I often complain about the state of Hollywood and the entertainment industry these days. I miss good, different, and adventurous films. I miss movies like Annie Hall. I am a fan of Woody Allen's work from the inventive What's up, Tiger Lily? to the newer Manhattan Murder Mystery but Annie Hall stands above everything. It is a nonlinear story that uses flashbacks, animation, split screens, and other devices to tell a funny story.
A movie like Wedding Crashers is hysterical and goofy, but it is not anything like the brilliant comedy and observational humor that is throughout Annie Hall (AH). When you watch AH, you get the feeling that you're listening to a great stand up comic being put into odd situations where their genius can shine. This became the basis for so many sitcom ideas in the early 90s. When you listen to Allen's character, you can hear the Billy Crystal lines from When Harry met Sally or Jerry Seinfeld's lines from an episode of Seinfeld and by extension Larry David's humorous circumstances and odd lifeview from Curb your Enthusiasm. This is the genesis of all of that; the acorn that started the tree.
Besides the observational humor that Allen uses, there are obvious sight gags. The scene where Allen hears friends discuss cocaine and its $2,000/oz price and then sneeze, spraying the coke everywhere, is one of these hysterical moments. The clever use of subtitles to show what Allen and Keaton's characters are really thinking when they are talking at their first meeting was incredibly funny. Allen uses a device that is used in foregin language films to explain meaning of the other language to show the motives of the male and female psyche. When flashbacks were used, Allen's character and others would be watching live like the ghosts of christmas past/present/future. The commentary and scenes are out of anyone's childhood/past. I laughed my ass off when watching the scene where his parents argue about the black cleaning lady stealing and why she was fired.
I miss films like this, and they just do not make films like AH anymore. Allen had 10 years of solid Hollywood success behind him and was allowed artistic freedom to do with AH as he pleased....and it worked. There was not a concern with offending any race, religion or group. There was no concern with being too New York/Jewish of a movie. He just wrote a film that people could identify with: the story of a passionate yet failed relationship and the build up through his/her life up to that relationship.
Rent it. I love to watch it, but you only need to see it once.