Sunday, June 26, 2016

Past Movie Review: Flash of Genius

The movie Flash of Genius, which came out in 2008 represents some of the best reasons why we go to the movies and in this case the true and amazing story of how two major car companies Chrysler and Ford went out of their way to steal a great invention from a genius inventor is a great story that just had to be told.

Almost nobody has ever heard about Robert Kerns, he is the inventor of many things but most famous for the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper that was filed with the US Patent Office on December 1, 1964. The idea for this invention came to him because he was blind in one eye to to of all things a cork from a wine bottle. He thought while driving that wouldn't it be great if a windshield wiper worked like the human eyelid. This invention came to him in 1964 and after Ford and Chrysler stole his idea which was patented it took until 1978 and 1982 before the patent infringement cases started in court! The fact that it took this long is both a tribute to his perseverance and the outrageous delays of the court process where a company can file continuances for years to avoid paying the penalty for stealing another persons idea right out from under them. After almost 20 long years of legal battles and delays, Kern's finally won his lawsuit, eventually getting paid 30 million from Crysler and 10 million from Ford Motor company. Along the way, he alienated all his friends and was divorced from his wife due to the stress and pressure of all those years of fighting this incredible injustice. As far as other people telling a man like this to just "get over it" or "move on", all I can say is - "walk a mile in my shoes". I am one person who fully understands what Kern's went through and also understands how nobody else can really understand what its like to live with injustice at this level for that many years. This movie also shows what companies can do to individuals because they have unlimited funds and they know the ordinary person filing the lawsuit does not.

Due to the many delays for almost half of Kern's life he had several mental breakdowns, eventually dying of brain cancer which was caused complications with Alzheimer's. This movie was well acted by Greg Kinnear who played Robert Kerns and his wife who was played by Lauren Graham

This movie is about a great story from history and should be seen.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Movie Review: The Shallows

This is one of the few movies that I can remember and maybe of all time where there is really only one character for the entire movie. There are some minor peripheral other actors in this film, but for the most part, this movie is about a Shark Attack and survival and the actor for the whole movie is Blake Lively. The last movie I remember that starred only one person was "All Is Lost" with Robert Redford which came out in 2013. That movie was extremely well done and I thought that Redford should have gotten an Oscar nomination for this role but he did not. As far as Shark movies, this film is one of the best I have seen in terms of the realism of a shark attack and the incredible damage they can cause to a human being. I think that this film must have been shot with a real shark and then superimposed with Blake Lively because the realism of the shark attacking​ and killing 3 other people was so believable.

If you are afraid of sharks then this is not the movie for you. For everyone else, I highly recommend​ this film.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Movie Review: Independence Day Resurgence

The release of "Independence Day Resurgence" is the sequel to the original movie which came out 20 years ago. This is probably the longest period of time between sequels in movie history, especially when you consider how much money the original made in 1996. As I have reviewed in this blog, the original Independence Day was a very good movie with a very stupid and bad ending. This movie had excellent special effects but overall a bad story and an ending that was not as bad as the first but was still a mostly bad ending. The plan to beat the Aliens at the end of this film was extremely convoluted and mostly made no sense. With 20 years to think of ideas for another huge alien movie I definitely expected better than this story and most especially the ending.

Most of the original cast are in this film, the notable exception is Will Smith who dies somehow in the last 20 years but this was never explained. This new version has his son taking over the jet flying and fighting the aliens along with the daughter of the President of the Unites States in the last movie. Judd Hirsh seems to have been placed into this movie after the fact with a crowbar and does not seem to belong in this story at all. Hirsh is on a boat, almost killed, then winds up on a bus and then by some miracle winds up in the Salt Flats at the end of the movie where he reunites​ with his son for the final battle of the movie. He also looks the exact same age he was 20 years ago, which could have been some kind of an oversight with the makeup. The cast overall is effective, but there was way too much build up in this movie before the action or the story really starts. The other stupidity, which also exists in the first movie is allowing the President to join in the Jet fighting and high risk of death dogfights​ with the alien spacecraft. Of course in real life, this would never be allowed, but it is allowed in both of these movies. Overall I was pretty disappointed with the story in this film, but not with the special effects.

