Annie Hall (Blu-ray Review)

Alvy Singer (Allen) is one of Manhattan’s most brilliant comedians, but when it comes to romance, his delivery needs a little work.  Introduced by his best friend, Rob (Tony Roberts), Alvy falls in love with the ditzy but delightful nightclub singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).  When Alvy’s own insecurities sabotage the affair, Annie is forced to leave Alvy for a new life – and lover (Paul Simon) – in Los Angeles.  Knowing he may have lost Annie forever, Alvy’s willing to go to any lengths – even driving L.A.’s freeways – to recapture the only thing that ever mattered…true love.  Annie Hall won four Academy Awards including Best Picture and established Allen as the premier auteur filmmaker. Thought by many critics to be Allen’s magnum opus, Annie Hall set the standard that all other Woody Allen films are compared to.

Alvy Singer: Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.


Annie Hall is just about every-one’s favorite Woody Allen movie and there’s a good reason for it.  It’s hilarious, deep, ground-breaking, and has enough unrequited angst to balance out the non-stop witty one-liners.  There’s also a ring of truth to the movie which may not be as far-fetched as it sounds since Allen and Keaton were in a relationship and Keaton’s real last name is Hall and her nickname was “Annie.”  And of course, Allen is basically playing Allen no matter what role it is, since he’s always the same funny, neurotic, kvetching character who has a constant running commentary on his own life.  In Allen’s earlier films, they were light and focused on the comedy, but with Annie Hall Woody Allen decided to go a new direction and take some more chances.  As he said, “…’I think I will try and make some deeper film and not be as funny in the same way.  And maybe there will be other values that will emerge, that will be interesting or nourishing for the audience.  And it worked out very, very well.”

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen plays Alvy Singer who happens to be a gag writer and occasional stand up comedian. The movie starts with Alvy talking to the audience and relating to us the story of his doomed relationship with a woman named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).  Through flashbacks and return visits we not only see his relationship with Annie, but also scenes from his childhood as well.  Allen’s use of flashbacks and jumping around in his own timeline which includes imaginary group trips into each of their history’s makes Annie Hall much more unpredictable and fun than the usual romantic comedy.  It struck while watching it again that Annie Hall is almost a comedic precursor to Pulp Fiction in a lot of ways because of the somewhat similar approaches.

We witness Alvy and Annie’s relationship from start to finish inter-cut with scenes of them with other people as well. For Alvy, it’s easy to see his consistent pattern with women where he wins them over and then drives them away with his constant questioning of them or in the case of Allison (Carol Kane), because she didn’t believe in his theory about the Kennedy assassination.  Alvy’s friend Rob (Tony Roberts) tries to keep things simple and inadvertently introduces Alvy to Annie during a tennis match where the two hit it off quickly.  Annie is from a well to do family and seems kind of scatterbrained and uninhibited while Alvy over-analyzes everything and disapproves of flighty ways especially when he later complains about her needing to smoke marijuana every time before they have sex.

Despite the constant fluctuations in their relationship, Alvy supports Annie’s desire to sing which backfires when a laid back record producer named Tony Lacey (Paul Simon) hears her sing and wants to get to know her better.  Alvy does his best to keep her away from Tony by feigning that they had a previous “thing” to do, but when he is supposed to give out an award in California later on, they see Tony again at a party.  By now, Annie has fallen in love with California and its atmosphere and she decides she would rather live there.  Alvy will never leave New York and hates California with a passion (“I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”) and between that and their other issues, they break up and Annie moves into Tony’s mansion.  It doesn’t take long before Alvy realizes how much he wants Annie in his life and he even returns to California to try to bring her back to New York, but discovers that sometimes things don’t always work out the way we hope.

