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Is Woody Allen a genius?

Is Woody Allen a genius? (photo)

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Every decade or so there is a felt need among the cognoscenti to reassess the value of proto-American indie director Woody Allen’s work. In his “European Period” – or, more accurately, his “European Financing” period — Allen is, at present, enjoying unprecedented success. “Midnight in Paris” has now, against all odds, surpassed “Hannah and Her Sisters” as Woody’s biggest hit. How the heck did that happen?

Part of this newfound success has to do with Allen’s new Euro audience. His core has held and he has added a new geographical region of admirers. The fresh material – another continent not one’s own – has allowed Woody to break out of those meandering comedies that made up his last unsatisfying New York-based works.

To the question at hand: Is Woody Allen a genius? Woody certainly sets the bar high for himself. He has always measured himself against the heavyweights of art house – Fellini, Bergman, Kurasawa – in the same way that the American novelist Norman Mailer measured himself against Ernest Hemingway. Unlike Mailer, however, who boldly claimed the literary heavyweight throne after Papa’s death for himself, Woody doesn’t think he is in the same room.

Further, Woody Allen doesn’t consider himself to be profound at all. He told The Telegraph recently: “I’m not the great artist that I was certain I would be when I was younger. I still delude myself sometimes and think, ‘Well, maybe I’ll get lucky and something will come out like that.’ But you know, after 40, 41 films, whatever – you start to realize: it’s just not there.”

There might be something to that judgment, harsh though it is. Woody Allen would appear to be something of a genius to the scads of A-List actors and public figures that clamor for even the smallest of roles in his films. And his best films – “Hannah and her Sisters,” “Manhattan,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors” – are all, at the very least, minor masterpieces holding up solidly to multiple viewings. But do those films, ultimately, hold up against, say, Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers”? Fellini’s “8 1/2”? They do not.

Woody Allen is correct, he is probably not a film genius if by film genius one means the equal to Bergman. But Woody Allen’s perfectionism – comparing himself to those geniuses – is admirable and perhaps if not a sign of genius, of near-genius.

Leave your own thoughts on Woody Allen in our comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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