“Short Cuts” (1993) dir. Robert Altman

My favorite film of 1993 (aside from Tony Scott’s Quentin Tarantino-scripted “True Romance), was Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts.”  “Short Cuts” is a devastating 3 hour-plus epic about the damaged lives of multiple souls in the “City of Angels,” circa 1993.   The movie complies several short stories by Raymond Carver and intersects the stories, so that the characters of each story interact with each other at various times for various reasons.  It shows the randomness of life and how all of our actions (no matter how small) can have an impact on the world around us.   Seeing it during a not-so-great point in my life, the film hit me like a brick to the face and I was shaken for days.  This is not to say the film lacks humor.  The movie is oftentimes hysterically funny, albeit in a very dark way.  It also features brilliant performances by a diverse, all-star cast, including Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Penn, Fred Ward, Tom Waits, Anne Archer, Madeline Stowe, Jack Lemmon, Andie McDowell, Lily Tomlin, Lili Taylor, Frances McDormand, Buck Henry, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, and several others.

“Short Cuts” was Altman’s ultra-ambitious follow-up to his 1992 comeback film “The Player.”  However, unlike “The Player,” “Short Cuts” didn’t fare too well at the box office.  Despite this, “Short Cuts” was on many Top 10 lists and Altman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director.   While I enjoy “The Player,” “Short Cuts” is a far better film and its influence has grown tremendously over the years and its format about multiple characters/stories intersecting has resulted in some great films (P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia”) and not-so-great (Paul Haggis’s “Crash”).  An underrated masterpiece and my all-time favorite Robert Altman film.

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2 thoughts on ““Short Cuts” (1993) dir. Robert Altman

  1. I think that Altman’s ensemble movies work best when they are set in a closed, well-defined world. “Nashville”, “Gosford Park”, even “A Wedding” are consummate movies which are assisted by these limits. Throw in “3 Women”, which still provokes after 35 years, & “McCabe & Mrs Miller” then “Short Cuts” struggles to make my Top 5 Altman films.
    It is still a fine film and I agree about it’s influence on Paul Thomas Anderson. “Crash” lacks any of Altman’s subtlety, no emotional resonance only a cartoonish representation.
    Now, about your partiality for “Love Actually”…no, I’m joking.
    Oh, I forgot “Popeye”. Shelley Duvall is in it…nuff said.

  2. I’m a huge fan of “Nashville” and “A Wedding.” I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t seen “Gosford Park,” even though it’s supposed to be one of Altman’s best. I tried watching it on a plane right after my daughter was born. Of course, it took me only 2 minutes to realize this was the worst possible film to watch on a plane, given Altman’s famous/infamous sound mixing of multiple voices talking at once, coupled with airplane noise and trying to keep an infant happy for a multi-hour flight.

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