Dog Scoop

I have this heap of unwatched Woody Allen films dating back decades — I’ve only seen two films he’s made after DECONSTRUCTING HARRY. Which makes it seem like at some level I believe the accusations against him and lost my desire to look at his work around that time. Which isn’t CONSCIOUSLY true. I don’t believe or disbelieve. What went on in that attic is like the inside of Schroedinger’s maybe-lethal cat-box to me. I can’t know.

But DECONSTRUCTING HARRY, which is quite a strong film, almost feels like a confession, Allen plays such a loathsome character. Around that time, he said that he could play two characters and be accepted by the public, an intellectual (“even though I’m not one”) and a low-life. Harry is both. And the low-life thing really emerges in the wake of the divorce acrimony, as if Allen intuited that a new characterisation had been fortuitously opened up for him.

So I have this suspicion that subconsciously I’ve been put off Allen even without accepting his guilt as fact. I’m not interested in relitigating it. I can’t CHOOSE to believe one thing or the other. But for some reason, I stopped watching his films. I had become a bit erratic at the time of BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, but looking back at it, that’s a good one too. Mysterious.

Anyhow, I pulled SCOOP off the shelf in a fit of perversity, having heard nothing but bad things about it. Boyoboy were those bad things on the money. But not very specific.

Overall, the typical “this is a dire comedy” type reviews are basically correct. But dire how? Well, it’s sloppy at nearly every level. Scarlett Johansson is introduced as an over-her-shoulder on some other guy and then we cut to a clean single of her ~

I guess it ought to work as his POV, but it’s impossible to express how wrong it feels in motion — you are completely convinced that the two characters are not in the same time, space or movie.

They must have been, though, because a couple of scenes later, they’ve slept together. In a clueless bit of writing, she’s talking quite lightheartedly about having been plied with drink and being unable to remember anything, the kind of development that wouldn’t have seemed worrisome maybe, oh, fifty years ago? Hard to imagine any modern woman NOT being seriously concerned at such an outcome.

But then, little seems to bother Johansson’s character — at the end of the film, the man she loves has turned out to be, not Hugh Jackman with a Brit accent, but Jeff Bridges in JAGGED EDGE, merely played by Hugh Jackman with a Brit accent. But she’s not downhearted. If Woody Allen were her neighbour in MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, her lack of emotional response would spark his suspicions.

But instead, Woody Allen is the Great Splendini, a stage magician. OK, the name made me laugh, and some of his crummy gags cracked me up through sheer exertion, though his timing seems a bit off. He used to have this strange gift for delivering jokes in a halting, stumbling way, while still nailing every moment that needed to be nailed to make the joke land. Here, his ums and ahs sometimes take the joke off at the knees.

Worse, his character is given no reason to tag along with Johansson, another instance of simply lazy writing. He’s against the whole thing. But he’s there. Participating. The thing is crazy. Hugh Jackman cannot possibly be Jeff Bridges in JAGGED EDGE. A scene later, when the evidence looks shakier, he’s certain that Hugh Jackman must be Jeff Bridges in JAGGED EDGE.

Running through the story is the on-paper amusing plot conceit of Ian McShane as a deceased reporter stumbling across a scoop while on the ferryboat to the afterlife, and apporting into Johansson’s presence to pass on the story. It’s the kind of charming fantasy Allen has succeeded with in THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and some of his short fiction. But the relationship goes nowhere, maybe because Allen has shoehorned himself into the story and is using all the oxygen.

Everybody seems under-rehearsed, most of all McShane. ScarJo is fairly adorable and has learned her lines well enough to say them fast, which wins her major points in this creaky affair.

A shaggy dog with alopecia.

SCOOP stars Black Widow; Fielding Mellish; Wolverine; Lovejoy; Cassandra Mortmain; Grand Maester Pycelle; Rupert Giles; and Truman Capote.

9 Responses to “Dog Scoop”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Dylan Farrow, encouraged by her psychotic adopted mother LIED!!!!!!! Her brother Moses (also adopted by Mia who HOARDS ORPHANS) was there when the incident supposedly took place and has complained long and loudly that she LIED!!!!!! This has of course exiled him from Mia and her cult. And a credulous “Mainstream Media” has gone right along with it.

    No surprise tat Woody’s actual son Satchel (aka.”Ronan Farrow”) now specializes in celebrity scandal.

