Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Annie Hall (1977).
There are three things that I think have to be said to give a sense of my mind as I watched Annie Hall. Firstly, though I’ve seen some 4,500 or so films, I had never before seen a Woody Allen picture unless you count Antz and the horrid version of Casino Royale. Never one he directed at least. There are few discourses I wanted to wander into less than the pervasive one surrounding him but the quest to watch every Best Picture winner in order has finally brought me to his work. Second, and this one is obvious to all of you who have met me, I am a balding man with Jewish heritage, a love for New York City, and a tendency towards finding most people I meet incredibly stupid and/ or boorish. Finally, though I am a cynical, pessimistic, defeatist who has often made claims to the contrary, I believe in love. Given the way the film has been talked up by so many who know all these things about me, I had very high expectations and (now for the moment Kern has been anticipating for close to two years), I was disappointed. That’s not to say the film was a complete disaster or anything though. There were a plethora of moments throughout where characters, primarily Allen’s Alvy Singer, would make comments that matched almost exactly things that I’ve thought a million times before or humorous moments that had me laughing heartily, and realizing what the lobster scenes in the Jump Street films had drawn on was a highlight. However, it was all delivered in such an annoyingly neurotic manner, in both Allen’s performance and his narrative presentation, that I could never fully get invested in it. Then (and here I will discuss the ending so check out now if you don’t want to know), they didn’t end up together. That’s not necessarily something that puts me off of a film, and in some of my very favorite movies the central couple parted ways at the end, but to spend all this time with a couple of annoying assholes I didn’t care one lick about and then not even see them get together felt like even more of a waste of time. Yeah yeah yeah everyone needs their relationship eggs or whatever and there’s a certain level of poignancy to the ending that recognizes the majority of relationships are exercises in futile stupidity that will never work out but rarely has a film with this level of formal exceptionalism and intellectual stimulation left me remotely so cold. Or maybe I just watched it on the wrong day.
The Real Best Picture:
I like Star Wars as much as the next guy but think it’s overpraised as is and doesn’t need any Best Picture win to add to its legacy. That being said, between Annie Hall and Star Wars, Star Wars is the easy winner in my mind and, let’s be honest, nothing else that year was really competing.