A tribute, of sorts, to Woody
At age 78, with more than 40 directorial credits to his name, Woody Allen is still a relevant, revered figure in the film industry who shows no signs of slowing down. His latest effort, "Blue Jasmine," comes to Blu-ray, DVD and VOD services Tuesday and boasts a performance from Cate Blanchett that has already won her a Golden Globe and a bevy of film critics' awards.
After a string of unremarkable, sometimes terrible light comedies -- "Scoop," "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "Anything Else" come to mind -- Allen got back on creative track in 2008 with "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and hasn't looked back. Though his comic spirit remains, Allen's recent films are more serious and contemplative.
That goes as well for "Blue Jasmine," the story of a New York socialite (Blanchett) who loses it all and re-connects with her roots in San Francisco. The cast also includes Alec Baldwin, Golden Globe nominee Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K., Peter Sarsgaard and the surprising Andrew "Dice" Clay, who actually had some critics whispering about an Oscar nomination.
Allen won the original screenplay Oscar for 2011's "Midnight in Paris," which was also nominated for best picture. The offbeat film follows a dejected author's (Owen Wilson) time-traveling trip through the City of Lights with luminaries like Ernest Hemingway (a perfect Corey Stoll), F. Scott Fitzgerald (erstwhile Loki of Asgard, Tom Hiddleston), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and is a must-own on Blu-ray. The film's narrative-free opening montage of Parisian life is as stunning a sequence as you'll ever see on your high-definition TV.
We're still waiting for Blu-ray releases of many of my favorite Allen films, including the 1987 charmer "Radio Days," in which Allen narrates a series of vignettes set in 1930s New York, and the uproarious satire set during the Russian Revolution, "Love and Death." Perhaps Allen's flat-out funniest film, "Love and Death" was released two years before the landmark "Annie Hall" came along in 1977.
Infamous for beating "Star Wars" for the best picture Oscar, "Annie Hall" is available on Blu-ray, and remains a comedy classic. You might not think it would still resonate with a young, modern audience, but "Annie Hall" had my senior-year college film class in hysterics -- a movie-watching experience I will never forget, and a testament to Allen's longevity.
Netflix subscribers don't have many Woody Allen options when it comes to streaming. You can watch "Manhattan," his black-and-white 1979 romance often considered his masterpiece, or you can learn more about the controversial artist himself with the two episodes of "Woody Allen: A Documentary."
What's next for Allen? "Magic in the Moonlight," a romantic comedy starring Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden and Jacki Weaver. Look for it in theaters later this year.
• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. He is not the young coward all St. Petersburg is talking about. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.