being one of the "masses." Quelle horreur! Seriously, his recent films not only scream out, "I'm selling out totally," but they are a bit of an insult to us "common folk."
Wasn't this the same guy who made fun of "puckish satires of contemporary mores" in one of his early films? What would young Woody say to 2014 Woody? I don't think it would be pleasant to witness !
If you can't stand the heat... (slaves didn't have that choice).
To those who don't like seeing what the reality was like, I advise you to just take a moment and imagine if you had been a slave: "there but for the grace of God go I." Or have you not heard of that one? If you have a legitimate criticism about the film, that's fine. I too was wondering about Solomon's "back story," and it's certainly possible he was a bit of a "sketchy character." To cite that possibility as a reason to dismiss his ordeal, however, demonstrates a lack of humanity. Instead, I would like the director to have figured out a way to make that less conspicuous.
In fact, I would rather have seen a different ex-slave's account as the basis for this kind of film. Or what about the subject being one of the major slave rebellions? We could have been shown what plantation life was like first, and then the audience would have to ponder some intriguing questions. Tension could have been built up effectively, whereas here Solomon is rescued with little drama. While this doesn't detract from his account, it does suggest a more creative cinematic approach should have been employed. And while this film is actually not nearly as "graphic" as it could have been, in terms of what some slaves experienced, there isn't much in the way of "sugar coating," and in a sense the brutality becomes the focus of the film. Perhaps because of this, it leaves a somewhat scattered impression.
Unlike some critics here, I like the nature shots, and wish there would have been a better use of the scenery. If you don't have an idea of what that might accomplish, I suggest watching "Aguirre, the Wrath of God." And while it's certainly true there wasn't 'much in the way of "comic relief," there didn't need to be. Instead, a more documentary style could have been adopted, and if so, odd or ridiculous mannerisms or situations could have supplied some kind of a break to the brutality presented. Again, the best movie I've seen that succeeds with this approach is "Aguirre..." Some of the things I really liked about this film included the sort of psychodrama aspect to living in this kind of society, as well as the physical proximity that often existed between slave owners and the slaves. It's almost like the slave owners felt the need to think that they controlled the minds of their slaves, though they might say that the slaves did not possess fully human minds. This film does a good job on these accounts. If you want to learn more, I suggest the book, "Honor and Violence in the Old South," though I am not claiming I agree with everything the author argues. And of course there are the primary sources ("slave narratives").
Some of the things I really liked about this film included the sort of psychodrama aspect to living in this kind of society, as well as the physical proximity that often existed between slave owners and the slaves. It's almost like the slave owners felt the need to think that they controlled the minds of their slaves, though many would have said that the slaves did not possess fully human minds. This film does a good job on these accounts, giving us a sense of how alien it was from our experiences. If you want to learn more, I suggest the book, "Honor and Violence in the Old South," though I am not claiming I agree with everything the author argues. And of course there are the primary sources (the other "slave narratives"), some of which you can read online for free.
I'm older than Breitbart and was a supporter of Reagan in 1980. Then I saw attacks against unions, the poor, various minorities, women, etc. over the years and you couldn't pay me enough to vote for a Republican now! I have seen right wingers target people like Michael Moore or George Soros yet they either don't explain why or don't provide any sensible explanations. If you believe we should all walk around with an AK-47 on our backs, so be it. I hate that idea but I don't hate you. The same is true if you want to force women to have invasive procedures simply because they want to exercise their rights (decided and upheld by the Supreme Court since 1973). If you don't think "ObamaCare" makes sense, despite it being THE Republican way to deal with the health care issues in the US (and being successful in Massachusetts), then go ahead and make your point, and supply us with an alternative plan that makes sense.
