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If Only Life Were Like Annie Hall

What I Wouldn’t Give For a Large Sock With Horse Manure In It

By Amandeep Loomba

staff writer

Rental Advisory is a regular column that aims to guide you in your weekly selection at the video store (Hollywood Express, not Blockbuster; or if you must, NetFlix). By distilling each film to a single moment of importance, the column aims to present the sort of economical viewing strategy that timestrapped MIT students are forced to employ in their film appreciation.

Remember walking out of your first 8.01 exam? Downtrodden, heavy-hearted and fed up with Newton and all the other pricks that made such torture possible, you catch the eye of a friend from recitation. No words need to be exchanged; just a glance between you reinforces the cheerless state the world has suddenly acquired.

And you know tonight is the night you’ve been saving that bottle of Jack Daniels for. Oh, but not everyone is so ready to move on from that suffocatingly law-bound world of physics.

“Did you put down both the positive and the negative answers for number three? I thought it was vague so I included both with a supplementary note explaining myself.”

Uh oh. You didn’t put the negative answer down on problem three.

“I thought number two was tricky. I almost forgot how to factor (x2 - 1)! But then I was like, duh!”

Wait. There was definitely no factoring involved in your solution to number two. Who the hell are these chumps anyway?

You know who they are. They are the same chumps who walk out of every exam unwilling to leave the subject in the testing room. The ones who walk behind you through the infinite corridor arguing endlessly over academic minutiae that you couldn’t care less about. What do you do with such exasperating intellects? Would it be rude to turn around and ask them to keep their insipid insights to themselves? Would it be awkward if you were to cover your ears with your hands and sprint down the hallway screaming?

Woody Allen found just about the perfect solution to this predicament in Annie Hall (1977). When the pseudo-intellectual ramblings of the man behind him in the movie theater line become unbearable, he turns to the camera in frustration: “What I wouldn’t give for a large sock with horse manure in it. What do you do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you?”

When the intellect tries to validate his insights into film, television, and Marshall McLuhan, explaining that he teaches a class at Columbia called “TV, media and culture,” Allen pulls off the greatest movie theater lobby trick on film. From just off-camera on the right side of the screen, he produces Marshall McLuhan himself. McLuhan then proceeds to excoriate the rogue pontificator, “You know nothing of my work. ... How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing,” and strikes a blow for all time against pseudo-intellectualism.

Of course, Allen turns back to the camera and says, “Boy, if life were only like this.” Like many of the memorable scenes in Annie Hall, this one seems to have played out entirely in his head. But that never stops me from imagining my own post-8.01 examination scenario.

8.01 Nerd: ...Actually, no you can’t assume constant acceleration in that problem because--

Humble Columnist: Don’t you guys ever stop? Why don’t you just forget the physics and move on?

8N: Hey, we’re just displaying a healthy intellectual curiosity toward the subject matter. I think anyone who appreciates physics would understand.

HC: Oh do you? That’s funny, because I happen to have Professor Lewin right here...

Walter Lewin: You guys are really going too far. The test is over, you should be out on the town and halfway to being blacked out by now. Stop talking physics!

Sadly, life is almost never like that. As such, it’s probably best that we all just carry around large socks filled with horse manure for these situations.