Shame List #21: Annie Hall (1977)

Shame List Introduction

Annie Hall is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the movie blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Here’s my review of the second film I can cross off my Shame List:

Annie Hall . . . for me, the movie immediately makes me think of Woody Allen. It is a staple in his filmography, one of the “greats” of his time, a film in which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Of course, I am more familiar with his more recent films, so Annie Hall has been one of those movies of his that I wanted to see so I could understand all the fuss made about the film.

I want to start off this review by saying that Annie Hall was not one of my favorite films. After watching it, I didn’t feel blown away or moved or quite how I expected to feel after viewing it. As a film with a 98% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I expected to be wowed. However, I just lacked the connection to the film that made me want to revisit it any time in the near future.

Regardless of my personal feelings on the film, I do want to point out that I can understand some of the reasons it is considered a classic. There are certain scenes that come to the forefront of my mind, playing over and over again. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire film is when Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are in line to see a movie. There’s a guy standing in line behind them, who we later find out is a professor. He’s going on and on about his opinion on a certain filmmaker. This upsets Alvy because he believes the professor has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s about to have his own personal fit when he confronts the professor about his lack of knowledge. To further prove the professor clueless, and that he, Alvy, knows exactly what he’s talking about, Alvy reaches behind a machine and pulls out the man who was the subject of the professor’s conversation, breaks the fourth wall, and the filmmaker agrees that Alvy is correct and the professor has no idea what he’s talking about.

If only those moments could happen in real life.

Well, at least that’s how Alvy and the rest of us feel when someone who’s ignorant on a subject can’t stop blabbing about it.

Aside from that quintessential scene, the strength of Annie Hall lies in its characters. They’re real, genuine people dealing with the ins and outs of a relationship. Diane Keaton is particularly strong as the title’s character, Annie, who knows how to pull the right strings to crack up an audience, or when to pull back and reel viewers in again. I couldn’t help but appreciate the simplicity and light humor of the scene in which she convinces Alvy to ride home with her and come up to her apartment for a drink. Moments like those remind you of a character’s vulnerability in asking another person out, even if she had to coyly make up reasons to convince him to join her without coming across too strong.

While it may come across as pretentious or predictable to some viewers, I couldn’t help but appreciate that Alvy used actual dialogue, almost word for word, that he shared with Annie in California, as a major scene in his play. In a movie, sometimes the guy can travel 2,000 miles to win back the girl, and she won’t come with; she won’t be won over; the couple will not be reunited. But then again, that makes for some great writing: real life inspiring art, and art inspiring our lives. It is an endless cycle, isn’t it?

Moreover, Annie Hall is filled with many moments that as a film fan, I could appreciate and enjoy. It’s certainly not a bad film, but just one I lacked a connection with. The film is often described as “a writer who meets a quirky singer.” I saw it more as a movie where a very quirky, opinionated, conspiracy theorist meets another girl who eventually can’t keep putting up with him. That may sound harsh, but I found Alvy to be irritating at times, not only with his conspiracies, but also for his lack of understanding with other characters. He has enough awareness to realize that his first two marriages ended because of him. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that another woman isn’t going to change things because she’s different from the previous two women. Alvy has to be the one to recognize that he needs to change in order for life to be different. It is his character’s inability to recognize this that made me feel like he was arrogant and frustrating while I watching the film.

My other major quip with the film is that I felt like even though it mirrored real life in moments, even striking a chord with me in how it was able to move on despite times feeling incomplete, is that I lost the whole point of the film. Does Annie Hall truly change Alvy Singer? Does Alvy Singer truly change Annie Hall? Is the movie designed to be open-ended for these very questions? Is it a bad thing that I’m asking them?

The honest answer is that I don’t know. But I got lost along the way while viewing, and not in the best possible way this time. However, because of the strong performances and interesting scenes throughout, I’d like to give Annie Hall 

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ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. What do you think of Annie Hall? Is it Woody Allen’s best film? What is your favorite Woody Allen film?

