The perfect movie: “Annie Hall”


We have talked a lot about movies recently: good, bad, memorable, unmemorable. Movie-lovers get a little crazy about movies.



How about this, then: is there a perfect movie?



There are all kinds of quantifiable / describable things that make a movie truly great. It needs to be fun, and watchable, and susceptible to interpretation on many levels, and engaging, and contain excellent performances and clever / memorable dialogue, and be directed compellingly . . .



I have a short list: “The Red Shoes.” “The Lion In Winter.” “Casablanca.” “Citizen Kane.” “The Maltese Falcon.”



But the other day I walked into the house, and I could hear the TV in the next room: Partner was watching a movie. Diane Keaton and Woody Allen were arguing, and . . .



Well, of course, “Annie Hall”!



I have seen it more times than I can count – probably (I kid you not) a hundred times. I know most of the dialogue by heart. I had a friend who, when she phoned me, would not say “Hello,” but rather a random line of “Annie Hall” dialogue; my response was supposed to be the next line of dialogue in the movie. One call went like this: “Hello?” I said.



“Are you getting your period?” my friend rasped.



Too easy. “I don’t get a period!” I said. “I’m a cartoon character!”



Woody achieved – to use one of his own expressions from the movie – maximum heaviosity in this film. The brittle chemistry between Woody and Diane makes everything work. The dialogue is perfect: witty without being arch. Woody had fun using every film technique of the last fifty years – split-screen, subtitles, animation – for a minute or so each, and they work beautifully. Woody actually speaks to the camera frequently, and it’s not stupid or uncomfortable, it works: it makes the movie personal and engaging. The characters walk freely into scenes from their own past, and comment on them, and observe them. (Woody’s classroom scene at the opening of the movie is a classic: he actually joins his own nine-year-old self in an argument with a smartassed nine-year-old girl.)



Okay, so it’s a funny movie about a twice-divorced guy from Brooklyn who gets into a relationship with a not-so-dumb girl from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.



It’s also a bittersweet/sad movie about a twice-divorced guy from Brooklyn who gets into a relationship with a not-so-dumb girl from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.



I remember watching the 1978 Oscar ceremony about a month before I graduated from college, back at Gonzaga in Spokane, with my friend George. George is (if you can believe it) a bigger Woody Allen fan than I am. When the Best Picture award was given to “Annie Hall,” George actually shed a tear. I’ve never forgotten it.



If you’ve never seen this movie, do yourself a favor and see it.



It’s perfect.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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