Saturday, February 28, 2015

Morning Wood

I fear for the cultural literacy of the future.

All week long, I'd been looking forward to seeing "Annie Hall" at the Bowtie. Incredibly, I hadn't seen it since it came out in 1977. Given all the Oscars it had won, I expected a full house. Instead, I found one middle-aged guy with a bag of popcorn and a willingness to chat.

Like me, he often comes to the Movies and Mimosas feature to see classic films on the big screen. We got a good laugh when he told me that the ticket taker had looked at his stub and said, "Oh, I didn't know "Annie Hall" was coming out this week."

When he explained to the 20-something that it was a 38-year old movie, the kid was surprised.

Joining us shortly was a woman who, without being asked, announced to us that she was excited to see the movie but appalled to learn that her 44-year old daughter had never seen it. Wait, it gets worse: her daughter's degree is in theater.

She asked if I was a Woody Allen fan and I admitted to it. My first boyfriend had introduced me to his peculiar brand of humor when I was in high school and I'd read an Allen biography as long ago as college. So, yes, I was a fan.

Yet I remembered very little of the film beyond Allen breaking the fourth wall. Lost to the decades were Diane Keaton's singing, that the Alvy Singer character had had two ex-wives or all the references to Jewish persecution in WWII ("My Grammy didn't give gifts. She was too busy being raped by Cossacks").

Not remembered but not surprising were the 1977-isms. The doctor smokes in the examining room with a patient. Most women went bra-less. Waiting in line for a movie, people smoke, read newspapers and talk to each other instead of staring at their devices.

Annie Hall can't have sex without smoking a joint first and friends are aghast to learn the couple hasn't tried cocaine. "Come on, do your body a favor!" they insist, proffering the white stuff. Wow, 1977.

I also learned things. "You want to move to Los Angeles where the only cultural advantage is being able to turn right on red?" Alvy asks incredulously of Annie. So California was ahead of the curve on this? No memory of that.

Of course Woody Allen's dialog was spot on and laugh out loud-worthy. "I'm a bigot but for the left," he says. Speaking at an Adlai Stevenson rally, he says, "So I'm in the Catskills and I've been trying to do to this girl what the Eisenhower administration has been doing to us."

Very telling was a comment Allen makes about the state of photography in 1977. "A set of aesthetic guidelines hasn't been developed yet." Since few museums and galleries were even beginning to collect photography in the '70s, this rings especially true to an art geek.

Just as dated but a little skeevy was a scene where Alvy's best friend Rob is clearly peeved to get a phone call from jail from Alvy. Not because his friend has been jailed, but because it interrupted him having sex with twins.

"Sixteen year old twins, imagine the possibilities!" Considering he was, like Allen, close to 40 at the time, that's pretty distasteful, although apparently not so much in '77.

One of the most hysterical scene involved no dialog from Alvy, just a look. He and Annie are ordering sandwiches in a deli and she says, "I'll have pastrami on white bread with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato." Jewish suffering is written all over his face.

I certainly didn't recall Paul Simon (with a bad comb-over), Christopher Walken (his weirdness already set in stone) or Jeff Goldblum on the phone ("I forgot my mantra") being in the movie.

Most surprising of all was that I remembered the last bit in the movie. Alvy tells an old joke about how he can't turn in his brother just because he thinks he's a chicken. When the doctor asks him why not, he says he needs the eggs.

"Well, I guess that's pretty much how I feel about relationships. You know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs."

Apparently that's the kind of sentiment that spoke to my young self when I first saw "Annie Hall" because I never forgot it.

There's a lesson there. Never see what's billed as a "nervous romance" when you're at an impressionable age. It may not do your heart any favors.

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