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16 thoughts on “Shame List #21: Annie Hall (1977)

  1. Happened to stumble upon your blog when I searched “Annie Hall” on Twitter this afternoon. It sounds like you’re less of a fan of the film than I am. I’d just like to point out that I thought the film was wrapped up pretty conclusively despite some of the questions you were left asking yourself. To get hung up on those is to—I believe—miss the point that he made with the closing quote about the eggs. I like to speculate and say that neither Alvy nor Annie really changed one another, but the overarching motif of the film is about the innate desire for these meaningful human relationships (however fleeting some may be). I think it was a brilliant conclusion on Woody Allen’s part. He managed to give the film a sense of conclusion in one regard, yet leave the viewer (like you) questioning some things. To quote Anton Chekhov, the great Russian short story writer, “the role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.” Allen answers one big question, but leaves other secondary ones unresolved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Donald! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Interesting perspective. I really enjoying hearing others’s opinions on something, especially when they view it so differently. There are times when I think asking questions and leaving the film open-ended works (Inception), but there are other times that I just feel more confused with what the overall plot of the film even was, and that was the case for me with Annie Hall. Overall, I just didn’t understand what the point of the film was, and for a viewer like me, I usually enjoy some justification in the story’s overall plot. However, I can definitely see where you’re coming from in that the film is striving for the characters to develop meaningful relationships, even if they don’t last. I suppose I just didn’t find myself as deeply involved in the story. Great comment and thoughts, Donald! Thanks again for the discussion and thought.

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    • Hi Wendall! Thanks for stopping by AEOS. I can see that. I actually preferred Midnight in Paris, but I can why a lot of people hold this movie dearly. It does have a lot of fun moments in it. Thanks!

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  2. Really pleased that you’ve seen this one Kristen. I can see why you might get lost in the middle though as it doesn’t have a fluid storyline. The hero is not, well, very heroic either. But I personally love how Woody experiments with technique – that scene where the thoughts of the characters are presented in subtitles is one of my favourites. You can see how his work has influenced some of our best modern rom-coms like (500) Days Of Summer too.

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    • Aww, that is such a good point! I totally agree, Natalie. It’s certainly an influential film, and now that you mention it, I can actually see how it specifically influenced (500) Days, which happens to be one of my favorite movies. Overall, I think I just didn’t dig Woody Allen as the star of the film, and his character just came across as less interesting to me. But it’s certainly a good film! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. A most excellent post! You bring up some good points about the movie. When I first saw it, I wasn’t completely impressed but I watched it again this year and found the characters charming in all their imperfections. I like the simple moments shared between Alvy and Annie, like when they cooked lobster and the theater scene you mentioned (the best!). But the movie can be slow at times.
    If you get the chance, check out The Purple Rose of Cairo. Woody does not act in the film and the story mixes realism with whimsy.

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    • Hey, thanks! I appreciate that! Aww, that’s cool. Perhaps after enough time has passed, I will give it another go-around. The simple moments are probably the best ones. The cooked lobster one was especially intriguing because Alvy tried to recreate it with another girl . . . and it just didn’t work. Ooo, thanks for the recommendation! I will have to do that.

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  4. I think I won’t like Annie Hall much for the same reasons you listed here, but I do respect Allen as a prolific filmmaker. He comes up with something every year!! That’s crazy. Of course its a strategy that often leads to some duds, but from what I understand this one is one of his big ones.

    I often have reactions that are like this, too. When things are talked about so much and hyped and praised and considered ‘classics’, it’s really hard of rme to not get overly excited and get my expectations up too high. When I watch said movie, a lot of the times those are not met. Which isn’t to say what I watched was bad it just didn’t live up to the standards I’ve had in my mind. Sometimes that’s unfair for movies that are this old, too! 🙂

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    • Agreed – Woody Allen is certainly one talented, accomplished filmmaker who knows how to write, direct, and act well. I have a lot of respect for him. And I know, a film a year!? I don’t know how he does it, haha. I would agree he has some duds in there as well. 🙂

      I know – I try to keep my expectations in check, but even with my expectations not as high, I still found myself a bit disappointed with this film. It’s true that it’s not entirely fair, but there’s not much one can do to get around that sometimes, ha. Good point, my friend!

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