If you’re reading this, you probably noticed that the link is sitting in the midst of a lot of dead space – movies with no reviews written. I know, I know, I’m very slowly getting back and filling in the reviews for films we watched at Cinema 1544 before my review craze (or whatever it is) started. This time around, I’m going to try something new – at least for me. The “Live Review”. See, I have Annie Hall just sitting on my DVR and waiting to be watched, and I figure – why not write the review simultaneous to watching the film? Two birds, one stone! I don’t know how this is going to go (at all) but if you don’t like it, then complain in the comments and I’ll be sure to treat your complaints in the style they deserve.
Interestingly, I missed the showing of Annie Hall (one of I believe only three films I missed), but I didn’t feel too bad because I had seen it relatively recently. That’s neither here nor there, but it does explain why I seem to have no recollection of the short – I didn’t see it. So I’m going to live review that one, too, because it’s on Hulu. Here we go with: Bit Players by Andy Berman.
The credits roll by with a trendy-bopper (dark-rimmed glasses, short haircut) delivering a script or some such by walking through the back lot of a studio. Oh, it’s 1970. Maybe that’s just what chicks looked like then. And she seems to serve only to introduce us to Mini-Me. Yep, he’s an actor. He does his best Raging Bull in-a-mirror soliloquy, but he doesn’t quite have that DeNiro gravitas. (Turns out it’s a Glass Menagerie monologue.) He’s got a cranky little-person friend who claims to have gone out with Jane Fonda during the shooting of Barbarella, which is about as believable as Mini-me’s delivery. What is believable is that they’re Oompa-Loompas. Orange face make-up, green wigs, and a bunch of angst about being the smallest bit players in town. Finally, after angsting themselves out and one last hit on the soliloquy, it’s off to Oompa-Loompaing for the day. The only real saving grace in this one is the idea idea that maybe, just maybe, Gene Wilder in full Willy Wonka regalia whipped it out and micturated on Augustus Gloop’s shoes. That patent leather really held the Chocolate River together, man!
As is typical during his New York phase, Woody Allen plays a thinly-veiled Woody Allen character, in this case a stand-up comedian named Alvy Singer. After we learn that Alvy and Annie Hall have broken up, we go through a quick retrospective of Alvy’s childhood, which you figure was probably just like Woody Allen’s real childhood, minus the well-timed bon mots. (One could certainly say the same for the whole film – though I do believe that Woody Allen would break the fourth wall in real life every time he had the opportunity.)
Diane Keaton plays Annie Hall, who may be even a less-thinly-veiled version of herself, given that she was born “Diane Hall” and nicknamed “Annie”. Annie and Alvy are already well established in their relationship, and given to talking about their “sexual problems” in movie queues.
What follows is more backstory, including a picture of a couple of marriages of Alvy’s that didn’t work out, and a hint of two of Annie’s previous relationships before she awkwardly picks Alvy up after they play in a doubles tennis match. She wears a necktie, which I don’t think ever really caught on, but it was a nice try. They fall very quickly into a relationship despite the fact that Alvy is completely neurotic and Annie is (perhaps justifiably) paranoid about her intellectual inferiority.
Well, it’s all destined for doom and gloom (as we know), and Alvy and Annie break up because he’s jealous of her Adult Education Professor (despite the fact that he encouraged her to sign up for classes. Alvy briefly hooks up with a Rosicrucian Shelly Duvall, but Annie calls him up at 3 AM (during Alvy and Shelly’s post-coital Kafka comparisons) to have him kill a spider in her bathroom. Annie has four toothbrushes, which is probably more of an art direction problem and less of a statement about her private life, as she admits she’s missing him and they hook right back up. How Sissy gets out of Alvy’s bed is never dealt with.
But of course, again things are never meant to last. This time, despite the fact that they break up mutually, a major factor is the fact that record producer Paul Simon horns in on Annie. She moves out to L.A., rejecting his proposal of marriage when he flies out to see her. They meet coincidentally one last time in New York, enjoy each others’ company for a few hours tops, and part with Alvy repeating a joke about “needing the eggs”.
When comparing Annie Hall to my favorite piece from Allen’s New York period (Manhattan – also with Diane Keaton) I find myself a bit confused as to why it was the former and not the latter which won Best Picture. Annie Hall is a bit short on plot for me – boy meets girl, boy loses girl (twice), and they’re poorly suited for each other. I think it’s the gimmicks that make the difference. Allen breaks the fourth wall, Alvy and his friend Rob call each other Max for no apparent reason, characters walk in on themselves in memories, for one scene subtitles tell you what the characters are really thinking, we get to see a split-screen therapy session which highlights how differently Alvy and Annie see their relationship, etc. It’s all very clever and presumably it was fresh and novel at the time. Now it’s funny, no question, but it doesn’t really hold up as original. (OK, the fact that there’s no music running through the credits, now that’s a ballsy thumb in the nose to the movie industry, I’ll admit!) Apparently, early drafts of the script had a murder subplot, which would explain Alvy’s obsession with death a bit better and spice up the overly-talky vibe. It’s universally clever dialogue, but I just don’t feel like anything really happened in the film – it’s a series of funny vignettes.