Go to this movie to see the special effects and not for the story or satisfying ending.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Past Movie Review: Independence Day

It's hard to believe that during the July 4th weekend 20 years ago in 1996 the movie Independence Day was released. The special effects which we all saw on TV before the movie came out were spectacular, especially for the time. Even more surprising is the fact that the sequel to this movie is coming out this weekend, a full 20 years later. I am sure there is some financial reason why they didn't wait until the July 4th weekend this time around because I​ think it would have been better of they waited one more week until the release of the new one. Independence Day had everything, great special effects, some humor and a great action movie acting performance from Will Smith, who is not in the new movie.

The one thing for me that stands out in this film more than anything else is that it probably has the stupidest ending idea in this history of all movies. The ending almost ruined the whole film even though before the ending it was very solid throughout. At the low point in the war against the Aliens, Jeff Goldblum who is the lead in this movie had no idea what humanity was going to do to stop this Alien invasion. His idea at first was very good. Invade the mother ship with one of the captured alien spacecraft from Area 51. Amazingly this ship still flew and the plan was to plant a bomb in the spacecraft, fly into the mother ship and set it off. Brilliant idea. If you disable the mother ship then all the other spacecraft that were destroying many cities on planet earth would be disabled! This is a great idea and would win the war. However, because of Hollywood, because of money, because of some kind of an audience reaction test, because of stupidity or other reasons, Jeff Goldblum came up with an idea to "install a virus" into the mother ship. How can someone do this? How can a person install software invented from planet earth into Alien Software and expect it to work? So this Alien world also uses the same code we use? It uses the same binary language we use? Also, how can you interface with the alien computer? Do they use a USB port? How do you connect to their computer and how did Jeff Goldblum do this with his laptop? Why didn't the producers realize how stupid this is and that there is no logical way this idea to save the world could be pulled off? They already had a good ending with the bomb idea, why add this stupidity at the end? For me, it almost ruined the whole movie.

I am hoping that the new movie has a better ending than the last one 20 years ago. As far as Independence Day, its a very good movie despite the stupid ending.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Movie Review: Central Intelligence

Kevin Hart has probably made the most movies of any well-known movie actor in the last 5 years and I heard the other day that his movies have grossed close to 1 billion dollars. I have noticed that all of his movies follow the same pattern. An average story, some physical humor and many attempts at verbal humor, some that fails and some that are only moderately funny. As a standup comedian Kevin Hart is one of the best to come out in many years, but as a comedic actor, he has to find better scripts than the mostly average ones he has found so far. The other problem if this keeps up is overexposure which can be the death of anyone's acting career in Hollywood.

The other hard working actor in the movie "Central Intelligence" is Dwayne Johnson, "The Rock" and over the last 5 years, he has probably chosen his movie roles a little better than Kevin Hart. The good part of this movie includes some important statements about bullying, which is a huge problem in this country and has been getting worse over the years. From an outrageous bullying incident in 1996 involving Johnson's character who was obese at the time, he later became not only a great physical specimen "because of his 6 hours of training for 20 years", but also a CIA agent. The re-connection of Hart's character and the Rock is through Facebook and very quickly they find themselves being chased around by CIA agents within a story that became rather convoluted and run of the mill. Some of the physical comedy was somewhat funny but not enough as were some of the lines and interaction between Hart and Johnson's characters.

This movie is a very typical Kevin Hart movie and if you are not a big fan, you can miss this film.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Dory

I thought while watching this movie that the correct title should have been "Finding Dory's Parents" because that is what this entire movie is about - A baby fish with short term memory who loses her parents as a child and then spends the rest of the movie trying to find them. "Finding Dory" is the sequel after 13 years to "Finding Nemo". While this movie has a good solid story and excellent computer graphics, after 13 years I was expecting more than this just above average cartoon about a cute fish with big eyes who has short term memory. Ellen Degeneres reprises her role as Dory and like she did 13 years ago, did a very good job with her part. As I always do, I had to respect the outstanding computer graphics work in this movie as every moviegoer has to. Somewhere they should publish the number of man hours it takes to put a 2 hour animated cartoon together, then add the script and the planning that goes into a project that takes years to produce.

