Well, we made it to another Movie Monday! I hope you enjoyed my look at Argo. This week’s review is over Annie Hall, the 50th winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. As always, leave a comment and share.
When I think of romantic comedies, I always think of my mother, sitting in front of the television on a lazy Sunday afternoon, while my dad and I watched football in the other room, uninterested in the seemingly cookie-cutter movie playing in the next room. Obviously, I’ve never been interested much in romantic comedies.
But there is a certain redeeming quality to them, one that I think I may take for granted. They do a great job of making you feel connected to the story. The concept is simple: take an awkward romance that may or may not work and throw in some well-timed sex jokes, some awkward flirting and a string of good dates, and poof, you now have a relatable story. Who hasn’t had that happen to them? Who hasn’t been so smitten by the other person that they’ve said the wrong thing or been filled with self-doubt when going beyond small talk? I venture to say that we all have.
Annie Hall is a romantic comedy that seemed to, according to my young eyes, invent the modern romantic comedy. It does many things very well, from writing to directing to set design to sound. It is at times charming and at others sad and real. But, I hated it. Or, at least I did at first. On the second viewing, some things changed in my mind and the movie seemed to come together in my head.
Alright, I didn’t hate the movie, so much as certain portions of it. It’s worth mentioning that this movie beat out Star Wars for Best Picture. Which one is more memorable? It’s not Annie Hall. As for why, keep reading.
Now, for the review:
It’s worth mentioning that Annie Hall did win the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, so that’s a positive mark there. And it is an honor that it certainly deserves. Annie Hall was written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman and the script features snappy, quick dialogue that, at times, burns through a lot of topics ranging from lobsters to Judaism to sex and drugs. It’s full of many great quips such as, “I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light,” or, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
The script is greatly paced but doesn’t have much room to breathe. However, a dialogue-driven romantic comedy doesn’t really need to breathe. There is, after all, no action in Annie Hall. 1.
Directing is another category in which Annie Hall not only excels but won the Academy Award for Best Director. Woody Allen lends a distinctive touch to this film which mostly centers on the idea of introspection. When Alvy Singer (who is played by Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) meet at Annie’s place the first time, the two are chatting on Annie’s patio and their thoughts are displayed at the bottom of the screen. I literally cannot remember what they are talking about but the thoughts are completely opposite from their conversation. The thoughts demonstrate feelings of lust (for Alvy) and self-doubt (for Annie). It helps to characterize the fragile start to their relationship.
Another example is during the frequent fourth-wall breaks and flashbacks in the movie. This one is from Alvy’s perspective and he has quite the imagination. This helps to sell that his character sometimes lives in reality and sometimes doesn’t. 1.
It’s hard for me to say anything negative about the set design in this movie. It was mostly designed to reflect its time as it took place in present day. Annie Hall is mostly told through flashbacks and the sets reflect the time then, too. My girlfriend, though, was not as big of a fan of the fashion. I happened to love some of the fashion.
This analysis seems pretty light compared to my take on Argo. But, I can’t knock a movie for reflecting the times when it takes place in present day. Also, the individual sets in the movie were not important. I also spotted more than one afro. 1.
Gordon Willis was the Director of Cinematography in Annie Hall. Willis chooses to utilize long shots to tell the story of this romance. There are very few cuts in the movie and the scenes had to be perfectly blocked during the course of filming. But counteracting those long shots are numerous close-ups (particularly for some of the dialogue) and shots from the back of a moving vehicle when Annie or Alvy are driving. However, the camera is often on a tripod (stationary), rarely on a dolly (moving) and hardly on the shoulder (moving and shaky). If you’re unsure what a dolly does, check out this cool video about the differences between a dolly and a zoom, check out this cool video from the folks at Film Riot.
I’ve always been a fan of the long-shot to help tell the story. The camera holds and holds forcing us to not only look at the action in the scene but everything else around it. My personal favorite shot was of Alvy and Annie kissing during one of their early dates. The pair are in the left third of the frame while the Brooklyn Bridge, lit up just after sunset, gleams in the background. The shot holds for several seconds, and I not only saw Alvy and Annie, but I can almost smell the East River that’s running behind and feel the cool breeze that caresses my skin. 1.
Like set design, the sound analysis for Annie Hall is fairly short. This is due to a lack of it. The movie is jarring in the fact that it has very little music in it. In fact, the only music, outside of Diane Keaton singing, is a mash-up of Christmas songs during a monologue on Alvy’s first trip to Los Angeles. That’s it. As odd as it is for the movie to not have any music, the little tunes it does have works. The Christmas mash-up that I mentioned demonstrates the irony of celebrate what is thought of as a cold holiday in a place like sunny Los Angeles.
