Friday, October 15, 2004

WCBE 90.5 FM (NPR): THE FILMS OF WOODY ALLEN "What's Up Tiger Lilly?," "Purple Rose of Cairo," "Annie Hall," "Sweet and Lowdown"

"It's Movie Time" with John DeSando & Clay Lowe
“What’s Up Tiger Lilly?,” “Purple Rose of Cairo”
“Annie Hall,” “Sweet and Lowdown”
Taped: 4:00 pm, October 6, 2004
Air Time: 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm, October 15, 2004
Streaming live on the web at


In “Anything Else” Jason Biggs replaced Woody Allen as Woody Allen . . .

“What’s Up Tiger Lilly?” was goofy Woody on his way to becoming a savvy auteur . . .

In “The Purple Rose of Cairo” Woody Allen’s actors came down off the screen . . .

In "Annie Hall” Woody talked his way into our hearts . . .

And in “Sweet and Lowdown” Woody Allen’s script had Sean Penn playing a sweet talking, hard living master of women and the jazz guitar . . .


“It’s Movie Time” in mid-Ohio, with John DeSando and Clay Lowe, featuring, today, a fund-raising salute to the films of Woody “Take the Money and Run” Allen . . .


Hi, I’m John DeSando

Clay “Anything Else”
And I’m Clay Lowe.

John, in Woody Allen’s most recent movie “Anything Else,” he passed on his screen identity to Jason Biggs. the “American Pie” guy. Not bad as a stand-in Woody Allen, Biggs gave it a good try but the critics weren’t that kind, because we’ve all come to expect more from a Woody Allen film.

So in today’s fund-raising special for WCBE, we’re going to take a quick look back to see if Woody Allen was ever as good as we imagined him to be.

DeSando (“What’s Up Tiger Lilly?”)

In Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” we had Woody directing his first feature about a “Mad-Mad-Mad-World”-like hunt for the world's best egg salad recipe "so good it will make you plotz.”  It’s 1966 and Woody becomes an auteur sooner than could be expected even in Spielberg terms.
“What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” is Allen at his goofiest, unabashedly spoofing Japanese thrillers by buying a film and replacing it with straight English dialogue. [Some dialogue is often non-sensical like this: “Don’t tell me what to do, or I’ll have my mustache eat your beard,” and some  just begs for boos like this : "Two Wongs don't make a wight." Even names are silly cute: sisters Suki and Teri Yaki.]
The innovative elements are the same that characterize his career—a willingness to stretch the non-sequitor to its limits (“If the audience will only believe in fairies, then there’ll be bullets in my gun”), the absurd setup (the bartender who wants to "marry" his snake and a chicken.), and off-the-wall comments by the narrator on the events.
Not yet has Woody moved his stage to Manhattan angst—it’s not far off.

Clay (“The Purple Rose of Cairo”)
John, Woody sticks close to small-town America in his “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” a film in which nostalgia turns out to be just as good as our memories would have it.

Filmed in the warm, glowing tones of memory-in-full-color, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” features Mia Farrow as Cecilia, a lonely wife from a small-town in New Jersey who daily goes to the movies to escape from the harsh realities of 1930s’ Depression America. She also goes to the movies to escape from her abusive and out of work husband.

Quite cleverly, the movie playing at the theatre during the week is, you’ve got it, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” a black and white drawing room romantic comedy that has Cecila, and the audiences, sobbing into their hankies. That is until Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), the romantic lead, comes down from the screen and starts to romance Ms. Cecilia.

Not since Buster Keaton’s projectionist disappeared into the screen in “Sherlock, Jr.” has a movie been so delightfully filled with cinematic confusion.

DeSando (“Annie Hall”)
Probably the Woodman’s most acclaimed film, “Annie Hall, ” beat out  “Star Wars” in 1977 for the Oscar. Witty and affectionate, the film treats with respect and humor the gain and loss of love (namely ex-girlfriend of Allen, Diane Keaton)  for Alvy Singer, a writer who just has to talk it all out for us.

Dialogue is everything. Witness when Annie and Alvy first meet:

Alvy: You want a lift?

Annie: Oh, why? Uh, you got a car?

Alvy: No, I was going to take a cab.

Annie: Oh, no. I have a car.

Alvy: You have a car? I don't understand. If you have a car, so then why did you say, 'Do you have a car?' like you wanted a lift?

Annie: I don't, I don't, geez, I don't know. I wasn't. ...I got this VW out there. (To herself) 'What a jerk, yeah. Would you like a lift?'

Alvy: Sure. Which way you goin'?

Or enjoy, if you will, the memorable sequence where Annie and Alvy are standing in line for the movies.  Some pseudo behind them rambles on about Fellini. When the loudmouth starts on Marshal McLuhan, Alvy retaliates by producing the real Marshall McLuhan ,  who tells the pompous prig, "You know nothing of my work!"

Well, we were getting to know Woody’s work, and he succeeded to endear himself as a sharp satirist of modern Manhattan angst peppered with his own nerdy hangups about women, marriage, show business and just about anything else a brilliant navel-gazing director encounters.

Clay “Sweet and Lowdown”
John, Woody may be guilty of navel-gazing, but what a gazer old geezer he’s been. Some critics will argue, however, that some of Woody’s best films are those that he’s written, but not starred in.

Case in point, “Sweet and Lowdown,” a wonderful comedy featuring Sean Penn as a jazz guitarist, who just happens to be as quirky a character as Woody has ever created. Penn may have gotten an Oscar for his role in “Mystic River,” but in my book he should have received the nod for his work in “Sweet and Lowdown.” Incidentally, the movie’s lead actress, Samantha Morton, did receive a nomination for playing the charming role of the talkative Penn’s ever-so-patient, but ironically mute, girlfriend.

Filled with sly wrinkles, and wonderful musical riffs, “Sweet and Lowdown” is one of those Woody Allen films that’s made for audiences who like their humor subtle and their movies lean and clean.

A reminder, folks, if you love WCBE as much as we do, you can keep the talk and music coming by calling (614) 365-5711 and making your pledge.

I’m outta here.

I’m outta here too.

See you at the movies, folks.


"It's Movie Time" with John DeSando and Clay Lowe is produced by Richelle Antczak WCBE 90.5 FM etc.


"It's Movie Time" copyright by John DeSando and Clay Lowe