DID YOU READ

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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.