The Curious Cameography of Woody Allen

The Curious Cameography of Woody Allen (photo)

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With reports out of France that Woody Allen is shooting a cameo for the film “Paris Manhattan,” a comedy from first-time director Sophie Lellouche in which part of the plot revolves around a pharmacist (Alice Taglioni) so obsessed with his work she prescribes DVDs of his films to patients, the 75-year-old filmmaker continues a tradition of picking peculiar projects to appear in outside of his own.

In a career that’s entering its fifth decade, Allen has starred in just six films he hasn’t directed (“Play It Again, Sam,” “The Front,” “Scenes From a Mall,” the 1996 “Sunshine Boys” TV remake, “Antz” and “Picking Up the Pieces”) and limited himself to a handful of other uncredited cameos. Though he’s scarcely performed in anything in recent years – his last role as an actor was in 2006’s “Scoop” – some of his most intriguing roles have come in the films in which he’s scarcely seen, including these four below.

Jean-Luc Godard’s “King Lear” (1987)

Think of a far more languid version of Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind” and you have some idea of what Godard was up to with his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” which begins with the premise that the fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster wiped out much of the world’s art, including the Bard’s most famous works and it’s up to his fifth generation descendant (Peter Sellars) to recreate his work and as most of the characters mirror those in the play, Allen assumes the role of the Fool, known in this film as Mr. Alien, who shows up at the end as a film editor whose dialogue is mostly pulled from the original Shakespeare text. It’s been suggested Allen wanted to be uncredited in the role so he wouldn’t be included in the film’s marketing materials, but his appearance is so brief, it’s understandable, though still rare as an example of Allen doing a thoroughly dramatic reading of Shakespeare. (Cinephiles still might be more interested in “Meeting WA,” the interview between Allen and Godard that likely influenced his being cast in “King Lear,” filmed a year earlier in 1986.)

“Just Shoot Me” (1997)

Allen’s most out of the blue appearance pre-“Paris” wasn’t in fact an appearance at all, but a voice cameo for the NBC sitcom “Just Shoot Me” in 1997. The episode “My Dinner With Woody” involved Laura San Giacomo’s writer Maya imagined a date with the auteur in the pages of the fictional Blush Magazine, after which an Allen impersonator actually does score a date with her and leaves her disillusioned, making a phone call from the real Allen at the end of the episode a moot point. To facilitate the phone call, the show’s executive producer Steve Levitan, who has since gone on to create “Modern Family,” wrote to Allen and included a tape of the episode without the ending, hoping that Allen would say the show’s final lines. As Levitan told Entertainment Weekly at the time, “There was stunned silence when we got Woody’s tape [in return].” His cameo can be heard at 9:25 in this clip:

“The Imposters” (1998)

As Stanley Tucci’s producing partner Elizabeth Alexander told Premiere magazine on the set of “The Imposters,” “Stanley [Tucci] collects people from different jobs,” so it was only a matter of time before the actor parlayed a small part in “Decontructing Harry” into an invitation to Allen to play a theater director in his follow-up to “Big Night.” At a point when his legend was accepted and the scandal of the early ’90s had subsided, it seems as though the late ’90s and early 2000s were the time to ask Allen for a favor – as one can tell from this list, it’s the most acting he ever did outside of his own films, even without counting appearances as proper leads in the TV remake of “The Sunshine Boys” and Alfonso Arau’s unfortunate 2000 comedy “Picking Up the Pieces” where he scatters Sharon Stone’s butchered remains across the New Mexico desert. There’s no doubt Allen was more at home with playing a fussy last ditch effort for two down-on-their-luck thespians (Tucci and Oliver Platt) to audition for before they sneak onto a cruise ship during the Depression to lighten the mood.

“Company Man” (2000)

Allen has only worked with three other writers throughout his career on films he’s directed himself – his childhood friend Mickey Rose on “Bananas” and “Take the Money and Run,” Marshall Brickman during the “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” era, and Douglas McGrath on “Bullets Over Broadway.” And McGrath was the only one to persuade him to spend a day on the set in front of the camera in a film he directed (with Peter Askin), which led to Allen’s turn as a U.S. diplomat smitten with France whose dissatisfaction with his reassignment to Cuba seeps into his assessment of the region on the eve of the Bay of Pigs to a CIA agent, played by McGrath. Allen turns in one of the funniest performances in the film, a misfire that was made more of a disappointment considering McGrath’s success with “Emma” drew an all-star cast including the likes of John Turturro, Denis Leary, and Sigourney Weaver to this goofy ’60s spy spoof. Of course, McGrath has returned the favor repeatedly in bit parts in four of Allen’s films (including a turn as a jazz expert version of himself in “Sweet and Lowdown”), so that probably made putting on a beret and hamming it up for Allen a no-brainer.

