Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Netflix pick of the month: ANNIE HALL

Usually my movie picks are little gems that are somewhat forgotten. So you may be saying, why select ANNIE HALL? It won the Oscar in 1977 for Best Picture of the Year. My answer: Have YOU seen ANNIE HALL? And if you have, was it within the last ten years?

I’m amazed by how many young people have not seen this comic treasure. Knowing Woody Allen for the movies he’s made in this decade is like knowing Dick Clark for his recent appearances on NEW YEAR’S ROCKIN’ EVE.

You forget that Woody Allen was….

… once considered hip.

… once screamingly funny.

… once wholly original (all the conventions he’s used over and over for the last 32 years were actually new then).

… once secure enough to collaborate with other great writers like Marshall Brickman.

… once young enough to not be confused with the father of all of his love interests.

Rarely does a romantic comedy really suck you in. Yes, you’re laughing (a lot) but more than that, you find yourself genuinely caring about this couple. When can you say that about a Kate Hudson starrer?

For me the mark of a good romcom is “would I like to fall in love with that girl?” (That’s different from “would I like to sleep with that girl?” Those movies I call “Cinemax After Dark”.) ANNIE HALL completely passed that test for me… and I don’t even think Diane Keaton is that hot. But I got swept up in this romance. I wish it were me in those little cafes and jazz clubs. (I do stop short at taking my love to see SORROW & THE PITY, I would like to get laid occasionally.)

Some of the movie may seem a little dated today. It’s hard to imagine a relationship where two people can’t text each other. And there are no pratfalls. But the emotions remain real and deep and ring as true today as they did back then when “Boogie” was an actual word.

This is not to say movies were better “back in the day”. Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd can do no wrong (for the moment). Still, it’s worth checking out or revisiting ANNIE HALL. If for no other reason than to see Christopher Walken as Duane. You knew then he had the makings of a star or serial killer.


gottacook said...

Not only have I loved ANNIE HALL since its first run in spring 1977, but I have an amusing black-and-white still of one of the cut scenes, purchased later that year at Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Material Store on 14th Street, Manhattan: Annie, Alvy, and Rob with a dark-suited fellow who might be the devil, standing around a platform elevator apparently about to descend into a Manhattan sidewalk, with Alvy looking quite nervous. I've heard that this was only one of several fantasy-type sequences that were filmed. I would welcome a comprehensive book about the conception, scripting, and editing of this movie, which I don't think exists - something along the lines of The Citizen Kane Book or The Making of Kubrick's 2001.

Another movie from this era that I'd highly recommend is Paul Mazursky's NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE (1976) starring the late great Lenny Baker. It also features Ellen Greene, Shelley Winters, Lou Jacobi, and (in much larger parts than they had in ANNIE HALL) Jeff Goldblum and "Chris" Walken.

fatburger said...

From the way you write no pratfalls, you'd think there was no physical humor. But we get a house under a roller coaster, Alvy crashing into other cars, a search for a missing lobster and the biggest laugh of the movie, a sneeze which sends cocaine flying. It's a very physical film.

Mike Bell said...

Annie Hall is worth the watch for the Marshall McLuhan scene alone.

rob! said...

I'd argue Annie Hall is one of the 10 greatest movies ever made.

Katy O'BW said...

I just finished watching Lateline via Netflix and your recommendation. Very nice. I enjoyed it so much that I am now a proud owner of my very own legally purchased copy. I hope you will see some profit from this.

Thanks for the enjoyable blog.

Emily Blake said...

I honestly tried to watch Annie Hall a few months ago but I couldn't last more than 20 minutes. I just wanted him to shut up. Woody Allen never shuts up. Maybe if he was Issac Hayes I wouldn't mind, but he's Woody Allen, and Woody Allen is annoying.

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen annoying? What do you do for fun in your spare time, go to the Special Olympics and bitch slap the kids and tell them to "snap out of it"?

rhamilton said...

I guess I'm kind of young, (does 27 count? I'm starting to lose my hair) and I watch try to catch Annie Hall at least once a year or so. Usually I even cry a little bit. So I guess what I'm saying is that Annie Hall has made me less of a man, in like a good way.

Cap'n Bob said...

I agree with everything you say, Ken, except Diane Keaton not being that hot. Not recently, sure. The era of the silly hays worn low on her head made her look idiotic. But as a younger woman she was lovely beyond imagining IMHO.

WV: hylie. how today's students spell "highly."

Anonymous said...

Wagner, Max!! Wagner!!

Anonymous said...

I saw it within the last 10 years (for the first time), but I actually didn't watch it as a comedy, just a movie with real people. Especially since the "comedy parts" are the ones that aged the worse. I really liked it, and it was kinda funny, but a comedy? no

I liked Manhattan better, probably for the same reason.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Clarke said...

Brilliant and innovative, a movie treasure. Curiously, it isn't the movie Woody set out to make, a kind of murder mystery comedy. That's why Diane Keaton shouts "David!" in the lobster scene instead of the Woody Allen character name, David was a character, maybe the murder victim. Great editing rescued the movie.

