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Sunday, July 5, 2020

From the Art Vault, Pt. 1

Below is the original art for a Rob Hanes Adventures "pinup" from 1995 that was used on the cover of the Nov. 1997 cover of Diamond Comics' PREVIEWS catalog featuring a collage of upcoming comics....

(The leather coat he's wearing has a little too much red in it. A bit of trivia: it actually was supposed to be a "vintage" leather army air force flight jacket that was sometimes worn by the lead character in the classic adventure strip, "Terry and the Pirates," during World War II. My character wore it in a few early stories.)




Saturday, June 20, 2020

More Capsule Reviews in the Time of Coronavirus


More capsule reviews….

Fab Four: Let It Beard Livestream (onlocationlive.com)
See subsequent review immediately following for an updated review…

The Fab Four is one of several well known Beatles tribute bands. I’ve seen several concerts and performances over the years by these bands. Including the Fab Four, though to be honest, they kind of all have blurred together. In any case, in this time of sheltering at home (and, no doubt, to earn a little bread), the band decided to put on a live performance of the Let It Be album, in honor of the 50th anniversary of its release. At only $10 for a ticket ($50 with an added virtual green room meet and greet afterwards), it certainly was reasonably priced.

In costume, the band played the album, mixed in with a little bit of chatter, taking questions from fans.

The main drawback, unfortunately, was the poor sound quality. While I’m no engineer, it’s clear they had a pretty rudimentary audio set up through the computer—I had envisioned something a little bit more robust through my receiver, but it was barely better than basic computer streamed sound, versus having the equipment and mics plugged straight into the feed.

Ah, well.

Fab Four: All We Need is Love Livestream (Part 1) (onlocationlive.com)
As I was preparing to post this review, the announcement for a second livestream concert by the Fab Four was released. Given my slight disappointment with the first show, I wasn’t sure whether to watch, but the announcement mentioned that they had enhanced the sound tech—so given the low $10 price, I thought it was worth checking it out.

I’m so glad I did—the sound was indeed much better as was the overall production quality, making for a much more engaging and fun show. To watch the concert, I streamed the show on a laptop and plug it into our big screen TV, with the sound coming through the home theater receiver and speakers. So it was definitely a much better live theater experience.

They’ll be performing the second part of the show in a week (June 26) and my wife and I will definitely be there!

Reunited Apart (YouTube)
While stuck at home, actor Josh Gad has remained productive by producing and hosting “reunited apart” remote cast and crew reunions of classic and popular films. To date, he’s done Back to the Future and the Goonies. (What’s remarkable is that many of these projects were released before he was born! No doubt because the projects promote and benefit charities, he’s attracted topnotch talent.

“Reunited Apart Makes a SPLASH” was for the fondly-remembered 1984 romantic comedy Splash. The online reunion attracted the films lead actors, Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, as well as director Ron Howard, producer Brian Glazer, and co-star Eugene Levy — and, for the late John Candy, fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds. Putting aside the corny, contrived opening set up, the interview/reunion itself turned out to be a fun romp, with Gad asking questions about the cast and crew’s experiences and memories putting together and working on the film.



Nearly as fun was the following episode, “One Zoom to Rule Them All: Reunited Apart/The Lord of the Rings.” While the teaser showed that Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd (the four lead hobbits), along with Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellan, would be on the feed, it was a great surprise to see so many more of the cast show up, including John Rhys Davies, Sean Bean, Mirando Otto, Karl Urban, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mortenson, co-writer Phillipa Boyens, and director/co-writer Peter Jackson! While the get-together somewhat devolved into re-enactments from the film, it was clear the cast have a bond that has lasted all these years (I can’t believe it’s been nearly 20 years now since the first film’s release!)

All fun reminiscences to enjoy while sheltered at home.

Just Mercy
In acknowledgment of the times we live in and the long overdue social changes currently underway in U.S., many streaming services have made available and featured films with social justice themes under the Black Lives Matter banner.