Don't gripe about being "locked out of the process" when in fact you locked yourself out by not coming to the table when negotiations were occurring and suggesting reasonable things to include. Instead, you whine about being excluded because you didn't want there to be any health care law at all. You wanted people to continue to use the emergency room as their originating point, when in fact that is much more expensive and the taxpayer (probably you) eventually pays this much higher price because the patients go bankrupt or don't have enough to be worth pursing by collection agencies. Get you head out the right wing "bubble" and look at the reality of the situation; stop making everything a personal insult to your fine character (do you really think Mr. Breitbart was that nice of a guy in any case?). And what about all the obnoxious theatrics against the President? Why aren't supporters of Breitbart outraged about those things? Is it that they are most likely the ones involved, such as those waving Confederate flags around?
And why was he so against Operation Wall Street? They made their point, which was verified by statements made by Romney himself (when he didn't think anyone outside the room would hear) . They have a right to demonstrate. They are gone now, whereas the "Tea Party" is still in existence, with their leaders saying all kinds of crazy things, such as a medical doctor saying he no longer believes in embryology. Does he now believe that storks bring children into the world? I don't hate him, but I do fear such people obtaining political power. Would you like to be led by an insane person? Do you not know anything about the history of nations that were led by such people? Instead, we hear all kinds of things from people like Breitbart about Obama that are clearly false: he's a Muslim, he's an atheist, he's a community organizing thug, he's a haughty Ivy Leaguer who looks down on little people, he's a socialist, he's in the pocket of the big banks, he's a friend of all the bad guys in the world, etc.
Lastly, why not study some history? In many ways, Obama is mostly to the right of Reagan! I was in college at the time and the joke being told back then was that Reagan seemed to want to destroy socialist ideas by being the greatest socialist President in US history (while saying he was against it and talking the talk of the right wing crazies). Go back and see what Reagan actually did as President. Don't listen to what people like Breitbart tell you simply because they are good at "playing the victim" whenever they can't actually articulate a reasonable policy position on whatever they happen to be acting outraged about on a given day. Tell those of us who are independent-minded how you plan on solving major problems (many if not most of which were caused by Republican administrations, especially the budget deficit). Remember that the original "Tea Party" was against taxation without representation and think about whether trying to stop people from voting is the opposite of what those Founding Fathers held so dear! However, if you do things like denounce the CBO as part of "commie conspiracy" because their calculations conflict with your ideology, all I can do is suggest a brand of tin foil for you to use when you create your protective hats.
In politics, you hardly ever get everything you want. Negotiations and compromise are necessary. It is the "art of the possible." By gerrymandering Congressional districts in the most crude ways imaginable, Tea Party types have assured that history is not going to proceed in directions they think they prefer. Why not give the Republican idea, now called ObamaCare, a chance? If it fails, you can then run a Presidential candidate against it. If so, perhaps this candidate will actually have an alternative plan that makes some amount of sense. Whining, playing the victim, retreating to your "bubble" for some reason (an inability to deal with diverse opinions?), advancing conspiracy theories, grossly mischaracterizing the ideas of those with whom you disagree, etc. is just not sensible. Perhaps this is best characterized as the art of the impossible. Is that really where you want to be? Can you even entertain the thought that this is all about keeping people like Limbaugh and Hannity rich, and little if anything else?
Greatest show... for the paranoid conspiracy theorist.
Other reviewers have pointed out how outright ludicrous this show is, so I will focus on one major point, which is that the viewer is asked to not just suspend disbelief to an absurd degree, but is also expected not to become irritated. Briefly, every time major resolution seems like it is about to occur, someone involved turns out to be a "follower," and the resolution does not occur. I guess that the writers realized this was going to appear too absurd to even the most loyal fan, and so sometimes a person has family members held hostage by some "followers" instead of that person being a follower himself/herself.
How long can this continue before hardly any audience remains? Apparently, now the "big plans" of the master are to be unleashed. What could that mean? Does it now turn into a version of "24?" I would have liked to have seen something unique done with the Kevin Bacon character. At times he appears suicidal, but then it goes nowhere, and we are back to having some authority figure revealed as a "follower." There are a lot of mediocre or better TV shows these days. If you are not going to do anything more than play "bait and switch" with your audience, episode after episode, you may need to find another line of work !
