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New York, New York
Galina_movie_fan24 April 2006
The anthology that include three short films that take place in New York City was made by three great American directors, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola.

"Life Lessons" directed by Martin Scorsese, literally took my breath away - it made me want to rewatch all Scorsese's films (with the one exception, GONY, though). What a magnificent work - visually it is as powerful as the painting Nolte's Lionel was painting. Combining in one short film Procul Harum's "A whiter shade of pale" and Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" from "Turandot" was a stroke of genius. This film is an ode to the power of talent; it is about greatness and curse of the gift, not about love to the woman. The best scene of the film and I'd say one of the best ever made about the Artist's work is Nolte triumphantly painting his masterpiece - his love, desire, lust, cries, whispers, tears, and humiliations magically transform with every stroke of his brush into the immortal, triumphant, brilliant work of art. By the time the painting is finished, he would need a new source of inspiration and self-torture, and the cycle will repeat over again. Devilishly clever portrait of an Artist as Not a Young Man. 9.5/10

I loved Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" and I think it is very funny and touching. Looks like Allen has met mothers or grandmothers like Mrs. Millstein in real life and his little gem is his love-hate letter to them. In the end, mom always knows what is best for her little boy. Mae Questel and Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson) were wonderful. Woody's face after his mom "disappears" and the scene when he practically makes love to the chicken drumstick are pure delight; also the commentary that New York is used to everything and readily accepts the crazy situation - it is so true. One of the best Allen's films I've seen lately - I am very glad that I finally saw it.

Larry David ("Seinfeld", "Curb Your Enthusiasm") plays the Theater Manager. It made me think if Estelle Costanza created by David and Mrs. Millstein (Woody's omnipresent mother) have a lot in common in making the lives of their sons miserable and smothering them with their merciless love? 9/10

Coppola's "Life Without Zoë" was much weaker than Scorsese's and Allan's stories and paled in comparison - this episode "from the lives of the reach and beautiful" was pretty and cute but you can skip it. 5/10
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Coppola segment drags down otherwise good movie
Daniel Karlsson31 March 2003
Three 40 minutes short films by three of the greatest American directors; Scorsese, Coppola and Allen. I personally like Scorsese's introducing segment the most, Life Lesson. Even if I personally is not a fan of Nick Nolte, the movie has depth and it's just as good as you would expect from a director like Scorsese. Unlike many other directors, Scorsese manages to capture sexual attraction, in this case felt by the main character (Nolte). Freshly photographed and good ending that makes you recall upon your own life. Not a masterpiece but indeed great.

Coppola's segment "Zoe" is a total disaster. It is beautifully filmed, but the acting and the story is far below good. Better fit for the children's hour on TV. I don't know if the story was supposed to be ironical, a satire of spoiled extremely rich kids on Manhattan, which could be the fact since there were some scenes where the young girl interacts with a homeless man. That could have been a good theme, if it was Coppola's intention, but no matter the case - it just don't work. It is silly and it doesn't feel satirical at all. Another idea is that it was supposed to be funny, a short comedy, however, neither does it work on that layer. It somewhat makes me lose my respect for the director.

Woody Allen's part however is a pleasant refresher after Coppola's borer. Very funny, typical Allen, good acting from Allen's side and good music.

Overall rating is a mere 6, dragged down by Coppola. Without his segment I would rate this movie an 8.
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Allen's was hilarious, Scorsese's was interesting, Coppola's was unnecessary
lee_eisenberg14 May 2005
"New York Stories" tells three tales of the Big Apple. Martin Scorsese's "Life Lessons" shows artist Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte) trying to assess his relationships with people, Francis Ford Coppola's "Life without Zoe" shows a very mature girl, and Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" is about Sheldon Mills (played by Allen himself), a man who quite literally cannot get away from his mother.

I have to say that Scorsese did a very good job looking at troubled relationships, and Allen shows how hard it is to have certain kinds of people as parents (of course he often shows that). But Coppola's segment was so dull that I choose not to even write about it. But don't worry; the movie is overall really good, and we should assume that it really sucks to be Allen's character, given what happens in that segment.
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So what's the problem?
blanche-225 November 2008
I'll step out of the loop here about "New York Stories," three tales of New York from 1989, directed by three formidable directors: Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen. I happen to think all three films had something to offer, and the fact that the Zoe sequence is about a child does not for me make it the weakest segment.

I found the Scorcese segment starring Nick Nolte and Roseanna Arquette the most thought-provoking, the Zoe segment the most charming, and the Allen segment the wackiest. The first episode is about a tortured artist (Nolte) who expresses his sexual frustrations and problems with his young protégée (Arquette) in his work. She no longer sleeps with him and wants to quit New York and go home; he wants to kiss her foot and professes undying love for her. To Puccini's Nessun Dorma, he stares at his artwork and goes through a variety of emotions as he paints another masterpiece. This particular muse in the form of Arquette used up, one sees him at his art show connecting with another would-be artist/muse whose identity will also be lost in his genius.

