Saturday, November 2, 2013

857. Short Cuts (1993)

Running Time: 187 minutes
Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Robert Altman, Frank Barhydt, from stories by Raymond Carver
Main Cast: Tim Robbins, Bruce Davison, Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Fred Ward
Click here to view the trailer


Technically, "Short Cuts" should have been the conclusion to "Altman Week", but it's the only one of the Altman movies I'd seen before and when I was recalling it to my wife, she decided she wanted to see it. Since this is the one night of year where we turn back the hands of time, I figured why not turn a three hour movie into a two hour movie.

To detail the plot is going to be a little rough, but I'll hit you with my best shot and see how it ends up. The film is like "Magnolia" in that it follows many different characters throughout their day to day lives. There's Gene Shepard (Robbins), a cheating husband who hates his children's dog and the wife who doesn't believe his bullshit lies and who knows he must be "stepping out" on her. There's the woman he's stepping out on her with, Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand) and the angry, throwing things type of relationship she has with her ex-husband, Stormy Weathers (Peter Gallagher). There's a small child who runs into the street and gets hit by a car. At first, he seems fine, getting up, brushing himself off and telling the lady that hit him, waitress Doreen (Lily Tomlin) that he's fine and no, he doesn't want a ride because his mommy told him not to get into cars with strangers. As he arrives home, he startles his mother (MacDowell), who expects him to be at school and falls asleep on her bed, only to end up on a hospital, in critical condition. The boy's father is an opinion reporter on the news, Howard Finnigan (Davison), who's estranged father returns to make peace with him and visit the grandson he never met, while he lies motionless in his hospital bed. There's three fishing buddies and their trip to the woods, where they happen upon the body of a dead girl. One of the men, Stuart Kane (Ward), returns home to his wife (Anne Archer) with a fat fish, with plans to go to dinner the next night with their new friends, Dr. Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and his wife Marian (Moore), who are having marital troubles of their own. We also see the stories of Zoe Trainer (Lori Singer), a troubled cellist and her mother, a troubled nightclub singer. There's also Lois Kaiser (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a phone sex operator, who doesn't give her husband (Chris Penn) nearly as much energy as she gives her "clients".


Hell, there's even a few more characters, but I figure you're getting the picture by now. The film is a slice of life picture from the mind of Robert Altman, who doesn't paint Los Angelans to be a very noble people. What was my favorite story? Well, that's a toughie. I truly liked most of the stories equally as well, but if pressed to choose favorites, I'd rather choose favorite scenes. Perhaps my most favorite scene is the one that uses a substantial amount of Jack Lemmon, where he delivers a monologue to his son about the time he cheated on his son's mother. It's so brilliantly played by Lemmon, who manages to make clear the regret contained within his character. Perhaps, despite his cheating ways, Lemmon is the most noble of all the characters in the film, as he at least feels regret and TRIES to make amends for losing his son in the process. Other scenes that really stood out to me include: Chris Penn's character standing over a woman, a rock hoisted above his head, letting out a lifetime's worth of frustration; a character played by Lyle Lovett, a baker, becoming enraged that a customer hasn't come to pick up a cake they ordered, not realizing that the cake customers are the parents of the dying child who was hit by the car or perhaps the moment when you realize that two marriages are seemingly being repaired after a night spent having fun, drinking and letting loose. It's a beautiful film, filled with ugly characters and a world that I wouldn't want to live in, yet also coming with the realization that we all do live in this world.

Speaking of Chris Penn's character, THE BOOK makes note that he's an awful person and I have to disagree. I mean, sure he's a murderer, but this guy was a corked bottle for the entire film and at the end, he just popped. I wouldn't consider him awful, but just finally releasing his emotions at the most inopportune time. Look, I could analyze every single character, in full paragraph from, but I'm not a genuine movie reviewer, just a Joe who loves watching movies and keeping a journal of my progress. It's a sometimes fascinating picture, sometimes frightening, sometimes you laugh a little, sometimes you ache for the characters involved, sometimes you share their pain, sometimes you shudder to think that these are all real people. You become attached to the characters, even the awful ones and you realize that if you only took a minute, that you could meet hundreds, thousands of these types if only you took a minute and paid attention to the characters around you, in your everyday life. At times, the picture feels like an extra long television pilot, as if we're jumping back and forth with the purpose of introducing everyone and everyone's situation. In fact, the movie is quite anti-climactic, which does leave things open. We don't really get closure on every story, so again, we've another Altman film that technically could be adapted for TV. Anyway, I'm getting rambly...

RATING: 9.5/10  Can't go whole hog, just because I wasn't feeling the full '10' aura from this one. But it's definitely up there. We'll probably go back and continue in chronological order from here on out, with Altman's work.


November 2, 2013  11:12pm


  1. Did you catch the Simpsons episode that was a parody of this? I think it was called something like '32 short films about Springfield' .. thus referencing another 1001 film. (They also did a good reference to 'Village of the damned', which I guess almost no-one under 40/50 got)
    I liked this one a great deal.. and I'm trying to think of another one that used a similar format to good effect - and I don't mean 'Pulp fiction', or even 'Crash'

    1. No, I haven't seen that episode of The Simpsons, but now I REALLY want to! I (and many others) compared this one to "Magnolia", don't remember what you thought of that one.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...