Freddy 1920

Freddy Facts

10 Facts You May Not Know About the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies

Catch a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon Friday, November 27th as part of IFC's Sweatsgiving Weekend.

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Defining a film genre with a career that spanned five decades, horror auteur Wes Craven sadly passed away two months shy of his 76th Halloween. The spookmaster helmed some of the grittiest, slash-iest films ever to grace video rental shelves — The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left and of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Released in the genre-packed year of 1984, the first Nightmare on Elm Street flick spawned a very successful franchise and an iconic character that, even 30 years later, is still a costume staple. And while Freddy Krueger and his dreamscape shenanigans have been watched countless times, there are a few facts about the cat nap killer you might not have known.

Before you catch IFC’s Nightmare on Elm Street Sweatsgiving movie marathon, check out 10 facts about the Freddy movies every horror fan ought to be privy to.

1. There’s a true story behind the original film.

1. Freddy Krueger
New Line Cinema

It’s a far-fetched premise: Young and otherwise healthy individuals have a nightmare and die from unknown causes shortly thereafter. But it actually happened to a group of Southeast Asian refugees who fled to America from the despotic rule of Pol Pot. Three men, in three separate cases, had terrifying nightmares and tried to keep themselves awake for as long as possible. After finally succumbing to exhaustion and dozing off, each man woke up screaming and died with no discernible medical cause. Wes Craven took notice of the cases and decided to work the mystery into a compellingly gruesome storyline.

2. The “Blood Geyser” used 500 gallons of blood and malfunctioned spectacularly.

2. Blood Bed
New Line Cinema

Actor Johnny Depp has a pretty dynamic on-screen death for his feature film debut. As high schooler Glen, Depp is sucked into his bedroom mattress and erupts in a huge blood geyser, which was achieved with a rotating set, a mounted camera and 500 gallons of fake bloodpumped through the bed. However, during an early take, the room was rotated the wrong way and caused a wave of fake blood to splash onto the film equipment and electrical sockets. No one was hurt, but the power went out and Craven referred to the malfunction as a “Ferris wheel from hell” in the DVD commentary.

3. Freddy’s famous sweater instills fear through science.

3. Sweater
New Line Cinema

There’s a reason why Christmas decorations trigger fear in the hearts of men and women — and it’s not just from the prospect of spending time with family. While penning the original script, Craven read in Scientific American that red and green were the two most clashing colors to the human eye. (He shared a visual example last year on Twitter.) Therefore, if the scarred flesh and finger blades weren’t upsetting enough, viewers are subliminally unsettled simply by looking at Freddy’s choice in autumn wear.

4. Freddy’s glove was also designed to tap into our deepest fears.

4. Glove
New Line Cinema

Speaking of finger blades, Freddy’s signature weapon was also based on our primal fears. The glove was a product of Craven’s wishes to give his lead a unique weapon that was both cheap and easy to transport. But the director had a eureka moment when he read about early man’s fear of bear claws. The ingredients came together to produce a glove adorned with fishing knives, later changed to steak knives for the shooting script.

5. Freddy was inspired by a bully, a superhero, a homeless person and a pop song.

5. Bully
New Line Cinema

You’d have to make quite the impression on a writer to be immortalized as a serial killer who preys on sleeping children. But apparently, that’s the case for at least two people in Craven’s past. Craven has said he based Freddy on a bully named Fred Kreuger who menaced Craven in his youth who also inspired the character “Krug” in Last House on the Left. Freddy’s famous hat and sweater is said to be influenced by a homeless man whom Craven remembers staring at him through his bedroom window when he was 10. (The colored sweater was also a nod to the DC Comics superhero Plastic Man.) Finally, Gary Wright’s 1976 hit “Dream Weaver” inspired Craven to create a character who “weaved” through people’s dreams.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is about a teen coming to terms with his homosexuality.

6. Freddy 2
New Line Cinema

Since its release, viewers have noticed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has homosexual themes and subtext running throughout the story. (Lead character Jesse is noticeably attracted to his best friend Ron; a sign on his bedroom door forbids the entry of “chicks”; Freddy has no female victims; Jesse and his gym teacher engage in a shower room towel-snapping scene that could only be described as “intimate.”) Turns out, it’s no accident. Screenwriter David Chaskin explained in the documentary Never Sleep Again that he conceived the premise of Freddy entering Jesse’s body as a metaphor for the character’s closeted sexuality.

7. Freddy was originally written as a silent killer.

7. Phone Tongue
New Line Cinema

It’s hard to believe anyone would want to tear out the dialogue for the ol’ gloved wiseacre, but when he was conceived, Freddy Krueger wasn’t going to have any lines. As viewers might notice in the original film, Freddy is more subdued (for Freddy) and closer in tone to his mute cohorts Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. But as the franchise continued, the killer eventually became the throat-slashing one-liner factory we know him as today.

