Annie Hall 2.0

 

-Anything Else bears an uncanny resemblance to Annie Hall, a point made in almost every contemporary review. Both movies are about a Jewish comedian’s relationship with a flakey wannabe-singer. The two films also share many smaller details — both tell their story out of chronological order, both end with a break-up, and both have a protagonist who talks directly to the camera. [2]

 

-I guess what I’m inelegantly trying to express is that my feelings on Anything Else’s central romance are mixed. Aspects of Falk and his relationship with Amanda ring true in a profound, darkly funny way, but other aspects are horrifically misguided. Somewhere, lurking deep in the bowels of Anything Else is a deep, true story waiting to be extracted — a story that probably looks even more like Annie Hall than Anything Else already does. [2]

 

-Michael Wilmington for the Chicago Tribune wrote, "Has some of the wit, sass and sexual candor of an "Annie Hall." But it covers the same kind of territory with more bite and bile."

-Runtime: 108 minutes

-Released on September 19, 2003

-Production Company: DreamWorks SKG (presents), Gravier Productions (in association with), Canal+, Granada Film Productions

Perdido Productions

-Distributor: DreamWorks SKG

-Rated R

-Budget: $18 million [1]

-Gross: $3.2 million [1]

-Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1

"Anything Else" Screening Companion

-This is loosely based on Woody Allen's experiences of being a young comedy writer, he married young, and met an older man who taught him a lot about life, comedy, philosophy, and was institutionalized. [1]

 

-Woody Allen started his career in show business as a teenager. He would send jokes in to the popular newspaper columnists of the day-men like Earl Wilson and Walter Winchell-who would print the jokes they liked and attribute them to Woody. He did not inform these big Broadway columnists, of course, that he was a student at Midwood High School in Brooklyn-that might kill the big Broadway sheen they liked their columns to have. One day, someone from a big PR firm asked Wilson, "Who is Woody Allen?" Wilson didn't know-the stuff came in through the mail. "Some guy in Brooklyn," he said. [4]

 

-The PR people located Woody and hired him to write jokes for them. When he showed up at their office on Madison Avenue, they saw right away that he was just a kid-he was 16 at the time--but they didn't care; the jokes weren't going to be attributed to him anymore. No, for $40 a week, every day after Midwood High let out in the afternoon, Woody would come in from Brooklyn on the subway, and until it was time to go home for supper, he would sit at a typewriter and write jokes. [4]

 

-Very soon, Woody had one of the top jobs in TV, writing for Sid Caesar. But that was just a training period for him. He would go on to conquer nightclubs with his stand-up routine (if you've never heard the moose routine, you have not known true bliss), Broadway, and, of course, the movies. [4]

 

-In a 2008 interview, Woody Allen was asked which of his films best tells us the most about his philosophy of life, gives us the most sense of his worldview-his fears, his optimisms, his anxieties, he replied, "Well, to date-if it's just that-I would probably say Anything Else. Yeah. You'd get it in a more abstract way in Purple Rose because clearly I do believe that reality is dreadful and that you are forced to choose it in the end or go crazy, but that it kills you. So that film does sum up a great feeling that I have about life-I mean a large feeling that I have about it. But in terms of just me personally as a kind of wretched little complaining vantz, I think you would see that in Anything Else. There's a lot of me in there. Well, it is me. I'm not saying that Anything Else is my best film, although, I didn't think it was a bad film at all- I think that one is better than many films of mine that were more successful. I won't say that it's never the case, but very often there's no correlation between the quality of one's work artistically and its commercial success. Everybody knows that." [4]

Trivia

 

-Anything Else was originally intended as Allen’s first novel. He worked on it for many years before showing it to Roger Angell — a New Yorker editor who had edited Allen’s short stories in the past — and a few other friends of his who told him (politely, I’m sure) that while it was certainly good enough, it was not something that was going to light the literary world on fire. Allen, having more respect for the world of literature than the world of film, decided that if he was going to make something mediocre, he’d rather have it be a movie. [2]

 

