A lot of people may ask, “how did Annie Hall take the Best Picture Oscar away from Star Wars?” The majority of those people probably never saw Annie Hall and don’t realize what an innovative and creative film this was. Just because Annie Hall didn’t spawn whiny-talking Woody Allen action figures, sequels, prequels, and cartoons, it doesn’t mean that this film is not as important or influential as Star Wars. Both are masterpieces of different genres so it’s fair to say that science fiction films and romantic dramedy films equally evolved after the year 1978.
For those people who have never seen Annie Hall, you may be wondering why you should see this 35-year old film about the New York City adventures of a neurotic stereotypical Jewish comedian Alvy (Woody Allen) and waspy Annie (Diane Keaton)? Besides the perfectly natural combination of comedy and drama centered around their hot-and-cold relationship and topics such as therapy, dating, love, phony intellectuals, and drug use, Annie Hall is an original and creative piece of filmmaking. The movie not only jumps around all over the place to different time periods of Alvy’s life but also has characters time-traveling in a non-confusing “A Christmas Carol” way – such as Alvy and friends observing his past, his family, his ex-girlfriends, etc. Allen successfully uses many camera techniques such as thought subtitles, splitscreens, breaking the fourth wall, and animated sequences. For a dialogue-driven film, don’t be fooled that characters are just standing around talking their heads away. Allen always has some sort of action going on – movement is a huge part of this film. There are times where characters just talk with each other on a balcony or in a room for a good amount of time, but Allen keeps the scenes propelling along with creative use of camerawork, dialogue, or sight gags. By the time you are done watching the film, it’s hard to figure out how much time has passed because the movie’s creativity and flow is jarring…in a good way. There are so many films plagued by filler or wasted scenes, causing the urge to look at the time. But Woody Allen’s Annie Hall is just another one of those naturally fast-flowing films that have the same characteristics of a Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg film – masterful storytelling, creative direction and first-rate acting which make the audience forget about time. There aren’t too many filmmakers that can make film after film in which you can get so easily pulled in and forget about reality, forget that you are sitting in a theater, or forget that you are sitting on your couch. Annie Hall is an example of one of these films.
Besides Annie Hall’s original filmmaking style, we can’t forget about the acting by Diane Keaton. I’m not a fan of Keaton, but this is her masterpiece. I wonder how people felt in the 1970s when they saw her in this film after watching her serious, straight-forward acting style in the first two Godfathers. If it was me, I would be thinking, “she was good in Godfather 1 & 2, but I didn’t realize she could be this talented!” I don’t know if her dialogue was prepared or improvised, but whatever she did, her character is unforgettable. Keaton’s performance was not only amazing, but her wardrobe actually caused fashion to change in the 1970s. Diane Keaton dressed the way she wanted to on the set of Annie Hall, even with costume designers bugging her to change her clothing. I wonder what those costume designers think now, because even today, women are still influenced by Annie Hall’s menswear fashion look. When I think of Diane Keaton, I think of two versions of her – the young stylish Annie Hall look and then the middle-aged turtleneck look. I definitely prefer the Annie Hall look, but I’m still impressed how an underdog actress like Keaton has shaped the fashion world for the past thirty-five years, especially when we see all these award shows and pop magazines with actresses and other pop culture celebrities that are trying to make some type of influential fashion statement.
We can all finally watch this movie normally on an HDTV! When I was younger, I had no problem watching this movie when it played on my ol’ 17-inch square Zenith TV. But once I ditched VHS and became a fan of DVD and then Blu-ray, I’ve been waiting about nine years for a decent home video release of Annie Hall. For some strange reason, Annie Hall was stuck in non-anamorphic, letterboxed DVD limbo. I thought I could beat this by purchasing a multi-region DVD player, but nope, I still lost. After researching the Annie Hall DVD imports from France, UK, and Spain, I discovered too that they were non-anamorphic letterboxed. So I gave up (I should have kept researching because there is now an anamorphic DVD version available in Australia, but I have no idea if that existed when I was looking for it). Finally, I was thrilled to hear that MGM was releasing a Blu-ray version this year. This Blu-ray does not disappoint! After waiting forever, the 1080p 1.85:1 video is a revelation. The video has a good amount of that 1970s grain, thankfully DNR-free, is clean, and has tons of depth. There are times of softness and smudgy colors during dark scenes, but this is a 1970s New York City film – it looks good and totally fits the feel of the film. And once again, this Blu-ray is obviously a huge upgrade from the non-anamorphic, letterboxed DVD. I have a feeling that this Blu-ray presentation is as close as possible to how it was shown in the theaters thirty-five years ago. You may not have the urge to see a 42-year old Woody Allen in high definition, but there are plenty of other reasons – see how beautiful Diane Keaton, Sigourney Weaver, Carol Kane, Shelly Duvall and the streets of New York City and Los Angeles looked in the 1970s.
Just because this movie doesn’t have explosions nor an active soundtrack, that doesn’t mean the audio can’t be reference quality! The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono is almost reference quality for a dialogue-driven film. The movie is full of bizarre characters with a variety of interesting voices – everyone’s dialogue came out clear and crisp. Voices, sound effects, and the few songs in this movie do not come out sounding flat or dull. Set your volume for any level you like, and you will be happy. Sounds slightly come alive during Diane Keaton’s awful-driving scene, which felt as intense as watching some car-racing scene from the Fast and the Furious. You may not hear subwoofer bass and surround sounds, but you will certainly feel the intensity of this “action” scene. For a mono soundtrack, this Annie Hall Blu-ray sounds great! Other audio choices include DD Mono English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Catalan. English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Catalan, Dutch, and Polish subtitles are also included.
Don’t be upset with the lack of extras because Woody Allen never puts them on his home videos. With those expectations in mind, there is no reason to be unhappy that the only extra on this Blu-ray is the movie trailer.
– movie trailer
I have always been entertained by Woody Allen movies and I would watch them if they played on tv but I’m not really one of his biggest fans. I never had the urge to own them on video except for Midnight In Paris and Annie Hall, which are my two favorite Woody Allen films. If there’s one thing I learned (aka “was brainwashed to believe”) from watching his films during my teenage years: If Woody Allen can hook up with attractive, beautiful women by poking fun at his own insecurities and problems, then a funny-looking guy like myself can do the same. I don’t know if I should thank Woody Allen for indirectly helping me hook up with my hot wife, but he may have taught me to laugh at my own problems rather than be embarrassed by them.
I’m happy to report that this top-notch Blu-ray allows us to finally enjoy this rewatchable masterpiece on our home theaters. If you own the letterboxed DVD, you can absolutely chuck that into the garbage!