THE Best Picture: Annie Hall (1977)

By Christian DiMartino

Alright, so for the next month or so, every Wednesday and Sunday, I will be reflecting upon the former Best Picture winners of the past, and whether the Academy’s decisions have aged well. I did this last year, and some entries included “The Hurt Locker,” “The Godfather,” “The Shape of Water,” and others. I find this stuff interesting so hopefully we can all have a bit of fun with it.

Believe it or not, Woody Allen has won an Oscar in the last 10 years, despite being excommunicated by Hollywood (unfairly, I’d say) in the last 5. This comes as no surprise to me, because he’s a great filmmaker, but an even better writer, nabbing roughly 20 Oscar nominations in his career, for both writing and directing, and a total of 4 Oscar wins. So more than Scorsese and Spielberg. He’s covered a vast amount of genres, from drama to noir to musicals to murder mystery. His early films received acclaim, but it was his 1977 Best Picture winner Annie Hall that got the ball rolling.

Annie Hall follows the ups and downs of the relationship between neurotic Alvy Singer (Allen) and spunky, energetic Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). We know up front that their relationship doesn’t last, but we see how their love story started and how the two drifted apart. The majority of it is told from Alvy’s point of view, and we see how much he loves her and why, but also sometimes, with the passage of time, people come into their own and love begins to fade.

So, seeing as it’s 2022, this story doesn’t sound like anything new. Heck, it might not have been new in 1977. What makes Annie Hall the special, remarkable achievement though is the way in which Allen tells this story. He breaks the fourth wall in ways that people have probably tried to do since but maybe haven’t succeeded. The film is also absolutely hilarious, telling a completely story mostly through anecdotes that are the work of comedic genius. Yet at its heart is its heart and its truth. It’s a movie that’s about 45 years old, and sure some of it feels of that time (for example, Paul Simon is in it briefly). But the story and message that Allen is conveying is totally timeless.

So I’ll admit that I have a weird relationship with this film. It wasn’t my first Allen film, and when I saw it at around 14 years old, it wasn’t my favorite either. For a long time, I couldn’t believe that THIS movie beat something as remarkable of an achievement as Star Wars. It was a good movie, but not much more. Well I was showing my best friend Trevor Woody Allen movies last year, and we watched this one… and yeah, the hype officially sunk in with me, if the first few paragraphs were any consolation. It still isn’t quite my favorite (I’m a Purple Rose of Cairo, Match Point, Hannah and Her Sisters kinda guy), but it does crack that top 5. It is a pretty perfect film, telling a convincing and kind of upsetting movie that couldn’t be more rooted in truth if it tried. As an adult who has experienced love and heartache, it really resonates. Though it probably resonated on its own anyways.

This Allen performance really sets the tone for future Allen performances. There is no doubt in my mind that THIS is the real Woody Allen, and this confirmed by his excellent memoir Apropos of Nothing. It’s hard to believe though that I haven’t even talked about Diane Keaton yet. God, what an icon. This performance also pretty much solidified her as a legend, and she was already in the two Godfather films at this point (both of which, she’s pretty underrated in). Of course we’re on board with Alvy the whole time, but there is something about Keaton’s Annie that he just can’t get out of his head, and we can’t get her out of ours. The two reigned supreme through the 70s, and took a halt on their collaborations at the end of the 70s. But I hear they’re still great friends, which pleases me. Hopefully they’ll get another movie together.

Annie Hall was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Original Screenplay, and won all of them except Actor (an argument could be made for a Best Editing nomination too). For Best Picture, it beat out Star Wars, Julia, The Turning Point, and The Goodbye Girl. I love Star Wars and The Goodbye Girl… but they made the right call. They might shun Allen now because they’re total cowards, but I will not. As for Best Director, Allen beat George Lucas for Star Wars, Herbert Ross for The Turning Point (who also directed The Goodbye Girl), Fred Zinnemann for Julia, and Steven Spielberg for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Having just revisited Close Encounters… yeah, that’s the winner here. But in terms of Best Actress and Original Screenplay, they got it.

What I love is that there are some Best Picture winners that people don’t remember fondly. You know, the ones where the Academy obviously made a rather boneheaded decision. It’s always a fear, and when they get it right, it’s great. When they get it wrong, it’s in infamy. I don’t think there’s a negative memory of this win, despite the fact that people actually believe Dylan Farrow (I have read into the case and too many things just don’t add up). Annie Hall is a wonderful film; a classic that has pretty much passed the test of time, just like the rest of Allen’s best films. They’re not all great, but the great ones are special. Annie Hall is one of them.

Annie Hall: A+

Best Picture

Did Win: Annie Hall

Should’ve Won: Annie Hall

Best Actor

Did Win: Richard Dreyfuss- The Goodbye Girl

Should’ve Won: Dreyfuss

Best Actress

Did Win: Keaton

Should’ve Won: Keaton, but the argument could be made for Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl and Anne Bancroft in The Turning Point.

Best Supporting Actor

Did Win: Jason Robards- Julia

Should’ve Won: Peter Firth- Equus

Best Supporting Actress

Did Win: Vanessa Redgrave- Julia

Should’ve Won: Redgrave, but the case could be made for Melinda Dillon in Close Encounters

Best Original Screenplay

Did Win: Annie Hall

Should’ve Won: Annie Hall

Best Adapted Screenplay

Did Win: Julia

Should’ve Won: Equus, because I don’t really remember Julia

Best Director

Did Win: Allen

Should’ve Won: Spielberg

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