The second sequence, directed by Coppola, is a take-off on the Eloise stories by Kay Thompson. This little girl's name is Zoe. Her father, Claudio Montez (Giancarlo Giannini), is a famous flautist who travels, and her mother (Talia Shire) is a photo journalist who travels. Zoe lives with a butler and her dog Vegas at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel. She proves herself smarter than either parent in this charming film. My only question is why Giancarlo Giannini speaks Italian to his daughter when the name Claudio Montez is emphatically not Italian. Okay, it wasn't typical Coppola, but who said it had to be? The last one is pure Woody, Oedipus Wrecks, about a man with a nagging, critical mother who wants to marry a young woman (Mia Farrow) with children. He loves his mother, but he wishes she'd disappear. During a magic show, he gets his wish, when his mother goes into a magician's box and never comes out. Later she shows up in the sky telling him what to do, with the world as a witness. His girlfriend can't take it. He then goes to a psychic (Julie Kavner) who makes him a boiled chicken dinner. A complete delight.

Three different, interesting stories by three great directors.
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Could've been better, but still
Quinoa198425 March 2002
In New York Stories, three segments are shown back to back, and they are all engaging in their own ways however it's only 2/3 successful as a total motion picture. Martin Scorsese's Life Lessons is a good example of what caliber of work Scorsese had when he made those three student films in the 1960's. It is a film that has a lot of depth, but it is quite worth it for fans of the actors and those who could get interested in Richard Price's story.

Coppola, director of THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW makes Life Without Zoe here, a film that is 180 degrees out of whack from those two movies in that it tells the story of a little rich girl whose best friend is a doorman and revolves around a rich boy's birthday party. In a way, it almost could appeal to kids, but it's the wrong place to put in between a story of artists by Scorsese and a comedy of mother and son troubles by Allen.

Which brings me to the last short film, Oedipus Wrecks, where Woody plays a character whose mother suddenly out of the blue disappears. This is a good showing of what Woody can do in comedy without having to have a picture length presentation (not that he makes many bad films by the way).

So, New York Stories is worth checking out for Life Lessons and Oedipus Wrecks, and there could be an audience somewhere for Life Without Zoe, although the biggest flaw of the movie comes that neither one can connect at all outside of the fact that they all take place in New York and are made by New York directors- in short- fascinating and imperfect in some ways. B+
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Two out of three ain't bad
maitlandst13 September 2003
**1/2 of****

Three completely different short stories told by three of Hollywood's most influential and profilic directors in the most exciting and mythical city on earth. Seems like a shoe in doesn't it? Well almost. Looking forward as I did to the Woody Allen piece "Oedipus Wrecks" the wait was worth it, but still somewhat unsatisfying. This featurette would've been a welcome change of pace for Woody at the time given that he hadn't made a flat-out silly comedy for a while and he manages to make good use of every moment. He has a great cast,(Kavner, Questral are particular standouts) and a genuinely strange premise to work with and the results are a riot, dare I say one of Woody's best. So what's so unsatisfying? As good as "Oedipus Wrecks" is , it still suffers because it has to follow Coppolla's god awful and charmless "Life Without Zoe." Seriously I had absolutely no clue what the hell was going on in this obnoxious, cutesy-poo clinker. Can anyone help me understand why Coppola thought anyone would like this? Sitting through "Zoe" is so emotionally draining that by the time you get to "Oedipus" you're too annoyed and confused to fully enjoy it. As a result Scorsese's "Life Lessons" comes off the best of the three. Nolte and Arquette are flawless and the intensity and friction between them make for an engaging if not distressingly tense 35 minutes.
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3 Tastes in 1
Superblast17 May 2001
Life Lessons - I've probably seen it 10 times. You can refer to it as a 'short', but I get so wrapped up in it that I almost consider it to be a full-length movie. It's very close to perfect.

Life Without Zoe - Past comments have stated that this is the weakest of the three. I don't like to think of any of the stories as weak. I think the order of the stories is what is important. First is the tense art world drama, then the fairytale-like Zoe. Zoe doesn't have the punch of Life Lessons, but it's a relaxing follow-up. Enchanted flutes, princesses, sheiks, diamonds, parties, sunsets. I hate to use the word 'cute', but that's what it is - very cute, and that's not a bad thing in this case.

Oedipus Wrecks - Leaves the movie ending on a very outrageous and very funny note. This short is better than several of his movies (and I'm a HUGE Woody Allen fan).
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Good For An Anthology FIlm
jzappa20 February 2007
New York Stories is another anthology film that I was suckered into because of the credentials. Other anthology films that I've seen, like Four Rooms, have not been very good despite the amazing credentials. I haven't been a fan of most movies with more than one director, hence more than one vision thus many colliding like an orchestra playing unharmonious notes. New York Stories is satisfactory however, eve if its mood swings leave one feeling many different ways about it. You'll feel stimulated, yet strangely unfulfilled.

Martin Scorsese's segment, Life Lessons, is very melodramatic in that hardened, grungy way of his. Nolte gives a wonderful performance, very intense, and Arquette is very realistic and effective. Scorsese employs his usual machine gun multi-genre soundtrack and plunging, stylistically passionate and energetic cinematography. His segment says something very profound and important about the human characteristic of selfishness and how much more abundant it is in ourselves than we care to accept.

