Tag Archives: Alan Alda

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Woody Allen)

Crimes and Misdemeanors is not a particularly nice film. It juxtaposes two men in crisis–Martin Landau’s successful ophthalmologist has a girlfriend (Angelica Huston) who is threatening to tell his wife and Woody Allen’s failing filmmaker is crushing on the producer (Mia Farrow) of the his project. Allen’s only on the project, a biography of his brother-in-law (Alan Alda), because his wife insisted.

Landau’s part of the film deals with deception, guilt, regret and greed. There’s a lot about faith and rejecting religion and how family ties strengthen and slacken over time. Landau is stunning in Crimes, because he’s not likable, but he’s always sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Allen’s always likable. His first scene is opposite his niece (Jenny Nichols) and he truly cares for the kid. His scenes with her, and his sister (Caroline Aaron), are touching.

His part of the film is a light romantic comedy, if one forgets he’s married (though his wife, played by Joanna Gleason, is hideously evil). Allen and Farrow are good together; Alda’s hilarious as an obnoxious television producer.

Landau gets the majority of the run time, but around the final third is mostly Allen’s. Until the last fifteen minutes, where things come together and Allen tells the morale of the story.

He’s being intentionally mean to his characters and not worrying about the audience recognizing it. Allen’s never confrontational about it, however. The ending quietly shows the extent of the meanness.

Crimes is an excellent, thoughtful picture. Allen’s direction is utterly sublime.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Sven Nykvist; edited by Susan E. Morse; production designer, Santo Loquasto; produced by Robert Greenhut; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Martin Landau (Judah Rosenthal), Woody Allen (Cliff Stern), Mia Farrow (Halley Reed), Anjelica Huston (Dolores Paley), Alan Alda (Lester), Jerry Orbach (Jack Rosenthal), Joanna Gleason (Wendy Stern), Claire Bloom (Miriam Rosenthal), Sam Waterston (Ben), Caroline Aaron (Barbara) and Stephanie Roth (Sharon Rosenthal).


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A New Life (1988, Alan Alda)

Alda opens A New Life likes it’s going to juxtapose he and Ann-Margret’s lives immediately follow their divorce. For a while, it does. Alda’s got Hal Linden as a sidekick, Ann-Margret’s got Mary Kay Place. It’s all very even. She’s going back to school, he’s trying to figure out how to date. The beginning might even emphasize Ann-Margret more, as Alda’s attempts at dating are more for comic effect… but it quickly changes.

Once Ann-Margret gets established with John Shea, her portion of the film becomes a lot less even. Sure, Alda’s just introduced Veronica Hamel as his love interest, but their relationship comes to dominate the running time.

The problem—besides it being somewhat unfair—is Alda’s spending the wrong amount of time on each story. His character’s arc needs its own movie and if it doesn’t have its own movie, it needs less. Ann-Margret’s arc would have been perfectly fine with her as the primary protagonist.

I mean, Linden even gets second billing, which makes absolutely no sense if one’s looking at A New Life conceptually.

The acting is good. Shea has one of the film’s more difficult roles, which he seems to realize but no one else does, which leads to some problematic scenes, but he’s still good. Alda and Hamel are excellent. Linden’s hilarious, almost unbelievably so. Ann-Margret does well in the role as scripted, but she and it could have been a lot better.

Still, it’s a genial diversion.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Alan Alda; director of photography, Kelvin Pike; edited by William Reynolds; music by Michael Jay and Joseph Turrin; production designer, Barbara Dunphy; produced by Martin Bregman; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Alan Alda (Steve Giardino), Hal Linden (Mel Arons), Ann-Margret (Jackie Giardino), Veronica Hamel (Kay Hutton), John Shea (Doc), Mary Kay Place (Donna), Beatrice Alda (Judy), David Eisner (Billy) and Victoria Snow (Audrey).


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The Four Seasons (1981, Alan Alda)

I didn’t read anything about The Four Seasons before watching it–I didn’t even know it was Carol Burnett in a dramatic role (she’s fantastic)–and if I had, maybe I would have had some idea where Alda was taking the film. Because he doesn’t take it where I was expecting, not from the narrative’s apparent intentions.

The film’s broken up over four parts–vacations or getaways, one per season–something else I wasn’t aware of (the title actually just made me wonder if there were four couples)–and the last one has some real problems. The most significant of its problems–besides Rita Moreno’s character’s unexpected and out-of-character silence–is Alda’s refusal to follow-up on the previous season’s events and revelations. At one point, it even comes up in dialogue… only for everyone to dismiss the idea.