Among those is 2019’s Just Mercy, based on a memoir by the same name by Bryan Stevenson, an attorney who founded and social justice activist, who opened a center in Montgomery, Alabama to provide legal assistance to death row inmates who did not have access to adequate or competent defense counsel, and, worse, were clearly wrongly accused and the victim of racism. It stars Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. Stevenson went on to found the Equal Justice Initiative based on the
book of the same name, which some of you probably may have seen. The film is based on the memoir of an attorney named Bryan Stevenson, an attorney and social justice activist, who opened a center in Montgomery, Alabama to provide legal assistance to death row inmates who did not have access to adequate or competent defense counsel, and, worse, were clearly wrongly accused and the victim of racism. It stars Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. Stevenson went on to found the Equal Justice Initiative that has grown and remains very successful and active. It's a very moving film, focusing on one specific egregious case (from the late 1980s/early '90s) of a man named Walter McMillian (Foxx), an inmate on death row who clearly was unjustly railroaded into prison. Stevenson (Jordan) quickly finds holes in the case, and people who are willing to speak up, but must fight a justice system that is clearly stacked against people of color and the poor.

Starting with Foxx and Jordan as the leads, the film features a solid cast, including Brie Larson as the social justice activist who brings Jordan to Alabama to do this important work and Rafe Spall as the District Attorney who fights the mounting evidence every step of the way (Spall has turned up on my radar in a few projects — he also was part of the ensemble in the film, the Big Short — and has done terrific, different work in each role, proving to be a solid character actor.

Just Mercy turned out to be an excellent complement to two other films I’ve seen with similar social justice themes, Selma and Marshall, that I hope to review here soon as well….

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Comics Distribution War

While I’m no longer beholden to the mainstream comics distribution system, the business side of the comics industry still fascinates me and is something I occasionally cover at this blog.

It’s for this reason I thought I’d weigh in on the momentous announcement by DC Comics to sever its ties with Diamond Comics Distribution and partner with two other distributors.

This move has potential serious consequences for Diamond, for comics retailers, as well as the stability of the market as a whole.

First, DC—home to the “granddaddy” of comics superheroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman—commands just under less than a third of the share comics market. That essentially means Diamond will lose that percentage of their sales income, at least in new comics.

For comics retailers, this means having to sign up with new distributors if they are going to sell DC’s comics. Many retailers are upset and concerned that this will increase their shipping costs for products that already have razor thing profit margins. It’s important to note that most if not nearly all comic-book retailers (usually referred to as the “direct market”) are essentially mom-and-pop operations. Overseas retailers are also concerned because the new distributors do not appear yet to have the same system in place as Diamond to affordably ship comics overseas.

Regarding the stability of the market—DC made this announcement in the middle of a pandemic, with some stores already currently shuttered; on top of that, Diamond temporarily had suspended shipments due to the pandemic, which disrupted flow of both comics and income. Indeed, Diamond suspended payments during this time. During the closure, DC temporarily sought new distribution channels, which may have partly led to this decision.

The flip side of this issue is the feeling by many that Diamond was a “monopoly” and perhaps had stagnated the system.

While I’m not enough of an expert to comment on this, I will say that making such a surprise announcement, in the middle of a pandemic and with virtually no leadtime doesn’t seem very prudent or fair. (The announcement, which was a surprise to Diamond as well, is effective the end of this month.)

As a bit of background, the last time there was this much of a seismic shift in the distribution system was in 1994. At the time, there were several competing and regional distribution systems that served the direct market. However, under new ownership, Marvel Comics similarly made the decision to distribute exclusively with a company called Heroes World. This led to the subsequent realignment of the distribution system—anxious to ensure its financial viability, Diamond signed DC to an exclusive contract. In an effort to ensure continued competition in the direct market distribution system, many of the remaining alternative publishers signed exclusive deals with a rival, Capital City Distribution. However, these alternatives did not have enough market share to keep Capital City viable, leading to that company’s eventual collapse and the alternatives flocking to Diamond. Marvel’s experiment with Heroes World failed for similar reasons and ended up with Diamond, making the distributor the sole surviving company. While the federal government did look into whether Diamond was a monopoly it ultimately took no action—I have always thought it was because the market was relatively too small to merit such action.

So here we are, in the middle of a pandemic and a seismic change in the comics industries. It’s anyone’s guess how it will play out, but there is understandably a lot of concern, given that it’s on top of a devastating pandemic that has led to store shutdowns and curtailed sales—when the economy tanks, it is usually “luxury” non-necessity items like comics that are the first to go.