Then comes Francis Ford Coppola's segment, Life Without Zoe. Arg. The acting, despite the leniency one may generously give child actors, is awful. Heather McComb did in fact fill out very very nicely when she grew up, but that does not excuse her very scripted performance here. She's the least of the cast's problems, though. Everyone sounds like the salesmen on the used car commercials. The story is something quite silly. Perhaps it would be fine if it were its own film, but Coppola had to know that he was being teamed with Scorsese, his fellow creator of quintessential Mafia cinema, and Woody Allen, the prolific source of mature and sophisticated comedies about sex and relationships. Did he submit this segment for shock value? I guess so. Well, it worked. I don't understand why Coppola works with kids. His daughter Sophia, who at age 18 here co-wrote the script and designed the costumes, did in fact go on to become a fine director herself, but did he not notice his pattern after awhile? He makes The Conversation, the Godfather films, and Apocalypse Now, and we think he's found his niche. Then he starts making movies like this, following up with films like Jack with Robin Williams.

Woody Allen's segment saves the film. I suppose this is one way anthology movies are interesting. In a single feature-length narrative film, when it takes a plunge in the middle, it can't really be saved in the end, especially if it was as bad as Coppola's segment. In an anthology, if the middle of the movie is terrible, you still have the end to look forward to. This is the case in New York Stories, because Woody Allen's segment, Oedipus Wrecks, the final third of the movie, is hilarious. It's one of the funniest satires he's ever done of the Jewish Brooklynite's culture. It's goofy in a subtle way, and fascinatingly surreal the way a lot of Allen's best and most creative work is. Actually, Oedipus Wrecks is perhaps the only one of the three parts that actually clearly represents a hue of New York's culture. Scorsese's part didn't represent New York as much as it represented the emotional tempests of an artist and happened to take place in the meatpacking district. Coppola's mid-section represented the lives of wealthy children whose lives are so free that they live practically like very spoiled and gossipy adults, but to such an outlandish degree of family-oriented fantasy that it's not at all credible. Woody Allen firmly focuses upon his division of New York culture. And by the by, it's a very pleasant surprise to see a younger Larry David, pre-Seinfeld and pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm, in a bit role in Oedipus Wrecks.

Whatever was going through Coppola's mind, it's because of him that New York Stories can be described as a film in the shape of a circular saw. It's on one level, then takes a ninety- degree plunge to a different level, then again with the third segment it takes a ninety-degree ascension to the precise level it was at before.
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The Good, The Bad & The Funny!
Squrpleboy8 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
You can't really watch NEW YORK STORIES and comment on the

film as a whole, because, much like the three directors involved,

the three stories that make up the whole are so different and have

specific value in their own right. What you can do is applaud the

idea, the approach, and the coming together of three big New York

filmmakers to entertain and delight the viewer each in their unique


Segment one is "Life Lessons", starring Nick Nolte and Rosanna

Arquette, and directed by Martin Scorsese. It's a superbly acted

and tightly directed little film about a cantankerous and love-lorn

old abstract painter and his young female "assistant", the object of

his rejected affections. Nolte and Arquette play off each with great

chemistry (often explosive at that) and the pacing, cinematography

and storyline flow easily creating a real sense of the chaotic inner- psychosis behind artist beauty. {It was also really interesting to

see the large canvas that is the centre-piece of the film take shape

from nothing to a real work of admirable art by the story's end.} 8/ 10 on this one.

The second segment, "Life Without Zoe", by Francis Ford Coppola

is, to put it frankly, horrible! Unbelievably boring, and so poorly

acted that I can only imagine Coppola himself had fallen asleep

somewhere in pre-production and was awakened when the film

was released sometime the next year. Coppola has a knack for

casting young girls with no experience and/or talent in his films

(ie., his daughter in GODFATHER III) and Heather McComb as Zoe

is no exception. I actually stopped it 10 minutes in and fast- forwarded to the last segment. 1/10, truly pitiful in every regard.

The gem of the compilation (and saving grace) comes in the final

segment, Woody Allen's hilarious "Oedipus Wrecks". This was

laugh-out-loud funny. Allen plays a middle-aged lawyer who's life

is made unbearable by his doting/nagging Jewish mother, played

brilliantly by Mae Questel. Not only is this the best piece of the

three shorts that make up NEW YORK STORIES, but one of the

very best of Woody Allen's films, period. The tight interactive

delivery between characters that has become so trademark in

Allen's films is served up so deliciously again by the likes of Julie

Kavner, Mia Farrow, Larry David, and the aforementioned mother &

son team. Every facial expression sported by Woody is a gut- buster as well (special mention goes to Jessie Keosian, as his

