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July 26, 2006

Woody Allen Has Bad Manners

Here's Woody Allen philosophizing about life in a new article in the Washington Post:

"You do the best you can within the concentration camp...It's very hard to keep your spirits up. You've got to keep selling yourself a bill of goods, and some people are better at lying to themselves than others. If you face reality too much, it kills you...It's just an awful thing, and in that context you've got to find an answer to the question: Why go on?"


Here's my objection to this. It's not that Woody Allen is necessarily wrong about reality. Though I don't think he's correct, I accept there's certainly a rational case to be made that he is.

However, if you truly believe this—that life is mostly hideous suffering and then we die—I think it's good manners to keep it to yourself. If you live in a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis, is it really necessary to constantly go around telling everyone else there, "We all have incurable TB, and IT'S HORRIBLE"? They may well be aware of this already, and be trying to deal with it in their own way. Or maybe they're not aware, in which case you should just leave them in peace. All you're doing is (I guess) making yourself feel briefly better.

Then there's this:

"It's like the two trains at the beginning of my movie Stardust Memories. There's a train with these gorgeous winners on it, and a train with all the losers in it. You want to be on the train with the winners, but five minutes later, you're pulling into the same depot. My 70-plus years will be spent better than those of a beggar on the streets of Calcutta. But we'll wind up in the same place."

Again, perhaps this is true. But while this perspective may not sound so bad coming from a beggar on the streets of Calcutta, it's a little grating when it comes from someone rich and famous. Better for the rich and famous who believe this to remain discreetly mum.

Beyond that, Woody Allen might find life a little more tolerable if he spent more time thinking about the world, including the trains with all those ugly losers, and less time thinking about himself.

Posted at July 26, 2006 03:33 PM | TrackBack

...and less time thinking about himself.

Poor bastard, he has a reason to worry. Sure, the trains are pulling into the same depot, but it's gonna be awfully hard to push that camel through the eye of a needle.

Posted by: abb1 at July 26, 2006 04:02 PM

Introspection can be a good thing, but Woody tends to take it to the extreme.

Posted by: SPIIDERWEB™ at July 26, 2006 04:31 PM

I have always found Woody Allen annoying I think, well actually I find most movie stars to be annoying. While reading the article I kept wondering why people like Allen put so much value on things of little value. Self pity is something that is seldom attractive to anyone when seen in others besides being a complete waste of time and is just a way of indulging in cultivating self importance.

When I worked at Ford Aerospace the senior physicist was a cripple confined to a wheel chair yet he worked every day like most people have to and was always kind and did not give the impression he thought he was better than those with more menial and mundane tasks and was not above smiling and saying hello when met in the halls.

The article seemed to be a PR piece for Allen or a promotional for his movie. How ever I rarely watch movies these days because my interest in fantasy waned years ago as reality is always much more interesting. Also movies are the perfect vehicle for people to frame reality with unreality. There is almost always in any given movie a point where a situation is framed and then an actor gives a profound one liner which the viewer is obviously expected to be impressed by yet it is always just an opinion and rarely a fact.

Posted by: rob payne at July 26, 2006 05:17 PM

Grating or not, we either face up to our collective tuberculosis or risk passing on an ever more deadly strain to our grandchildren.

And, either everyone will arrive at the depot to find bling bling, virgins and fig newtons, or no one will.

Woody Allen and his work set my teeth on edge, but these sound like two pretty fundamental truths to me.

Posted by: Realrealgone at July 26, 2006 06:21 PM

I haven't read the article Realreal, but speaking of "pretty fundamental truths," did Woody mention taxes? Seems to me that here on Earth, (if not in Heaven :^) eventually we ALL get what MOST of us deserve--and/or are prepared to pay for...

Posted by: Mike at July 26, 2006 08:00 PM


it's gonna be awfully hard to push that camel through the eye of a needle.

Yeah...I think Woody Allen's main concern is that there isn't any camel and isn't any needle. I suspect he'd be delighted to find out there are, however difficult the pushing process then was.


I actually think it's a lack of introspection that leads to behavior such as this. More introspection and he would realize what he's doing doesn't really help anyone, including himself.


I used to be watch every movie Woody Allen made. I watched Another Woman TWICE, for God's sake. (Don't ask.) But he's really lost me completely -- not because of this philosophizing, which I would mind less if he were making good movies, but because his movies are disappointing for reasons I think are connected in a complex way to this philosophy.


we either face up to our collective tuberculosis or risk passing on an ever more deadly strain to our grandchildren.

I don't think that's Woody Allen's perspective, though. He'd say the TB we have has always been virulent, and there's nothing we can do about it.