If you want to watch a show that strikes all the wrong notes, this is it. In doing so, it comes across as an attempt at a Coen brothers type of thing gone horribly wrong. And it's hilarious (making it difficult to figure out what kind of rating to give it) ! If you've watched a lot of American television, the cast will strike you as a bunch of cast offs from other TV shows. Remember the old saying, "those who can't, teach?" Well this show modifies that to be "those who didn't make it on mediocre TV shows end up on 'Monday Mornings.'" On a serious note, I wish doctors were like this, at least to some degree. I watch a lot of hospital reality TV and it doesn't look anything like this. The grilling sessions that are the backbone and unique element to the show remind me of some sort of Soviet show trial, and are simply not believable. The medical "action" is either boring or has been done before, and in a superior way. The only reason I watch this (not always able to pay attention, to be honest) is to see if it will get more ridiculous, but I actually don't mind and hope that it does go in that direction.
Please, see this for yourself and ask yourself if you can enjoy it as some sort of absurdist comedy, as I do. In particular, there is an ethnic stereotype that is hilarious in the form of an Asian-Americdan doctor who speaks like comedians making fun of such people decades ago, before it became "politically incorrect." This character is involved in dialogue such as:
Investigator: "Why did the patient die, doctor?" Asian-American doctor: "Dude die, now dead." I: "Yes, I know that but why?" AAD: "Did dings no good, dude dead." I: "What exactly do you think he did that led to his death?" AAD: "Dude dog walk little did die." I: "Are you saying he should have taken his dog for walks to get some exercise?" AAD: "Dude do dead did dog doo doo done..."
Here it is. Step right up bods and girls. You'll never seen this kind of thing again. It's the most style with the least substance you will ever experience! There were several directions this could have gone that could have led to a compelling film. It could have been about Freddie's wanderings, PTSD, and attempts at being "normal." Ir could have been about the how the cult leader was a reflection of the times (through a fun house mirror, obviously). It could have been about cult dynamics. And on and on...
Instead, it seemed like the film-maker was toying with the audience. The best "spin" I could put on this film is that it was an attempt to give the audience a sense of the times in a non-traditional way, though I don't think it did an especially good job at this endeavor in any case. For a short time, I thought this might be similar to "The Thin Red Line," which I enjoyed and consider an excellent film. By contrast, "The Master" was a "jack of all trades," which didn't make for a particularly noteworthy cinematic experience.
This movie confirms Tarantino's brilliance, and it's dreadful.
I'll get to the heart of the matter. "Reservoir Dogs" was spot on. It was a realistic (in terms of the outcome) yet highly stylized gangster film. It said to the viewer, "I know you are expecting X, Y, and Z, but isn't it time you 'grew up' already? Do you want to see the same movie over and over again?" 'Bad guys' do bad things and usually self-destruct in one way or another at a young age. We saw that no matter how hard one might try, you cannot polish a turd, as they say.
Despite the cute dialogue, these guys are bad, do bad things, and the results are bad. If that heist would have 'succeeded,' they just would have gotten themselves killed or jailed some other way. it was a 'wake up call,' an inversion, or perhaps the best way to think of it is that it wasn't what it seemed to be. It was just a bunch of 'simulacra' thrown together to resemble a feature-length film. It succeeded brilliantly, but Tarantino had nowhere to go after that, other than to stylize and fabricate as much as possible, creating ludicrous, absurd movies that had no point. If you saw one you didn't need to see another.
"Django Unchained" is more of a postscript. It's not as ridiculous or as historically inaccurate as it could have been, but even it if had been, what would it have mattered? He's been there and done that, and apparently can't figure out what to do now other than to repeat the past. He is in the "Woody Allen Zone" at this point (just substitute the "white," rich, self-absorbed complainers for retro and homicidal, yet more "diverse" and colorful characters in Tarantino's last several films), in my opinion, meaning that he's "mailing it in" for the money. The movie is too long and very quickly the viewer can predict the kinds of things that will transpire. I don't play violent video games (or any video games at all), but after watching this I was thinking that it would be much more interesting in every way to just do that; after perhaps twenty minutes (or less) I'd get my fill of this sort of thing and could use the other two hours and change to do something "productive."