deaf Aunt Ceil, for the same reason). Witty, biting, and with one of

THE oddest plot twists I've ever seen, "Oedipus Wrecks" is the

icing on the cake, and a great ending to this film conjunction. 9/10,

has to be seen for the "chicken drumstick love-scene" if nothing


Unfortunately, the film over-all is not an even delivery despite the

noble attempt. Scorsese and Allen shine with their spot-on stories

of intrinsic inhabitants of the Big Apple; Coppola just provides the

worm. I can only recommend portions of the film and as such can

only give it a 7/10 in good conscience. Enjoy what you can!
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Two out of three are great!
deadparrot_jhl27 March 2000
This film is quite fascinating-in parts. My best advice to anyone renting it is to sit back and thoroughly enjoy the first segment by Martin Scorsese ("Life Lessons")-although you may be sick of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by the end of it, or you may have a new reason to love it. Then, I suggest you fast forward through the painful middle story by Francis Ford Coppola. I really tried to like it, seeing as how this was the same man who brought us "The Godfather." Alas, even I couldn't sit through it. Then, watch Woody Allen's very funny "Oedipus Wrecks." This short film, like Albert Brooks' "Mother" will have you going, "My God, it's Mom!" A satisfying rent. Try to get the people at Blockbuster to knock fifty cents off the price for not watching the middle part.
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Nod Goes to the Obsessions!!!
dataconflossmoor17 June 2004
Three stories, Scorcesse/Woody Allen/& Francis Ford Copola...Martin Scorcesse's dealt with cosmopolitan talent by way of artistic integrity, a piece of delicate Lalique is less fragile than the characters in this episode...Nick Nolte needs to come to grips with it..the simple fact is that HE'S HORNY!! Francis Ford Copola's segment dealt with the Park Ave elite being rather eccentric...A nice life, even divorce and forms of child neglect have a very intriguing spin to them, when money is relatively no object, and culture has limitless bounds!! Woody Allen's segment dealt with the occult, wishes were reality and reality was taking a sebaticle...The Jewish Mother is so loving, she is relentless in driving her son crazy!!...Believe me, this problem is a nice one to have...The best line in this segment being..."What do need to marry a blonde with four kids for, You're not an Astronaut"..What wins out in the end is the theme song to this segment..."I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old dad" AND THE WINNER IS: MARTIN SCORCESSE!!!

Scocesse's segment dealt with the demented concept that everything in life takes a back seat to an obsession...(For some people anyway) a sexual obsession,,,that is usually the favorite...The intensity of emmotions that Nolte and Arquette displayed are truly Life Lessons indeed...SO THE NOD GOES TO THE OBSESSION!!
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Defining art in "Life Lessons"
michaeltidemann29 August 2011
I have viewed the "Life Lessons" segment of New York Stories probably 80 times. I use the film religiously in my college writing classes.

The assignment I give my students is to define art for Lionel, for Paulette, and for themselves. After some analysis, students realize that a big problem between Lionel and Paulette is that they view art differently. Paulette constantly needs external validation ("Can you tell me if I'm any good or not") while for Lionel art is a compulsion - his life and art feed off each other. Students who are able to get past Lionel's somewhat dysfunctional personality are able to understand and discuss some very important concepts about what it is to be an artist.

I would highly recommend "Life Lessons" to anyone teaching art, aesthetics, writing, or theater classes. It's a great way to initiate a discussion about art.
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Allen Shines; Scorsese's Strident; Coppola's Piece Best Suited To ELOISE Fans, But Where's Brody?
dtb9 October 2004
I'd seen NEW YORK STORIES (NYS) before on cable, and I'd enjoyed the trilogy of short films by Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen. However, I hadn't been aware that a teenage Adrien Brody was supposed to be in it until I happened to look up his credits on the IMDb. Since he was listed in order of appearance as part of the cast of Coppola's segment LIFE WITHOUT ZOË, I kept a sharp eye out for young Brody in the school cafeteria scene -- at least it *looked* like it was supposed to be the cafeteria! The artistically dim lighting made things a little hard to see, which may be why I (and other Brody fans I know) could hardly find Brody at all. Judging by the order in which he's listed in the credits (as a character named "Mel"), Brody should've shown up in Zoë's school right after the know-it-all character Andrea (Alexandra Becker) shows up, just before the Sherry-Netherland robbery scene with Chris Elliott. Brody must have had dialogue at some point, or he wouldn't have been in the credits at all. However, I guess Coppola & Company pulled a THIN RED LINE on the adolescent Adrien, because I didn't see or hear him utter a single syllable. My only inkling that Boy Brody was in the scene at all was that when I looked very closely and pressed my DVD remote's "Slow" button, I thought I detected a familiar noble-nosed profile amongst the students stylishly silhouetted in the background. Oh, well, at least Brody got an early screen credit and presumably a paycheck out of the experience, as did another future Oscar-winner: Sofia Coppola, who co-wrote the script and designed the cute opening credit sequence. Nevertheless, I found LIFE WITHOUT ZOË entertaining even when the game of "Spot the Adrien" came a cropper, despite its reputation as the weakest of NYS's trio of vignettes. While it has its overly precious moments, it's basically an uncredited 'tween update of Kay Thompson's ELOISE AT THE PLAZA book series, one of my faves; think of this as ZOË AT THE SHERRY-NETHERLAND. With gorgeous New York locations, catchy songs by Kid Creole & the Coconuts, and a likable cast including young Heather McComb, Don Novello, Giancarlo Giannini, and Talia Shire, you could find worse ways to pass the time. As for the other entries, Scorsese's LIFE LESSONS, with a screenplay by Richard Price, is well-crafted and well-acted, though the temperamental, manipulative artist and assistant/muse/lover played, respectively, by Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette were so immature and strident they got on my nerves after a while. Hands down, my favorite of the 3 vignettes (and the fave of most folks who've seen NYS) was Allen's uproarious OEDIPUS WRECKS, the story of a Jewish mother (Mae Questel, the cutie who voiced Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, is a devious delight) whose well-meant domination of her henpecked son (Allen) gets out of hand when the audience participation portion of a magic show goes horribly yet hilariously awry. Mia Farrow and Julie Kavner provide able support; CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM fans should keep an eye out for Larry David in a brief bit as the magic show theater manager. Kavner's home-cooked chicken drumstick gets my vote for "Best Performance by an Inanimate Object"! :-)
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Loved it! Hated It! Loved It!
jwpeel-122 June 2004
"Life Lessons"

