Friday, January 8, 2016


"Don't speak!"

Once upon a time, I used to see almost every new Woody Allen film as they were released in the theaters. I've stopped doing that. Not because I no longer like Allen's work. On the contrary, he's one of my favorite filmmakers. I simply go to fewer and fewer first run theatrically released films each year. In 2015, I went to the movies a grand total of four times. Oh, I saw a bunch of movies but I only went to the theaters four times.

The last Allen film I saw in the theater was HOLLYWOOD ENDING in 2002. I've seen three of  the films he's made since then: ANYTHING ELSE (2003), MELINDA AND MELINDA (2004) and WHATEVER WORKS (2009), all of them on DVD. I have a lot of catching up to do.

I watched BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (1994) for the second time yesterday. I saw this one when it was first released but that was more than twenty years ago and I didn't recall much about the film. It's an absolute delight.

The year is 1928. John Cusack stars as playwright David Shayne who finds that he has to rely on a mobster, Nick Valenti (Joe Viterelli) to finance his new play, God of Our Fathers. He considers himself a sell out but at least his work will be staged. But the money comes with a condition. Shayne must use the mobster's girlfriend, Olive (Jennifer Tilly) in the production. She can't act worth a damn but Shayne's stuck with her.

He's also stuck with Olive's bodyguard, Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), who becomes David's dramaturge and works with him to sharpen the dialogue and structure of the play, vastly improving the material in the process. The cast of the play includes the over-the-top diva Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest), in a show-stealing (and Oscar winning) performance.The show, as they say, must go on and so it does but there's some third act reversals that complicate things.

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY is a hilarious mix of  theater types and gangsters with both groups peopled with offbeat, eccentric characters. Allen directs everything in long, single takes, all shot from either medium or long distance. He moves his camera around when necessary but uses no closeups in the film. The screenplay, by Allen and McGrath, is a scream with several terrific one-liners. The cinematography by Carlo DiPalma has a rich, burnished hue that lends everything a slightly amber glow and the production design by Santo Loquasto and Susan Bode, bring the '20s to rich and vivid life.

BULLETS received seven Academy Award nominations: Best Director (Allen), Best Original Screenplay (Allen and McGrath), Best Supporting Actress (Wiest, winner), Best Supporting Actress (Tilly), Best Supporting Actor (Palminteri), Best Production Design (Loquasto and Bode) and Best Costume Design (Jeffrey Kurland). Only Wiest won, the second time she scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in an Allen film (the previous was for HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)). BULLETS OVER BROADWAY was turned into a Broadway musical in 2014.

BULLETS is a gem of a film. Highly recommended.

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