-Woody hired the Iranian-born cinematographer Darius Khondji for Anything Else. He has worked with such well-known directors as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, David Fincher,Bernardo Bertolucci, Alan Parker, Roman Polanski, Sydney Pollack, Wong Kar-wai and Michael Haneke. Cahiers du cinéma published an interviews with the cinematographer, where he demonstrated an affinity for Cinemascope. He remarked in an interview, "I think it's the most beautiful format to frame. One can become absorbed in the faces when they're framed in 'Scope." This is probably why Anything Else was shot in Scope format. Darius has since worked on two European-shot films with Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris in 2011 and To Rome with Love in 2012. He is currently shooting Woody's next film set to be released in 2014. [3]

 

-Editor Alisa Lepselter, once again worked with Woody on Anything Else and every film he's made since. [1]

-This is only Woody Allen's second film to use the anamorphic widescreen process (scope 2:35:1) (the first being Manhattan). [1]

 

-It also has the honor of being the first film released with all prints having cyan dye optical soundtracks (the new standard for analog sound on film prints). [3]

 

-When Woody Allen cast Jason Biggs, he was under the impression that Biggs was Jewish. During filming, Allen began talking to Biggs about the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Biggs did not know what to say and told Allen that he was in fact a Catholic. Allen said at the Venice Film Festival, "I saw him in that pie movie (American Pie) and I thought he was a Jew." [1]

 

-Opened the 60th Venice Film Festival. Woody Allen made one of his rare public appearances at the opening gala. [1]

 

-Jason Biggs filmed this during the day, and then performed opposite Kathleen Turner in the revival of "The Graduate" on Broadway in the evenings. [1]

 

-Despite the presence of two popular young stars and a 1,035 screen opening, Anything Else was Allen’s lowest-grossing film since Shadows and Fog (1991). [2]

"Anything Goes" - Another Viewpoint (Spoilers)

 

-...There may, in fact, be something else going on under that lame, disorganized comedy. Namely, a (work with me here) time travel comedy, wherein Woody Allen plays the older version of himself (Jason Biggs), who comes back in time to save his younger self from following his own life’s path. Now, suddenly, the ending, which doesn’t work on any level as is, starts to take on a whole new comic dimension. (In the movie, Woody tells Jason to join him on a new job in LA, then panics at the last minute and says that he can’t go because, of all things, he’s shot a police officer and is on the lam. It makes a whole lot more sense, and is funnier, if, for some reason, Woody’s time machine is failing and he ducks out on Jason in order to get back to his own time. Christ, the movie almost becomes Back to the Future.) (It would also make sense that Jason Bigg’s character is actually from the 1950s, which would explain his love of torchy jazz and his anachronistic attitudes about present-day NYC.) (Jesus, now that I think about it, maybe there was a third part of the movie, all about Jason’s life in the 1950s, which he escaped in order to get to what is now our present. Then his future self comes back to rescue him from the 2000s. Now that would have been some kick-ass movie!) [7]

Critical Reception

 

-Of all Woody Allen’s movies, few are more reviled than Anything Else. There are a lot of reasons to hate this movie, but it’s one that I’ve always been willing to bend over backwards trying to defend. I may not be able to convincingly call it a ‘good’ film, but it’s definitely an interesting one, which, after the comatose Hollywood Ending, makes it at least good enough for now. [2]

 

-Quentin Tarantino, who is a surprisingly huge Woody Allen fan, named Anything Else as one of his top-20 favorite movies since 1992 alongside more expected fare like Battle Royale and The Host. [2]

 

-Peter Rainer for New York Magazine wrote: "David (Allen) is the sort of obsessive crank who would not appear out of place in a Saul Bellow novel, and if Allen had centered his movie on him instead of trying to make a faux youth picture, he might have really had something. Instead, there is an air of resignation hanging over most of this movie, and it seems to pertain far more to Woody Allen’s current predicament than to anything his characters are going through."

 

-Mick LaSalle for San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Woody Allen tries to pass the romantic torch to a new generation of young actors in "Anything Else." He takes Jason Biggs ("American Pie") and Christina Ricci, both in their 20s, and stars them in the sort of relationship comedy that he might have written for himself years ago. But this seemingly good idea results in disaster. Allen has no insight into the current generation of young people, and his film is just a jumbled rehash of themes and motifs that he's explored elsewhere. It has taken Allen over 30 years, but he has finally made a movie that's almost unwatchable. It seems a contradiction to say it: Allen has nothing to say in "Anything Else," and he's said it all before. That is, the elements are familiar, but they're joined together here in the service of a film that's ultimately pointless."