Nick Nolte plays a Leroy Neimann-style artist living in a New York City Loft and he picks up Arquette promising her "life lessons" Basically, he uses her and spits her out, but there's more to it than just that. Scorcese is his usual brilliant self and Nolte is in a perfectly realized part. Brilliant, though apparently many people didn't think so because they probably can't handle Martin Scorcese's tough style.

The Coppola segment.

The less said about this, the better. I would rather have brain surgery without an anesthetic than see this again.

"Oedipus Wrecks"

The "funny" Woody Allen returns. This is as reminiscent of the best of Allen's "funny films" as it is of his beautifully constructed New Yorker short stories. Mae Questel (the senile grandmother in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl) is his overbearing Jewish mother and him and to tell you anymore about it would ruin the exquisite comic writing and pacing for you. Needless to say, it is a wonderful comic fantasy wrapped in a witty, almost Freudian comic treatise. In other words, vintage Woody!

Thank God for video and DVD for you can bypass the painful parts like that rotten Coppola segment. I only wish I had that had that option when I saw this in its original theatrical run.

And to think that Sofia went on to continue to annoy people on the Silver Screen. For me, her talent is clearly lost in translation.
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Marty's party
nunculus8 September 1999
Michael Powell claimed that LIFE LESSONS, Scorsese's contribution to this omnibus movie, was the most perfect short film of the sound era. I suspect he's right. This comedy about the convulsive relationship between a world-class painter (Nick Nolte) and his young assistant (Rosanne Arquette) is perfect in every detail; the sensibility shaping it seems to be possessed of a limitless power of invention. (It suggests the protean, sensual flights of fancy of late Picasso.)

Coppola's segment--LIFE WITHOUT ZOE--written by himself and his daughter Sofia, has a similar, but inverted, distinction: it may be the worst movie ever made by a major filmmaker. It may be a measure of its calamity that I don't think I've ever read a review of NEW YORK STORIES that didn't pass over it in silence. Woody Allen's segment, OEDIPUS WRECKS, is a one-joke affair, but it's not a bad joke, and he spins it well. After LIFE LESSONS, though, both are negligible.
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Mixed bag
conspracy-211 June 2000
This film is actually three short films, only connected by the fact that they take place in New York City. So I will comment on them individually.

The first short, 'Life Lessons', is directed by Martin Scorsese and is about Lionel Dobie, an artist (Nick Nolte) whos girlfriend Paulette (Rosanna Arquette) dumps him as a lover, yet stays in his atelier to live. Nolte, from the first scene, portrays a neurotic, 'typical' New York abstract painter, complete with discrete little temper tantrums about deadlines. He seems balanced and normal. But his painting is going nowhere. So he drives to the airport to pick up his girlfriend, and she discloses to him that she is leaving him and going home to her brother. She fell for a stand-up comedian (played by Steve Buschemi - his comedy scene is great because it's bad humour in a stunning setting) but he dumped her the day after. But, this fling flung her out of her comfortable relationship with Lionel (where we get the image that she was never happy anyway) and now she's going home. Lionel stays cooler as you would expect and convinces her to stay with him, no strings attached, for her sake. We believe him, at this stage.

Back at the atelier, however, the reality of this new relationship starts to shine through. Paulette doesn't like Lionel very much and has a real identity problem (you get the impression that she paints just because Lionel does), but Lionel appears more and more obsessed - not so much with Paulette herself, but with the company. He percieves Paulette as his property and becomes ragingly jealous when she brings guys home. Paulette, stuck in his atelier, teases him by dressing provocatively and asking him questions like 'Do you love me? - Then prove it by...'. Because of Paulette not being within his grasp, Lionel goes down the tubes. It's not love, in my opinion. It's pride.

But, as Lionel's real world fades and collapses, his painting grows and changes and comes to life. The moment his own life with Paulette ends, the life of his painting begins.

It's sort of a heavy story in the way that you really have to concentrate and suss out the character's motives. It's not light 'E.R.'-type drama, but it's a lot more fulfilling.