    Woody’s biggest mistake was ever getting involved with a nut case like Mia. They made some good movies together (“Broadway Danny Rose,” “Radio Days”) but the price wasn’t worth it

    And here’s Dory Previn to tell you why — in song.

  2. Yup, this comments section will be fun (by the way, Satchel Farrow IS Ronan Farrow – both names are in his birth name).

    Good essay, David. People should talk about THAT.

  3. bensondonald Says:

    My last Allen movie was “Midnight in Paris”. I’d fallen away from his stuff, in part because he was knocking them out faster than I got out to new movies of any kind (my last Bond introduced Timothy Dalton). It was cute, but some things jumped out at me.

    The Owen Wilson character was obviously another Allen self-portrait. One scene, where everybody’s in an uproar over missing jewelry, has Wilson obviously playing it as Allen. Beyond that, why the unsympathetic and really unnecessary action of swiping wife’s bauble to give to girlfriend in the past? It’s not possible to buy a decent pair of earrings in Paris? The scene seems designed to laugh it off, as if Allen was trying to dismiss a real-life analog as no big deal.

    While Wilson’s cheating on his wife with a girl from the past, the film seems to excuse it on the grounds his wife’s been cheating on him in secret. There’s no irony in his outrage.

    Nor is there irony in his being so self-obsessed that his novel is barely veiled autobiography (does his comfy life look remotely interesting?) and Gertrude Stein picks up that the supposedly fictional wife is having an affair but he didn’t notice it while writing about it.

    And one more little fantasy thing: Wilson instantly relates to his literary idols as an equal, and Stein seems to pronounce his work Good. It’s like the Jerry Lewis movies where other characters declare him a comic genius, or a great lover, or a true mensch. What if big-name writers and artists treated him as one more spoiled dilettante who came to Paris “to write my novel” and party with glamorous literati? That’s what he really was, in all time zones.

    “Midnight in Paris” is would-be writer’s fantasy — the sort of story Wilson’s character might have typed up in a college screenwriting class. Yes, his flapper chooses to go further into history and he ends his 20s fling. But he loses the unfaithful wife, keeps Paris, and a younger, better beauty is already in place.

    An alternate ending? Stein, Hemingway or some other slaps the truth into him: Forget Paris. Go home, work a real job, and write something of value instead of playing at being a writer. And then, instead of hooking up with a girl in Paris, we see him in a midwestern flat sweating corrections on a manuscript.

    That’s today’s old guy rant.

  4. Of course writers in Woody Allen films ALWAYS write thinly-veiled autobiographies, even as Allen likes to deny his films have any connection to his life.

  5. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Well he hasn’t murdered anybody yet — though Mia is a tempting target.

  6. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    His 21st century stuff is strong. Cassandra’s Dream, Midnight in Paris, You’ll Meet a tall dark stranger, To Rome with Love, Blue Jasmine, Irrational Man, cafe Society are all excellent.

    Of the 90s I like Sweet and Lowdown. I think the major effect of the scandal is that Allen started having other actors play the lead role and stood in the background which worked until it didn’t.

  7. I think the first Woody surrogate actors came in Bullets over Broadway, partly because it just needed a younger actor. And John Cusack was ideal. But Woody was still playing leads up until Small Time Crooks, although he eventually either listened to criticisms about the absurdly young leading ladies, or he realised it was an issue independently.

  8. Surely Scarlett Johansson is a Woody Allen surrogate in Scoop? (even though he’s there in person as well) She certainly seems to be channelling his accent and delivery.

    My theory is that Soon-Yi has never cut it as a “muse” the way Keaton and Farrow did (maybe it would have been different if she’d been an actress) because whereas he created some lovely female characters in the films he made before the rupture with Farrow (not least because the actresses themselves had strong personalities), his female characters since then have invariably been ignorant, needy, venal and shallow, several decades younger than the male lead, and usually gold-diggers or prostitutes.

    In Magic in the Moonlight, Emma Stone can’t tell the difference between Dickens and Shakespeare! In A Rainy Day in New York, Elle Fanning can’t tell the difference between Shakespeare and Cole Porter! And when Ellen Page drops names like Dostoevsky and Rilke in From Rome with Love, we’re told she’s an intellectual charlatan. Whereas Allen himself drops name like that ALL THE TIME in ALL HIS FILMS. “Hi, darling. Have you seen my Strindberg book?”

  9. “YOU didn’t read Death in Venice until I gave it to you!” As far back as Annie Hall we might suspect that Allen obviously liked the idea of a woman he could educate, but went off her if she actually got sophisticated.

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