I thought this movie was very good but not great and I do recommend it.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Past Movie Review: High Fidelity

I was reminded how great a movie "High Fidelity" is the other day on HBO. What is most amazing about this film is that both John Cusack and Jack Black peaked with this movie which came out in 2000 and never hit that high a note again. Jack Black has never been funnier, and Cusack has never been better in any acting role he has done. This movie has everything , top notch humor, romantic story and great drama all in one film. One of the things I liked about the 3 guys in the music store owned by John Cusack's character was their intense interest, knowledge and devotion to the subject of music. Their condescending attitude towards all others who were not into music as much as they were was very unique and at times very funny. There was an ongoing debate about obscure music trivia between Jack Black who worked at the music store and his co-worker played by Todd Luiso that represent some of the best scenes in this entire movie. Jack Black's singing at the end of the movie was both funny and great singing at the same time. Perhaps his best singular performance in the movie.

Cusack's character is at odds with his personal life from the very beginning of this film and at times, he narrates the stories and failures he has had with the women he has been with and talks about the depression, anger, and angst he has experienced during his life all the way back to when he was a teenager. Cusack's talking about all these bad previous dating experiences is because of his break-up with his current girlfriend played by Iben Hjejle and the movie starts out with her leaving him for another man. All of us can relate to the intense pain of relationships and this movie covers this subject very well and rel​ationship depression and angst is the central theme of the entire movie.

Lisa Bonet is also in this movie and her character has a short-term fling with Cusack's character. It seems that High Fidelity could be the peak of her movie acting career as she was very believable in her role in this very high-quality film. Regardless, it's been rare to see Bonet in any movies during the last 30 years.

If you are one of the few people who have seen the movie "High Fidelity" you owe it to yourself to see it.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Movie Review: Maggies Plan

The movie "Maggies Plan" is a rare low budget movie with quite a few high-level actors in Hollywood. I often wonder how deals like this come about, perhaps friends get together and make deals for future collaboration, etc. This movie is entirely about relationships and because so many movies about relationships have been made, this one has a new twist: namely; a marriage breaks up because of another relationship but the woman in that marriage realizes that the man is better off with his x-wife so she arranges things so that he will get back with his x-wife. I have to admit I have never seen an idea like this before and this movie seemed like a Woody Allen-type romance movie although not as high quality. Several pretty important actors are in this film, starting with Julianne Moore, who had a rather strange Russian accent in this movie, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolf and Gretta Gerwig who plays Maggie and considering the art house low budget of this film is highly unusual in my experience.

As far as the movie it was entertaining but not extremely so, mainly because it was too long and the story and scenes were never compelling enough to keep your riveted or laughing or entertained enough for the whole film. This movie just gets a mild recommendation.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

At the beginning of "The Conjuring 2" it is announced that this is a true story that happened in the years 1976-1977 in England. Then you sit through over 2 hours of this horror movie in disbelief that this could be a true story mainly because a single mother and 3 young children would never stay in a house that is this haunted when you consider possession, her young daughter talking like a 72-year-old ghost, levitation and objects flying through the air. Any normal adult mother would immediately leave the house to move into a shelter or with any relative under conditions like this but this entire family stays in this house for the entire time frame of this movie, which seems like it was at least 1 year, perhaps more. This reason alone is reason enough not to believe that this is a 100% true story.

I never saw the first Conjuring film, but the advertisements for this sequel were bragging that this new version was even scarier than the first. Apart from a few surprises in this new version, there was nothing that I thought was that scary. Like all horror movies in the last 43 years , there were attempts, mainly as far as possession, to re-use what worked in the Exorcist which was released in 1973 and will always be the gold standard as far as horror movies. Exactly why the Exorcist will always be the scariest movie of all time, should be a major psychological study or at least a book at some point in the future.

As far as some strangeness, this movie had more than its share of strange scenes, but the strangest by far was when Patrick Wilson who plays the lead ghost chaser in this movie along with his wife played by Vera Farmiga decides to do an Elvis impersonation towards the end of the movie. An Elvis impersonation during a horror movie about ghost chasing? That has to be a new high in weird.