8. The lack of Freddy in the first film was on purpose.

8. Freddy Appearance
New Line Cinema

Wes Craven didn’t need Spielberg’s deft use of a shark to know the unseen is far scarier than the visible, which is why Freddy Krueger only has 7 minutes of screen time in the original film. Obviously, the character quickly became a huge draw for audiences and was given ample time to shine in the sequels.

9. Dick Cavett really wanted Freddy to kill Zsa Zsa Gabor.

9. Dick Cavett
New Line Cinema

In a dream sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, talk show host Dick Cavett interviews the glamour punchline Zsa Zsa Gabor on TV, morphs into Freddy and goes in for the boa-bedecked kill. As it so happened, Cavett was given the choice of who to have on this fantasy show and he chose Gabor because, according to him, he’d never have her on and if there was any guest he’d like to kill off, it would be her.

10. Wes Craven doesn’t like the ending to the first film.

10. Ending
New Line Cinema

If there’s one thing about horror movies, the genre ain’t short of sequels. And while the Nightmare on Elm Street series went back to the Freddy well more than a few times, Craven never wanted to tease a sequel at the end of the first film. Surprisingly, the first movie was to end on a happy, positive note with the plucky teens driving off. But according to the director’s DVD commentary, studio head Bob Shaye insisted that Craven hint at future installments with Freddy appearing as the driver. Craven compromised with the sweater-striped convertible top and Mom being yanked through the front door window.


Pox Kegger

This Is How the Benders Throw a Chickenpox Party

It's a Pox Kegger on tonight's all-new Benders.

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On this week’s Benders, Paul and Karen take their relationship to the next level when they both get the chickenpox. What do you bring to a chickenpox party? Chicken wings? A bucket of pox?

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For us, a sick day is best spent on the day on the couch, watching episodes of Portlandia on Netflix (guessing!) eating bowls of chicken soup, and sipping weak tea. But Karen didn’t count on the team spirit that binds Paul’s amateur hockey team together. So when the Chubbys find out that one of their teammates is in need, they have no choice but to be there for him–whether his wife likes it or not. Find out what happens when Benders airs tonight at 10P on IFC.

Marc Maron – Maron, Gallery Art – Photo Credit: Katrina Marcinowski / IFC.

WTF with Bob & David

Listen to Bob Odenkirk and David Cross Talk Comedy With Marc Maron

Todd Margaret returns January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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For fans of Todd Margaret and Better Call Saul, this week’s episode of WTF with Marc Maron is mandatory listening.

Bob Odenkirk stopped by Marc’s garage to talk about his new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Not content to have one of comedy’s new legends on hand, Marc got David Cross on the phone so the duo could talk about working with the Mr. Show gang once again on the new project, Bob’s work on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and more. David also dropped some hints about the third season of Todd Margaret, which he calls “quite different” and Bob dubs “mind-blowing.”

Listen to Bob and David on the latest episode of WTF below, and be sure to catch the return of a very, very different Todd Margaret when season three premieres January 7th at 10P on IFC. You can also catch up on seasons one and two of Todd Margaret on Netflix and on IFC this Thanksgiving during our Sweatsgiving Marathon.

Who is Todd Margaret? Find out below.

Want more Todd? Check out the season three trailer below.

Catch up on seasons one and two of Todd Margaret right now on Netflix.

Portlandia Season 5

Is It January Yet???

Portlandia Returns With Danzig, Louis C.K. and More on January 21

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT.

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Circle the day on your calendar and mark your sundial, because Portlandia is returning to IFC for its sixth season on Thursday, January 21st at 10P ET/PT for ten all-new episodes.

Portlandia gif

In season six, Fred and Carrie embark on all new Portland-based adventures, including inadvertently creating a ramen noodle monster that wreaks havoc on the city.

Other things to look forward to this season: Doug and Claire break up, only to wind up frustrated by a way-younger party girl and an overly caring feminist, respectively. Dave and Kath decide to run a marathon that takes place the following day. Fred turns grey overnight and, in seeking answers from the universe, gets sucked into a black hole. Kyle MacLachlan, reprising his role as the Mayor, tries to lure a tech company to Portland and also puts the moves on Carrie with a canister of frozen sperm from his office refrigerator.

Guest stars coming to Portlandia this season include Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Louis C.K. (Louie), musician Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, rocker Glenn Danzig, Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef), Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), Moshe Kasher (Another Period), Zoe Kravitz (Dope, Mad Max), John Levenstein (Kroll Show), NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), and Bitsie Tulloch (rimm).

Returning guest stars include Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). Be sure to catch Seasons 1-5 of Portlandia on iTunes and Netflix and check back here for more announcements before the season six premiere on January 21st.

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