Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Radio Days (1987)

By Eric Jessen 8/3/09

Oh the sadness of fading memories. I wish we could return to the good old days when we laughed and played and danced together to our favorite radio programs, when rainy days, glowing snow, and dirty rooftops surrounded by neon lights were beautiful, when we were all truly happy. Music plays in our head as we remember our wondrous childhood when we cheered substitute teachers, peeped on sexy middle aged neighbors, scampered around town with our friends and ran from our belt, pot and pan wielding parents. And all the memories, the songs, the laughs, the characters, wacky or somber mesh with clarity and weave together in our minds at a New Years Eve party: the day that we realize time flies, our lives will change, nostalgia begins and the memories from the previous year start to slowly deteriorate. Oh how sad. But should we really shed any tears reminiscing over such forgettable, bland stories (above) shown in Woody Allen's Radio Days?
By 1987 Woody Allen had reached the point of arrogance and confidence as a result of fans and critics telling him he was “brilliant” that he felt the need to enlighten everyone on the remarkable adolescence that made the “genius,” like Federico Fellini before him. The only difference is that Fellini's ode to his childhood, Amarcord (1973) included flickering, radiant color and Nina Rota music to back interesting stories. Fellini painted a weird, unique portrait of the freak show, Mussolini-filled circus that made the strange artist. Allen creates a sparkling romantic vision and a memorable soundtrack glazing over banal vignettes.
Allen wrangled in a star studded talented cast of his favorite actors but unfortunately gave none of them captivating parts to play. Seth Green plays Allen's kid persona. Julie Kavner and Micheal Tucker play the New York city Jewish parents predictably whiny and arguing. Dianne Wiest plays an aunt looking for love and stumbling upon a married man, a coward and a closet homosexual. And Mia Farrow plays up and coming actress Sally White naive, dumb founded annoying with a piercing high pitched shrill voice. There are also cameo appearances by Dianne Keaton as a New Year's singer, Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels as Biff Baxter and Wallace Shawn as the Masked Avenger.
Radio Days has one or two genuinely funny anecdotes (the baseball pitcher with bad aim, an itchy trigger finger but with plenty of heart). Woody Allen has a good understanding of the hue and mood of the Amarcord style nostalgia. He also shows a sincere love for his past avoiding the temptation to set scores and point fingers. But despite Allen's skill and intelligence to make the definitive statement of a love for himself work, he just doesn't have enough intriguing or humorous stories. I could cry like a baby at the idea of fading memories in Radio days but the USO show, kissing his crush, drooling over the new hot teacher, the neighbor that has a nervous breakdown and the New Years party..... are all coming of age, Hollywood cliché and not worth my tears.

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