- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2008

What do you have to do to get recognized by the Kennedy Center these days?Get your short stories published in the New Yorker and win the O. Henry Award?

Have one of the greatest stand-up comedy acts of all time?

Win three Oscars and be nominated for a total of 21 (including more best-screenplay nominations than anyone in history) as a writing-directing-acting triple threat?

Be one of the top male box-office stars (No. 8 in Quigley Publications’ rankings) of the ‘70s?

Win a lifetime-achievement award from the Directors Guild and be one of just two people (Ingmar Bergman is the other) to win a Cannes lifetime-achievement award?

Write for some of the biggest names in early television? Appear on the cover of Life magazine?

Woody Allen has done every one of those things. Yet he continues to be passed over year after year for both the Kennedy Center Honors, which recognize a lifetime of achievement in American culture, and the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Why is he continually snubbed?

It’s not that he has signaled (as he has in the past with the Oscars) that he wouldn’t show up to accept such honors.

“I’ve never been asked,” he admitted with obvious discomfort when I interviewed him recently.

It’s not that he’s never been nominated.

Actor Tony Roberts has been on the Kennedy Center’s national artists committee for 10 years. Its members, along with past Honorees, give their recommendations each year to the center’s board of trustees. Mr. Roberts, currently on Broadway in “Xanadu,” has been in many of Mr. Allen’s films, including “Play It Again, Sam” and “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.” He played Mr. Allen’s character’s best friend in “Annie Hall.”

Mr. Roberts says he writes Woody Allen’s name on the ballot every year. “He deserves it merely on the basis of his ingenuity and imagination and his output,” Mr. Roberts says. “The sheer volume of work that he has produced as a director and a writer in the movies is unequaled.”

“It’s a tremendous oversight on their part not to make him the number one priority,” Mr. Roberts concludes.

There’s no doubt Mr. Allen is one of America’s greatest living directors. His films may not have made as much money as those of 2006 Honoree Steven Spielberg, but his body of work is more consistently intelligent and sophisticated. He also has made about twice as many films (and twice as many memorable films) as 2003 Honoree Mike Nichols. And these are two of the heavyweight Honorees. Can anyone claim with a straight face that the unproductive Warren Beatty or screen hearthrob Robert Redford ranks with Woody Allen as filmmaker and artist?

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