The following is my highly speculative, "inside the mind" history (or is it an anti-history) of Tarantino's "MO:" After "Reservoir Dogs," he had one last idea, essentially the end of the "Hollywood Blockbuster" disguised as a Hollywood Blockbuster (an anti-Hollywood Blockbuster?). It would be a highly stylized, very violent move that would appear to have several compelling "back stories." The reality is that it had none, and once the viewer figures this out, he or she should tell himself/herself that there is no reason to watch such films any longer, other than as some sort of "cheap chill," basically "violence porn." That blockbuster, of course, was "Pulp Fiction."
The title "gave away" the director's thoughts: "stop watching my films if you are an intelligent, empathetic person." Of course you may have watched one or two more because you couldn't be sure, but at this point his movies are some sort of "post-modern," anti-film, non-story. Watch them, expecting something different, and as they say, the joke is on you. Instead, I suggest you consider taking a course on the history of film, film criticism, or something along those lines. Seeing "Django" is like being the "best" guest at a "dinner for schmucks." So, I guess the most interesting question now is, what do we make of a reviewer who realizes what is occurring yet still feels compelled to watch these anti-films in order to tell others not to be the butt of a joke? Is this an anti-review? A "pulp" review?
More of a social commentary/absurdist comedy than anything else.
I saw this back in the mid 90s and at the time I remember thinking that it achieved its goal for me, if that goal was to make a person not want to see ultra-violent films any more. Watching it now, 17 or 18 years later, I find it difficult to take seriously. It does seem like everyone involved was in a drug-induced mental fog when it was filmed. And now it also seems like prediction of what the USA would be like if the vast majority of the nation had gone "Tea Party" long before the right wing billionaires decided to ally themselves with the "Mickey and Mallory" types. So today, it works for me, now and then, as a comedy, but with some sort of a social commentary edge. However, quite a bit of the time it's not easy to watch because so much of it is simply ridiculous.
And then there was the recent Newtown massacre of the innocents, along with all the other homicidal rampages of recent years, which forces the viewer to either turn off NBKs or think of it as the equivalent of pointing fingers of blame at the audience, saying to them, "by watching these kinds of movies (the non-absurd ones especially) you too are to blame, just as the parents of children who go on these rampages are if they give them easy access to assault rifles. On the other hand, people in nations with very low murder rates watch the same films. I'm not sure if I should give this a 7 out of 10, but I did because it is inventive and does have its moments. If it was meant to make Americans reexamine how they view murderers and guns, it clearly failed, except for a few (like myself). To be sure, I still find subjects like psychopathy interesting academically, but not entertaining. Moreover, I also found it more difficult to "suspend disbelief" after watching NBKs, so for example, films like "The Bourne Identity" were not as entertaining as they used to be for me. Perhaps your reaction to NBKs will say more about where you are in life when you watch it than anything else. For those who think about the movies they see, even just a bit, this one compels you to ask questions you may not have considered or that you have tried to avoid !
Potential for greatness ruined by the "auteur" mindset?
That's mostly how I view this film. First off, it's too long, meaning it didn't need to be this long. There have been many interpretations of the symbolism and inconsistencies in the film but the major problem for me is the psychic ability element. All three family members see ghosts, so why is there a need for psychic ability? How does that contribute anything, other than to be make us have to suspend more disbelief that is required? Thus, there is clearly a "lack of economy"' here.
This is exacerbated by being told that another family had been in a similar position in the recent past and was murdered by the father/husband. Again, why is this important? It could be, if we are to think that ghosts were responsible, but then are we supposed to believe that one member of that family had psychic ability too? Instead, psychic ability should have been omitted entirely from the film, and then hearing about the previous caretaker family would "play better," because we can believe, in the context of a film at least, that ghosts were responsible.
