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Woody Allen
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall
Woody Allen

Rated R.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actress-Diane Keaton; Best Screenplay.
Nominated for Best Actor-Woody Allen.

Widescreen 1.85:1
Standard 1.33:1
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 4/28/1998

• Production Notes
• Trivia
• Theatrical Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Annie Hall (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

When I was ten, my parents took my along to see Annie Hall. Note that I didn't say "dragged me along," which is the attitude one might expect from a youngster. No, I was into media that seemed a bit beyond my age, and while I'd change my mind about him later, I actually liked Woody Allen at that time.

More than 20 years later, I've watched Annie Hall again, and while I liked it, I have no idea what my ten-year-old self saw in the film. Did I get any of the jokes? I'm not sure how. I mean, I knew a fair amount at that age, but I know that I lacked the sophistication to understand much of what was happening.

Not to mention that I also did not yet have the "life experience" to take to heart the romantic aspect of the story. Hey, I didn't even like girls yet at that age (though I was getting there). AH is definitely a relationship film, so it works much better for one who has loved, especially if one has also lost.

That would be me, so I connected surprisingly well to AH. As I alluded, I've greatly soured on Woody Allen over the last two decades and generally just find his persona to be irritating and largely unfunny. Actually, it's not so much that he doesn't produce good humor; it's just that something about Allen himself seems to rub me the wrong way. Tellingly, the two Allen films I've most enjoyed are Radio Days and Purple Rose of Cairo, both of which do not present Woody in a performing capacity.

So when I borrowed the AH DVD from my father, I expected not to like it. However, I found it to be surprisingly effective and well done. It's a very touching, sweet and funny exploration of male/female relationships, and also one that rings true.

I was also surprised at the quality of the acting. Allen essentially plays himself - as usual - so there's only so much he could do to muck it up; he doesn't and is perfectly acceptable (and maybe a little less annoying than usual). The big surprise was Diane Keaton. I usually can't stand her; from other appearances, I've seen her to be one of the stiffest and least convincing successful actresses in the business.

That wasn't the case with her work in AH. Keaton managed to portray Annie as a real person, no mean feat in what was a demanding role; she had to show her character in a wide variety of time periods and situations and she pulled it off admirably and convincingly. She won an Oscar for her work here, and she deserved it.

As good as Keaton was, my favorite performance in AH came from Jonathan Munk, who played a nine-year-old version of Alvy Singer, Allen's character. The kid's absolutely hilarious and we see far too little of him. (According to IMDB, AH was Munk's only film. I hear he died after downing some Coca-Cola along with a packet of Pop Rocks.)

Annie Hall includes an amazingly strong supporting cast. None of them are terribly remarkable here - though they're all good - but it's an impressive roster. AH features Carole Kane, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Glover, Shelley Hack, Beverly D'Angelo, and - in a shot from so far away that the only way you'll know it's her is from the credits - Sigourney Weaver. Wow! Considering all of these folks were at best semi-unknowns at the time, that's pretty amazing.

But perhaps not as amazing as the fact that I really liked this film. I don't expect I'll change my opinion of Woody Allen anytime soon - and I'll never forgive this movie for stealing the Best Picture Oscar Star Wars deserved - but I certainly have more respect for the man.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio C+ / Bonus D

Annie Hall appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the letterboxed version has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen side was viewed for this review. I'm not sure why, but I expected the worst from this transfer. Happily, I was wrong; it's a flawed but generally good-looking image.

Annie Hall appeared quite sharp throughout much of the film. Some scenes seemed a little soft; this problem usually occurred when the shots were somewhat wide, like when we see a splitscreen of both Annie and Alvy with their therapists. Moiré effects appear occasionally but infrequently and are fairly mild when they do happen; you might see some slightly jagged edges on Allen's glasses at times, for instance. The print used was decent but shows a lot of speckling; these white spots pop up pretty frequently. The movie also seemed somewhat grainy at times. I noticed no scratches or more severe marks, though.

Colors look very good for the most part, with thorough saturation and no bleeding. The bedroom scene with the red light seems a little hazier than I'd like, but it still looks pretty clean. Overall, hues are natural and vivid. Black levels are also pretty good but inconsistent; they seem deep and rich for the most part, but on some occasions they appear slightly faded. Shadow detail generally seems clear and precise, though some nightclub segments looked a little more opaque than I'd like. Ultimately, Annie Hall shows a fair number of minor flaws but overall looks pretty nice.

Annie Hall offers a monaural soundtrack that actually sounds pretty good and seems perfectly sufficient for this film. This is a tremendously dialogue-heavy movie; effects and music appear, but I'd guess that speech constitutes 90 percent of the audio. While I've heard better, I've also heard a lot worse, and Annie Hall seems like a fairly good mix for such an old movie.

Dialogue consistently seems clear and intelligible. It even manages to appear pretty warm and natural for much of the film. At times the speech seems a bit harsh or edgy, but not usually. Music and effects both appeared fairly thin and flat, but since they're such a minor aspect of the mix, those factors weren't terribly important. The dialogue doesn't sound great, but it's relatively natural and easily decipherable, so the mix works for this film.

The only real failure of this DVD involves its supplements, or lack thereof. We get a decent trailer and an eight-page booklet with some relatively strong production notes; you don't learn a thorough history of the film, but the text offers some interesting information. Still, it'd be nice to see some additional materials. Allen doesn't seem like the sort to cooperate with special editions, so these attempts may be held back by that factor, but there must be more they could do.

Annie Hall offers a decent but unspectacular DVD. Image and sound are somewhat above-average, though the extras are very minimal. Still, it's a very good film and seems to be one that would endure repeated viewings, and potentially even prosper under such conditions. Annie Hall comes recommended.

Final footnote: the review above examined the original MGM release of Annie Hall that came out in 1998. However, that DVD has now been replaced by a newer, slightly-less-expensive issue. That one is available on its own for $19.98 MSRP or as part of the Woody Allen Collection boxed set along with seven other Allen films; the latter lists for $134.98.

The new release of Annie Hall exactly duplicates the old one with a few minor exceptions: the artwork and text on the rear of the case are different, and the original DVD's eight-page booklet has been replaced with a new four-page product. Surprisingly, the new one offers completely different text; none of the paragraphs from the original are duplicated. In any case, the material on the DVDs themselves appear identical; it's the same transfer and everything else.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7252 Stars Number of Votes: 91
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