Overall, I thought this movie was way too long, perhaps by as much as 30 minutes and was too run of the mill - what we have all seen before to recommend, except for hardcore fans of ghost movies. If your not one of those kinds of people, I would skip this one.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Movie Review: Now You See Me 2

When "Now You See Me" came out in 2013 I thought it was a pretty bad and stupid movie; one of those movies with a convoluted plot that had no basis in logic. I also thought that its fine to try and trick the audience with a twisted ending, but at least try to make that ending make some sense. Making sense should not ever include elaborate attempts at the end of a movie trying to explain ridiculous things that happened before to somehow resolve an ending that is insane.

It was obvious that the producers of this first movie were hoping that this would be an ongoing franchise where magicians commit huge crimes and give the money to their fans, which I thought at the time was a very good premise. What was bad about the first film was the stupidity of the story, the heists and the many of the implausible and nonsensical ideas that the audience was expected to believe. What I then found most surprising about this sequel, which is an attempt to save this potential long-term franchise after three years, was that a better and more believable script was not written. It was clear from the very beginning of this movie that it was going to be even worse than the original.

Many of the same actors are back for this second installment, with the exception of Isla Fischer, perhaps because of scheduling conflicts or perhaps because she read the ridiculous script. Even Michael Caine is back for this second movie, although it is a much smaller part and he appears mostly at the end of the film.

Now You See You 2 is a bad movie for several reasons. Bad Story, bad ideas, illogical and implausible action sequences, most especially at the end of the movie where there is a fake Jet flight that supposedly fools the criminal occupants on the plane. There is nothing wrong with special effects or extreme attempts to fool or amaze an audience, but when this is done poorly, makes no sense to the point of being annoying or ridiculous, then you have a bad movie.

Now You See Me 2, like Now you See Me, should be avoided.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Past Movie Review: My Cousin Vinnie

The movie"My Cousin Vinnie" came out in 1992 and I knew almost from the beginning that this was a rare great comedy. This film also contains that "once in a lifetime" conundrum that I have seen so often in movies, namely a once in a lifetime comedy performance from Marisa Tomei that never happened again in her career. For that matter, Joe Pesci never got another part like this one again, but he has gotten a good deal of great opportunities in other violent movies like Good Fellas and Casino. How could it be that Tomei could be so great a comedy actress and another opportunity like this never came along again? This just shows the precarious and very difficult field being an actor in movies can be. Marisa won a best-supporting actress Oscar in 1993 for this movie and she has been nominated for serious roles in her career. What was so unique about this Oscar win for Tomei was that it was for a comedy role, which is very rare in Hollywood.

The supporting cast in this movie was also great, including Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield as the two young guys who were arrested in the deep south. Lane Smith played the prosecuting attorney and a funny performance by Fred Gwynn in his last movie role. This movie has it all, great lines throughout, a great story and a Rocky-like premise where an unskilled and untested lawyer who barely passed the bar exam winning his case using his street smarts against impossible odds and a Judge that hated him.

Marisa Tomei's performance in this movie is on a par with Meg Ryan's performance in When Harry Met Sally with her great likeability, cuteness, and great comedic acting skills. Like Meg Ryan, it's a shame Marisa Tomei never got a part like this ever again in her career. One can only hope that another miracle like this movie will happen again.

If you have not seen My Cousin Vinnie, which is unlikely due to the many times it's been on TV, you owe it to yourself to see one of the top 5 great comedy movies in the last 40 years.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Past Movie Review: The Greatest

The movie "The Greatest" which came out in 1977 is one of the few times in movie history where the star of the movie is playing himself in a Biography. Another example of this would be Audie Murphy in the movie "To Hell and Back", which came out in 1955. Few athletes in the history of the world have been more worthy of a movie about their careers than Muhammed Ali who died a few days ago at age 74 after a long hard 32 year battle with Parkinson's disease.

