September 01, 2009

Movie Review: Woody Allen's "Celebrity" (1998)

The story behind this movie is that, about ten years ago, I wrote the name down on a list of films, at my parent's house on one of my dad's pieces of scratch paper. (He cuts used computer paper into perfect quarters & leaves them in stacks around the house.) Half a decade later, when my parents joined NetFlix, they had that forgotten piece of scratch paper & added the names of the films to their new queue. I had never gotten around to seeing the movie Celebrity. But for years now, it's become a code word for, whenever I try to recommend anything to my parents, they're like, oh god, remember when we watched that one film you liked, it was so unbearably horrible, we can't trust any of your recommendations. This went on for years & years.

So I had low expectations, & a weird relationship with an unwatched movie. I had assumed it was as mediocre as some of Woody Allen's other toss-off flicks of the past few decades. And I have a high tolerance for Mr Allen's worst movies, verily, verily, I say unto you, I love most of them. (Did anyone else even make it to the end of Happy Ending? Don't even attempt it.)

With a free afternoon, a hookah packed with banana & pomegranate-flavored shisha, a few creamy Boont summer solstice ales, I watched it on a whim. I think it was my favorite movie I've seen all year. I used to think the only movie Kenneth Branagh was good in was Harry Potter II, but I couldn't get enough of him in this. His Woody Allen impersonation isn't perfect enough to be a knock-off, but it's own organic Allen-esque character. And the two vignettes with him & Charlize Theron (as a bizarre supermodel) & with Leonardo DiCaprio (as an abusive celebrity) are terrific. And this has one of Woody Allen's cooler casts, with Bebe Neuwirth as a prostitute sex-instructor who chokes on her instructional banana, & strange cameos by Hank Azaria, Donald Trump, & Jeffrey Wright, & Melanie Griffith, & I'm not cool enough to recognize everybody. And the relationship between Judy Davis' character & Joe Mantegna's character is extremely moving & lovingly crafted. And I love when Woody lets the plot get longer & more convoluted, with characters coming in & out & everything playing off of the theme & development.

So, Mom & Dad, I will now recommend this film to you.

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