THE THROWDOWN: “Annie Hall” vs. “Midnight in Paris”

Wednesday is Throwdown day at Keith & the Movies. It’s when we take two movie subjects, pit them against each other, and see who’s left standing. Each Wednesday we’ll look at actors, actresses, movies, genres, scenes, and more. I’ll make a case for each and then see how they stand up one-on-one. And it’s not just my opinion that counts. I’ll share my take and then open up the polls to you. Visit each week for a new Throwdown. Vote each week to decide the true winner!

*Last week Schwarzenegger (53%) out-muscled Stallone (47%) in our action icon Throwdown*

This week we move about as far away from the previous week as humanly possible. It’s old Woody versus new Woody in a Woody Allen Throwdown! When you see a Woody Allen film you know it’s a Woody Allen film. Yet in some ways his approach to filmmaking has changed over the past few years. So I thought it would be fun to pit what many view as a romantic comedy masterpiece in “Annie Hall” against Allen’s more recent and widely popular “Midnight in Paris”. These movies are wildly different yet each look and feel like a Woody Allen picture. So enough of the buildup. It’s old Woody Allen against new Woody Allen. It’s New York against Paris. It’s the Throwdown and your votes decide the winner.

“ANNIE HALL” VS. “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS”

In 1977, Woody Allen released “Annie Hall”, a movie that some have called the quintessential romantic comedy. Allen’s quick wit is never more evident than in the lightning fast and razor-sharp dialogue from the script he wrote about an eccentric New Yorker and his quirky perception of love and relationships. Diane Keaton won an Oscar for her role as Annie, a woman who ended her relationship with Allen’s character a year earlier. Allen spends the film lamenting his lost relationship and then moving on with his life. But can he ever really get Annie out of his mind? “Annie Hall” received three other Oscars including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. While I’m on record as saying I’m not the biggest fan of “Annie Hall”, it’s a movie that is loved by many.

In 2011, Woody Allen’s European tour stopped in The City of Light, Paris, France. “Midnight in Paris” is Allen’s love letter to the city, its beauty, and its history. Owen Wilson is fantastic as Gil Pender, a hack writer who believes he was meant to live in Paris during the 1920s. Allen shows us the magic of the city now and takes us back to the days of Hemingway, Picasso, and the Fitzgeralds. It features an incredible supporting cast highlighted by Tom Hiddleston and Corey Stoll as well as beautiful cinematography in some if Paris’ most glorious locations. This is a step outside of the box for Allen. More importantly, it’s a wonderfully romantic film that gives the most lovely look at one of the world’s greatest city. Allen won an Oscar for the screenplay and I can say without hesitation he certainly deserved it.

So is it Allen’s Best Picture winner “Annie Hall” or his love letter to the City of Light “Midnight in Paris”? I’ve got a clear favorite between the two. Do you? Your votes decide the winner. Click below and vote NOW!

Visiting the Locations of “Midnight in Paris”

It was only a little over a month ago that my wife and I made our first visit to Paris, France. Obviously this amazing city has tons of history and culture to offer and its sheer beauty, natural vibrancy, and great food make it a destination that shouldn’t be missed. But as a movie fan, and in this case a huge fan of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, I saw our visit as an opportunity to see some of the locations he chose for his film (as well as several other Paris movies). We wandered all over the city from Montmartre to the Latin Quarter, from the upscale 7th arrondissement to Les Marais, and along the way I ran into several of Allen’s spots. So I thought it would be cool to share them here, not just as another way to drool over Paris (something I could easily do), but as a chance to share the great experience I had as a movie fan.

MUSEE RODIN

Early in the film we get our first real glimpse into Paul’s true pseudo-intellectual self absorption as they visit The Rodin Museum. As the four are admiring Rodin’s popular sculpture “The Thinker”, Paul flexes his faux knowledge of Rodin until he is corrected by the guide as well as Gil. Paul will have none of it and goes as far as to argue with the guide. Gil later returns to ask the guide for a favor.

