Short Cuts


3h 9m 1993

Brief Synopsis

Episodic narrative based on nine short stories and one poem by the late Raymond Carver, detailing the longings and thwarted lives of a disparate group of individuals in contemporary Southern California.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Adaptation
Comedy
Drama
Romance
Release Date
1993
Production Company
All Payments Services; Balsmeyer & Everett Inc; Bill Dance Casting; Completion Bond Company Inc; Dda Public Relations; Fine Line Features; Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz Pc; Pmk*Bnc; Sandcastle 5 Productions Inc; Sunrise Films
Distribution Company
ALLIANCE RELEASING/FINE LINE FEATURES; Alliance Releasing; Alliance Releasing; Bac Films Distribution; Cecchi Gori Pictures; Concorde Films; Constantin Film Development, Inc.; Fine Line Features; Lauren Films; New Line Home Entertainment; PathT International; Pathe Image; Penta Distribuzione; Playarte Pictures; Senator Film Verleih; Village Roadshow Limited; Wild Bunch AG
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
3h 9m

Synopsis

Episodic narrative based on nine short stories and one poem by the late Raymond Carver, detailing the longings and thwarted lives of a disparate group of individuals in contemporary Southern California.

Crew

Terry Adams

Music Composer ("These Bues" "Those Blues")

Dee Dee Altamura

Makeup/ Hair

Jade Altman

Apprentice Editor

Jade Altman

Apprentice

Robert Altman

Screenwriter

Stephen Altman

Production Designer

Christopher Armstrong

Assistant Locations

James Babineaux

Bestboy Electric

Johann Sebastian Bach

Music Composer ("Cello Suite No. 5 In C Minor" (Bwv 1011))

Don Bachardy

Special Thanks

Frank Barhydt

Screenwriter

Michael Barry

Rerecording Mixer

Nick F Berreau

Production Assistant

Miriam Biderman

Foley Editor

Angela Billows

Wardrobe Supervisor

Joshua W Binder

Set Medic

Elisha Birnbaum

Foley Artist

Ernest Block

Music Composer ("Schelomo")

Angela Bonner

Production Assistant

Bono

Music Composer

Randall M Boyd

Swing Gang

Paul Boydston

Location Manager

Cary Brokaw

Producer

Alonzo Brown

Driver

John E Bucklin

Construction Coordinator

Scott Bushnell

Executive Producer

Bruce Callahan

Driver

Raymond Carver

Other

Leicia Rose Chan

2nd Assistant Accountant

George M Chappell

Electrician

Celia Converse

Other

Charles Cooper

Apprentice Editor

Signe Corriere

Research

Marko Costanzo

Additional Foley

Beth Cotter

2nd Assistant Camera

Jeffrey Cranford

Assistant Editor

Margaret Crimmins

Sound Effects Editor

Steven Day

Production Assistant

Kelly Deco

Scenic Paint Foreman

Ira Deutchman

Special Thanks

Lee Dichter

Rerecording Mixer

Elliot Dietch

Dialogue Editor

John Dorr

Special Thanks

Steven Dunn

Special Thanks

Antonin Dvorak

Music Composer ("Cello Concerto In D Minor")

C David Earle

Driver

Steve Earle

Driver

James Early

Grip

Duke Ellington

Music Composer ("I'M Gonna Go Fishin")

Terry Ellis

Thanks (Imago Records)

Suzy Elmiger

Film Editor

Peter Emshwiller

Swing Gang

Susan Emshwiller

Set Decorator

Amy Endries

Wardrobe Assistant

Jack English

Gaffer

Kevin Fahey

Grip

Michael J. Fahey

Bestboy Grip

Marianne Faithfull

Special Thanks

Don Feeney

Driver

Jerry Fleming

Art Director

James Foley

2nd Assistant Props

Shannon Fopeano

Production Assistant

Meg Freeman

Other

Tess Gallagher

Special Thanks

Geeta Gandbhir

Apprentice Sound Editor

Judy Geletko

Accountant

John Glaeser

Other

Shelly Glasser

Production Coordinator

Scott Goudreau

Driver

Joseph Grafmuller

Swing Gang

Scott Graves

Electrician

Evan Greenspan

Music Clearance

Michelle Guastello

Art Department Coordinator

Sheri Halfon

Other

Toya Hankins

Production Assistant

John Harrdigan

Special Effects

John M Hay

Costume Designer

Gil Hayes

Driver

Jon Hendricks

Music Composer ("Blue")

Victor Herbert

Music Composer ("Cello Concerto No. 2 Opus 30" 2nd Movement)

