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Annie Hall

Annie Hall

The Oscar race is heating up, and all signs point to leading man Casey Affleck snatching the Best Actor statuette this year. No matter that he carries with him years of misogyny and sexual harassment allegations. He acted real good and he deserves a prize, as well as a long and promising career (of sexual misconduct) which will open up more doors for him (to abuse women) for many years to come.

A few months ago, I was asked to present an argument of why the film Annie Hall should be hated, as a part of Flick Lit Chicago's Love/Hate segment.

Annie Hall opens with Woody Allen standing in front of a backdrop telling us: "There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, 'Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.' The other one says, 'Yeah, I know; and such small portions.'"

Small portions. If only we could have Woody Allen in small portions instead of being force fed a rancid new meal every year.

Oh, Annie Hall. A movie about a forty something white man going through a life crisis which he will describe to us using his relationships with a cavalcade of beautiful and insecure women. How exciting! How refreshing! Why is this movie called Annie Hall? It is less about Annie than it is about the lobsters. A more accurate title for this film would be "Alvy Singer" and an even more accurate title is "Woody Allen." Allen argues that this movie is not strictly autobiographical, yet Alvy has become the prototype for all his subsequent avatars in every Woody Allen movie. These avatar/stand-ins for Alvy/Woody are generally neurotic, down-on-their-luck creative types who show no real creativity, and they're obsessed with at least one younger woman, who is conveniently and inexplicably drawn to him in turn.

There are so many issues with this film and with Woody Allen as a person and as an artist, so I will try not to needlessly jump around, unlike the frenetic and sloppy story structure of Annie Hall.

First of all, this movie can only be enjoyed by sex-obsessed narcissists. Why yes, it did use to be my favorite movie. I first saw it when I was in college. I was 19, just entering my sophomore year, and I had ordered Annie Hall off of this brand new cool website called Netflix. And when that bright red envelope arrived in the mail, I was so excited to watch it. I was in the middle of a terrible roommate situation with someone who was, at that point undiagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I was on the cusp of beginning to discover my own mental health issues. So there was a lot of chaos and disorder in my life. I popped the DVD into my computer and put on my headphones while my roommate cleaned passive aggressively around me. And I immediately connected with it, this film about a sex-obsessed narcissist who talked about his problems, yet never did anything to solve them, and placed the blame on everyone else: Annie, her professor, Annie, the guy in line at the movies, his ex-wives, and Annie. I was hooked. In my younger days, the idea of mowing through relationships, one after the other, and framing it as a search for self-awareness, was very appealing. Alvy latches on, like a parasite, sucking these women dry and stunting their growth while he tries to fulfill his own...I don't know...his ultimate goal doesn't seem to be happiness. Mutual misery? Small portions of dissatisfaction?

I continued to be a Woody Allen fan for a while, watching a good number of films in his canon. The one about the older guy dating the teenager. The one about the older guy cheating on his live-in girlfriend with the younger woman in his acting class. The one about the older guy who marries the 19 year old. Yeah, I guess there's a pattern, but he's winning Oscars, right, so it's fine. Just like how Profiles Theatre here in Chicago was always winning Jeff Awards, with their production history full of plays about older man abusing younger woman, who could have guessed there was actual abuse going on, lol?

Here's the thing. For its time, Annie Hall was not particularly icky or offensive. But now that we've seen Woody Allen move through his life as an alleged abuser and obsessor of nubile female bodies, it's hard to watch. The scene where Tony Roberts' character talks about being in a position to fuck two underage twin girls? "Think about the mathematical possibilities," he says. Yeah, 8-10 years in prison, you monster!

I reached a point where I could no longer stomach any of Woody Allen's films, but especially Annie Hall. It was the point where I realized that I can't define my own life by other people, but especially by my sexual relationships and that there are other people in the world, not just me. It's time to stop watching Woody Allen movies. It's time to stop calling this a milestone in film history while excusing the misogyny, rape culture, and not to mention the complete and utter whiteness of this movie.

Towards the beginning of the movie, Alvy takes us back to his childhood, and we see him in a classroom as a young student. Little Alvy kisses the unwilling girl next to him, who yells, "blech he kissed me, he kissed me." Adult Alvy pops in to protest, "I was only exploring a healthy sexual curiosity!" What's the big deal, right? Kissing women without their consent is totally fine, don't be such a prude about it. Our President-elect grabs pussies, it's a healthy sexual curiosity, right Alvy, sorry I mean Woody, sorry I mean America.

Best of luck at the Oscars, Casey Affleck! I can't wait for your eventual collaboration with Woody Allen where you play a struggling white novelist in Portland who falls in love with a wise-beyond-her-years middle schooler and everybody uses the phrase "make love" every five minutes. You're in great company. 

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