Nope, nothing about taxes in the article.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 26, 2006 10:12 PM

I always liked Woody, but not all of his movies are watchable. Being a cynical nihilist is never popular, but we're the ones who still root for the underdogs in seemingly hopeless situations. Americans have become hopelessy enthralled by winners and there is no middle ground anymore. You're branded either a winner or a loser. Please excuse my bad manners, but I'm in stuck in a whorehouse with an expired credit card too!

Posted by: americanintifada at July 26, 2006 11:55 PM

You must be in the Whitehouse!

Posted by: rob payne at July 27, 2006 12:21 AM

That reminds me of a line from Al Franken's book "Why Not Me?" when he responds to an offer from Clinton to assist in his presidential campaign: "Tell the President I don't need his help. I already know how to get a blowjob!"

Posted by: americanintifada at July 27, 2006 12:30 AM

Say, I did not no Al knew Condi. Speaking of Condi she recently had this little bit of wisdom to impart upon us with which to illuminate the dark roads ahead.

"...and for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who blithely announced Monday that we are just watching the
'birth pangs of a new Middle East.'"

Birth pangs?

Looks more like a miscarriage to me. Perhaps we could get Condi to switch jobs with Woody Allen as we could use his pessimism regarding the Middle East and Condi could make comedies which she obviously has a knack for.

You all might recall that when Bush ran for prez the first time we were told by pundits that it was okay that Bush was dumber than a door nail because he was going to surround himself with geniuses like Condi, and Rummy, oh let us not forget Cheney the Middle East historian and expert. Heh, heh.

Get ready world, here comes the "new" Middle East. Old Europe? New Middle East? Everything that was old is now new. Maybe the New World will now be the Old World. Or maybe we can get South Dakota to switch names with North Dakota since up is down in our brave new world.

Posted by: rob payne at July 27, 2006 06:19 AM


A brand new "Trading Places" is a great idea! Condi can pen 'black comedies' while Woody digs the red beard out of wardrobe that he used to portray the rebel leader in 'Bananas', then make a docudrama about his very short presidency.

We'll see him haplessly stumbling and stuttering into hilarious situations, all the while being snickered at behind his back by the intellectuals. His bumbling foreign policy madness ends up leaving no Arab left alive in the charred rubble of the New Middle East, but who cares? The closing line will be when President Woodie turns to the new President of the United States of Israel and says "My job here is done, so occupy at will. Which one is Will?"

I smell boffo big box office and everybody chanting as they leave the theatre:

'U-S-I! U-S-I! U-S-I!'

Posted by: americanintifada at July 27, 2006 06:51 AM

charile chaplin, where has y'all gone?

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at July 27, 2006 08:24 AM

I have been a life long and pretty devoted atheist since the fetal stage, but... FIG NEWTONS in Heaven? Seriously? Bring it, God!

Posted by: Elayne at July 27, 2006 12:26 PM

I think Woody Allen's main concern is that there isn't any camel and isn't any needle. I suspect he'd be delighted to find out there are, however difficult the pushing process then was.

I didn't read the column, but from the quotes it sounds like he's trying to console the losers by telling them that they aren't losing much - on the great scale of things. Well, I thought the camel/needle thing would be a stronger argument.

Posted by: abb1 at July 27, 2006 01:35 PM

Another quote from that article: "One of the great pastimes of my life was eyeing girls in short skirts, and that's gone. They're unavailable to you, and in the few cases where you could work your magic, it's to no practical avail because you can't plan a future if you're 70 and she's 22. So your flirtation life goes, which is a big part of everybody's enjoyment in life."

Woody, my man, this assumes that flirtation has to have a result. Ideally, sex. But flirtation can be very enjoyable, and frankly a lot easier to do, when you have no expectations about a result. Flirting for the sake of flirting. Or for the sake of being flirtatious. Whatever.

Seems like the ol' world view would improve a bit by doing some more inconsequential flirting.

Posted by: Lame Man at July 27, 2006 02:35 PM

If Woody Allen did not whine and despair about the human condition and chose instead to go through life feigning cheerful optimism we would not have any Woody Allen movies, some of which -- though certainly not all -- are astonishingly and heartbreakingly good.

Because our neighbors are too polite (and too comfortable and/or cowardly) to remind us of the grimness of human existence when we wave hello to them in the morning, we need art to articulate these uncomfortable truths about our shared human experience, and seing them articulated makes us feel less alone and less despairing, not more so.

I find the notion of world where everyone pretends to be happy and displays bumper stickers that say "Smile: it only hurts a little" to be terrifyingly cloying and sinister. Telling the truth as one sees it, and seeking out people who tell the truth is the only antidote to despair that I know of.

Posted by: asfo_del at July 30, 2006 12:10 AM

Hi all! What do you think about conflict in Israel?

Posted by: Gary at August 2, 2006 05:50 AM