Question Marks and Commas Make For Classic Cinema

Punctuation can tell you a lot about a person, but at Slate Nathan Heller has traced the rise and fall of film director Woody Allen all through his use of the humble comma.

"Bafflingly mispunctuated" poster from Woody Allen

"Bafflingly mispunctuated" poster from Woody Allen

Heller argues that Allen’s films were at their best when the titles used more punctuation, citing What’s New Pussycat?, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? and the “rigourously punctuated” Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex/ But Were Afraid To Ask. For Heller the wheels fall off with Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You which he tetchily dismisses as “a title that shifts, with no punctuation, from third-person citation to first-person direct quotation” though he also thinks one of the problems was that it “also required Julia Roberts to sing”.

By 2008’s “bafflingly mispunctuated” Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Heller concludes the “golden age of Allen - for the grammar-minded moviegoer, at least - was over”. Heller does conclude that punctuation may have found an unlikely new heir in Justin Beiber. Helller concludes that the Canadian pop star’s new book entitled Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story is the worst example of “highly irregular, morally suspicious colon deployment”.

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