For ongoing coverage of this, see Bleeding Cool herehere and here. A good history of the distribution market to 2011 can be found at the Delusional Honesty website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

It's Time

What a remarkable time we live in—first the pandemic, now the marches. The looting by opportunists (and other bad elements trying to exploit the situation politically) has been distracting, but I am glad to see many of the news reports noting that most of the marches are peaceful and that the message is getting across. Let's hope it results in meaningful change — and spurs people to vote in November. Changes at the top would be a good first step.

I was discussing with my daughter what was going on. As she already understood, I mentioned that even though I/we are people of color (and I am the child of immigrants), I know I haven’t experienced the kind of institutional racism that black Americans go through during most of their lives—to be on guard and reminded of their race nearly every day without the luxury of just being themselves and being able to go wherever they like without fear of being profiled or harassed, let alone not being able to enjoy the same opportunities for advancement and social mobility as other people “privileged” by the color of their skin.

My wife occasionally reminds me (especially at times like these) that she was born in L.A. during the Watts Uprising in the 1960s. I was not in L.A. yet, but we did together witness the 1992 Rodney King Riots—that year, like this past weekend, I watched on live TV via helicopter shots the looting of a local business I was familiar with. Back in ‘92, it was a now-defunct Federated Department store, just 2 miles from me (which today is a Target store, though there are actually now two other Targets even closer to me). Yesterday, it was the looting of an REI sporting goods store in Santa Monica that I’ve been to several times; I’m also familiar with the shopping area looted in Long Beach, across from the Long Beach Convention Center.

In ‘92, I recall how jarring it was to see the National Guard at my local grocery store—I didn’t find anything really threatening about their presence other than the fact that it was jarring to see armed military personnel in my neighborhood, like a police state. (The day after the King riots, in an attempt at some normalcy, we went to Santa Monica for brunch with another couple—though it did feel a bit surreal to be having a pleasant lunch on the patio while we could see columns of smoke in the distance.)

So here we are again—I’m not sure I ever thought I’d never see anything like this again, but of course, given what’s been going on in this country—especially over the last four years—it shouldn’t be a surprise. Especially with a leadership in Washington that has no understanding they are supposed to represent the interests of all Americans while regularly demonizing people of color and immigrants, and pandering to a small extremist base.

Rather than linger on all that though, I’d like to talk about the moments of hope I saw amidst all the chaos:

Like watching local news report that most demonstrators were peaceful except for those looters whose actions only served to overshadow and co-opt the message of the protests.

Seeing residents and others in the areas affected coming out to reach out to the storeowners and help clean up—one person remarked in a news interview, “These looters have only made more victims.”

Watching a young female protester—holding a sign that said “Stop All Violence”—courageously stand in front of the front doors of the REI Store to prevent looters from breaking in despite some looters trying to pull her away, and being joined by an African-American male, before someone threw a smoke bomb to make her disperse. (The store, of course, was later ransacked.)

Seeing a looter return to the scene of the crime and return what he had stolen the night before to the store owner, explaining he was homeless but felt badly about what he had done.

Seeing scattered reports of police officers expressing support for the protesters and condemning the murder of George Floyd by another police officer.

I know I’m generally an optimist, but it’s moments like these that give me hope. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Safe at Home

One of the advantages of being stuck (or rather safe) at home is that I’m even more focused on my comics work. I’m fortunate that both my wife and I have jobs that we are able to do remotely, and both our children our home too—our college freshman daughter returned home once her classes went virtual as did my high school freshman son’s school.

By all accounts, we have experienced an economic meltdown that dwarfs the 2008 Great Recession (when we thought things got really bad) and stands to rival the Great Depression of the 1930s. As I write this, unemployment in the U.S. is at a staggering 14.7%, unseen since the Great Depression, with no end in sight and a possibility of matching the 25% rate seen in the Depression. Despite actions like the CARES Act and other economic aid packages, people are obviously not spending, and manufacturing and production in many areas have dropped precipitously in the span of just a few weeks.

Meanwhile, U.S. deaths as of this writing stands at 86,248 and climbing. I understand the impatience to “re-open the economy” but with the peak of deaths not yet reached, all I see is this economic downturn stretching out and lasting much longer than it should have given the lack of testing being done and no plan whatsoever at the federal level. At minimum, all one had to do is look at other countries to see how they staved off deaths—South Korea and New Zealand come to mind as models. Hell, even China, with a billion people kept their deaths below 5,000 (even with the underreporting that many believe happened).

