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Celebrity

The most ignored celebrity news story of the 1990s was the crippling auto wreck that permanently damaged Woody Allen's brain. That's the only way to explain the once-brilliant director's alarmingly awful output this decade, capped off in flaccid style by this annoying and tedious contemplation of a society obsessed with fame. Obviously inspired by Fellini's magical La Dolce Vita, Allen attempts to skewer our increasingly decadent and gossip-drenched times, but succeeds only in proving how hopelessly out-of-touch he is. Kenneth Branagh stars as a New York City writer whose day job as a lifestyle journalist has him commingling with coveted superstars. As written, the character receives sexual favors from a glamorous movie star (Melanie Griffith), spends a sexy night on the town with a supermodel (Charlize Theron), and is invited to an orgy with a bad boy actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) — but performed by Branagh as a grating mimicry of Allen's own film persona, it's a wonder these fabulous people put up with this idiot for a second. Almost as annoying as Branagh is Judy Davis as his ex-wife, whose performances for Allen have become increasingly less defined, spinning into uncontrollably shrill neurotics since her wonderful turn in his 1992 masterpiece Husbands and Wives. With only 1997's Deconstructing Harry also bobbing above mediocrity this decade, Allen is batting two for ten since 1990, with most of those failures leaning toward the abysmal. Not an impressive record from a prolific director who hadn't gone astray since the early 1970s. Fine performances by Joe Mantegna, Famke Janssen, and Winona Ryder — as well as Sven Nykvist's absolutely gorgeous black and white photography — are criminally put to waste. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.0 mono. Keep case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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