It makes the film, full of heavy dramatic potential, into something warm and fuzzy. Affable. It’s unfortunate.

It’s still good, just not as fantastic as it could have been.

Alda’s direction is excellent. He does quiet still shots very well, but then he’ll bring in these frantically edited little dialogue sequences (a soccer game, skiing) set to Vivaldi and it’s clear he knows how to direct movement too.

The cast is great–besides Alda (who only falters in the third act) and Burnett, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston and Bess Armstrong really stand out. It’s a shock Armstrong’s career was so short-lived, based on this one.

A fine picture.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Alan Alda; director of photography, Victor J. Kemper; edited by Michael Economou; production designer, Jack T. Collis; produced by Martin Bregman; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Alan Alda (Jack Burroughs), Carol Burnett (Kate Burroughs), Len Cariou (Nick Callan), Sandy Dennis (Anne Callan), Rita Moreno (Claudia Zimmer), Jack Weston (Danny Zimmer) and Bess Armstrong (Ginny Newley).


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Resurrecting the Champ (2007, Rod Lurie)

The biggest problem with Resurrecting the Champ, besides Rod Lurie, is the Champ himself. Not Sam Jackson, who’s actually the least irritating he’s been since Loaded Weapon or so, but the character and his function in the film. At some point during the late second act, Champ is a decent movie about a guy growing up, realizing he’s got to take responsibility for his actions and realizing it isn’t going to be easy. If anyone can screw up an easy story like that one, it’s Rob Lurie, who demphasizes the finally (after the first ninety minutes) interesting relationship between estranged married couple Josh Hartnett and Kathryn Morris, who have a ludicrous backstory detailed in expository dialogue, but actually develop a rather tender relationship–albeit one centered around disappointment–by the last twenty minutes of the film. It’s a previously uninteresting aspect of the film made interesting, much like Hartnett’s actual journalistic pursuits. The scenes between him and Jackson, with the ominous something in their futures, are mostly okay. Boring, but okay. Jackson is doing an impression of an Oscar-hungry role here, shuffling around, not yelling, maybe not even swearing. The problem with his performance has little to do with the actual performance… he’s not believable as a former boxer. Especially not when there’s that constant, Lurie-friendly use of flashback. Lurie is the most overly melodramatic, goofily sentimental director working today–The Contender, The Last Castle, and now Resurrecting the Champ. He’s insincere, so much so, any viewer can tell.

None of these problems phase Hartnett, however, who turns in an excellent lead performance. Hartnett always shone in ensembles or as the sidekick, but Champ gives him a whole lot to do. The script’s obvious and mediocre, but Harnett’s acting is not. It might help Lurie managed to fill the cast with good actors (except Teri Hatcher, who under-stays her welcome by three seconds… any more and it’d have been intolerable). Except the film never works with it. Alan Alda is good as Hartnett’s boss and there’s some great stuff between them, but it’s hardly in there. Alda being the only one, besides Morris, who can tell Hartnett’s without content. By the end, filled with the lame friendship with Jackson and some convenient inner turmoil over his relationship with his father, Hartnett finally gets some really good scenes, those family scenes. Even if the kid playing he and Morris’s son is bland enough to be in a Mentos commercial.

As a visual director, Lurie actually isn’t terrible. There are some well-composed shots, maybe even thirty percent of them. Still, the film looks too crisp, like poorly lighted DV (did I mention Hatcher was terrible already?), and it’s real impersonal. The characters spend more time outside than they do in; the most effective scene at Hartnett and Morris’s house is in the backyard, when the age difference gets to play well into the story, instead of being vanity casting.

Lurie wrecks the film’s third act. The film’s actually in decent shape and he and the screenwriters go after it with a baseball bat. A lame voiceover (big shock from Lurie) almost undoes Harnett’s performance, but it can’t. It’s a great performance; it’s a shame it’s in such a lame film.

Oh, and the Peter Coyote scenes (Coyote’s in a ton of makeup) are great.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Rod Lurie; screenplay by Michael Bortman and Allison Burnett, from an article by J.R. Moehringer; director of photography, Adam Kane; edited by Sarah Boyd; music by Larry Groupe; production designer, Ken Rempel; produced by Brad Fischer, Marc Frydman, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer and Bob Yari; released by Yari Film Group.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Erik), Samuel L. Jackson (Champ), Kathryn Morris (Joyce), Alan Alda (Metz), David Paymer (Whitley), Rachel Nichols (Polly), Dakota Goyo (Teddy), Teri Hatcher (Flak), Ryan McDonald (Kenny), Harry J. Lennix (Satterfield Jr.) and Peter Coyote (Epstein).


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