I recognize every country is different, but of course it didn’t help that we have an administration that is famously undisciplined and refused to take any advance warnings seriously, let alone provide leadership, unity and clear consistent policies and messages on how to weather the crisis together. Even now, no plan seems to be in place outside of the apparent hope that it will simply naturally run its course and magically disappear on its own.

I’m not going to comment more on the politics of all this (especially since I have other accounts for that lol). That said, this is what needs to happen if we are to re-open: better testing and contact tracing to understand where the hotspots are; a sustained commitment to sheltering and public health recommendations to limit and “bend the curve” of the infection’s spread in order to protect vulnerable groups and populations, health workers and our medical capacity; and a continued decline of cases over at least 14 days.

Without these very minimal conditions being met, and doing so as a community, being able to re-open and reduce the rate of infection will be very challenging. At least, that’s my 2 cents.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!




Saturday, May 9, 2020

Capsule Reviews in the Time of Coronavirus

Like many, being sequestered and sheltered in place at home with little to do for outside entertainment, I’ve increased my consumption of streamed television and films. Below is a capsule review of some of these movies and shows (some of which, admittedly, predate the pandemic):

Blade Runner 2049
Although many don't realize that the original film was a box office disappointment on its release in 1982, the original Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, remains an influential and iconic film that put cyberpunk into the mainstream. Touching slightly on the issues of bio-ethics and what makes one human, the movie is intended as a futuristic film noir. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, hired to hunt down and kill (or in Blade Runner parlance, “retire”) four rogue human replicants who seek to extend their four-year life spans. (Blade Runners are essentially bounty hunters of rogue replicants, bioengineered beings identical to humans except for having increased physical and other abilities.) Along the way, he meets and falls in love with a special non-commercial replicant model, Rachel (Sean Young), which adds to the ambivalence he already feels over his job.

Blade Runner 2049 picks up from that film, 30 years later. Ryan Gosling plays a new generation replicant and Blade Runner, known as “K,” responsible for hunting down the remaining older model replicants, following a revolt by replicants.

Like the original film, we are immersed into a dystopian future of the world, ravaged by climate and social change since the period of the first film, where only the flotsam and jetsam of earth’s humanity too poor to leave for off-world colonies still reside. We learn of a great blackout that destroyed or corrupted electronic data, and of increased activity by replicants against supplication.

Yet as much world building goes on, director Denis Villeneuve (who is directing the upcoming Dune film) actually keeps the story small and intimate. The film focuses on a mystery/whodunnit of sorts, setting up in the opening scene a tantalizing mystery of whether replicants can reproduce—a mystery that may very well be connected to K’s own heritage and origin. We also get a glimpse of K’s internal life and yearning to be “human” himself—though a replicant, he maintains a relationship with a virtual companion named Joi, played by a mesmerizing Ana de Armas (the latest “It girl” who made a similar impression in Knives Out, and is schedule to appear in the next Bond film).

To say more than this would be giving too much away of the plot. That said, although the film "opens up" the world seen in the first Blade Runner, the story is, ultimately, surprisingly small and intimate. In fact, I would argue that the director’s focus on the smaller story at the sacrifice of the broader world-building tale makes the film peter out somewhat at the end. And while the film tries its best to follow in the original film’s footsteps, the film noir tone has been lost along the way.

Emma.
While Jane Austen’s Emma has been adapted numerous times over the years—most notably the mid-1996 film with Gyneth Paltrow, which was preceded by the brilliant modern update adaptation, Clueless, the year before—filmmaker and director Autumn de Wilde finds a way to tell the story in a fresh, colorful and charming way. While a period piece, it nevertheless has a vibe and pace that feels fresh and modern. My wife and I agreed that the only drawback was the casting of Mr. Knightley—and felt that Paul Rudd, who played the equivalent character of Josh in the film—could easily have played the same role here!

Of course, we ended up following up the movie with a screening of Clueless, which still holds up. It wonderfully captures the ‘90s while also creating a slightly skewed version of it, with its made up vernacular.

Wonder Wheel

While no doubt most people yearn for director and writer Woody Allen’s peak of films like Manhattan and Annie Hall, and later ones like Hannah and Her Sisters and Husbands and Wives, as the comedian mentioned in his recent biography (reviewed in my last post), Allen has no interest in repeating himself and remains simply content on keeping busy and always looking to the next project. In some ways, familiarity can breed contempt—averaging nearly one film a year, at such a clip, especially for a writer-director, it’s inevitable that there will be some misfires along the way. I myself no longer see an Allen film as a “must see”—I couldn’t even get entirely through a few recent projects, such as CafĂ© Society and his Netlix series, Crisis in Six Scenes.