Kirsty Herr

Assistant Coordinator

Gordon Holmes

Carpenter

Michael Hubert

Production Assistant

Paul H Hutchinson

Thanks

Kate Hyman

Thanks (Imago Records)

Mark Isham

Music

Susan Jacobs

Music Coordinator

Alice Jones

Thanks

Dave Joseph

Driver

Mike Kaplan

Associate Producer

Sandra Kaufman

1st Assistant Editor

Frank Kern

Additional Foley

Michael Kirchberger

Special Thanks

Jack Kney

Location Manager

Danielle Knight

Assistant (To Cary Brokaw)

Luca Kouimelis

Script Supervisor

Stephen Krause

Music Score Recorder & Mixer

Cheryl Kurk

Assistant Accountant

George Lara

Foley Recordist

Peggy Lee

Music Composer ("I'M Gonna Go Fishin")

David Leonard

1st Assistant Editor

David Levy

Associate Producer

Eric Liljestrand

Music Recorder & Mixer

Julie Lindner

Assistant Sound Editor

Walt Lloyd

Director Of Photography

Kate Long

Swing Gang

Joshua Lusby

Art Department Assistant

Christopher Lyons

Electrician

Anthony Maccario

Property Master

William Maccario

Assistant Property Master

Gildo Mahones

Music Composer ("Blue")

Barry Malawski

Apprentice Sound Editor

Anthony T. Marra Ii

Key Grip

Theo Mayes

Makeup/ Hair Supervisor

Michael A Mcfadden

Grip

James Mclindon

Assistant (To Robert Altman)

Daniel Murphy

Electrician

Christopher Allen Nelson

Special Effects

Allan Nicholls

1st Assistant Director

Mario Ontal

Other

Eliza Paley

Supervising Sound Editor

Geraldine Peroni

Editor

Diana Pokorny

Unit Production Manager

Robert Pollack

Craft Service

Doc Pomus

Music Composer ("To Hell With You" "Prisoner Of Life" "I Don'T Know You" "Full Moon")

Ronald D Price

Swing Gang

John Patrick Pritchett

Production Sound Mixer

Bruce Pross

Additional Foley

The Trout Quintet

Other

Jeff Rafner

2nd Assistant Director

Derek Raser

Transportation Coordinator

David Ronan

On-Set Dresser

Annie Ross

Song Performer ("I Don'T Want To Cry Anymore" "Punishing Kiss" "To Hell With Love" "Prisoner Of Life" "I Don'T Know You" "Conversation On A Bar Stool" "I'M Gonna Go Fishin")

Annie Ross

Other

Daniel Rothenberg

Swing Gang

Joyce Rudolph

Still Photographer

Tom Russ

Production Assistant

Victor Schertzinger

Song ("I Don'T Want To Cry Anymore")

Brett Schlaman

Production Assistant

Jay G Schmidt

Assistant Painter

Kimberly Edwards Shapiro

Production Accountant

Carl Shimkin

Production Assistant

Cornelius Shultze-kraft

Production Assistant

Horace Silver

Music Composer ("Nothing Can Stop Me Now")

Lori Singer

Other

Joel Skryack

Boom Operator

Danielle Sotet

Post-Production Accountant

Paul P Soucek

Additional Sound Effects

William Mark Spencer

Driver

Ira Spiegel

Supervising Dialogue Editor

Mike Stanwick

Color Timer

Jeff Stern

Dialogue Editor

Igor Stravinksy

Music Composer ("Berceuse" From "The Firebird Suite")

Wayne Stroud

Dolly Grip

Claire Sutherland

Film Loader

J T Thayer Ii

Transportation Captain

Earl V Thielen

Driver

Tracy Thielen

Driver

Dylan Tichenor

Assistant Editor

Zeborah Tidwell

Assistant Sound Editor

Terry Trebilcock

Craft Service

Steve Trombatore

Thanks

Greg Walker

Stunt Coordinator

Barbara Wansborugh

Production Assistant

Daniel Whifler

Other

Gregory Willis

Driver

Hal Willner

Music Producer

Alexander Witt

Helicopter Camera Operator

Tim Wonsik

Wardrobe Assistant

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Adaptation
Comedy
Drama
Romance
Release Date
1993
Production Company
All Payments Services; Balsmeyer & Everett Inc; Bill Dance Casting; Completion Bond Company Inc; Dda Public Relations; Fine Line Features; Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz Pc; Pmk*Bnc; Sandcastle 5 Productions Inc; Sunrise Films
Distribution Company
ALLIANCE RELEASING/FINE LINE FEATURES; Alliance Releasing; Alliance Releasing; Bac Films Distribution; Cecchi Gori Pictures; Concorde Films; Constantin Film Development, Inc.; Fine Line Features; Lauren Films; New Line Home Entertainment; PathT International; Pathe Image; Penta Distribuzione; Playarte Pictures; Senator Film Verleih; Village Roadshow Limited; Wild Bunch AG
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
3h 9m