This is probably my favorite Woody Allen movie because it all came together so beautifully.  The comedy is first rate with an extremely funny script by Allen and Marshall Brickman, it has a great cast, the cinematography from Gordon Willis is amazing, and all of the stylistic choices Allen made as a director make this a classic.  I loved seeing Woody “break the fourth wall” to address the audience after having to listen to a pompous know-it-all in line behind him expound incorrectly about Marshall McLuhan’s work.  We’ve seen that device done before, but Allen raises it to a new level when the man Woody is complaining about also addresses the audience to defend himself.  Allen then takes the gag to an even higher level when he brings out Marshall McLuhan himself to tell the pompous man that he doesn’t understand his work at all.  Then there’s other creative touches like using humorous subtitles that convey not what the characters are actually saying, but rather what they are really thinking which makes it even funnier.  Allen even includes an animated segment with Annie as the evil Queen from Snow White.  Combine all that with the flashbacks and the imaginary visits back into the past and you have a very unique romantic comedy that was way ahead of its time.

Alvy Singer: They did not take me in the Army. I was, um, interestingly enough, I was, I was 4-P. Yes. In the, in the event of war, I’m a hostage.


This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks a lot better than I expected it would although that’s not to say that it’s perfect.  This is a soft looking movie and it’s filled with grain but it doesn’t bother me for this release since that’s how I imagine it should look.  The grain hasn’t been scrubbed away with DNR so it still retains the cinematic feel of the movie which I believe reflects that aesthetic of Woody Allen.  I believe this is how he would want the film to look – it’s like looking at an original print but with the benefit of seeing it in high definition.  I think MGM could have done a better job but I would worry that to achieve that, it might change the look and feel of the movie.  Colors are decent but aren’t overly vivid since the movie has a mute palette, but the black levels are deep, dark, and very satisfying which is great since cinematographer Gordon Willis loves to shoot everything in darkness.  This is a pretty good transfer and one that fits in well with the movie.

Alvy Singer: I was thrown out of N.Y.U. my freshman year for cheating on my metaphysics final, you know. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.


My reaction to Annie Hall’s DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is exactly the same as my feelings about the high definition transfer.  It could have been better but what’s there is perfectly suitable for the film.  Since this film is filled with non-stop dialogue, it doesn’t really need a 7.1 mix.  As it is, the dialogue sounds crisp and clear with no distortions of any kind.  There’s also Dolby Digital mono mixes in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Catalan, and Portuguese as well since Woody Allen has a lot of international fans.  This is a simple mix but it works for the movie and I’m pretty happy with it.

Annie Hall: You never want to try anything new, Alvy.
Alvy Singer: How can you say that? Whose idea was it? I said that you, I, and that girl from your acting class should sleep together in a threesome.
Annie Hall: Well, that’s sick.
Alvy Singer: Yeah, I know it’s sick, but it’s new. You didn’t say it couldn’t be sick.

Special Features  

Sadly, there is only the theatrical trailer in high definition which is a travesty for fans of the film and it will bring down the final score too.

Alvy Singer: Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love.

Final Thoughts  

This is one of the best comedies ever made and it’s not afraid to end on a non-traditional note.  The movie cemented Allen’s reputation as an actor, writer, and director and also gave a bunch of unknown actors their first big break too.  Part of the fun watching the movie is spotting well known actors in the tiniest of roles.  You will see Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, Sigourney Weaver, Colleen Dewhurst, Shelley Duvall, John Glover, Mark Lenard, Beverly D’Angelo, Tracey Walter, and more in roles that might not even have a line! Annie Hall ended up winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture (over Star Wars! grumble grumble) and its influence is still being felt today. This is without a doubt, Woody Allen’s masterpiece and I highly recommend it!

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4 Responses to “Annie Hall (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    You will never ever see a Woody Allen film with even a basic surround soundtrack. The most you will see is a 2.0 and 3.0 track. This is by choice.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    A Top 5 Allen film for sure. Wish Allen would at least humor us with some kind of special features on his classic films

  3. Brian White

    I will have to put this on my bucket list of MUST-SEE’s. Good review Sean!

  4. Sean Ferguson

    I know Gerard and that’s too bad but like Aaron, I’m more sad about never getting any extras on his movies.

    Thanks Brian! Let me know if you like it!