Regardless, Allen’s output is nevertheless impressive. His recent memoir put me of a mind to go on a binge of his films available for streaming, including Love and Death, Manhattan (always a favorite though I now look at it with different eyes given his recent history), and Hannah and Her Sisters (another favorite).

Wonder Wheel had been on my watchlist for awhile, so I decided to give it a shot. A 1950s period piece set in Coney Island, I found it to be one of the best of Allen’s films in recent years—essentially his take on A Streetcar Named Desire about a married woman, Ginny (Kate Winslet), who embarks on an affair with a young lifeguard and aspiring playwright named Mickey (Justin Timberlake). When her stepdaughter, Carolina (a terrific Juno Temple), moves back in with her and her husband, Ginny begins to spiral into a fit of jealousy as Mickey and Carolina, being closer in age and temperament, begin to connect. The film feels like a stage play and indeed is an effective drama.

Gorky Park
Though I have not seen it since its release in 1983, I loved this film and its concept and recall seeing it several times in the theater. Based on the novel of the same name, it is a police procedural/murder mystery with a twist: set in then-modern-day Moscow, the protagonist is Arkady Renko (William Hurt), a Soviet police detective, investigating the murders of three young adults, one of whom it turns out is American. Renko soon suspects he is being set up and tailed by the KGB who seem to have an interest in the case. Also rounding out the cast is a potential witness, the beautiful Irina (Joanna Pacula, in her film debut), a Chicago cop in the country also investigating the murder (Brian Dennehy), and an American industrialist named Jack Osborne (an effective Lee Marvin).

Though not as slick or polished a production as many such action movies today, the film holds up well, capturing the grittiness and gray drab of living in the Soviet state. I was a big fan of Hurt at the time (and still am), and he is convincing as a Russian policeman who understands the corrupt system he is working in yet remains committed to pursuing the truth and justice within those parameters, while also finding himself falling for Irina, who is desperate to leave the oppression of her country. Another important character in the film is James Horner’s haunting and memorable score—I still have the soundtrack on vinyl and used to play it often, particularly in creating mood while drawing and writing my comics.






Thursday, April 9, 2020

REVIEWS: Apropos of Nothing

Woody Allen’s autobiography, Apropros of Nothing, will no doubt be viewed through the lens of accusations that have followed the writer-filmmaker since his bitter breakup with Mia Farrow, when he was found to have been having an affair with one of Farrow’s adopted daughters (to whom he has been married since 1992).

To avoid bogging down this review at the outset, I’ll offer my thoughts about the accusations at the end of this review.

Allen’s book is a breezy and entertaining autobiography told in a conversational manner, full of many of Allen’s trademark one-liners (particularly if you’re familiar with some of his other writings and collections like myself). The account of his early years is particularly fascinating—born to a ne’er do well but devoted father and World War I vet who lived a colorful life that sometimes skirted the edge of the law and a mother from a more respectable family, the two seemed to be a mismatch with the exception of being doting parents.

Allen also makes a pointed effort to separate his onscreen/pop culture persona from real life, and establish his bonafides as a regular guy. While he admits to being a born misanthrope, he acknowledges he actually comes from a loving family who somewhat spoiled and treated him well. And far from being the cowardly, bumbling klutz and intellectual as he sometimes plays in his films, he was athletic and popular, and insists that even today he prefers a beer and watching a basketball game to anything else. He notes that he was a poor student who only decided to appear more cultured and literate to impress the girls. (That said, later in the book he confesses his admiration for Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams and, of course, his love for filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman is well known—hardly lightweights.)

In between playing stickball and movie-going, however, he did find interests that suited his introverted personality: magic, jazz and the clarinet and, of course, his ability to write jokes. As he mentions later in the memoir, he’s never experienced a moment of writer’s block and, by age 16, when he was hired by an ad agency to produce witty one-liners and quotes to be used by clients for the society pages, he could knock off 50 gags a day and was already making more than his parents.

