Friday, September 26, 2014

Annie Hall (Best Picture 1977)

There's nothing like watching a great comedian at his prime. He makes you laugh while making you think, and be fore you kno wit, his set is over and you're on your way home, recounting his best bits.

Annie Hall is nothing like a great comedy, and Woody Allen is nothing like a great comedian. The film is 90 minutes but it feels like three hours. As they say, "death is easy, comedy is hard." 
The film tells the story of Alvy Singer, a comedian and writer, but jumps around chronologically and also breaks the Fourth Wall, as Allen begins the film by talking to the audience. This is a contrivance he does several times during the film. In my opinion this is a mistake, because this *firmly* plants the story as being told BY Allen, and we obviously can not trust this narrator. Plus, it was annoying in the sense that I want to watch a movie, not a filmed monologue. Allen couldn't decide what to do with the material. 
Diane Keaton as the title character is adorable and a joy to watch. She was always pleasant to watch, as her naivete morphs into cynicism which morphs into independence. Keaton won Best Actress for her role. However, Allen plays the annoying, self-centered selfish neurotic Jewish comedy writer who is in a relationship with her. Please, someone, can you explain the appeal of Woody Allen? If he were at a party with you, would you find him amusing? For me it was painful to watch this film. There is one scene where he and Keaton are on-line for a film and the man behind them is going on and on about how he doesn't like Federico Fellini films. This annoys Allen, but as I was watching this I nearly yelled at the screen, "You're the same way! How is what he doing anything different that what YOU'RE doing?" So is this the point? Are we supposed to all see something that Allen's character himself doesn't see? Is this supposed to make him somehow "nicer"? Frankly, I could not wait for this film to end.
Woody Allen in line = me watching this film
There is a famous scene where Allen and Keaton are trying to boil lobsters, and the creatures cause a bit of chaos for them. It is a cute scene, and with Allen actually laughing it seems like it was a bit of an improvised situation. Later, after Allen and Keaton have broken up, Allen tries the exact same "schtick" with another woman. This woman's reaction to Allen's actions and indulgence were the same as mine. "Are you joking? What's the matter with you? I don't get it."

Speaking of the lobster scenes, the first scene is a good example of the lackluster direction. All through this scene the camera stays set squarely guessed it...Allen. In a scene that was inherently funny, it was staged as just another time for the character to shout, "Look at me!"
So if you are  Woody Allen fan, you'll be like Allen and Keaton in the first lobster scene. If you're like me, you'll react like the woman in the second lobster scene.

Perhaps I didn't like this film because I can not disentangle this film from the information I know about Allen and Mia Farrow and their adopted children. That might be part of the reason I think Allen's character is unpleasant here, but I doubt it. I remember how the first Woody Allen film I ever liked was Radio Days, which was partly because he/his character was not in it! 
Annie Hall
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1977*
Produced by Charles H. Joffe
Directed  by Woody Allen
Screenplay by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman

Another Harold Heckuba All-Star Spectacle

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
The Goodbye Girl
Star Wars
The Turning Point
This was another one of those well-known Oscar years. What self-respecting film fan doesn't know about The Turning Point, the Anne Bancroft-Shirley MacLaine drama that had eleven nominations but won none? Do you remember or have you read about the acceptance speech by Vanessa Redgrave for Best Supporting Actress in Julia, who famously called her detractors "Zionist hoodlums"? Julia,  starring Jane Fonda, was about Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. It also boasted Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards, his second win in two years (his first was All The Presidents' Men). The Goodbye Girl is a cute little Neil Simon romantic comedy that earned Richard Dreyfuss a Best Actor Oscar, at 29 the youngest actor to win (up to that point). And Star Wars was some little film that made a bit of a splash and then quietly faded away. How it, or really any of these, were not judged to be better than Annie Hall, I have no idea.

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