And so we are led into 'Life without Zoe', directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It's about a 12-year-old girl and her little life. If Martin Scorsese had stayed in the director's chair for this segment too, we could have had a re-run of 'Taxi Driver', where the 12-year old was a prostitute and the story was rough, but excellent. Instead, the 12-year-old is a rich Vada Sultenfuss, and the story is saccharine and empty. This middle film is destined to be the one people forget. For one thing, there is no narrative drive in the story as far as I can see - there is a robbery which is pretty pointless, there is a rich little boy who has a costume party, and there's the parents. While there are a few charming qualities - that the parents act childishly and their child mothers them; that the costume party is ludicrously lavish to the extent of having violinists and flambeed whatever at the baby's table - this segment is a children's movie. Nothing more, nothing less. Kids would get a kick out of seeing the wealth and possibilites of the kids and the fun of the party, but that's about it. Bad acting is acceptable in children - and abundant here - but it's also present in the adult performances. Some loser says after the robbery 'Wow if I could only hold on to that sense memory I'd be head of my acting class'. You've got a long way to go, buddy...

And so it's time for 'Oedipus Wrecks' by Woody Allen. This is the funny one. In fact it's so wonderfully absurd that I won't spoil it by telling you much about it. Only that Woody Allen surprisingly plays a neurotic New Yorker, and this time he is embarrased because his mother is always on his back and bothering him. The development of this story is just so strange and funny that I'll let you find out about it for yourself. It's not Woody at his best, but it's still funny.

Altogether, the segments I would rate 7,4,7 giving an average of 6.
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Don't Let "Zoe" Spoil The Fun
ags12327 November 2019
The general consensus about this film is accurate: Scorsese's "Life Lessons" and Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" are quite brilliant, while Coppola's "Life Without Zoe" is God-awful. Watch this film on DVD and just skip the middle "Zoe" segment. "Life Lessons" is perhaps Scorsese's best film, full of directorial flourishes (occasional slow motion and short, dream-like segments) that add emotional depth to an already fine script. Performances are pitch-perfect as are setting and wardrobe. An incredible piece of filmmaking that stands up well to repeat viewings. "Oedipus Wrecks" is classic Woody Allen, here venting his neuroses about the smothering, castrating effects of the Jewish mother. It's played for laughs, of which there are many. Also notable is a great performance by the incomparable Mae Questel, whose voice will be familiar to anyone who's ever heard Betty Boop. Lots to like about these two short, clever entertainments.
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New York deserved better ...
ElMaruecan8221 May 2013
"New York Stories" are three films from three directors, and not the least of them: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen. What a premise! And what a disappointment!

Maybe there should have been more than the setting to connect the stories; don't we expect a New York story from Allen anyway? They could have been set anywhere else without damaging the overall effect, but the question is why an anthology from the three greatest directors of their generation, sunk so lamentably into oblivion? And I guess the answer is obvious: Coppola's segment sucked. And it sucked big time. This is the first time I even use the word in a review, but I think it is for the right film. Scorsese and Allen's segments are no masterpieces, but "Life Without Zoe" is the worst film ever made by Coppola. In a nutshell, "New York Stories" failed because of Coppola.

Have a quick look on its Wikipedia's page and compare the lengths of the three summaries. It's quite telling that the one in the middle is so thin. While Scorsese and Allen at least intended to tell us stories, you know, with characters, conflicts, with seemingly plots for Cinematic Gods' sake, "Life Without Zoe" is a lifeless, dull and shockingly thin film, relating in a fairy-tale format the adventures of a rich little girl, with her friends, and one obscure Arab Prince who speaks Oxford' English and still struggle to understand some basic words. Nothing much happens, which is acceptable for a character study or an introspective film, but "Life Without Zoe" can get away with such alibis. The film illustrates more of Coppola's nepotism (Papa Carmine composed the score, little Sofia wrote it and sister Talia starred in it) than any hint of the immense talent he once had.

And "Life Lessons" is what "Life Without Zoe" should have been: it doesn't have a specific plot either, but it's lively, it doesn't have many characters but each one carries a strong emotional force allowing us to connect with it. It features Nick Nolte as an abstract painter, facing a mental block three weeks before the exhibition of his works, he must finish a giant canvas, certainly what has to become his masterpiece, but somewhere he lost the inspiration. The fuel instantly comes when he invites to his huge studio, Paulette, Rosanna Arquette as his former lover and student. He's obviously infatuated with her while she rejects him because she knows she doesn't get what she wants: a true opinion on her talent. The story is a fascinating tale of mental and emotional influences based on the mentor/disciple and lovers' relationships, and it is a visually dazzling film featuring the creative process in its most compelling form.

Made of sensual movements of brushes caressing the canvas and more energetic uses of burning colors, we follow Lionel's movements while Scorsese maintains an interesting suspense on the final result. He plunges us into the beauty of art and the way it drains its best inspirations from our inner demons. It looks flashy like "The Color of Money" but the film borrows more from "After Hours" (starring Rosanna Arquette too), through the depiction of the artistic New York, a world made of venal interest and sincere passion, where talentless people use sex to fulfills their ambitions, and true artists translate the lack of it into their work. For Lionel, it's a mix of revolt, anger, passion and some rock'n'roll and sixties music highlighting Marty's talent to choose the right music for the right scene. Art fills art, and in forty minutes, "Life Lessons" stands alone among the highlights of Marty's career.

