Study Guide

Annie Hall Introduction

Annie Hall Introduction


Release Year: 1977

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts


  

Ever wish you had a time machine? Let's say that you fail your chemistry test. What if you could travel back to the night before and pinpoint the exact reasons why? (Spoiler alert: It was all those hours you spent playing Fallout 4 instead of studying.)

You might not be able to change the past, but you could learn from your mistakes and become unstoppable, or at least more enlightened... right?

In Annie Hall, Alvy Singer creates a vibrant, hilarious fantasy life that allows him to do just that. Through flashbacks, conversations with his childhood self, and even spontaneously turning into a cartoon character, he solves the mystery of what went wrong with Annie Hall, the girl who got away.

Annie Hall stormed movie theaters in the spring of 1977 and raked in $38,251,425 (which ain't bad for a sophisticated, dialogue-heavy romantic comedy that cost only $4 million to produce). And, adjusted for inflation, Annie Hall's box office haul is over $139 million dollars, making it Woody Allen's most successful movie of all time by far.

But Annie Hall didn't just do a bang-up job at the box office. It was also a critical smash. The movie was nominated for five Oscars: Best Original Screenplay for Allen and his co-writer Marshall Brickman, Best Actor and Best Director for Allen, Best Actress for co-star Diane Keaton, and Best Picture.

And Allen was in good company (even if he didn't actually attend the awards ceremony). In the end, Annie Hall went four-for-five, walking away with everything but the award for Best Actor—and beating out a little arthouse picture called Star Wars.

Allen and Keaton were household names when Annie Hall arrived, but if you look closely, you'll also spot several future Hollywood heavyweights in some of their first big-screen appearances, including a pre-Ripley Sigourney Weaver, a pre-chaos theory Jeff Goldblum, and, most memorably, Christopher Walken as Annie's thoroughly creepy little bro.

Annie Hall's neurotic look at life and love was Allen's breakout film. His star as a filmmaker was already on the rise when the movie was released, but the simultaneously gut-busting and sensitive comedy sent his stock soaring—and it created the template for Allen's work to come. Writes film critic Devin Faraci:

The easy answer to "What's the best Woody Allen movie?" is Annie Hall […] the movie's basic truths are just as wonderfully observed today as they were almost forty years ago.

In short, if you only watch one Allen flick, this is the one to watch, to ponder, and to endlessly quote—to family, friends, your lacrosse coach, and pretty much everybody… even if they, like Woody Allen, "don't speak shellfish."

What is Annie Hall About and Why Should I Care?

Annie Hall is the granddaddy of modern romantic comedies. Without Annie Hall, Harry never meets Sally, Bridget Jones never buys a diary, and Julia Roberts is never just a girl, standing in front of Hugh Grant, asking him to love her.

Before Annie Hall, romantic comedies were all hearts and unicorns: They were entertaining, sure, but they weren't very realistic. Alvy's and Annie's complicated, often messy relationship was a game-changer.

"The film is… one of the best romantic comedies ever," argues Paste magazine's Jeremy Medina, "simply because it takes the time to show all of the moments that happen in a relationship—the wide spectrum of happy and sad, of bittersweet and just plain bitter" (source).

In its refreshingly realistic take on a love affair, Annie Hall established the notion that maybe it is just like esteemed Canadian poet Alan Thicke once wrote: "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have the facts of life."

Simply put, in Annie Hall, love isn't pretty. It's neurotic. It's full of lobster home invasions, out-of-body experiences, jealousy, heartache, anger, and lots and lots of butt-hurt feelings. But it's genuine.

The stars aren't gorgeous, glamorous babes. The sex is kind of awkward. Both Annie with her low confidence and la-di-da-ing and Alvy with his crazed, semi-pretentious chattering can be kind of obnoxious—even though they're also one of the most adorable and hilarious couples this side of Bill and Ted of Excellent Adventure fame. (They were together, right?)

In short, Annie Hall was the first romantic comedy that reflected what relationships were really, truly like. And sometimes the truth hurts… even if it is milk-through-your-nostrils funny.

Trivia

Annie Hall was originally a 2.5-hour murder mystery. The crime scenes that got cut were eventually turned into another Woody Allen and Diane Keaton joint, Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).
(Source)

If you thought Alvy had an overactive imagination, chew on this: Several additional fantasy sequences were cut from the film, including one where the devil takes Alvy, Annie, and Rob on a tour of hell and one where Alvy plays basketball with his favorite New York Knicks players.
(Source)

Media scholar Marshall McLuhan, who Alvy produces to settle a debate with an annoying professor in line for the movies, wasn't Woody Allen's first choice. He stepped in at the last minute to replace Italian film director Federico Fellini.
(Source)

In addition to Anhedonia, rejected titles for Annie Hall included A Roller Coaster Named Desire and It Had to Be Jew. No, really.
(Source)

Annie Hall Resources

Websites

Annie Hall at The Woody Allen Pages
One-stop shopping for everything the Annie addict could ever want or need to know about their fave flick.