Or, we could have the child's psychic ability being the portal to the ghost world at the hotel (with no need for Hallorann's psychic ability, which just makes things less believable). Then we should not be told of a previous caretaker who killed his family. Instead, this film possessed a bit of a "let's throw it all at the wall and see what sticks" quality to it, which is it's major flaw, IMO. Towards the end, one is thinking, are extraterrestrial aliens going to make an appearance soon? How about "bigfoot?" I'll bet he's a little jealous by now!
What does this film do very well? The repeating maze theme is excellent, compelling the viewer to ask what the point of it is. The ghost theme works, and in fact is two ghost stories rather than one. The "whites" of the early 1920s are trapped in a kind of purgatory, where they essentially dance on the graves of native Americans. They still have their racist (and other nasty) attitudes, and are stuck in that maze of evil until they are presumably finally relegated to Hell, where they belong.
In the meantime, people like Jack are sucked into their world, perhaps aided by alcoholism in his case. For me it was a case of deincarnation (my term, AFAIK), and his frozen body shows what happens to those who allow others to tell them how to think; they no longer grow and get stuck in past notions that have been rejected by history, so to speak. So, there is a bit of clutter in the middle of this film that could (and should IMO) have been omitted, but overall it was an excellent idea for a "ghost story," with appropriate symbolism (for the most part), cinematography, etc.
Does it take a Village to tell the Handmaid's Tale?
Major spoilers ahead so I suggest you watch this film before reading more than the next sentence. This movie is for those who like thought-provoking movies with clear social commentary. It is not a typical horror movie but rather is focused on the "minor" horror that many children endure (mostly from parents abusing them in various ways). I can identify with the narrator's perspective, actually (though I'm male), because I felt like it would have been great if I could have lived with a more "cultured" family in my early teen years. The film is odd, though, in that horror movie gimmicks are used for the first half, and the only reason that I can think of is that they wanted to fool the viewer. Why is that important? Because of this, perhaps, we don't learn enough about the Julia Denning character's background, which would have helped us understand why she became a "fanatic."
The horror movie gimmicks don't work well here, but they do create a rather unique presentation. By the end of the film we get more of a fairy tale treatment, with an unrealistic situation being crucial (for instance, the huge number of mines under the house, allowing the "Tall Man" a way to get in and out of town easily, without being detected). The other major issue is that the Julia Denning character would know that you can't save every child from "abuse" or a deprived childhood. She could do more good by not getting herself a life sentence, and she'd be smart enough to know that, it seems. But then again, we don't know enough about her! This is at least somewhat frustrating, and for me is one of two significant flaws in this film. Is she feeling desperate for some reason? Later, we hear her say that the system doesn't work, but plenty of people feel that way and they don't do what she did. Something more must be at work in her mind, and the audience should learn about whatever that is at some point.
There is also political commentary here, though subtle. It is obvious to those with a modicum of political savvy, for example, who is likely to vote Republican and who's going to vote for Democrats (with few exceptions) in the town in which the movie is set. Why couldn't that have been more of a focus (that is, how our politics are more "cultural" than anything else now)? As it stands, "The Tall Man" has elements of typical horror, along with oddball kinds of elements from films like "The Village" and "The Handmaid's Tale." Also, this could have been set in a near future USA, where "Tea Party" types have taken over and have decimated social services, leading to a lot more cases of child and spouse abuse. That would be more interesting (to me) and would allow the director to use some typical horror movie "tricks" in a more effective way. I can understand that such an approach would irritate some viewers (or potential viewers) but as it stands this movie isn't nearly as good as it could have been, though it's certainly better than just about everything else I've seen recently.
I wrote up a long review but it's too long for IMDb guidelines, though after reading some of the other reviews I see that just about everything I wrote is covered, so I'll instead try to write up a summation of the major problems with this film.
