Saturday, April 16, 2011

Annie Hall

Today's movie is Annie Hall, directed by Woody Allen in 1977. I was really looking forward to watching this - I've really enjoyed watching his movies, and since I have seen so few of his movies, I've been really excited to watch them as they come up for my project. Annie Hall was really, really great. The dialogue was really fresh and funny, there are tons of dorky, intellectual references that I was laughing disgustingly at, the acting is great, and the style of the whole movie is so cool! Unfortunately, I didn't see the last 8 minutes of this movie - the DVD that Netflix sent me was actually cracked and bubbling. I'm shocked that it played at all, but it somehow limped along until it gave up right before the end. I read a summary of the end on Wikipedia, but it's pretty frustrating, since that's not anywhere near a good as really watching it.

The film is about Alvy Singer, a comedian living in New York, and his troubled relationship with the unique Annie Hall. IMDB describes her as "ditzy", which I guess is true. The whole film is mostly talking, with narration from Alvy himself. Alvy often breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to viewers, and sometimes, other characters notice this and join in. This is one of the many really awesome stylistic choices in the film. Even though there is so much talking, it doesn't feel boring or slow at all.

I found it so fun to watch because of all of the witty dialogue. Anthony and I were laughing so much during this movie! The dialogue is so great, but it also has so many interesting references - to Fellini, to Truman Capote (who appears as himself as Alvy declares "Oh, there's the winner of the Truman Capote Look-Alike Contest"), and so on. I really liked that aspect of the movie, because not only did it make me feel snobbish and self-important, it it's also really rare to see a movie that uses anything other than pop culture references. My friend Alex, a fellow film nerd, came with me and Anthony one night to go see Superbad. None of us really liked it, but there was one joke about Orson Welles, which I can't remember or care about now. After we heard it, we all laughed loudly, and then sheepishly realized we were the only ones in the theater laughing.

Ebert mentions the strength of the references as well, writing, "Consider the famous sequence where Annie and Alvy are standing in line for the movies and the blowhard behind them pontificates loudly about Fellini. When the pest switches over to McLuhan, Alvy loses patience, confronts him, and then triumphantly produces Marshall McLuhan himself from behind a movie poster to inform him, "You know nothing of my work!" This scene would be penciled out today on the presumption that no one in the audience would have heard of Fellini or McLuhan" (Great Movies II, 30). I know for sure that no jokes like that would make it into modern, Hollywood comedy - but I think that is why so many people love Annie Hall! The jokes and references were still really funny since what he wrote about were a bit timeless. People can watch them now and still find the jokes really new and exciting (or they were for me, at least). I really am starting to fall in love with Woody Allen, and understand why so many people are fans.

In Ebert's quote above, he brings up a scene that not only has a funny reference, but uses a really cool style as well. I love that Alvy pulls McLuhan out of no where to argue - I've never really seen anything like that! There are other great scenes as well, where their style is so interesting and makes the scenes more effective. There is a bit of a haunting but funny scene in the beginning, when Alvy is telling the viewers about his childhood. He visits the classroom he was in, and the students, all children, face the camera and tell us their very adult futures. It's a little unsettling, but darkly funny, and I really enjoyed the scene. There is another one, where Annie's spirit, bored during sex, gets up and leaves her body on the bed, and goes to sit on a chair and wonder about other things. It's a really powerful image, but it makes the humor easier to understand and far less tacky. I love that Woody Allen incorporated such a wide ranges of styles, it makes the movie feel really unique and interesting, and that helps to make the dialogue all the more engaging.

I really, really love this movie. I wish I could have seen the last 8 minutes, but I feel like I have a really good idea of it as a whole. I loved all of the funny, witty dialogue and the huge range of visual styles. I loved the acting - everyone felt so perfect for their roles, it felt very real. Plus, I got to see young Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum (Anthony and I glanced at each other, eyes wide, and said, "It's him!" when we heard his unmistakable voice, and I squeed with delight at Jeff Goldblum, who I sort of maybe love, surly on the phone during a party). I think it's a fantastic movie, and it's so worth watching. I had so much fun with it, and found it to feel really fresh and new, despite the fact that it's 11 years older than I am. :)

Have any thoughts on Annie Hall? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Annie Hall
You can rent the film through Amazon On Demand, as well.


  1. great review.

    'hall' is one of my Woody Allen fovorites. in fact my college studio art professor and I used to drive the class mad reciting the film's dialogue.

    the quote that always cracked me up was Christopher Walken's line:

    'can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.'

    ... and then Woody's response:

    'right. well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth.'

    of course there was a hilarious Annie Hall reference on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode 'The Giant Spider Invasion'...

    ... Mike Nelson says (in his best Woody Allen impersonation):

    'oh no. a spider the size of a Buick is attacking his Buick.'

    p.s. kudos on 'Alien', my #1 favorite film :-)

  2. Hahaha, great story! I loved Walken's part, it was such a funny quote for such a small appearance.

    I'll have to check out that episode of MST3K when I get a chance - I used to watch it with my dad when I was little, but I never got any of the references like that. I would really get a kick out of it now, I'm sure!

    And a sigh of relief at a fellow Alien fan - I think everyone I know is strictly in the "Aliens is better" camp, and I felt a little alone in my love of Alien. :)

    Thanks so much!

  3. I just discovered this blog and left a lengthy comment here, but accidentally closed it out on the CAPTCHa page, so let me try to summarize (hopefully a bit more concisely) what I was saying. :)

    1) It's well worth seeing the last eight minutes of the movie. Annie Hall has possibly my favorite ending line of all time.

    2) I love this movie. This was the first major Woody Allen movie I ever watched, and since then I've fallen in love with his work. Annie Hall is, for me, the perfect combination of sentimental and cynical in a love story. It's marvelous.

    3) When I first saw it, I was 16, and didn't know who Fellini or McLuhan were, and I think Ebert's right, that scene would have gotten cut today. That's a shame, because I didn't know who they were and *I* still laughed. It's a funny scene, regardless of whether you specifically get the reference or not. Modern day comedies are frequently made up of jokes where, if you don't get the reference, you can't possibly get the joke. Allen knows it's not funny to just namedrop - he has to build comedy around it. That way, even though the names were unfamiliar to me, the comedy still made it through. Wonderful stuff.

    I've subscribed and am going to love reading these! It's a great idea for a project - keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for the comment! I am pretty unfamiliar with Woody Allen myself, but his films I've seen for my project have really turned me into a huge fan. I agree - he has a really incredible talent for writing comedy.

    As soon as I can use my Netflix queue again (it's pretty much untouchable since all the "Great Movies" are set up in order), I want to rent Annie Hall again and actually see how it ends! Or better yet, maybe I'll buy it!