- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Woody Allen’s “Match Point” is getting the kind of love letter reviews that his early and midperiod comedies routinely elicited. Critics yearn so for a return to classic Allen form that their critical faculties almost seem preset to see the genius of old, instead of the plain evidence of their own eyes. The Woodman is hardly the only artist whose past greatness trails unrealistic expectations of artistic rebirth.

Francis Ford Coppola — The man who launched a thousand bad Marlon Brando impersonations with “The Godfather” hasn’t made a stunner since 1979’s “Apocalypse Now.” Yet the press still reveres the bearded filmmaker, even in the wake of flops like “One From the Heart” and “Jack.”

Spike Lee — The fiery auteur burst onto the scene with “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Do the Right Thing.” He’s been scrambling for relevance ever since, but critics still insist he’s one film away from a return to glory. He nearly had it with “25th Hour,” but looks to have a better shot at redemption with the buzz-heavy thriller “Inside Man” coming soon.

John Updike — The “Rabbit” is long out of the bag for this respected author, who hasn’t created a memorable piece of fiction since Harry Angstrom sank his last basket in “Rabbit at Rest.” He’ll generate big-time press whenever his next book finds its way to Barnes & Noble no matter how modest the likely payoff.

R.E.M. — The college crowd had all but abandoned the alt-rock quartet when they became a trio in 1997, but it took critics a while longer to lose their religious-like fervor. The band’s late 2004 release “Around the Sun” found even longtime R.E.M. apologists acknowledging its descent.

Steven Bochco — The man behind “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue” has been coasting on his reputation for so long we forget he also gave us “Cop Rock” and “Philly.” Critics still hold him in high regard even after his latest project, “Over There,” drew a big yawn from audiences.

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