1. The humans act in ways that are just not believable, unless the mission was organized intentionally to include stupid, uncaring, nasty people (depending upon which one) that any unbiased member of the audience will not be able to empathize with. Perhaps the worst example of this, though I'm not even sure, is at the end when an archaeologist tells the captain to crash his ship into an alien ship, which will mean he would die. I would have told the archaeologist, who previously had answered a scientific question with the response, "because I want to believe" (or something like that), while clutching the Christian crucifix pendant she was wearing, that I thought she might be delusional. Sorry Mrs. Fox Mulder, your beliefs do not warrant doing something like that (and how does Christianity view suicide?)!
2. The "science" is either ridiculous or it's not clear what the audience is being asked to believe. Other than things already pointed out (that I've read) how is the Shaw character supposed to not die from internal bleeding after a major operation was performed on her abdomen/uterus and she is kicked hard right where the incision was made, flung through the air, lasting hard on the ground, and must've dealt with a massive shock wave from a huge spaceship crashing right next to her?
3. Generally, everything was poorly done except for the special effects. The worst is a muddled plot with apparent allusions to Christianity that is so internally inconsistent as to make one wonder if each paragraph was written by a different writer who didn't have any idea what the person before him or her wrote. Moreover, this film can't even manage to be concise. For example, did the Vickers character add anything, or was she just a minor distraction?
4. Presumably, the audience is supposed to ponder "big questions" while watching this film, or soon thereafter, but the film presents an absurd context for these questions. I read a reviewer over at Rotten Tomatoes say that "Prometheus" makes you consider the possibility that a violent, destructive force created humankind. Perhaps this reviewer should read the Old Testament, in particular the commands to kill everyone in certain towns, leaving no stone unturned. At least that has context. Can someone please teach our youth basic history (not that I'm claiming that the Bible must be taken literally, but rather than such acts were viewed as acceptable by at least many people of the time if told that a supreme being demands it)?
Actually, this film could have been salvaged somewhat if there had been some basic editing done and if the Holloway character would not have been killed off, at least until the very end, so that he could have answered Shaw's "deep" question by pointing out to her that her Christianity is too focused on the "nice" aspects of the New Testament, and that she should have taken the Pentateuch more seriously. I would expect a student in his or her first year of film school to do a better job, again, except for the special effects. I was amazed at how awful it was; it gave me the impression that this was a "mail it in" type effort, for whatever reason.
This Emperor has an obvious "wardrobe malfunction."
So many have told us this is a great movie, if not one of the greatest. Why? At the beginning, we are introduced to a man, Travis Bickle. who is behaving in a kind of infantile way. We have no idea why. Is he new to the city? All we really ever learn is that he was in the Marines, honorably discharged, and he thinks New York City is filthy, disgusting, etc. Why? The cinematography actually makes the city look vibrant and dynamic. I was there, at the time, though not quite an adult yet, and never got the sense that it was a filthy, disgusting place, despite my parents' somewhat paranoid attitudes. Granted, I did not travel all over Manhattan, as a taxi driver might, but that just compels the viewer to ask why he is in New York in the first place, let alone driving a taxi there!
When Iris talks about going to a commune in Vermont, he says that it's not the kind of place for him. What is? Yes, we understand he is "disturbed," but we are given no clue as to why, which creates a frustrating quality to this film. We get quite a bit of cozy music (which sometimes goes "dark") with the wonderful cinematography, and in general the city appears quite interesting, and not especially dangerous. Why weren't there several scenes of violent crime? Was prostitution only occurring in Manhattan at that time? There is a kind of self-contradictory quality to this film that irritates, and there is not even an attempt to resolve it. A glaring example of this is the long scene with Iris and her pimp; what are we meant to infer from it? It almost seems like Scorsese wants us to think that the "bad" New Yorkers aren't really that bad. If so, it contradicts the apparent point of the film. If not, why was it not cut out of the film?
We do see some characters that represent the more "positive" side of New York, including the politician, Charles Palantine, and one of his campaign workers, Betsy. Does New York appear to them the way it does to Travis? For the most part, if they are concerned with someone who might do them harm, it is Travis, not the people he regards as "scum." This is where the movie could have gone, and it would have been consistent with society, especially the "white flight" of that era. We would see that less educated, more "ethnic," "white" people had become nearly paranoid with stories about fictions, such as the "black snipers of Newark," for example. We could then see the politician character fanning the flames of such fear, perhaps prompting Travis to do something violent. We could get flashbacks and find out that Travis sees Palantine as a surrogate father. Those kinds of scenes could provide some grounding (social and psychological) to this film. It would be a shocking twist for us to think that Palantine is taking Travis under his wing, only to find out that he is trying to use Travis to further his political ambitions, and at that point, with the cozy music turning "dark," an actual drama might just arise !
I like the idea of the world as seen through the eyes of a troubled man, so I don't object to this approach, but the audience needs some idea of why that person is the way he is (and you can't put in scenes that don't include that character, such as the one with Iris and her pimp). As it stands, this is a confused film. It's like the cinematographer went ahead and made his film while the director was making a contrary one. The soundtrack seems like an attempt to bring the two together, but it doesn't work because we haven't been shown enough contrast between "good" and "bad" New York, and too much is seen from the perspective of a character who seems seriously disturbed and clearly paranoid, for some unknown reason. And astute viewer might assume that it may be about racial strife, if we consider the recent history, circa the mid 1970s. Perhaps Scorsese just took that for granted, but there are ways of making your ideas known with subtlety, and Scorsese was unwilling or unable to do that here, for whatever reason. I think of an unfinished Old Master portrait when I think of this film, only with the background finished rather than the head !
Verbose, ornate, scattered, and unappealing, but otherwise...
It seems as though the idea was to cram as much into this film as possible, with predictable results. For example, was there a need to appeal to people who like "Mission Impossible" type movies? And mysteries that go back to Sherlock Holmes, if not beyond that? And Lara Croft kinds of things? Are you into S&M? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Did you enjoy "The Boys From Brazil?" What about Abby from "NCIS?" You like her, right? She's in here too !
Because of this muddle (though it's quite stylish), it's hard to feel much for the characters - it's just not realistic to have all these elements come together at one moment in time. I would have liked some backstory on Lisbeth, and I would have given up the murder mystery, the social worker who was a despicable torturing rapist, and a few other things, to get it. Then there are all the sex scenes, because I guess the "soft core" crowd needed to get their "beaks wet" too, right? And then there is all the talking. It's almost like the director wanted the audience to begin to nod off before the next "exciting" thing happened, so that they wouldn't realize what a ludicrous concoction this is !
The sad thing is that it appeared that everything was available to make an excellent film here. Why not focus on the Lisbeth character? Oh, then the "masses" wouldn't be satisfied because it wouldn't be a "Hollywood Blockbuster" film, right? Are you sure? I think times might be changing, and if so, this might be regarded as a kind of cinematic dinosaur in the near future ! I often find myself hoping that reviewers would explain what he/she would have done differently if that person doesn't like the film.
So, here is my idea: I'll take the basic idea, though make the "bigger story" one of simple government corruption, not an elaborate murder mystery. Lisbeth can keep her motorcycle, tattoos, nose rings, etc., but she is not a computer genius. You'll see flashbacks of how she was abused during her childhood. Though she is living as a lesbian, she finds herself drawn to Blomkyist, and there is at least some sexual component to it. There is obvious tension about this, and that is the major thought-provoking aspect to the film. That is, she finds a man (I'd cast someone a bit younger) who is the opposite of what she is used to, and she reconsiders her sexuality. I would have created an ambiguous ending, but in the DVD age, I'd also create a few others and let viewers make what they wish of them.
Note: I did see the original too, and perhaps because it felt more "foreign," the believability issue seemed less noticeable, but I also thought that it needed to be "slimmed" down and given more focus. This screams out for mini-series treatment, but I guess there's a lot less money involve in that kind of project.
