‘Annie Hall’ celebrates 40th anniversary as Best Picture Oscar winner; Will ‘Lady Bird’ follow as another comedy champ?

If “Lady Bird” wins Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony, it will not be the first time for a comedy centered around a woman in the title role. Just months from now on April 3, “Annie Hall” starring Best Actress winner Diane Keaton will celebrate its 40th anniversary of taking the top prize at the Oscars.

Woody Allen has been nominated for an astonishing 24 Academy Awards: one for Best Actor, seven for Best Director, and 16 for Best Original Screenplay, the most nominations ever earned by a writer. All of these achievements began for his 1977 film “Annie Hall,” for which Allen won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. For a simple story about a cynical comedian and aspiring singer who fall in love in Manhattan to win Best Picture was already unusual, but Allen’s film beat out one of the biggest phenomenons in movie history, George Lucas’ “Star Wars,” plus “The Goodbye Girl,” “Julia,” and “The Turning Point.”

The film won four Oscars out of its five overall nominations:
Best Picture – Charles H. Joffe (winner)
Best Director – Woody Allen (winner)
Best Actor – Woody Allen (lost to Richard Dreyfuss, “The Goodbye Girl”)
Best Actress – Diane Keaton (winner — watch her acceptance speech above)
Best Original Screenplay – Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman (winner)

As always, Allen didn’t attend the Oscar ceremony to accept his awards. His standing excuse for many years was that he plays clarinet for the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band at the Cafe Carlisle on Monday nights. In fact, Allen has only made one appearance at the Academy Awards in his entire career: as presenter of a tribute to New York City following September 11 at the 2002 event.

Of his 21 additional nominations since “Annie Hall” Woody Allen has won two more Oscars, both for Best Original Screenplay; for “Hannah and Her Sisters” in 1986 and “Midnight in Paris” in 2011, making him the oldest winner of Best Original Screenplay at 76.

“Annie Hall” remains Allen’s most acclaimed film, and the one which has received the most acclaim after its Oscar wins. The American Film Institute ranks it #35 on their list of 100 greatest American movies and #4 on their list of greatest comedies. It also remains the only Allen film in the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound list.

In terms of other Best Picture champs in the past four decades, “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “The Artist,” and “Birdman” would fit firmly in a categorization as dramedy. “Annie Hall” is probably the last genuine comedy to win Best Picture, and the only romantic comedy to prevail along with “It Happened One Night” and “The Apartment.”

After the solid attempts of such movies as “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno” in recent years, perhaps it will be “Lady Bird” from director/writer Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan that will become another comedy to follow in taking the gold.

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