Woody Allens' "Oedipus Wrecks" is not his riskiest or most revolutionary project, it's a comedy about a banker who can't stand the interferences of his typical Jewish mother, in his personal life and her constant disapproval of all his decisions, why would he marry a blonde woman with three kids from another marriage (Mia Farrow)? Why does he keep whining when she shows his baby pictures to random strangers? Given the film was made after the serious streak of "September" and "Another Woman", it's fun to see Allen getting back to his roots. And the gags work, climaxing with a formidable twist when the mother suddenly disappears after a magical trick (you'd recognize the Zitar theme from "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"). The way her disappearance is involved is smart, her reappearance is even more surprising, especially that it introduces Julie Kavner at her most hilarious.

What lacked in "Oedipus Wrecks" though is a satisfying ending; the last three minutes destroy the whole build-up. Surely, a screenplay with such a creative premise could have come up with a better conclusion, but it's like Allen was in a rush to finish the film, and threw away the most artificial and unsatisfying conclusion of his career. "Oedipus Wrecks" still benefits from the fact that it comes right after the horrendous "Life Without Zoe", and I suspect people would love any story coming after the plot less "Zoe". I wish "Zoe" wouldn't have existed if only to leave more room to the other films. I wish he could see Marty and Woody's films and look at "Zoe" and think "What have I done?" How can a man so capable of greatness like "The Godfather" let himself slipping that way? Hell, even his "Jack" is "The Godfather" compared to "Life Without Zoe". I even wonder if he didn't remove the last names in the opening credits out of shame.

I've got to hand it to Scorsese to outshine two great directors and make a truly original piece of art, I wish Allen could make a worthy ending to a very promising comedy. And I simply blame Coppola for having ruined a great project. My advice: skip the second segment, start with the third, finish with the first, and it'll be fine.
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Scorsese = superb, Coppola = pointless, Allen = funny
gridoon202012 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This three-part anthology film opens with a bang: Martin Scorsese's "Life Lessons" is a dynamically directed drama that works primarily on a sensory level, much like Nick Nolte's abstract painting; Nolte and Arquette give terrific performances, and Scorsese's selection of music is so on-target that it's possible to forever link some of these songs in your mind with this short film. Finally, kudos to Scorsese for discovering and introducing to the world the very beautiful Brigitte Bako! I'd rate it ***1/2 out of 4.

Francis Ford Coppola's "Life Without Zoe" has maintained, through the years, the reputation of being a dud....and unfortunately it lives down to that reputation. It seems to be an exercise in pointlessness - and plotlessness. But it does some have some bright spots: newcomer Heather McComb is cute and talented, and Carole Bouquet looks positively heavenly in a 10-second cameo as a princess. I'd rate it *1/2 out of 4.

Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" (great title, by the way) is possibly his purest comedy - and his funniest film - in a over a decade. Apart from some killer one-liners, Woody acts a lot with his face here - his grin while his mother is being subjected to the magic trick, for example, says a thousand words. He even goes as far as using old-deaf-lady jokes - but they are very funny! The only problem with this segment is that it runs just a tad too long. I'd rate it *** out of 4.
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itamarscomix23 September 2011
New York Stories is so uneven that not only is it impossible to refer to it as one movie, it's impossible to treat it as a coherent anthology. Martin Scorsese's 'Life Lessons' is a interesting little drama piece, following After Hours and The King of Comedy in Marty's tackling less-obvious themes. The writing is uneven, but tremendous performances by Nolte and Arquette make it work. 4 stars.

Coppola's 'Life Without Zoe' is ridiculously bad on each and every level, from the acting and writing to the ludicrous theme song. Unlike many, I don't think the blame lies entirely with Sofia Coppola, Francis's directorial work is sub-par here. 1 star.

'Oedipus Wrecks' is, by itself, enough to make this essential viewing for Woody Allen fans at least, as it's classic Allen and possibly one of his finest works. Mae Questel (of Betty Boop and Popeye fame) is brilliant as Allen's mother. 5 stars.

So, the only fair way to rate New York Stories is with a completely objective average, which comes in at 3.33 stars. If at all possible, watch the first and third segment and completely skip the second, and you'll get an enjoyable and not-too-long double feature.
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Worth a look .
"New York Stories " it's a collection of three shorts made by Martin Scorsese ,Francis Ford Coppola ,and Woody Allen . The ending result ,even when it isn't the best work of those filmmakers , at least was very enjoyable to watch , and give us the chance their different styles . The first ,By Martin Scorsese"Life lessons " it's my favorite .The short story it's very well developed and the direction was quite good . It have nice music too .

The second "Life Without Zoe " by Francis Ford Coppola is the short who received more bad reviews . Actually isn't bad ,but the story was very different to the other two .Anyway ,I liked it too .