I loved our visit to Musee Rodin. The inside collection was fabulous but for me the true treasures were in the beautiful gardens and wonderfully placed sculptures none better than “The Thinker”. While much smaller in scale than the Louvre or the Orsay, the Rodin Museum still managed to be a favorite spot of mine in all of Paris.

PLACE DAUPHINE

In one of the most romantic scenes in the movie, Gil and Adriana take a nighttime stroll and end up on the terrace at Restaurant Paul’s in Place Dauphine. It’s here that Gil gives her the earrings and then pours his heart out to her before a carriage comes to transport them back even further in time.

The cool thing is that Restaurant Paul isn’t a fictional place. It sits right in the cozy Place Dauphine. Unfortunately due to the time of day the restaurant was closed but we did get a chance to take pictures and admire the cool setting for what was one of my favorite scenes in the film.

SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY

There’s a brief scene in “Midnight in Paris” that shows Gil walking out of Shakespeare and Company. It’s certainly not a pivotal scene but it shows Gil on one of his strolls admiring the city that he truly loves.

I loved Shakespeare and Company! We stumbled on it after walking around the Latin Quarter. There is such a great feel of history as you approach the cool English bookstore. The narrow aisles inside house an amazing assortment of titles and going upstairs takes you right back to the days of Hemingway, Joyce, and Sylvia Beach. I bought a copy of “The Great Gatsby” and got my Shakespeare and Company stamp on the inside. I left one happy traveler.

QUAI DE BOURBON

After Gil is picked up by the old-time classic car, it takes him back in time to a  lively party on Quai de Bourbon. It’s at this party that Gil notices Cole Porter singing and playing the piano. It’s here that he also meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In the film we see the street as the car drives up and this was Gil’s first taste of the Roaring Twenties.

Quai de Bourbon winds around the tip of Ile Saint-Louis. We crossed over from the Notre Dame cathedral and came across the street by mistake. In fact at the time I didn’t remember the name but I most certainly recognized it from the film. It was a great moment of discovery and I couldn’t help but reflect back on the film as we walked down the street.

QUAI DES ORFEVRES

Quai des Orfevres appears in the movie on two different occasions. One of the scenes has Gil walking along the Seine clearing his mind and soaking up the city. Later in the movie it’s here that Gil and Adriana comes across a distraught Zelda threatening to jump into the Seine.

We came across this lovely location on a number of occasions. It was a gorgeous cobblestone walk along the river lined with trees and featuring some beautiful views of Paris. When you see it, it’s so easy to see why Woody Allen chose to include this particular location in his film.

SQUARE JEAN XXII

After buying an old book written by Adriana at a riverside book seller, Gil convinces the guide from the Rodin Museum the translate it for him. The two sit on a bench at Square Jean XXIII with Notre Dame standing tall in the background. It’s here that Gil finds out that there is a true connection between him and Adriana.

After visiting Notre Dame we spent a little time in the lovely Square Saint Jean. It’s here that you get the best views of Notre Dame’s buttresses and really highlights the Gothic architecture. The park is lined with benches, trees, and play areas for children. They also have bathrooms that you have to pay to use! No thanks.

PONT ALEXANDRE III

While it also appears in Woody Allen’s opening montage, the bridge known as Pont Alexandre III is also in the final scene of the film. Gil has broken up with Inez and is wandering around the city when he bumps into Gabrielle again on Pont Alexandre III. It’s here he tells her he’s staying and Paris. He offers to walk her home just as the rain starts to fall. It’s a wonderful ending.

After leaving Les Invalides we made our way to Pont Alexandre III. The beautiful ornate bridge was a sight. Tourists were snapping photos and brides were having wedding pictures made. We walked under it and over it admiring the River Seine and the wonderful architecture of the bridge itself.

There are so many wonderful locations in the city of Paris and Woody Allen takes advantage of so many. We visited several other places that you can see in the movie and missed out on some as well. Looks like we already have our excuse to head back to what I believe may be the world’s greatest city.

