A few years later, after I graduated, I moved to New York and saw the film again in a theater. During the scene with the decorative Santa on the lawn, laughter broke out in the theater. Had I missed a joke? Had someone slipped and dropped their popcorn? Did someone in the audience say something that I missed? No, the sight of Santa driving a sleigh on freshly-cut green grass in the hot sun was absurdly funny to New Yorkers, who are used to snow in December. Having grown up in California, this hadn’t occurred to me.
The film explores many themes and one of them is New York versus Los Angeles, the leading cities on either coast of the United States. In some ways, the movie is a succession of one-liners, not surprising given that Woody Allen started his career as a stand-up comic. In the movie, Woody Allen, the quintessential New Yorker, pokes fun at Los Angeles. When Annie Hall asks Alvy Singer to consider moving to Los Angeles, he says “I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light,” referring to a difference in the two city’s traffic codes.
To a New Yorker, Los Angeles is superficial, self-indulgent and epitomized by the U.S. television industry. When Annie Hall looks around the Los Angeles landscape and says “It’s so clean out here.” Allen counters with “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away; they turn it in to television shows.”
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