The third "Oedipus Wrecks " by Woody Allen , it's the funniest . The story it's very funny ,the script is clever and it is a satisfying ending for the trilogy . Although "New York Stories " isn't a perfect movie ,it is a worth watching .
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Woody Allen film worth the effort
MovieGuy10914 July 2011
You get three of the world's most talented filmmakers together to make a film about the city that inspired the majority of their films and you would expect a little more than what New York Stories has to offer. Martin Scorsese's story is about an artist (Nick Nolte) who falls in love with his assistant. The whole thing is rather silly, there's no complexity or depth. Francis Ford Coppola's Life without Zoe is more fun than the previous film, but still has little impact. Woody Allen's inspired piece about a man haunted (literally) by his hounding mother is funny and seems to have more to say about New York than the previous films. Yet this is all a letdown, not really what you would expect from such big names in quality filmmaking.
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Diverse New York Tales
gcd7012 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Three "New York" directors have each contributed here to three short films set in the heart of the metropolis. The big apple plays second fiddle however to these three very diverse tales.

First feature "Life Lessons" is a character study that never grips. Nick Nolte's turn as a self-centred, exceptionally talented artist is a high point; the entire idea is unclear though, and it is hard to know what Martin Scorcese had in mind. Also starred Rosanna Arquette.

Francis Coppola's "Life Without Zoe" is a self-absorbed, silly yawn. This was obviously a story close to the Coppola's heart, yet they were unable to make it interesting.

"Oedipus Wrecks" is pure Woody Allen. He is delightfully funny as the repressed lawyer with the mother complex and the Jewish inferiority syndrome. Mae Qeustel is a riot as the domineering mother in question. Julie Kavner is also great, and Mia Farrow makes her token appearance.

Saturday, April 10, 1999 - Video
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An interesting concept that isn't really successful...
moonspinner5520 February 2009
Three top directors (Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen) helm three separate stories about denizens of the Big Apple. Scorsese, still in "After Hours" mode, works quite well with handsome, raffish Nick Nolte, playing an obsessive painter; Coppola, working from a dim script co-written with daughter Sofia, has nothing up his sleeve with a tale about a poor little rich girl; Allen wrote and co-stars with Mia Farrow in the best segment, a funny fantasy about a Jewish man at the mercy of his domineering mama. Snazzily-produced picture appears to have everything going for it in the talent department, but one is ultimately left undernourished by the final results. This project is rather obviously just a holding-pattern for the trio of filmmakers, and not enough heart makes it into the mix. ** from ****
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New York Stories: Worth Watching, But Only Just
imagiking8 May 2011
Having first heard of New York Stories many moons ago, I was pleased to see it scheduled on TV last night. Eager to see it, an interesting collaborative project between three key directors of the New Hollywood movement, I even rushed home from a prior engagement.

Three shorts banded together with the unifying setting of New York, New York Stories consists of: Life Lessons, Scorsese's tale of the relationship between an artist and his apprentice; Life Without Zoë, Coppola's take on the life of a child of wealthy parents, left to live alone in a luxurious hotel; Oedipus Wrecks, Allen's exploration of mother-son relationships.

A distinct danger with films of this sort is in the directorial differences which can vastly disrupt the overall film's flow. Monumental shifts in tone can be quite disconcerting and often do a lot to detract from the effect of the piece as a whole. Lucky, then, that these directors all come from the same period, each counted among the upper echelons of those filmmakers who graduated from the 60s/70s "movie brat" generation. Not, that is to say, that there is a homogeneity to the shorts—each offers something distinct in terms of both narrative and tone—but rather that they are at least of similar minds and sensibilities. Scorsese's contribution is perhaps the most interesting of the three, a look at the artist culture that is so key to the New York of fiction. Nolte's artist is a classic tortured soul, channelling his torment into his canvas and creating a work that evolves and develops just as he fails to do so, trapped in a cycle of depression and dependency. Intelligently structured and driven by character depth, Life Lessons is a very solid start. Coppola's follows, showing us the life of the wealthy and privileged and seeming to comment upon the laissez-faire parenthood of the rich which develops their children so early into adulthood. What sounds an interesting idea with room for probing into a social issue turns into a ridiculous story of princesses and parties, set in a fairytale world complete with a happy family ending. It drags, it sags, and it asks us to fall in love with hideously uninteresting characters. Life Without Zoë is an appropriate title for what the audience will come to desire by the time it all ends. No thank you Francis, get off the stage. When he does, at last, it is Allen's turn. Having never before experienced the supposed wonders of Allen's comedic efforts, Oedipus Wrecks was the most highly anticipated of the three for me, and brought some very welcome laughs into the mix. Fantastic situational humour coupled with Allen's sublime comedic timing quickly steered it toward becoming the best of the bunch. It takes a rather disappointing bad turn along the way, but still maintains enough of a laugh factor to keep it from sinking. Not masterful, but quite, quite funny, and with a nice dash of comment on the issue at hand.

The kind of idea that's interesting to see played out, New York Stories is neither as bad as its worst nor as good as its best. The Scorsese and the Allen each make for entertaining viewing, the former more substantial in its thematic depth, the latter more immediately thrilling in its hilarity. The Coppola pulls the standard down a stretch, really testing audience patience between the two infinitely better pieces. Much more three shorts banded together than a feature film, it's worth watching, but only just.
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