Five Great Scenes From “Midnight in Paris”

Ok, I’ve never been what you would call a Woody Allen fan. That being said, I can’t express how much I enjoy “Midnight in Paris. It’s a movie that features some great laughs and the best performance from a usually annoying Owen Wilson. It’s a romance film but not in the traditional sense. The true love of the movie is the city and it’s magic. It’s the city that brings Gil Pender (Wilson) to realize some very important things about himself and his life. It’s the city that Gil’s in love with and it’s the city that helps him get on the right path in life.

Now I know that one reason I responded so strongly to this movie was because of my current trip to Paris. As I sit here soaking up all this glorious place has to offer, I understand what Allen in conveying in his film. Paris is a city like no other. It’s living and breathing. It’s a place filled with history, style, and beauty, all things that “Midnight in Paris” presents. So my opinion of the movie is most certainly influenced by my expectations of what I’m now experiencing here in Paris, France.

But let’s not get bogged down in just that. “Midnight in Paris” is also laugh out loud hilarious. The characters are fantastic and for my money it features some of Woody Allen’s best writing. Filmed at various locations here in Paris (some we have already visited), Allen places his characters right in the middle of this city both past and present day. The performances are top-notch and the feeling of nostalgia is impossible to deny. It’s a beautiful film that I just love talking about.

So, before we head off to a local cafe and take a stroll in the Latin Quarter, I thought I would share five great scenes from this movie I love. Now, last Sunday I did a Phenomenal 5 on Paris movie scenes and #2 was the gorgeous opening montage of “Midnight in Paris”. Since I’ve already used it I’ll leave it out here. But it is an amazing opening sequence that I have watched over and over. These scenes I have picked are just samples of what makes this movie so good. Great laughs, great characters, great performances, great city!

 #1 – GIL MEETS THE FITZGERALDS

One of my favorite scenes in “Midnight in Paris” is where Gil meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (played brilliantly by Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston). After getting lost in the streets of Paris, Gil is picked up by an antique car which whisks him away to 1920’s Paris. He arrives at a bar where a party is going on and bumps into the Fitzgeralds. Gil’s confusion mixed with amazing portrayals from Hiddleston and Pill make this a hysterical scene. And even though it’s completely preposterous, the environment, the music, and the performances make this strikingly believable. Hiddleston alone makes this scene with his chipper expressions and hilarious line deliveries. I love it.

#2 – DEBATE AT THE RODIN MUSEUM

We all know people like Paul (Michael Sheen) from “Midnight in Paris”. He’s one of those who thinks he’s a lot smarter than he actually is. He’s an old friend of Gil’s fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and she is enamored by his immense knowledge of Paris and it’s history even though most of his “knowledge” is flat-out wrong. A great example of this is the scene in the gardens at the Rodin Museum. Paul, flexing his pseudo-intellectual muscle, actually argues with the museum tour guide regarding Rodin’s past relationships. Paul is clearly wrong, but you know guys like this, they’ll never be convinced of it. Sheen’s delivery is hilarious and Rodin himself couldn’t have convinced this know-it-all otherwise. *(Yes, I know this photo isn’t from the Rodin Museum scene but it perfectly captures the Paul character).

#3 – A CHAT WITH HEMINGWAY

Corey Stoll’s portrayal of Earnest Hemingway was absolutely phenomenal. We’re introduced to him after Gil leaves the above mentioned party with the Fitzgeralds in search of more lively entertainment. They enter a bar where Hemingway is sitting alone in the corner. We just stand there alongside Gil and watch as a hilarious conversation takes place between Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds. It’s clear that Zelda doesn’t like Earnest and she takes off. F. Scott soon follows leaving Gil to share a conversation about life and  writing with one of his literary idols. Stoll speaks like Hemingway wrote which adds an ever funnier element to their conversation. This is a key moment in the film that begins Gil’s new perspective on life. It’s also extremely funny.

