The Golden Globes offered a tribute to Woody Allen on Sunday night, presenting the filmmaker with the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, though he was not there to pick it up himself.Allen's longtime collaborator Diane Keaton, accepting the prize on Allen's behalf, said their 45-year friendship fills her heart with "pride, affection and even love."
Allen previously won Golden Globes for the screenplays for "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Midnight in Paris." He is famously averse to award shows. A four-time Oscar winner, Allen has appeared at the Academy Awards ceremony only once -- in 2002, to make a plea for the return of film production to New York.
"I’m not an awards person," Allen, 78, said during a recent interview with The Times. "I find the whole thing silly."
Having begun his career as a joke writer while just a teenager in New York, he would go on to be a successful stand-up comedian before making the transition to writing and directing movies. Following the period of films now frequently referred to as the "early, funny" ones, including "Take the Money and Run" and "Bananas," Allen took a huge leap in 1977 with the seriocomic relationship story "Annie Hall." The film would win four Oscars, including best picture, best actress for Keaton and best director and screenplay for Allen. (Allen was also nominated for best actor.)
From there his career has continued at an astonishing pace and a startlingly consistent level of attention and acclaim. Other notable films include "Manhattan," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Husbands and Wives," "Match Point" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
Allen has made well over 40 films, at roughly a pace of one a year for more than 30 years, and his filmography is marked by incredible variety but also singularity; it includes comedies spiked with drama and dramas laced with comedy.
"I see them as distinct," he said of his remarkable output, "but if you looked at them you would see recurring themes all the time. The same questions are asked in one form or another.
"There are 100 different dishes that the Chinese eat, but in the end it's all Chinese food," he added. "Yes, there's a pork dish, or a scallop dish, they are all different on the menu, but you've had Chinese food. And that's the way you could think of my films."
Allen's most recent films have found him having a renewed box-office clout too, as "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," "Midnight in Paris" and his most recent "Blue Jasmine" have all done well with audiences.
An avatar of a certain kind of nervy intellectualism and bracing emotional introspection, Allen has had a cultural presence that has crossed generations, genders and national borders. His influence seems inescapable. To anyone but Allen himself, that is.
"I feel I'm unique, but not necessarily in a good way," he said. "And I think I've been making films for years and I've influenced nobody. I don't say this in a self-deprecating way, it's just an objective fact, from what I see."
Were he to actually see the Globes tribute on Sunday -- he was very likely watching basketball on TV in New York when it went down -- he would have seen a lot of people who would argue that point, and a ballroom full of evidence to the contrary.
Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus