Woody Allen has directed so many movies, it’s hard to pick just one favorite. At the L.A. premiere of his latest, “Magic in the Moonlight,” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Monday, the attendees had some trouble even narrowing it down.
“Well, I’ve got about 12,” said Jacki Weaver, who plays Grace in the film. “I’ll always have a soft spot for ‘Zelig.’ And I love all the usual things. I love ‘A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,’ and more recently I love ‘Match Point.’ I’m crazy about ‘Broadway Danny Rose’ and ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ and ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ and ‘Hannah and Her Sisters.’”
Colin Firth, who stars opposite Emma Stone, struggled with the same question. “I think people can play this, it’s like a parlor game all night, really. At the moment, looking back over the years, ‘Radio Days’ is the one that comes to mind. I like ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ I like ‘Take the Money and Run.’ I like, in his own words, the earlier, funnier ones.”
After “Magic in the Moonlight” premiered in Allen’s hometown of New York just days prior, the Los Angeles premiere was filled with more fans and friends of Allen than cast members.
Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard remembers seeing Allen’s work before he founded the company. “In the ‘80s, Allen was making all his movies for Arthur Krim who used to run United Artists, and so we knew him there. Those were all his New York movies. I think, as the technology got easier to work, Allen has moved out and been able to do a lot more stuff that he probably wouldn’t have been able to do in the ‘80s.”
Film critic Leonard Maltin called Allen prolific and unpredictable. “You really don’t know what you’re going to get when you walk in for an evening of Woody Allen cinema. You don’t know if he’s going to be in a serious mood, a contemplative mood, a provocative mood, a silly mood. He’s done all of those things.”
Both Firth and Weaver pointed out how Allen was a knowledgeable man due to his traveling experience and fascination with history. Firth, in particular, noted his “incredibly vibrant imagination.”
“He knows how to change tone and adapt tone according to the story he’s telling,” Firth said. “I think this one seems to have the aspect of a fable. There’s a certain confectionary aspect to it, superficially.”
Like the subjects of “Magic in the Moonlight,” Weaver called Allen a magician. “I don’t just mean metaphorically, I mean he used to do magic tricks. And that was a kind of motif, if you will, of the time. There were a lot of seances and magicians and people like Houdini. The ‘20s were full of that kind of entertainment. He’s captured it. He’s caught the ambiance.”