One could wonder that if there were such a thing as a deal with the devil than would there be a better example of this than the life of Muhammed Ali? Born very poor in Louisville Kentucky in 1942 and looking up at a life of hardship and poverty, Muhammed Ali was born with not only great boxing skills and great speed for his size, but also good looks and a very likable and humorous personality. Were it not for all of these miracle skills, Ali would have had a very depressing and meager life in poverty. Instead, he obtained worldwide fame, great wealth and did a great deal for world peace, race relations and speaking out against a horrible and unjust Vietnam War. Along with all of this was that the price he paid for all of the positive aspects of his life that came from boxing were enormous. 32 years ago, mostly due to his too many years of boxing and getting hit in the head, Ali developed Parkinson's disease which was so severe he shaked constantly and could barely speak for most of the remainder of his life. One could ask themselves if they were given a great gift for half their life would they agree to pay for this with a severe disease for the remainder of their life? Many would say no to this, thinking that health is the most important thing and shaking like Muhammed did along with being unable to speak and so many other physical problems would never be worth all the positive things that Ali was given in the fist half of his life. Others would say that all the good Ali did with his great boxing skills, great speeches, traveling the entire world and his appearances and charitable contributions that helped so many people would be worth all the suffering he had to endure. I am very sure that Muhammed would not change a thing in his life and consider it all worthwhile no matter how long and hard he suffered.

Fans of Ali were all hoping that he would retire after the 1974 Foreman fight when he was at the very peak of his career or definitely after the final fight with Joe Frasier in 1975 or definitely after he lost to a greatly inferior fighter Leon Spinx or even Ken Norton. But Ali would not quit fighting in time to save himself and it was the fight he had with Larry Holmes in 1980 that showed he was long past his prime and the head injuries he suffered during that fight could have been when the tide turned and he developed severe Parkinson's disease 4 years later. Amazingly Ali did fight one more time, losing to an average fighter named Trever Berbick in the Bahamas in 1981 when he had no more reflexes and already was showing some signs of Parkinsons. So what gave Ali great fame and fortune is ultimately what killed him, which is why his life was very much like a deal with the devil.

Ali was much more of a person and legend than boxing will ever be and unfortunately he didn't​ realize this fact enough to save his own life. He will be very sorely missed by everyone in the world.





Sunday, June 5, 2016

Past Movie Review: As Good as it Gets

In an earlier review on this blog, I mentioned that the 3 best comedy movies in the last 50 years are Annie Hall, My Cousin Vinnie and When Harry Met Sally. The truth is that Broadcast News (reviewed in this blog) and 1997 "As Good as it Gets" are also great comedy movies which have been released in the last 50 years. As Good as it Gets is almost as Good as Broadcast news which came out in 1987 and was also written by James L. Brooks and Mark Andrus and directed by James L. Brooks. What was great about As Good as it Gets was the dialogue, which was outstanding and funny throughout. Some famous lines that stand out are "You make me want to be a better man", "I am afraid that Simon might want to pull the stiff one-eye on me" and Helen Hunt's great line, "Didn't I say what? (long pause) What, What?" Andrus and Brooks capture the perfect timing and rhythm of this great dialogue effortlessly throughout this film which won best lead actor Oscars for both Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, which is highly unusual for a comedy movie. Even more memorable about this great movie is the dog Verdel, which is played by a very cute little dog and he almost steals the whole movie.

The fact that a great writer like James L. Brooks has hit such a high note in only 2 of his movies is another example of how difficult it is to write a screenplay, much less a great comedy/drama.

I highly recommend this great movie.

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Movie Review: Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping

While watching the movie "Popstar" I remember thinking that I have not seen many comedy movies that are essentially a documentary parody about anything, much less about Pop Stars or the music industry. Andy Sandberg was a long standing member of Saturday Night Live and is mostly famous for his videos which are mostly very well done. You could say that this movie is a long 2-hour video documentary that he used to do on Saturday Night Live. Interlaced with the difference scenes and videos in this movie are interviews with other celebrities who comment on the rise and fall of "Connor For Real" who is at first part of a boy band and then goes off on his own as a solo act. Of course, the music and lyrics are ridiculous on purpose which is part of what is suppose to be funny here but the question is: is this movie funny enough? Not according to the people in the audience I was in. There were some laughs here and there, but not too many and because of that, this movie fails as an effective parody.