From there, Allen talks about his rise in the entertainment industry—a major break was being selected for a comedy writing development program for NBC. While the program itself proved to be a bust for NBC, Allen grabbed the brass ring and had the good fortune to be mentored and befriended by comedy legends like Danny Simon (brother of Neil Simon), Larry Gelbart and Mel Brooks, working on shows like Sid Caesar's “Your Show of Shows.” From there, he graduated to standup and writing humor pieces for the New Yorker. (The memoir also proved to be a perfect bookend to another outstanding book I recently read on the history of American comedy, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy, by Kliph Nesteroff, which I read late last year.)

Allen has nothing but praise for most of the people he speaks about and, revealing a modesty and humility that borders on disingenuous, insists that most of his work, particularly his films, have been mediocre at best. The most he can recommend about himself is that he was a hard worker who truly appreciated the people who helped and came before him.

There are some truly touching moments, particularly when he speaks of an older cousin, Rita, from his childhood who took him everywhere with her and her friends though she was a few years older than him; as well as his close relationship with his sister, which he described as “love at first sight,” who similarly became an inseparable friend and companion almost from the very start (she has been his producer for many years). His appreciation for people like Gelbart and Simon, his agents and producers, Charles Joffee and Jack Rollins, fellow comedians like Brooks and Dick Cavett, and the clarinetist who gave him music lessons for $2 an hour, Gene Sedric, are moving and heartfelt.

As he gets into his film years, he tends to breeze through them, mentioning some just in passing, sometimes keeping his comments about the film to a paragraph or even a sentence, usually to praise the actors he worked with and take the blame for any shortcomings. He’s upfront at saying that he has no real technical skills as a filmmaker, leaving it to the professionals, nor any real advice to give, so there isn’t much shop talk in the book.

Of course, a good portion of the book focuses on his relationship with Mia Farrow and the fallout from allegations that he had molested his adopted daughter with Farrow. Then 7 years old, the now 30-something woman has maintained this claim, bolstered both by Farrow and her biological son with Allen, Ronan Farrow.

On the other side of the coin, Allen’s other adopted child with Farrow, Moses Farrow, has risen to Allen’s defense, claiming that the accusations were false and the result of a woman scorned, alleging that Farrow herself was a mother prone to cruel emotional and occasional physical abuse, a charge also supported by Allen’s wife. (It should be added that Farrow’s family has its share of dark secrets—Farrow’s own family appears to have been troubled, with one brother committing suicide and another currently in prison for child sexual abuse; Farrow herself has had three adopted children die under her care, including one who committed suicide, another under mysterious circumstances, and a third for health reasons.)

Allen makes it clear with great detail that not only were charges never brought, but many of those who investigated found no evidence of misconduct and, in some cases, suspected Farrow of “coaching” the children. As for myself personally, at the end of the day, I do believe in Allen’s innocence. First, aside from the findings, such people usually have a history of such behavior and, for Allen, no such allegations have ever emerged before or since. Plus, it needs to be noted that he and his wife were allowed to adopt two baby girls—certainly, I would think if there was cause for genuine concern, the adoptions would never have been approved. Both girls are now adults and appear to maintain a close relationship with their father and mother.

That said, Allen is not entirely without blame. While his relationship with his girlfriend’s adopted daughter (who was a consenting adult at age 22 when they began their relationship) was certainly not illegal, at best it was very poor judgment. And as many have pointed out, Allen’s book in many ways seems to affirm his fascination with young (though not underage) women, often commenting on the good looks of many of the actresses with whom he has worked.

Early in his book, Allen confesses that even at a young age he always appreciated women. At the risk of engaging in armchair psychology, I’ve always had the sense that Allen, particularly with his fear of mortality, simply also values youth and, perhaps, the youth that a younger companion can provide him. To be clear, many of his films have taken on a different cast in retrospect, particularly Manhattan, where Allen’s character, Isaac, dates a 17-year-old high school student named Tracy (played by Mariel Hemingway). I’ve often found it telling, however, that Tracy seemed to be the most mature person in the story (at least certainly compared to the men).

At last count, Woody Allen has made more than 67 films over his career, often at a clip of one a year—at that rate, it would be improbable, if not impossible, to expect them to be as high a level of a Manhattan, Annie Hall or Hannah and Her Sisters. And he has made many that, if not that good, are certainly just slightly lower tier but still terrific films like Bullets Over Broadway, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Zelig, and Purple Rose of Cairo. Perhaps the quality of his films have been diluted by the sheer number, but any filmmaker would be lucky to have had such a run and those number of films that stand the test of time.