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The Unpopular Opinion: Annie Hall

Sep. 5, 2012by:

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THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Woody Allen is a funny guy. A very funny guy, in fact. He’s the ultimate exemplar of “off-beat,” delivering one-liners and observations that are stunningly funny both in and of themselves and for the way they consistently surprise you. He is an understated comic who, while he may occasionally resort to absurdity, is content to not make a big deal out of his jokes or humor. Indeed, his self-deprecation is from where a fair amount of his jokes arise. And while he may not have the most unique or compelling cinematic style, the way he writes his characters is often impressively astute and refreshingly alive.

Except for those times when one of his films becomes so bound up in the character of “Woody Allen” that the film itself becomes a character built in the same mold. Then it becomes impressively boring and extraordinarily annoying. ANNIE HALL is just such a film, a schizophrenic work that drags on and on into feeling twice or thrice as long as its scant hour and thirty two minute run time. In fact, ANNIE HALL has so many identity issues and irrepressible quirks that I’d send it straight to a shrink if I could.

Annie Hall unpop 1

"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."

It’s a well known fact that ANNIE HALL went through many incarnations throughout the script stage, the shooting stage, and the post-production stage – the result, in my experience, is a hodge-podge mess of moments that don’t serve so much to compliment each other as to hamper to the point of impotence. An attempt is made to move forward and back in time and engage the audience with the careful peeling away of how Alvy and Annie met, who they are, and how they came to understand it was time to part. But like most everything else attempted by this film, the story and characters within become so bogged down by their own quirk and neurosis that I couldn’t help but be bored out of my skull for almost the entire time. I say “almost” because I distinctly recall cracking a few smiles and laughing out loud a few times, but now that the film is done and back in its case I can’t recall when or where they were.

I’ve rarely found Allen to have a distinct cinematic style, something to distinguish him from other filmmakers or serve to elevate the text and the acting to a new level of storytelling.  And ANNIE HALL is a prime example of this, with the camera work and framing edging on the point of being distractingly boring. It’s not so bad as Tim Burton in his latter years, but it’s close. Cinematographer Gordon Willis (THE GODFATHER) lights the hell out of the film and does what he can to save it, but even Willis’ skill can only do so much before ANNIE HALL loses its effectiveness on a visual level.  On the one hand I don't know if anyone has ever exactly hailed Allen as a visual genius, but for a film that 1) won Best Picture and 2) is often hailed a number one favorite amongst Allen's filmography I find it fair to mention that it does little for me in the way of visual storytelling.

Annie Hall unpop 2

"My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks."

At the end of the day, I think a lot of my issues with this film can be summed up thusly: ANNIE HALL is just too much Woody Allen for my taste.  If I'm enjoying a tasty piece of berry pie, I don't need i covered in crust sprinkles and another mound of berries and a large dollop of berry syrup.  I want it just as it is, rather than drowned in everything that makes it what it is.  With ANNIE HALL, we have Woody Allen starring, Woody Allen writing the script, Woody Allen directing, and the entire film itself acting as a complete expression/manifestation of Woody Allen.  It's just too much - I don't need to key into the main character's worldview and experience by indulging in an hour and thirty two minutes of what it's like to be Alvy Singer.  I don't enjoy that sort of all-inclusive experience, I don't think it works, and in fact I think it's frustratingly harmful to what might have been.  There are moments of keen wit, brilliant observation, and striking commentary to be found in ANNIE HALL about love and life and human relationship.  Which makes me all the more sad when they are swiftly buried deep by the film's own distraught, confused weight.

Look - Woody Allen is one of our most prolific filmmakers.  It's not his fault that once in a while he tries so hard to make something work that it dies, smothered in the effort.  And of all the films he's made that haven't quite worked, ANNIE HALL just happens to be the worst of the offenders.  I'm sure that my own favorites (MANHATTAN, MATCH POINT, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) would be controversial in their own right, but I find them to succeed in all the ways that ANNIE HALL does not.  I find them bright and rewatchable and exciting and inventive and poignant and sweet and illuminatory, and considering how many of Allen's films I have to choose from even beyond my own favorites, I'm very okay with not digging ANNIE HALL.

Annie Hall unpop 3

"...this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs."