It begins as a low-end travel agency commercial, with irritating jazzy music (that's out of place, in my experience). Then we see Owen Wilson as the latest Woody "stand in." And then we are exposed to the usual self-absorbed individuals (in Allen films) who think they are special. Aren't these the kinds of people you don't want to spend any time with if you can avoid doing so? If not, perhaps this movie is for you! It's almost like Woody doesn't understand that society is not exactly the same as it was (for him if nobody else) in the 60s or 70s. In the age of the mortgage crisis and the destruction of the American middle class, this movie is a proverbial rubbing of salt in the wounds of the injured ! We soon learn that a screenwriter wants to give up his career because he has visions of being a "starving artist" in Paris. Why? If you are going to present this idea at a time like now, you need to supply some back story. I'm wondering what's going on in Woody's mind. Does he enjoy spending his time with such obnoxious individuals (that is, just about everyone in this film), or is he trying to torture those who still go to see his films? A major problem is the sympathy factor, which is that if you present us with a bunch of obnoxious people, why should we care what happens to them? And why should we continue to watch the film? After the first fifteen minutes, it became like bad background music to me.
But then we are transported back to the "roaring twenties." So now we have a "time machine" thing going on, somewhat reminiscent of "The Purple Rose of Cairo." What's interesting is how this undermines the film entirely, because it points to how bound to a particular cultural milieu most of us are (perhaps all of us are but not all of us can admit it). For example, how many of you can imagine Allen at an Occupy Wall Street protest (just one!), or even a Tea Party one? He's still living with childhood notions he was exposed to in the 40s and 50s, and his young adult musings and disappointments of the 60s and 70s, apparently. Overall, this movie reminded me most of the Carousel of Progress attraction at Disney World (last time I was there was in the early 1980s), and not a serious film.
If you can't bring yourself to say it, I will say it for you; I am done with Allen. And I am willing to admit that when I was younger I looked down upon friends who weren't interested in his movies. The neurotic "every man" (who also doesn't seem to exist in my experience) is of no interest, other than psychologically. To some degree, I found this film depressing, like going to a gallery opening and realizing that the work of the artist being displayed demonstrates that he is clearly past his prime, and that he is searching, unsuccessfully, to try to be "new" and "fresh." Allen seems to lack cinematic empathy; everyone is seen through the eyes of the main character, who may deserve the "problems" he faces, for all we know. Ask yourself, what if Woody had lost all his money in a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme in 2008? Would he have made this film (assuming he could get funding) a year or two later? I really wonder if he can't address socio-economic issues (beyond having one of his obnoxious characters make an obnoxious remark about them) because he thinks he is far superior to the "little people" of the world.
And what is the "underlying message" here? That one should live in one's own time? Does one have a choice? If you are a multi-millionaire like Allen perhaps you do! The rest of us have plenty of "reality" to deal with that is of this time. But putting that aside, Allen seems to have been trying to be "cute," allowing a person of today who is captivated by a Parisian "golden age" to meet the famous people of that age in person via a time travel conceit. This might have worked, at least to some degree, if the Wilson character had some of his illusions shattered by meeting these "greats" in person. Instead, the interactions are very soft and uninteresting. This film has the appearance of being made by someone who was able to do whatever he wanted, and was not willing to accept any criticism (and certainly had no interest in seeking any). Nice "work" if you can get it !
But let me end this with a critique that is "universal." As I mentioned above, I want to know the main characters' back story when I see a film. Otherwise, for all we know, the Wilson character is basically immature and not ready for a relationship. Allen doesn't seem to know how to do back story, from what I've seen, but he certainly must understand the concept. If you want people to think of you as a "professional," if not a "great," then you should work on your weaknesses, but he has not, despite the huge number of films he has made. Because of this, he basically creates films that are variations on a theme, and all with the same glaring flaws. I wonder if he thinks he is doing "something important" or if he is "just going through the motions" to make money. The flaws are not an issue in a fast-paced, silly/absurd comedy like "Love and Death," nor in "Annie Hall," which contained plenty of good comedy (of different kinds), and had a compelling main character who was rather simple, though genuine, namely Annie (whose family we got to see), and therefore requires less of a back story. She was the best "every man" in any Allen film, though he keeps wanting his audiences to view him that way.