New York Stories

I spent the afternoon grading papers and gave out an exam to my evening class.  I stopped to buy a beef burrito and went home to watch the Blu-ray disc of “New York Stories.”  I thought that high definition made it more enjoyable over the DVD edition, especially during the first segment, called “Life Lessons,” with Nick Nolte’s painting.  I thought it was a shock to see the Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette of another era.  Rosanna still had the youthful look of what she was in “Desperately Seeking Susan.”  She would look so very different only five years later in “Pulp Fiction.”  Nolte was still really interesting on the screen.  The story was Dostoyevsky mixed in with Martin Scorsese.  Three of the key songs on the soundtrack were “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “Conquistador,” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”  This short film felt alive and vital and relevant, unlike most movies I’ve seen this year.  It makes something like “Don’t Breathe” seem stupid.  I had forgotten about some of the interesting people in the cast, like Patrick O’Neal, Steve Buscemi, Peter Gabriel, and Deborah Harry.  It seemed meaningful to see this film on the day when Bob Dylan was named a Nobel Prize winner.  When I stopped to think about it, Dylan was more deserving than some of the people who have already won the literature award.  Francis Ford Coppola’s “Life Without Zoe” was always the weakest segment to me, and it still seems that way.  Sofia Coppola was involved in the writing, which was perhaps not the greatest idea.  The notion of following wealthy young girls is not so appealing.  How can you identify with kids who can buy plane tickets to Europe?  I liked seeing Talia Shire as a character other than Adrian.  Chris Elliot was not totally convincing as a robber.  My attention again drifted during this segment.  When it ended at the Acropolis, I shook my head as it was far removed from my reality.  I did like some of the sights of New York, although they didn’t go inside the Russian Tea Room.  Woody Allen’s “Oedipus Wrecks” wasn’t brilliant, but it did make me laugh, and I thought that having Mae Questal, the voice of Betty Boop, in the cast was great.  The Jewish mothers in Woody Allen’s films are hilarious.  This is one of those films where the Woody Allen and Mia Farrow characters drift apart.  Was that a sign of what would come in real life?  Mia’s character doesn’t have too much energy.  She looked heavy and tired compared to her appearance in “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.”  She could have been pregnant.  The letter she left behind was the saddest moment.  Julie Kavner is the third woman in the story.  She was more prominent than she was in “Hannah and Her Sisters.”  I thought she would have been perfect as a regular in Woody’s movies because she was very amusing.  It was pretty surprising to see Larry David with some wild hair.  The story does have elements that would be repeated, notably in something recent like “Magic in the Moonlight.”  I thought the mother’s friend who couldn’t hear was extremely funny, too.  Mae Questal was in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”  She was remarkable.  Woody Allen’s character said he was fifty.  It seemed that he aged a lot during the years between this film and “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” in 2001.  I thought back on 1989 and felt dismayed at how quickly the years passed.  I enjoyed this movie when I originally saw it in the theatre.  Talented cinematographers Nestor Almendros, Vittorio Storaro and Sven Nykvist were in the credits.  It was an entertaining concept, and I have good memories of it.  Some of the people Errol Flynn (1959), Bing Crosby (1977), Keenan Wynn (1986), Leonard Bernstein (1990), Freddy Fender (2006), Sigrid Valdis (2007), Benoit Mandlebrot (2010), and Elizabeth Peña (2014).  Today is a birthday for Steve Coogan (51), Cliff Richard (76), and Roger Moore (89).

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