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to ajstepenberg@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you wish, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

Extra Tidbit: Go read Woody Allen's prose work. The writing is both funnier than that of his films and less tied into his neuroses, two elements which may or may not be connected.
Source: JoBlo.com

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5:54PM on 09/06/2012
my feelings toward this film is that for the viewer who has heard of but never seen a Woody Allen film, this is a great Woody Allen 101 film. it clearly shows why his writing and personality has endured for so many years. for the Woody Allen fan, this may not be their favorite Allen film, because, as you say, its very Woody Allen-esque. But for someone without the Woody experience, like a teenager perhaps, i think no other Allen movie makes a better introduction.
my feelings toward this film is that for the viewer who has heard of but never seen a Woody Allen film, this is a great Woody Allen 101 film. it clearly shows why his writing and personality has endured for so many years. for the Woody Allen fan, this may not be their favorite Allen film, because, as you say, its very Woody Allen-esque. But for someone without the Woody experience, like a teenager perhaps, i think no other Allen movie makes a better introduction.
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5:51PM on 09/06/2012
my feelings toward this film is that for the viewer who has heard of but never seen a Woody Allen film, this is a great Woody Allen 101 film. it clearly shows why his writing and personality has endured for so many years. for the Woody Allen fan, this may not be their favorite Allen film, because, as you say, its very Woody Allen-esque. But for someone without the Woody experience, like a teenager perhaps, i think no other Allen movie makes a better introduction.
my feelings toward this film is that for the viewer who has heard of but never seen a Woody Allen film, this is a great Woody Allen 101 film. it clearly shows why his writing and personality has endured for so many years. for the Woody Allen fan, this may not be their favorite Allen film, because, as you say, its very Woody Allen-esque. But for someone without the Woody experience, like a teenager perhaps, i think no other Allen movie makes a better introduction.
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+1
11:25AM on 09/06/2012
Annie Hall gets better every time I see it. Definitely one of my top 3 Allen movies. It's funny, biting, and feels genuine. I love it.
Annie Hall gets better every time I see it. Definitely one of my top 3 Allen movies. It's funny, biting, and feels genuine. I love it.
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-1
11:22AM on 09/06/2012

With all due respect...

I get why many people might consider this a classic, but I think you put it plain and simple.. it is just "impressively boring and extraordinarily annoying".

Each to his own I guess... although I might still watch it in my apartment on a sunday night as long as I am with a hot girl that digs this movie (means to an end baby.. means to an end)
I get why many people might consider this a classic, but I think you put it plain and simple.. it is just "impressively boring and extraordinarily annoying".

Each to his own I guess... although I might still watch it in my apartment on a sunday night as long as I am with a hot girl that digs this movie (means to an end baby.. means to an end)
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7:37PM on 09/05/2012
I really liked the movie, but I only saw it once. Maybe it hasn't aged well. Or maybe if you're over familiar with Allen and saw lots of his other films before this it wouldn't be as charming/comedic. It's Allen's take on Romantic Comedies using his style. Somewhat like Knocked-up for Apatow. And frankly, there haven't been a lot of better romantic comedies made since Annie Hall.
I really liked the movie, but I only saw it once. Maybe it hasn't aged well. Or maybe if you're over familiar with Allen and saw lots of his other films before this it wouldn't be as charming/comedic. It's Allen's take on Romantic Comedies using his style. Somewhat like Knocked-up for Apatow. And frankly, there haven't been a lot of better romantic comedies made since Annie Hall.
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-5
3:44PM on 09/05/2012

Couldn't even get through Annie Hall

I don't hate Woody Allen but I could not get into this movie at all, it just got borderline annoying at times and I couldn't even sit through the whole thing. Weird because I loved Midnight in Paris yet this, probably his most famous movie, at least critically, was one I couldn't stand. Nice writeup A
I don't hate Woody Allen but I could not get into this movie at all, it just got borderline annoying at times and I couldn't even sit through the whole thing. Weird because I loved Midnight in Paris yet this, probably his most famous movie, at least critically, was one I couldn't stand. Nice writeup A
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2:58PM on 09/05/2012

Crap

Sorry about the double post
Sorry about the double post
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2:51PM on 09/05/2012

I love ANNIE HALL...

I'm not an Woody Allen expert (only watched 2-3 other movies of him) so I really don't care if it's "too much Woody Allen" or not, but I love this film because to me, it perfectly portraits how a REAL relationship works. Especially the ending is flawless, where the couple brokeup but they still love & miss each other, its just 100 other little things that always got in the way to make them split up every single timie. Thats how relationships work in real life, there's no "happily ever after"
I'm not an Woody Allen expert (only watched 2-3 other movies of him) so I really don't care if it's "too much Woody Allen" or not, but I love this film because to me, it perfectly portraits how a REAL relationship works. Especially the ending is flawless, where the couple brokeup but they still love & miss each other, its just 100 other little things that always got in the way to make them split up every single timie. Thats how relationships work in real life, there's no "happily ever after" fairy tale, and the movie shows that gradual deconstruction beautifully. I don't know if in this way Woody Allen always acts or not, and I don't give a shit, because only from this movie's perspective, the characterization and presentation of Allen & Keaton is simply perfect. I gave this movie a 10 ten years ago when I first watched it, and to this day I'll still give it a 10.
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12:14PM on 09/05/2012
...
...
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12:12PM on 09/05/2012

Respectfully, no.