#4 – A NIGHT WALK WITH ADRIANA

After several trips back in time, Gil finds himself mesmerized by the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard). He finally gets some meaningful time alone with her as they share a romantic walk on a beautiful Paris night. The cool 1920’s feel mixed with the beauty of the city of lights is the perfect setting for the movie’s most romantic scene. Woody Allen also uses Gil to once again speak of the allure of the city. It makes you question who he’s attracted to more, Adriana or the city? This is such a wonderful scene that moves which such grace, all as the equally beautiful “Parlez-moi d’amour” plays in the background. Call me a sap but this is a great scene.

#5 –  PARIS IN THE RAIN

The movie ends with Gil walking alone in the Paris night. He’s broken it off with Inez and has realized his desire for the past was misguided and that every era has their own problems. Unsure of everything, he bumps into Gabrielle (Lea Seydoux) again on the beautiful Pont Alexandre III bridge. The two strike up a conversation and Gil tells her that he will be staying in Paris. There is an obvious attraction between them which is only solidified when a small rain shower pops up. The two walk off together enjoying the rain and the city. While Gil thought he once again had no direction in his life, Paris takes him by the hand and sets his course. What a great way to end the movie.

Well, that’s all for now. I have fountains, paintings, a buttered baguette, and a cozy cafe in my immediate future. What did you think of “Midnight in Paris”. Hopefully you liked it as much as I did. Please fell free to share your thoughts on it. And until I hit the states again…au revior.

TOP 5 BEST LEAD ACTOR PERFORMANCES OF 2011

TOP 5 BEST LEAD ACTOR PERFORMANCES OF 2011

When I look back on 2011, it will be a year where the performances actually outshined the finished films. While several movies became favorites of mine, it was the wide range of high quality acting work that really impressed me. Since we have talked about the ladies, let’s get to my top 5 male leading performances for 2011. Again, it was hard to leave a couple of names off this list, but this is one solid group of actors.

#5 – Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris)

I’m as surprised at this as anyone else. I’m not the biggest Owen Wilson fan. I’ve often times found him over the top and just too goofy for my taste. But while we get hints of the Owen Wilson we’ve seen in past movies, in “Midnight in Paris” he seems more controlled and tempered while still being genuinely funny. I really liked Gil Pender and appreciated how Wilson brings him to life. Woody Allen’s influence can certainly be seen, but Wilson makes the character his own and sells him beautifully.

#4 – George Clooney (The Descendants)

I wasn’t as crazy about Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” as most people, but there’s no denying the brilliant work from George Clooney in the lead role. Clooney honestly makes everyone else who shares a scene with him better. He doesn’t dominate the scenes or call unmerited attention to what he’s doing. It’s a very real and organic performance and one that definitely deserves the attention it has received.

#3 – Mel Gibson (The Beaver)

I was a bit surprised to see Mel Gibson shunned this awards season. Hollywood and the Academy are extremely selective in terms of forgiveness regardless of how much hypocrisy their selectivity exposes. I’m not trying to be a Gibson sympathizer, but his performance in “The Beaver” is not only one of the best performances of the year, but some of the best work of his career. Obviously Gibson knows what it means to be a damaged man but to see it played out with such authenticity on screen was truly stirring. More people should give “The Beaver” a chance. If you do, Gibson’s performance can’t help but be appreciated.

#2 – Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

From the first moment you see Jean Dujardin on screen in “The Artist”, you know you’re seeing something special. His precision and detail in bringing a silent movie character to life goes well past nostalgia. He brought more life to his George Valentin character with the handicap of no voice work than nearly every other performance of 2011. He certainly pays homage to a bygone era of filmmaking. But he also conveys the humor and drama from his character in a way that blew my mind. A truly brilliant performance.

#1 – Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

Even with such great acting as I’ve already mentioned, no one effected me more than Michael Shannon in “Take Shelter”. He undoubtedly delivers one of the most painfully tragic performances I’ve seen in years. His depiction of mental illness is unique in that his character sees what’s coming. He has seen it in his mother and his biggest concern is on how it will effect his own family. It’s a crushing and emotional performance that was head-amd-shoulders above anything else I saw in 2011. It’s such a shame that he has gone overlooked.

Agree or disagree? Please leave a comment or share your top 5 of 2011.