Annie Hall (review)

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It’s a Movie About Nothing

Annie Hall is kinda Seinfeld: The Motion Picture. Of course, Woody Allen’s self-deprecating, nebbishy stand-up comedian was around long before Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing, but it’s really amazing how much they have in common.

Cowritten and directed by Allen, this self-indulgent, masturbatory, semiautobiographical film is about the waxing and waning of Alvie Singer’s (Allen) relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), with Manhattan for a backdrop. Not that it isn’t funny — even hilarious at times — but it’s little more than a series of sketches skewering self-involved, intellectual, professional New Yorkers. Like in Seinfeld, Annie Hall gets its comedy out of mundane occurrences: arguing about whether it’s acceptable to go into a movie after it’s started; weathering boring cocktail parties; the awkward fumbling of trying to make conversation with someone you’re desperately attracted to when it’s obvious you’re both quaking in your boots. Alvie, though, is Jerry, George, and Kramer wrapped into one. I can imagine George identifying with Alvie’s Groucho Marx approach to romance: He doesn’t want the kind of woman who’d want him. And mightn’t Kramer have been depressed as a kid over the expansion of the universe, like Alvie was?

Unlike Seinfeld, though, Annie Hall is at times so painful, so raw, so nakedly personal that you feel as if you maybe shouldn’t be watching. The film takes you up and down like the Coney Island roller coaster under which Alvie grew up: Just when you feel like you want to look away, it brings you back with a devastating one-liner like Alvie’s “I’m a bigot for the left.”

Annie Hall has another fun aspect, too, one Allen couldn’t have intended: watching for all the cameos by actors who later became famous. Among others, keep your eyes peeled for Christopher Walken, Shelley Duvall, Carol Kane, and — in another laugh-out-loud one-liner — Jeff Goldblum and his mantra.

For the record, I will not enter a movie theater after the movie has started. That’s just wrong.

Oscars Best Picture 1977
AFI 100 (1998 list): #35

unforgettable movie moment:
Their analysts ask Alvie and Annie how often they have sex: He says hardly every, three times a week; she says constantly, three times a week.

previous Best Picture:
1976: Rocky
next Best Picture:
1978: The Deer Hunter

previous AFI 100 film:
34: Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
next AFI 100 film:
36: The Bridge on the River Kwai

go> the complete list of Oscar-winning Best Pictures

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