WoodyAllen.com
We think the name says it all, but just in case it doesn't, this is Woody's official website.

DianeKeaton.com
Want to follow Annie Hall on Pinterest or Twitter? This is as close as it gets.

Book or TV Adaptations

The Annie Hall Screenplay
If you and your pals want to recreate Annie Hall in your kitchen, you're going to need a copy of this. And some lobsters.

Articles and Interviews

"Her Own Best Disputant" (December 25, 1978)
Fair warning, Shmooper: This New Yorker profile is lengthy, but it has Annie Hall, and Annie Hall, all over it.

"Woody Allen, The Art of Humor No. 1" (1985 and beyond)
This ongoing Paris Review interview is a must-read for writers. It's pretty awesome for everybody else, too: gym teachers, hair stylists, high school students, nuclear physicists, hand models…

The Great Movies: Annie Hall (May 12, 2002)
Roger Ebert looks back at the Best Picture winner. If you're assuming that he likes it based on its inclusion in his "Great Movies" series, you're right.

"Annie Hall Might Be Woody Allen's Greatest Disappointment" (June 22, 2012)
Say it ain't so, Woody. Devin Faraci traces Allen's thoughts on his breakout film for the awkwardly named website Birth. Movies. Death.

The Filming Locations of Annie Hall (July 23, 2012)
Part of the "New York, You've Changed" series, this article takes you on a very thorough tour of where Annie Hall was filmed and shows you what everything looks like today. Get ready to plan your vacation.

"Woody Allen: What I've Learned" (June 4, 2013)
Spoiler Alert: The legendary director's outlook on life is very similar to that of his Annie Hall alter ego. Also, he learned to shave from a cab driver.

"At 79, Woody Allen Says There's Still Time to Do His Best Work" (July 29, 2015)
Was the little old lady on the street right? Does love fade? NPR's Sam Fragoso goes straight to the source in this interview with Allen.

Video

Alvy's Opening Monologue
In which he cracks a joke and sets the plot in motion.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Marshall McLuhan!
The famous media theorist helps Alvy put an obnoxious moviegoer in his place. Sick burn, Marshall.

Lobsters on the Loose
Alvy and Annie chase lobsters around a kitchen with a completely impractical oven. Seriously. Take a look at it.

Dating, Subtitles-Style
Alvy and Annie have a drink on the roof and unleash their inner monologues.

Annie Croons "Seems Like Old Times"
This Chippewa Falls gal's got chops.

The Official Annie Hall Trailer (1977)
This is what would've gotten you stoked to see Annie Hall if you were alive in 1977.

Woody Allen Talks Annie Hall and Twisting Cats' Heads Off (1977)
In this rare, recently unearthed clip, Allen dishes on his fan following, explains why he prefers writing to acting and directing, and turns down an invitation to play clarinet in Texas.

Woody Allen On Annie Hall's Autobiographical Elements… Or Not (1977)
"In this movie, you were much less of a loser than you usually are." Gee, thanks!

Annie Hall wins Best Picture (1978)
Take that, Star Wars!

Woody Allen Wins Best Director (1978)
…and is nowhere to be found. But Diane Keaton sure looks happy for him.

Diane Keaton Wins Best Actress (1978)
She's dressed like a bag lady and can't stop giggling, and it's utterly charming.

The Real Annie Hall (circa 2010)
Was Annie Hall really written for, and about, Diane Keaton?

Images

Diane Keaton, Woody Allen, and Tony Roberts filming Flashback #403
Looking sharp, guys.

Big Alvy and Lil' Alvy in Conversation Between Takes. Awww.
That little kid has one of the best jackets we've ever seen.

God's-Eye View
In order to establish his dominance on set, Allen always sat on top of a ladder when not in a scene. Just kidding. He's directing.

Check Out that Cast Roster
An Annie Hall promo poster.

Annie & Alvy
…on the hunt for Truman Capote look-alikes.

Mensware Chic
Behold the baggy pants and bowler hat that started a fashion revolution.

Nice Shorts
Hang on, this scene isn't in the film…

Dead Bodies and Jesus?
…and neither is this one.

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