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Movie Review: Annie Hall

Annie Hall
Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Allen and Marshall Brickman
United Artists, 1977

United Artists capped off an amazing three-year Best Picture stretch with Annie Hall, the movie that beat Star Wars for the Oscar.  Woody Allen got his first of many future Oscar nominations for his writing, directing, and even his acting.  This is ironic mainly due to the fact that Allen is famously anti-awards; he wasn’t present for the Oscars, and this film has an entire sequence dedicated to the pointlessness of awards.  As Allen says in the film, “All this town does is give awards!  Uh, Best Fascist Dictator, Adolf Hitler!”

Annie Hall is an unconvenionally told romantic comedy, one that skips around in time and breaks down the fourth wall a few times.  But basically, it’s about stand-up comic Alvy Singer (Allen) and his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton, who won Best Actress), and how his insecurities and needs constantly clash with her yearning to experience life, warts and all.

This is the crux, but Allen has a lot on his mind in this always-entertaining film.  Nearly every kind of joke is landed, but it always has the sense of stream-of-consciousness.  Alvy will have a fight with Annie, and then start asking random people on the street what he should do.  Or in the famous scene where he’s in a movie line and someone starts ranting about Marshall McLuhan, and he tells the ranting guy he has no idea what he’s talking about, then brings the actual Marshall McLuhan in to back him up.  ”If only life could be like this,” Alvy says to the camera.

Then there’s the hilarious look at Hollywood and Allen’s disdain for how fake it is; subtly at first (When Allen lets his camera glide over decidedly un-snowy California, complete with Christmas decorations and a Christmas carol on the soundtrack, he certainly says a lot), but then the fake laugh tracks on sitcoms, the awards, and ultimately, the people.  Some of the most brilliant dialogue is delivered, very stream-of-conscious, at a party.  “Right now it’s only a notion, but I think I can get money to turn it into a concept, and then later, an idea,” is one of the many gems thrown around at this party.

Not only do we see Alvy and Annie, we see Alvy and his other failed relationships and his crazy childhood.  Also contributing to the movie is Tony Roberts as Alvy’s complete-opposite best friend, Rob.  I don’t think one note is missed in the whole picture, making it certainly one of the Best Pictures of all time.  But forget that; Annie Hall is one of the best movies of all time, period.

Annie Hall beat out a group of films I’m not entirely familiar with, except for Star Wars.  The Goodbye Girl was the movie that got Richard Dreyfuss a Best Actor Oscar.  Julia and The Turning Point were the other films in the category, both containing a slew of acting nominees. 

What might be a little surprising now is that Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind didn’t get nominated.  It might have been too much for the Academy to include two huge sci-fi blockbusters in the category, especially since the gobs of money generated by Star Wars and that film was a new thing that had changed the industry.

If you’ve never seen Annie Hall, I’m almost jealous.  But what’s great about it is that multiple viewings always seem to bring out something new in the film.  A must-see.


Comment from Mike
Time: March 18, 2007, 1:37 am

I forgot my mantra.

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