As of this writing, the WGA strike is set to enter its 22nd week. During this time, much has been made of artificial intelligence and its capabilities. I have seen takes from major publications that sound either inane or alarmist. Curious, I familiarized myself with ChatGPT 3.5, feeding it dozens of my reviews and posts. Once I felt ready, I asked ChatGPT to write a review for The Red Shoes. The results were hilariously bad.
Ready to write off the whole technology as bogus, I told my screenplay co-writer what happened. He cautioned my glib attitude, explained that ChatGPT worked better in smaller doses, and encouraged me to try again–this time, section by section. By this time, The Red Shoes review had already been posted, and I’d drafted most of my Annie Hall review. Thus, I bore the below experiment: I write my version of Annie Hall, then display ChatGPT’s version beside it.
As you’ll see, the results hit close to home in some areas, but less so in others. This exercise has taught me that, like money, AI tools are not inherently evil. They’re just tools. The people that want to wield AI unilaterally without distinction, however, are on the wrong side of the WGA/SAG strike.
Separately, I’ve thoroughly tested the layout for this post, but I imagine some readers will get gobbledegook. Let me know if there are problems; I’ll do my best to fix them!
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Carol Kane, Shelley Duvall
Annie Hall sits atop a lofty 8.0/10 on IMDb, a 92/100 on Metacritic, and a 97% ơn Rotten Tomatoes. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay, losing the Best Actor race to Richard Dreyfuss for The Goodbye Girl. (Side Note: Did you know Star Wars: A New Hope won seven Oscars? I didn’t.) Film critic Roger Ebert claimed Annie Hall to be “just about everybody’s favorite Woody Allen movie.” That includes famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, who listed Annie Hall as one of his favorite films. The American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Annie Hall as the 31st best film of all time while the Library of Congress inducted the movie into the National Film Registry in 1992. Finally, the WGA voted Annie Hall to be their number one pick on their 101 Funniest Screenplays Ever.
So far this month, my movie reviews have covered the theater stage and a movie soundstage, but, to close out–
–I’m covering the nightclub stage. Within Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character does stand-up comedy while Diane Keaton’s character tries her hand at live music.
Once again, I’m in debt to the Turner Classic Movies hub on Max for offering this film.
Alvy Singer is insufferable, and he knows it, joking that “any club that’d have him as a member isn’t a club he wants to be a part of.” This leads him to self-sabotage every relationship in his life, especially his romantic ones. Enter Annie Hall, a woman with her own set of quirks and nervous habits.
Together, the pair try to find a comfortable rhythm as a couple, but Alvy Singer’s family baggage and lack of emotional intelligence leaves Annie Hall cold. Though the two have great affection for each other, their relationship’s destined to go the way of the dodo.
This summary, however, doesn’t do the movie justice. In practice, Alvy Singer and Annie Hall’s foibles play off of each other in a way that leads to delirious comic highs. Something as simple as waiting in line for a movie becomes a fourth-wall-breaking ordeal involving notable media analyst Marshall McLuhan. It doesn’t matter if the audience knows who McLuhan is; the humor comes from the relatability of standing behind a smug jerk, then giving said jerk his rightful comeuppance. Dozens of these little moments are what give Annie Hall its lifeblood, and why the central rocky relationship is so worth watching.
Part of the reason I’m so drawn to animation, especially from Japan, is its tendency towards expressionism. Showing on the outside what someone is feeling on the inside–literally warping a subject’s world or even their very form–is the essence of expressionism. Early live-action cinematic examples, like Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, are known for their forced perspective, kooky sets, and creative dialogue.
