Monday, November 1, 2010

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
seen @ Lincoln Plaza Cinema, New York NY

It’s easy to take a filmmaker like Woody Allen for granted. Time may have distanced us further from his greatest hits (Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors), but he continues to crank out films on what appears to now be an annual basis. No matter what you may think of the man, the filmmaker is one of the most prolific and consistent ones out there, and you’ve got to respect that much about him.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, however, did seem like old hat for Allen. Many of the familiar Allen tropes are there, including the Narrator, the Allen stand-in (Anthony Hopkins), the bickering couples, the ingénue whom the Allen stand-in wants to make over – I mean, this is set in England, but story-wise, it could’ve come straight out of Allen’s New York in the 80s. Which is not to say that it’s bad – mediocre Allen is usually better than other filmmakers at their best – only that it doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything different here.

Seeing this movie was a bit of an impulse decision. I was with my friend Andréa, who’s the first friend I made through Facebook – meaning, not the first person I “friended” when I signed onto Facebook, but the first person I “friended” who started as a stranger but became a genuine friend. (Does that make sense? Peculiar how Facebook has changed the very definition of the word “friend.”) It was a rainy afternoon, and after eating, we kinda settled on seeing a movie to escape the blah (yet unseasonably warm) weather.

We saw Stranger at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, a theater I hadn’t been to in years. Except for the box office, it’s entirely below street level. It’s small, with a bunch of paintings strewn about the lobby and a relatively cheap (for Manhattan) snack bar that includes baked goods like muffins and brownies. The seats, however, were less comfortable than I remember them. I kept fidgeting throughout the movie; I could not get comfortable no matter how I tried, and I don’t recall having this problem before. My seat felt too firm. Andréa didn’t seem to have a problem, though, so it was probably just me.

It’s easy to forget about the Lincoln sometimes when you’ve got the Houston Street trio (Sunshine, Angelika, Forum) plus the IFC Center, all within easy walking distance of each other, and that’s not even including other art house theaters in the Village. I like it fine, though, even if the seats are too firm for me. I went to high school in the area, although I never had any interest in indie films back then. I’d always go to the Loews on 84th Street. (The AMC on 68th Street would come later.)


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  4. The feeling is completely mutual.

    The more I thought about it, the more it seems a little like Woody's been running in place for the past decade (at least). Look at his peers: Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman (up until his death in '06), Clint Eastwood (his directorial debut was '71), not to mention Spielberg, DePalma, Friedkin - they've all gone in different directions with their work while Woody found a niche and hasn't moved very far outside it. He's very good at what he does, but his work isn't as challenging anymore. If it weren't for you, I would not have seen 'Stranger.'

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  6. What I actually like best about _You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger_ is precisely its vintage Woody Allen feel. To put a positive spin on your comment that Woody has reached for nothing new here, I'd say that, in returning to his Alvie Singer-like roots, he's also returned to his place of strength, and this film is all the more witty, poignant and sweet for it.

    You and I shared quite an interesting conversation, on the way to the theater, about how Facebook and other social networks have revolutionized the meaning of the word "friend", added brand-new dimensions to the nature of friendship, and caused us all to reevaluate our social lives. It's become so easy to sit at our keyboards, day in and day out, and merely post comments to be read and further commented upon by "friends" we've never met -- and may, indeed, never meet -- and to consider that we've engaged in anything akin to a real social life. We each, more and more, seem to prefer living inside our head, rather than entering into proximate contact with our fellow creatures in the Real World.

    Ah, yes, the Real World: We all remember that place I'm talking about, don't we? Where trees and grass actually grow and are not made up of pixels? I think, if we reach back and dig hard, we'll find the memory still exists.

    One way to break out of such a cyber-rut is to get up once in a while, get out, and maybe see a movie in the actual, physical presence of an actual, human friend. I'm glad, Rich, that we've managed to transition from FB Friends to Friends IRL.

    P.S.: The seats at Lincoln Plaza Cinema are a bit small, and a theatergoer needs to remember to bring cash: The box office does not accept credit cards.


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