6 Segments From Anthology Films That Are Funnier Than ‘Movie 43′
The star-studded film ‘Movie 43′ opened this past weekend to extremely lackluster box office returns and some of the worst reviews (“‘Movie 43′ is the ‘Citizen Kane’ of awful”) of the year. Several years in the making, ‘Movie 43′ falls into the category of films that rarely come out these days but used to be fairly popular in the ’70s and ’80s: the anthology film.
Yes, we still get movies like ‘Valentine’s Day’ and ‘Love Actually’ that throw a bunch of A and B-list actors together and tell interconnected stories. But a true anthology film plays a lot like an episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ — a series of unconnected (or loosely connected) sketches and vignettes often centered around a theme. Unfortunately, due to their uneven nature, anthology films tend to be pretty atrocious.
Still, there are strong individual segments out there if you’re willing to slog through a bunch of uneven films. Thankfully, in the age of YouTube you don’t have to do that. You can just watch the following awesome segments from hit-and-miss anthology films. All of them are far funnier than anything in ‘Movie 43.’
‘JFK Board Game,’ ‘The Kentucky Fried Movie’
Before ‘Airplane,’ the Zucker Bros. teamed up with director John Landis (‘Animal House’) for this raunchy sketch comedy film. While the spoofs of ’70s kung-fu and disaster flicks haven’t aged well, this fake spot for a board game called ‘Scot Free’ manages to satirize both JFK conspiracy theories (still sadly topical) and cheesy board game ads. Even better? It’s less than a minute, something the sketches in ‘Movie 43′ could’ve taken a cue from.
‘Oedipus Wrecks,’ ‘New York Stories’
If you need proof that Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were given WAY too much freedom during the ’80s, look no further than this uneven anthology film which seeks to tell three unrelated stories set in the Big Apple.
Scorsese’s ‘Life Lessons,’ featuring Nick Nolte as a troubled painter and a cameo by Steve Buscemi as a “downtown” performance artist, is easily the best of the bunch. Francis Ford Coppola offers a weird spin on the ‘Eloise’ books with ‘Life Without Zoe,’ a segment involving rich Upper West Side kids and some nonsense about a missing piece of jewelry and an Arab princess that he penned with daughter Sofia. (Ironically the failure of the segment inspired Sofia to forgo filmmaking for a time for acting, thus leading to her disastrous role in ‘Godfather III.’)
The final segment, ‘Oedipus Wrecks,’ is like a high-concept Woody Allen comedy condensed to 40 minutes. When Woody’s hectoring mother vanishes during a magician’s act, she mysteriously appears in the sky to continue to pester her son about his eating habits and his shiksa girlfriend (Mia Farrow). Suddenly all of Manhattan is engrossed in Woody’s business. A light, breezy comedy featuring funny performances by the late Mae Questel and a pre-Marge Simpson Julie Kavner, ‘Oedipus Wrecks’ is a highlight amidst the late ’80s doldrums of Allen’s filmography. (See the clip above for Larry David’s cameo from his stand-up days.)
‘Blacks Without Soul,’ ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’
Featuring everyone from Michelle Pfeiffer to Andrew “Dice” Clay, this underrated 1987 spoof of late-night movies and infomercials was the ‘Movie 43′ of its day. (Except, you know, not terrible.)
Plenty of segments still hold up, but the one most people remember today is the fake ad for the charity “Blacks Without Soul,” featuring a hilarious performance from a pre-‘In Living Color’ David Alan Grier as crooner Don “No Soul” Simmons. Featuring sharp gags about black Republicans and safety-conscious pimps, the sketch lets David Alan Grier show off his cheesy singing pipes on songs like ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree’ and ‘Blame it on the Bossa Nova.’
‘The Misbehavers,’ ‘Four Rooms’
Featuring four hotel-set stories connected by Tim Roth’s hapless bellhop, ‘Four Rooms’ suffers from too much mid-’90s indie quirk, an extended Quentin Tarantino monologue about ‘The Twilight Zone’ and the sight of Madonna as a leader of a coven of witches.
The best segment by a wide margin comes courtesy of director Robert Rodriguez. Featuring Antonio Banderas as a gangster and two perfectly deadpan kids whom Roth’s bellhop is tasked with looking after, ‘The Misbehavers’ is like a live-action Chuck Jones cartoon. Best of all, this action-heavy (and NSFW) segment doesn’t suffer from the over-written dialogue and strained performances that plague every other part of the movie.
’14th Arrondissement,’ ‘Paris, je t’aime’
20 directors contributed to this anthology film set against the magical backdrop of Paris, but very few segments are memorable. The final chapter, from ‘Sideways’ director Alexander Payne, beautifully captures the American tourist’s view of the City of Lights.
Margo Martindale gives a touching performance as a tourist in a segment that manages to encapsulate the deadpan wit and melancholy tone of Payne’s films in under 10 minutes. It’s the one part of ‘Paris, je t’aime’ that deserves its own movie.
‘Delirium,’ ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’
Writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s ode to his two favorite vices is entertaining, if a bit lightweight and talky. (One scene involves Jack and Meg White talking about a Tesla Coil and…that’s pretty much it.) The best segment by far features Bill Murray playing himself opposite Wu-Tang Clan members RZA and GZA. Funny and surreal, the short suggests what it’s like to run into Bill Murray on one of his many bizarre nights on the town.