This past Tuesday, Woody Allen was nominated for two Academy Awards for his latest film, Midnight in Paris (the picture itself also earned a Best Picture nomination, but Allen is not a producer on the film). Not coincidentally, more than two classic Allen films hit Blu-ray for the first time on Tuesday. No, it was not a certainty that Allen would be nominated, but the discussion around Midnight in Paris has been largely excellent and its awards' potential has been high.
To this point in his career (including Midnight in Paris), Woody Allen has been nominated for 23 Oscars and has three wins. One of the nominations which did not result is for the screenplay for 1979's Manhattan, one of this past week's Blu-ray releases.
Vintage Allen, Manhattan stars the comedic legend as Isaac, a divorced Jewish man living in New York, looking for love, and generally finding himself in situations more difficult than they might need to be. In the case of this particular film, Isaac starts out dating the far younger, Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), only to fall in love with his best friend's mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton). Isaac makes a good living as a television writer but, naturally, hates what he does because he sees it as too low brow.
For much of the film, while every change he makes may lead to momentary bits of happiness, they are quickly overturned. As examples, Yale (Michael Murphy), the best friend, decides he doesn't like Isaac dating his ex-mistress, and Isaac needs to move out of his apartment after leaving his job. These are obvious complications from before Isaac began to proceed down any of these roads, but he still cannot manage to avoid them and actually seems moderately surprised when facing them.
Anyone who has seen the character Allen has tended to play in general on film will be instantly familiar with Isaac, but certainly not for the worse. With such a long career as the actor-director-writer of his films, there is a comfort to seeing Allen do his thing both in front of and behind the camera. Beyond that though, in Manhattan, Allen delivers the quick, deadpan, wit which has made him so enjoyable, and watching him interact on screen with Diane Keaton absolutely never gets old.
The film also displays, as is regularly a trademark of Allen's work, a sense of intelligence. Allen's characters (both those played by him and not) regularly throw around tons of high art concepts along with philosophical notions and a general awareness of literature and film, but they do so in a way that makes it clear that while the concepts inform the film Allen still manages to make them the butt of jokes.