Movie Project #17: Annie Hall [1977]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Annie Hall [1977]

Annie Hall [1977]
Directors: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Language: English
Country: USA

Why I Chose This:
Woody Allen has 40+ movies to his name, yet I have only seen a few of his most recent films. What better way to dig deeper into his filmography than to start with 1977’s Best Picture Oscar winner?

What It’s About:
Woody Allen stars as Alvy Singer, a neurotic comedian in New York City who struggles to maintain a relationship with his scatterbrained lover, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The movie follows the tumultuous relationship over the course of the 1970s.

What I Liked:
The New York setting. One thing I have noticed with Woody Allen movies is that the man knows how to make great use of cities. New York is the perfect backdrop for Alvy and Annie’s up-and-down relationship.

The breaking of the fourth wall. I loved how Alvy would randomly start talking to the camera to explain certain things happening on screen. I also enjoyed the random visual changes, such as the inexplicable transition to cartoon animation for a brief scene.

Annie Hall [1977]

Some truly classic lines.
“Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”
“I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.”
“Honey, there’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick.”

Brief cameos from Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum. Both guys are in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles, but both are amusing.

What I Didn’t Like:
Some of the rapid fire dialogue felt forced. This is a film that focuses heavily on talking, and rarely slows down enough to catch its breath. While I found myself laughing at some of Alvy’s wisecracks, there were just as many that fell flat.

Alvy Singer. Allen’s character’s full-of-himself shtick became grating as the movie progressed. He found a way to complain about EVERYTHING, with these quips only sometimes being amusing. He wasn’t as enjoyable as neurotic characters like, say, George Costanza on Seinfeld or Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

My Verdict:
It’s a bit startling to think that this beat out Star Wars for Best Picture (though I am not a huge fan of that either). I like Annie Hall, but I feel like the film lacks the same punch it had upon its initial release. The movie has obviously been influential — I had no idea this is where the aforementioned masturbation line came from — and I enjoyed it more than the recent Allen films I have seen, but it didn’t resonate with me in the way it seemingly has for others. Woody Allen sure has a distinct style, though, doesn’t he?

7/10

* I would love to hear your thoughts on this new “review” format. I will only be using it for Movie Project posts, but I feel it works better for some of these older titles. What do you think?

Movie Review: Eraserhead [1977]

Eraserhead [1977]

Eraserhead [1977]
Director: David Lynch
Genre: Drama/Fantasy/Horror
Language: English
Country: USA

Eraserhead is unlike any film I have ever seen. This surrealistic nightmare is David Lynch’s first directorial effort, and it also happens to be the first movie I have seen by him. The movie is about …well, that is very much open for debate. It’s hard to say what the purpose of the film is, but it follows around a pasty man with a big head of electrical-shocked hair while he is “on vacation.” Set in some sort of industrial wasteland, we go along with this man, Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), as he has dinner at his girlfriend’s house, deals with a constantly crying mutant baby, and enters some sort of bizarre dreamlike state full of baffling characters such as the singing and dancing blonde with grotesque cheeks (aka the Lady In The Radiator).

Dialogue is sparse; this is very much a work that dwells on its audio and visual landscapes. It is hard not to be impressed with Lynch’s technical prowess here, even as most will be baffled by what is transpiring on screen. This is a dark, often disturbing picture, that walks the line between sci-fi and horror. It is easy to see how this low-budget film has become a cult classic.

I would be performing a great disservice if I were to attempt to slap a rating to this film. I watched this earlier today, and I am still trying to wrap my head around what the hell I saw. I can safely say that I was vastly in awe as to what was happening on screen, even as the picture weaved slowly from scene to scene. Eraserhead is a sort of twisted, experimental mind-fuck that I will never forget.