Woody Allen is in the midst of a run of box-office successes and critical acclaim. His latest film, "Blue Jasmine," has firmly implanted itself into this year's awards-season conversations. Having turned 78 years old last month, Allen seems as busy as ever.

Which is only part of the reason the filmmaker did not show up in person at last weekend's Golden Globe Awards to accept his Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. He said he'd be in New York during that ceremony, likely watching basketball on TV.

But a couple of weeks earlier, in an interview at a Beverly Hills hotel, Allen spoke about his films, especially "Blue Jasmine."

"I see (my movies) as distinct," he said, "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. ... And that's the way you could think of my films," all Woody Allen cuisine.

The four-time Oscar-winning filmmaker, who was in Los Angeles to play clarinet with his jazz band to a rapturous crowd at UCLA's Royce Hall, said, "I'm not an awards person." He said his initial reaction was to turn down the DeMille award, but once persuaded that it would be good for the movie, he acquiesced. "I said if I don't have to watch it and I don't have to come to it, they can do anything they want," he recalled.

'Purely accidental'

"Blue Jasmine" traces the downfall of a high-society woman who discovers her husband's fortune is based on financial fraud. Cate Blanchett gives a powerful performance in the lead role, which includes scenes of the woman in emotional and psychological freefall, along with flashbacks to her earlier life, as she searches for clues and cracks in her past. A hit for Allen, "Blue Jasmine" has garnered Blanchett and co-star Sally Hawkins best actress and best supporting actress Oscar nominations respectively, as well as other nominations and prizes.

It is the torn-from-the-headlines quality that perhaps makes "Blue Jasmine" stand out for some viewers. It calls to mind the story of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff and his wife, Ruth, and is framed in a way many found reminiscent of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." The film feels like Allen's most socially connected work in ages.

"It's accidental, Allen said. "I was not in any way thinking of that. The two things that come up all the time that I was never thinking of were anything of Tennessee Williams, and I was never thinking of Madoff. It's purely accidental.

"The only thing that interested me about the story was the psychological breakdown of the woman. I didn't think of the social ramifications, the recession, the economics, the chicanery on Wall Street or anything like that."

When accepting an award recently from the New York Film Critics Circle, Steve McQueen, director of "12 Years a Slave," mentioned Allen as a previous recipient he felt honored to follow. From Elaine May to Jill Soloway and Jerry Seinfeld to Judd Apatow, Allen's influence seems inescapable -- that is, to everyone but Woody Allen.

'No evidence' of influence

"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.

"Whenever I've read anything -- interviews with filmmakers, young filmmakers -- I never, ever, ever see my name mentioned ever. I've seen no evidence of it anyplace. ... I don't see the influence on the screen. I just don't see it."

Robert Weide, who directed "Woody Allen: A Documentary," also has heard Allen bemoan his lack of influence. "The funny thing is, for a guy who says he hasn't had any influence ... names will come up of filmmakers who have been compared to him in one way or another," said Weide, noting that Albert Brooks has been called a West Coast Woody Allen, Nicole Holofcener a female Woody Allen and Spike Lee a black Woody Allen.

Allen carefully guards the storylines of his upcoming projects. When he referred to "Magic in the Moonlight" -- his upcoming film starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone -- as "a romantic movie, amusing ... set in the South of France in the 1920s," it felt as if he were revealing state secrets.

The film after that, he went on to say, will be set in the United States, though he would not confirm where. It depends, in part, on where he decides he can stand to spend a summer.

When Allen said, "The Colin Firth-Emma Stone film is over and history to me. 'Blue Jasmine' is ancient history," it perhaps spoke to his work ethic and astonishing output -- writing and directing a film a year for more than 30 years. By the time a movie comes out, he likely already has shot and edited another one and is two paces ahead.

"People are free to say anything they want about me, good or bad, in the press or in life," he said, perhaps alluding to his occasional appearances as a topic of tabloid speculation. He also added that he hasn't read a review of his work or an article about himself in more than 40 years.

"I realized the less preoccupied you are with yourself, the better you do," Allen said. "You don't want to read that you're a genius; you don't want to read that you have no talent; you don't want to read how gifted you are or what a lowlife you are. The best thing is to just work."