I disagree. Of course, I dig the "Woody Allen" character so the over exposure of that neurotic persona in "Annie Hall" didn't bug me a bit. And yeah, the flick is a mess in a narrative sense but I always saw that as a really great metaphor for what relationships are in the first place. Maybe I was reading too much into it but there you go.
I disagree. Of course, I dig the "Woody Allen" character so the over exposure of that neurotic persona in "Annie Hall" didn't bug me a bit. And yeah, the flick is a mess in a narrative sense but I always saw that as a really great metaphor for what relationships are in the first place. Maybe I was reading too much into it but there you go.
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7:46AM on 09/05/2012

Never have been able to see the "genius" of Woody Allen...

I'm in total agreement with many of the aspects with this column, Woody does very little for me at all. Every single movie he does especially over the past decade just looks and feels like the same thing over and over and over again but with different actors each time.
I'm in total agreement with many of the aspects with this column, Woody does very little for me at all. Every single movie he does especially over the past decade just looks and feels like the same thing over and over and over again but with different actors each time.
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6:40AM on 09/05/2012

Woody Allen sucks

I agree not just about Annie Hall but everything he's ever made. Unwatchable.
I agree not just about Annie Hall but everything he's ever made. Unwatchable.
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12:14PM on 09/05/2012
Goddamn double postings.
Goddamn double postings.
12:14PM on 09/05/2012
Have you seen a decent number of the movies he's made? Because that stinks of a broad generalization. I'm not saying that all of them are masterpieces. I mean, the guy has had a movie or even two movies out every year since the seventies. Odds aren't in the favor of all of them being amazing but the really good ones are really really good.
Have you seen a decent number of the movies he's made? Because that stinks of a broad generalization. I'm not saying that all of them are masterpieces. I mean, the guy has had a movie or even two movies out every year since the seventies. Odds aren't in the favor of all of them being amazing but the really good ones are really really good.
-2
4:29AM on 09/05/2012
I can understand why someone couldn't get into this film, but then some of those people love 500 Days of Summer. When I saw this film, I had to see it again it felt new to me at least and I still recommend it to people who havent seen it, and to people who I wouldnt think would like it but just to give it a shot. I love the way he's telling this story with some many sidenotes from first to third person. I will admit it does drag a bit in the last act, but 2/3 of the film have a lot of energy
I can understand why someone couldn't get into this film, but then some of those people love 500 Days of Summer. When I saw this film, I had to see it again it felt new to me at least and I still recommend it to people who havent seen it, and to people who I wouldnt think would like it but just to give it a shot. I love the way he's telling this story with some many sidenotes from first to third person. I will admit it does drag a bit in the last act, but 2/3 of the film have a lot of energy with great writing. s his directing he isnt special but he gets the job done, and knows what he wants out of his films and actors. I do think Bananas is his funniest film though.

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1:21AM on 09/05/2012
I happen to like "Annie Hall", warts and all. But mainly for those moments like the Marshall McLuhan scene that so resonate with me. It does seem an odd film to be so lauded, and overstay its welcome after Annie moves to California. But it's not without its charms.

Then again, I'm not really a connoisseur of Woody Allen movies, though "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is a masterpiece and "Midnight in Paris" was better than I expected.
I happen to like "Annie Hall", warts and all. But mainly for those moments like the Marshall McLuhan scene that so resonate with me. It does seem an odd film to be so lauded, and overstay its welcome after Annie moves to California. But it's not without its charms.

Then again, I'm not really a connoisseur of Woody Allen movies, though "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is a masterpiece and "Midnight in Paris" was better than I expected.
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+5
12:48AM on 09/05/2012

I predict -25 in 2 days

I think Woody Allen is extremely overrated
I think Woody Allen is extremely overrated
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1:14AM on 09/05/2012
I don't necessarily agree with you, but it is not an uncommon opinion. You might be aiming a little low.
I don't necessarily agree with you, but it is not an uncommon opinion. You might be aiming a little low.
9:03AM on 09/05/2012
I agree, never liked Woody Allen, do not see what most people see in him.
I agree, never liked Woody Allen, do not see what most people see in him.
3:41PM on 09/05/2012
Never been into Woody Allen movies at all. Have yet to see one in all my 34 years.
Never been into Woody Allen movies at all. Have yet to see one in all my 34 years.
5:54PM on 09/06/2012
how can you not be into them if you've never watched them? i bet youre the type thats says "i dont need to smoke weed to understand what it is"
how can you not be into them if you've never watched them? i bet youre the type thats says "i dont need to smoke weed to understand what it is"
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