Annie Hall brilliantly updates those techniques to the 1970s, featuring Alvy Singer dressed as a Hasidic Jew at a family dinner with an antisemitic grandmother, showing Singer’s friends visiting his childhood home built LITERALLY under the Cyclone Roller Coaster on Coney Island, or filming patrons hideously coughing and taking phone calls while Annie Hall is singing. Of course, Allen’s character didn’t actually wear a frock coat to dinner, but he might as well have considering the death glares he got from Frau Grandmother. Similarly, he didn’t live under a roller coaster, but the amount of noise the ride produced while he lived nearby made Allen’s character feel like the cars were rolling by directly overhead. Keaton’s character, meanwhile, felt so nervous singing on stage at a cramped nightclub that she heard every noise in the audience as well as the phone in the kitchen.
The effect of expressionism in Annie Hall lets the viewer delve into the inner psyches of the characters. Allen’s Alvy Singer, in particular, is shown unequivocally to be the architect of his own misery. As a millennial too financially squeezed to even think about the swipe-right dating scene, I was initially livid at Alvy Singer for messing up Allison’s (Carol Kane) and Pam’s (Shelley Duvall) lives. This emotion gave way to pure schadenfreude as Singer fumbles his relationship with Annie Hall–not once, but twice! She’s simply too good for him.
That Woody Allen’s direction covers the depths and nuances of Singer’s relationships is truly a testament to the artistic ingenuity used within. La-dee-da, indeed.
My mom thought it was weird, but memorable. Parts confused her (likely because she took them too literally) while other sections had her roaring with laughter. Annie Hall likely isn’t for everyone, especially if people are looking for a run-of-the-mill rom-com to help them unwind at the end of the day. That said, it’s still wildly original in its execution and razor sharp in its dialogue. Anyone looking for top-shelf comedy will be more than satisfied.
Anyone wanting guilt-free viewing, however, will have to look elsewhere. Woody Allen remains a problematic figure at best, a child abuser and groomer at worst. The more research I did into Woody Allen’s alleged sexual crimes against Dylan Farrow, the more ambiguous it became, with Mia Farrow’s children taking sides and medical investigations being inconclusive. Even if I were to believe Allen in this matter, his marriage to his ex-girlfriend’s much younger adopted daughter is suspicious in its own right.
That being said, Annie Hall remains a fantastic film made before any of the scandals occurred. Though Woody Allen is the main man in the movie, hundreds of other people helped deliver Annie Hall to theaters.
If these points still don’t assuage your feelings, rest easy knowing that streaming models are so skewed against creatives that Woody Allen likely won’t see a penny from you watching this movie.
ChatGPT is a powerful tool–one which I’ll be using in the future. Looking up the detailed information for “The Basics” section takes time to get right. ChatGPT does it near instantly. I may also use it as a base for the “Why is [blank] considered obligatory?” section, as ChatGPT can collate historical praise from vast corners of the Internet faster than I can. Another way ChatGPT has already helped me is by writing SEO-friendly meta-descriptions. These 20-word previews, different from those I post on Facebook or in the “More you might enjoy” section, help new people find this blog and help Google place my reviews higher on their pages. All these ways and more mean that ChatGPT, at least partially, showed its value in this contest.
Conversely, I found its version of my content sections bland. Though it has the occasional hit (I actually smiled at its final “Who’s the audience” bullet point), ChatGPT’s overall writing style becomes as taupe as the color of this very font! Rest assured that I’ve not been fully replaced yet.
Finally, and most concerning, ChatGPT’s writing is never bad, always at least competent. Such consistency is desirable in creative industries known where risk is inherent with every project. Many a discussion about “the sameness of Marvel movies” contains a comment that validly points out the level of quality assurance present in the MCU. While Marvel has only a few truly great films in their repertoire, they only have a couple stinkers (Thor: The Dark World is no one’s career high…). The rest sit slightly above average. I understand ChatGPT’s appeal to studio executives. To take a creative endeavor, however, and minimize its creativity is a foundational corruption of the process–one that threatens to rot cinema. Why? Because if I can tell what ChatGPT sounds like after reading five or so samples of its work, moviegoers will learn to spot it quickly as well–and no one goes to the paint store excited to buy taupe.
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