The lines still hold up, from "I forgot my mantra" to "...what we have here is a dead shark." Annie Hall is maybe the only movie script I know by heart, it's like listening to music.

Chris Rock was interviewed a year or two ago, a program like Elvis Mitchell. Chris told the interviewer he didn't think he could like or respect somebody who didn't admire Annie Hall.

Mike said...

The editor Ralph Rosenblum deserves great credit for making Annie Hall the brilliance it is. IIRC, he was a mentor to Woody, responsible for some of the reshoots, the scenes talking to the camera, that add so much.

He also is responsible for taking A Thousand Clowns off the stage and making it a very fine movie.

Highly recommend his book "When the shooting stops."

D. McEwan said...

Okay, it's been more than ten years since I watched ANNIE HALL, probably more than 20. But for Heaven's sake, I saw it at least 7 times, and all of those viewings were in theaters.

My favorite scene remains the lobster escape.

A year or two after it came out, I was working at The Comedy Store, and every day on my way to work, I walked past that cafe on Sunset where Woody plays his last scene with Annie, and then demolishes all the parked cars.

MANHATTAN however, always made my skin crawl. It's a feature-length justification for a middle-aged man having an affair with a high school girl. When my friends defended it with bull, I got creeped out by them too ("But she's a pure spirit." No, she's a teenager. He should be arrested, not lauded!)

So when the Soon-Ye scandal broke, I was all, well of course, didn't you see MANHATTAN? He was almost boasting of being a child-molesting perv.

Anonymous said...

"Seth Rogan can do no wrong."

??? Observe and report on his latest movie

Roger Owen Green said...

It is my favorite film. I've seen it at least 4 times in the theater and own on on video.
But I decided a while ago that it's not a comedy. There are funny bits, but it's at best a dramedy.
La-de-da, la-de-da.

Mike said...

@D. McEwan:

In Annie Hall, too. One of the funniest lines, delivered by Tony Roberts: "Twins, Max. Sixteen year olds."

But then we would have to put Charlie Chaplin in jail, too. He met Oona when she was 16, right? And they stayed together longer than any of his previous relationships. And Woody has been with Soon Yi longer than any of his previous.

And how he sees it may be revealed through the words Woody put into the mouth of Rob Reiner in Bullets Over Broadway, "A genius creates his own moral universe."

John said...

My only real gripe with Annie Hall isn't with the content of the movie itself, but what its success did to its co-writer/star.

Woody was already trying to pull away from his "all nebbish, all the time" character as early as in the boudoir scene in "Love and Death" (Allen writing a gag making himself a super lover never would have made it into his earlier films). "Annie Hall" was a fleshing out of Woody's normal characters and removing them from the Marx Bros./Bob Hope style of comedy, and its success really started him down the path of the dramedy in future films, where you can tell he was much prouder if the drama parts of his films succeeded than the comedy aspects.

That's fine if you can find an audience for it, and keep getting the financial backing to make the movies, but "Stardust Memories" pretty much told you what Allen thought of the people who found the more serious tones of his movies from the end of the 70s (and on) less enjoyable.

AlaskaRay said...

>>It’s hard to imagine a relationship where two people can’t text each other. And there are no pratfalls.<<

What do you mean, no pratfalls? I thought the lobster did a great job.


D. McEwan said...

"Mike said...
@D. McEwan:
But then we would have to put Charlie Chaplin in jail, too."

Damn right. A genius, but a child molester. Never mind Oona, Chaplin seduced 12 year olds. 15 was the average age of his paramours. He liked virgins who had just passed puberty earlier that day.

As an artist, he was brilliant (Until after MODERN TIMES, when he began thinking that the way to end a comedy was to lecture the audience), but as a man, he was loathesome, and certainly should have been locked up for screwing children.

Genius doesn't come with a free pass on statutory rape.

As Mia Farrow so correctly said when the whole Soon-Ye scandal first broke: "Rule number one: don't fuck the kids."

shpankboy said...

Annie gets an annual play in my house. Yes it's dated and yes, Woody is a child molester and I loathe them. I still haven't seen The Piano because Polanski had something to do with it.
I guess I justify it by the fact that he wasn't when he made this film and if you have lived in New York City in the seventies you dated Annie so it brings back so many memories of people I knew. Neurotic people yes but people none the less. Or maybe I just need the eggs.

Joe said...


I still think that Zelig is WA's best.

THAT gets regular screenings at my house, and I have it on laserdisk. (Stop and ponder that for a moment.)

jbryant said...

shpankboy: You're thinking The Pianist -- The Piano was Jane Campion, not Polanski.

Supposedly, the underage romance in Manhattan is based on Woody's relationship with actress Stacy Nelkin when she was 17. She worked with him on Annie Hall, but her scenes didn't make the final cut. She's also in Bullets Over Broadway. She later married and divorced Barry Bostwick.

Patti in Scottsdale said...

"We can walk to the curb from here." "JEW eat?" Classic.