 

-Total Film wrote, "Yes, the laughs are more sporadic than in the past and Allen's endless one-liners about the futility of life have become predictable. But Anything Else still confirms one of cinema's enduring truths: even a half-formed Woody Allen movie still beats most studio-generated rom-coms." [6]

 

-Peter Travers for Rolling Stone wrote, "Because Allen hasn't lost his knack for slapstick with a sting, Anything Else hits its mark more often than not. It's good to see Biggs out of the American Pie basement. His take on the young Woody is a comfortable fit, as opposed to the squirming embarrassment of Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity. And Ricci, looking gorgeous, is a major asset as Amanda, the wanna-be actress who makes Jerry's life hell."

 

-On the other end of the spectrum, Leonard Maltin, arguably the second-most-famous film critic in the world, gave this movie a “BOMB” rating (his equivalent of zero stars). [2]

 

-Anything Else is a fart (not farce), one that starts innocuously with Woody telling a couple of decent stories about comic legends of yore (shades of Broadway Danny Rose’s framing device) before it expands into a noxious cloud that snuffs out all life it touches, monster movie–style; at the very least, it kills my will to keep slogging through to the end of its 109 minutes. Though the film’s main problems stem from casting gone awry, it’s too easy to just stop there. Staking a film on the philosophical position, “It’s like anything else,” a mantra repeated at the picture’s open and close, is a bunt at best, and a far intellectual cry from “whatever works” (seemingly tossed off, but rather fundamental to Allen’s career and worldview). It suggests a film that got churned out on the down and dirty, with all parties in on the take. [5]

 

-It’s often the case that when Woody fails his material, one of his performers will step up to the plate and eke out a small, redemptive victory. I’m thinking here of Colin Farrell in Cassandra’s Dream, Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity, Patricia Clarkson in Whatever Works, Michael Rappaport in Mighty Aphrodite. Here, the unlikely hero worth rooting for is played by Allen himself. The sight of his loony nutcase David Dobel awkwardly smashing the windows of a car that stole his parking space is funny stuff indeed—it’s perhaps the only time in Allen’s entire filmography that he’s allowed himself full release from paralyzing neuroses on camera (his potty-mouthed scribe Harry Block from Deconstructing Harry only got off verbally), and it’s a cathartic victory for nerds and little guys everywhere. It’s sad that Dobel, a simultaneously wise mentor figure and completely unstable gun-obsessed paranoiac, one of Allen’s best creations, slums it in a movie completely devoid of the rich characters his successful films were overstocked with (how many terrific performances circulate in Hannah and Her Sisters? Five? Six?). But it’s a sharp reminder that great filmmakers even in their most dire, least creative moments almost never abandon their good instincts entirely. [5]

 

-It seems that few would call Woody Allen a stylistic innovator, but they might actually be wrong. He may borrow readily, but when these appropriations are filtered through his unique perspective and set of talents, they almost always come out Allen. Unfortunately, there’s no style, no wit, no risk, no playfulness, and barely a soupçon’s-worth of insight on display in Anything Else. In my relationship with Woody Allen, familiarity often breeds content. How else to explain my fondness for the hokey, obvious Tinseltown satire Hollywood Ending? Anything Else couldn’t have been made by anyone but Allen—the concerns of the dialogue, the milieu, the occasional joke that lands are clear expression of his voice. Yet I can’t stand it, and I can’t dismiss my wish that it had been made by someone else. It shows how thin the divide between a good Woody Allen movie and a bad Woody Allen movie can be, but, on the bright side, reminds just how consistently he steers onto the right side of the line. [5]

 

-40% Rotten Tomato rating

 

-43 out of 100 Metacritic score

[1] - imdb.com

[2] - www.everywoodyallenmovie.com

[3] - Wikipedia

[4] - Interview Magazine - http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/woody-allen-/

[5] - http://www.reverseshot.com/article/anything_else

[6] - http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/anything-else

[7] - http://www.toddalcott.com/anything-else-revisted-incredibly.html