I did notice that the sound effects, like a car swerving, were a little loud. However, I chalk that up to limitations in editing technology of the time, so I can’t ding Annie Hall for having effects that are just a “little too loud.” 1.
There are a number of noteworthy actors and actresses in Annie Hall, like a young Christopher Walken and a young Jeff Goldblum; however, the movie is really centered around two actors: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.
Woody Allen (Alvy Singer) Alvy Singer was a character that I hated both times I watched this movie and it’s for two reasons:
- Singer is a successful and dark comedian who seems to be constantly on the prowl for love. However, I am still struggling to find what makes him successful. He’s not funny. And it’s no wonder that he can’t find a stable companion: he’s a jerk. And he doesn’t need to be. Everything that happens to him is some kind of joke or he always has a witty response, even when it’s not appropriate. Alvy Singer will not shut the hell up, no matter how much I want him to. It’s a good thing that Annie has actual lines in this movie, otherwise, we’d never hear from her.
- He’s neurotic, only focused on himself and seems to get distracted easily. Additionally, he’s a horn dog who constantly feels the need to be validated as a man by sex. It’s not until it’s too late with Annie does he really want to have something more in life. And yet, he never really changes. He’s always got to be the funniest guy in the room, even when the situation doesn’t call for it.
Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) The good news is that Diane Keaton saves the day with her performance. Her dynamic portrayal of a charismatic and very magnetic Annie got her the nod for Best Actress. Annie is at times embarrassed, angry, remorseful, happy and in love. She can be a little ditsy, but I think we can all be that way around someone that we find attractive. She finds herself by the end of the movie while Alvy is struggling with his new reality without her.
However, Allen’s performance ruins Annie Hall for me. This is the hardest part of this review. I didn’t favor the film at first, particularly because of Allen, but when I watched it a second time, it grew on me. Except the character of Alvy Singer. I wanted to strangle him during both viewings.
The hard part about Annie Hall is that it does many things very well. And based on my categories and judging system, I have to give this score a high score. However, I cannot, in good conscience, give this category a one, even with Diane Keaton’s performance. 0.
As I mentioned above, a majority of Annie Hall is shown through flashbacks. In fact, the beginning of the movie has Alvy narrating his life since Annie Hall. You see everything from Alvy’s humble roots (in a house under a Coney Island roller coaster) to his previous two wives and Annie’s old attempts at love. The story meanders around and doesn’t follow a coherent pattern. But, I think that’s okay. It tells the story of their relationship and how it developed and evolved over the years. Like all relationships, there are peaks and valleys. It shows us that we all have needs to be loved and accepted. Annie Hall is a charming and very real story of two lives that became intertwined and, ultimately, fall apart. 1.
I have to give one bonus point to Woody Allen the director here. This movie is told through Alvy’s eyes only. His use of split screens during some of the flashbacks and consistent breaking of the fourth wall were smart solutions to getting in the head of Alvy as he drifts through life.
Final Score: 7/10
Annie Hall won the 50th Academy Award for Best Picture on April 3, 1978 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Bob Hope hosted the event for the nineteenth and final time. Annie Hall won Best Picture over The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars and The Turning Point. Woody Allen won Best Director, Richard Dreyfuss won Best Actor for The Goodbye Girl. Diane Keaton won Best Actress. Jason Robards won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Julia and Vanessa Redgrave won Best Supporting Actress for her part in Julia. Robards was the fourth actor to win back-to-back Oscars. Julia and The Turning Point grabbed the most nominations with 11 each. The Turning Point even set the record for the most nominations without an award. Star Wars won six awards, the most during the ceremony.
Annie Hall was nominated for five awards and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. Jack Nicholson presented the award for Best Picture in a double-breasted tuxedo and Charles H. Joffe, Annie Hall’s producer accepted the award.
For the next Movie Monday, I’ll have the review of Michael Anderson’s Around the World in 80 Days, which won the 29th Academy Award for Best Picture in 1956. The next five movies following that are Gandhi (1982), Rocky (1976), The Broadway Melody (1928/29), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989).
I hope you enjoyed this review. Please feel free to give me feedback on this post or any other posts. I always love to hear from you and I want to learn to make my reviews better.
Annie Hall (April 20, 1977)
Winner, 50th Academy Award for Best Picture
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Written by: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Produced by: Charles H. Joffe
Cinematography: Gordon Willis
Edited by: Ralph Rosenblum
Running time: 93 Minutes
Budget: $4 million
Box Office: $38.3 million
Distributed by: Twentieth Century-Fox