If you are a big fan of Andy Sanberg and his videos on Saturday Night Live then this movie might be for you, otherwise, you would probably be better off skipping this one.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Movie Review: Me Before You

One of the earmarks of a great movie are the questions they ask you. The movie "Me Before You" asks several very good questions. #1. If you can have only 2 out of 3 of the most important things in life, "Money, Love or your Health", which 2 would you choose? Most people would probably want to have the health issue defined in more detail before making this decision. Some health problems are tenable, some are not. #2. If you were married or in love with someone who became crippled would you stay with them? #3. If you were suddenly found to be paraplegic and you had the legal choice to end your own life, would you decide to die rather than sit in a wheelchair for the rest of your life? All of these are very difficult questions and they are all addressed in this well-acted movie.

The actress Emelia Clarke is an up and coming star who starred in last year's "Terminator Genisys" which is also reviewed on this blog and has been the star of "Game of Thrones" which is an HBO series for several years. She has a great face for acting, big eyes and a great smile and very unusual long eyebrows. Her facial expressions make some of the funny scenes in this movie funnier and some of the sadder scenes more difficult to watch. She will have a very long career in movies as well as Television because her acting is on a par with her very good looks.

I thought that this movie was very well done despite the very depressing subject matter of a very athletic young rich man who is walking on a public road one afternoon, then looks to his right and is hit by a motorcycle and is crippled for life. This movie also teaches you about some of the ongoing health problems with paraplegic's which includes medical issues with their lungs and other problems. Included in this film is a great love story with the young man who is crippled played very well by another newcomer Sam Clafin and Emilia Clarke who plays a completely inexperienced caretaker who is desperate to find a job and needs to make money to help her family.

I thought this movie was very well acted and had a solid story behind it so I do recommend it.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Past Movie Review: Annie Hall

In the history of the Academy Awards, only one movie has won best picture as a comedy and that was Annie Hall which came out in 1977. As a screenwriter, I recognized when I first saw it that the flow, moments, timing and comedy brilliance of this great film was flawless throughout. There many great moments in this film but some that stand out include the "meeting of the teamsters" outside of a theater when Woody Allen is being harassed for being famous. His comment to Annie Hall played by Diane Keaton when she arrives about "2 guys named Cheech" harassing him was one great moment. The timing of the scene where Woody Allen tells the insane relative of Annie Hall, played by Christopher Walken that he is "due back on the Planet Earth" was a funny moment followed by the scene where Allen is in the car with Walken realizing that Walken's character just admitted that he had fantasies of commuting suicide by driving into oncoming traffic. Allen's crouched down look to the left at Walken is another priceless moment. As stand-up comedian Alvie Singer, Allen has several great lines in this movie including one where while being drafted, he was categorized as 4-F, which meant that in the "event of war, I'm a hostage".

This movie above all else is about relationships and the difficulty in finding and keeping one and Allen's character struggles throughout with several woman and ultimately with Annie Hall. Great lines include "if a Shark stops moving forward it will die and I think our relationship is a dead shark" and the line where I don't​ like chickens, meaning relationships​, but I "need the eggs", which is another great moment among​ so many in this great film.

Annie Hall won for best picture in 1978, Woody Allen won for best director and Diane Keaton won for best actress. Allen also won for best original screenplay and as awards and accolades​ go for any movie, this is about as good as it gets.

Annie Hall is probably the best comedy in the last 50 years and movies this funny and well done are very rare.

One irony in this movie is Alvie Singers philosophy​ of life and the "horrible and the miserable", where people are in two categories either horrible or miserable. Horrible are people who are blind, crippled or terminally ill and the miserable is everyone else. So be thankful that you are miserable. This line in Annie Hall is very ironic because it makes you wonder if this has helped Woody Allen get past the child molestation charges that first started in 1992 and have continued every time he received an award or is honored, most recently at the Cannes Film Festival. Woody Allen will be 81 this year and he has a body of great work that is the envy of any writer or director in movie history. To have accusations like this happen after so many great years of success has to be devastating​ and probably half the people in the world think he is guilty and the other half mostly don't​ believe the charges. Woody's own children are the ones coming out against him even 24 years after the original accusations were revealed and that has to be even more painful for Woody Allen and his legacy. All of this reminds me of Gilda Radner's famous line from her book which came out in 1989, It's Always Something.

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Annie Hall - IMDB

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