Woody Allen wouldn’t go the Oscars in the 1970s, but the awards were going to him. The last pure comedy to win the Academy Award for Best Picture was “Annie Hall” in 1977. This is Woody Allen’s signature film, arguably his best and certainly his most popular. It’s a love letter to Diane Keaton and to Woody’s idealized version of living in New York City. Los Angeles doesn’t fare so well in this film.
When we first think of “Annie Hall” we remember Keaton’s unique wardrobe, which inspired a fashion craze. We think of the rapid-fire exchanges between Allen’s Alvy Singer and Keaton’s Annie. We remember the big laughs. But this is hardly a conventional romantic comedy. It’s a bittersweet slice of life, filled with dark humor, more than a touch of melancholy, and some flat-out weirdness. Keep an eye out for the cameo by an impossibly young Christopher Walken as Annie’s troubled kid brother. It sets the tone for dozens of great weirdo Walken performances yet to come.
“Annie Hall” is also an ambitious film with some bold and innovative touches, especially for its time. We see subtitles expressing the characters’ true thoughts as they converse. Allen breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera directly. There’s even an animated sequence.
Although “Annie Hall” is correctly categorized as a comedy, it represented a huge leap in Woody Allen’s work from his previous films. This was no lightweight film scoring an upset on Oscar night. It was the funniest but also the smartest and one of the most insightful films of the year.