Award Nominations

Best Director

1993

Articles

Short Cuts on DVD


Flush from the success of The Player, maverick director Robert Altman wasted no time in embracing more idiosyncratic movie material. He immediately tackled the job of reshaping a stack of moody short stories into a larger tapestry with a couple of dozen leading players, you know, something like a classic Robert Altman film! In actuality, Altman's famous ensemble films tended to gather a lot of kooky characters around some major event and let them go off on various tangents. Short Cuts is neither improvised nor random but a careful interweaving of a half dozen unrelated tales.

Altman and co-writer Frank Barhydt do their darndest to replicate the capricious nature of Raymond Carver's short stories; we never know whether a particular incident will become central to the story, or turn out to be just another random occurrence. The film starts and ends with quintessential Los Angeles events, Malathion spraying for the Medfly and a heavy-duty earthquake of the kind that takes Angelenos by surprise every twenty years or so.

A rough synopsis can only suggest the film's complexity. Waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin) hits a child with her car, and frets when he runs away claiming he's unharmed. The kid then falls into a coma, which sends his parents Ann and Howard Finnigan (Andie MacDowall and Bruce Davison) into a panic mode that isn't helped when Howard's estranged father Paul (Jack Lemmon) suddenly chooses to come back into their lives. Unemployed salesman Stuart Kane (Fred Ward) and his wife Claire, a children's party clown (Anne Archer) make a dinner date with the Finnegans' doctor Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and his artist wife Marian (Julianne Moore). Stuart takes off on a fishing trip with two buddies; they find a dead woman's body in the river but wait two days to report it, until they've caught their limit. Phone-sex worker Lois Kaiser (Jennifer Jason Leigh) doesn't realize her job is having a negative effect on her husband Jerry, a pool guy (Chris Penn) who works for night club singer Tess Trainer (Annie Ross), whose daughter Zoe (Lori Singer) plays the cello and is deeply concerned about the Finnegans, her neighbors. Jerry Kaiser is also the best friend of makeup artist Bill Bush (Robert Downey Jr.) who cheats on his wife Honey (Lili Taylor). Finally, divorced mother Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand) is seeing married policeman Gene Shepard (Tim Robbins), much to the consternation of Gene's wife Sherri (Madeleine Stow) and Betty's ex Stormy, who happens to be one of the helicopter pilots spraying Malathion (Peter Gallagher).

The tangles continue. Sherri Shepard is a friend of Marian Wyman. Claire Kane gets her birthday cakes from the same unhappy baker that the Finnegans frequent, Andy Bitkower (Lyle Lovett). Honey Bush's photos of her husband's gruesome makeups get switched with the snapshots of the dead body in the river taken by Stuart Kane's fishing pals Gordon and Vern (Buck Henry and Huey Lewis). The fishermen also like to stop at Doreen Piggot's cafe to ogle her short waitress dress, much to the consternation of Doreen's alcoholic husband, Earl (Tom Waits).

That mass of relationships explains why the whimsically titled Short Cuts is three hours long. Beautifully crafted, the film interweaves its various subplots without bothering to make the frequent character intersections any more meaningful than the random nature of life itself; the effect is a sprawling mosaic of Los Angeles life, from the unemployeds through the wannabes up to the more successful citizens in their hilltop houses.

To say the characters are richly drawn is an understatement as the talent arrayed here is staggering. There isn't an inappropriate actor in the bunch. Tim Robbins plays an atypically obnoxious cop, while Jennifer Jason Leigh's porn-spouting young mother is certainly disturbing. And you can feel the inner conflict in roles like Anne Archer's disappointed wife, or Frances McDormand's desperate single mother. It's all done without hype or grandstanding for Oscars, and Altman's careful direction plays to the narrative. He avoids showoff effects and overreaching dramatic fireworks of the kind seen in the trashy, mostly false potboiler Magnolia.

It was easy to take potshots at some of Altman's 70s films, many of which (Nashville, Buffalo Bill and the Indians) seemed to be directed by training five telephoto cameramen on a complicated scene, saying 'action,' and trying to stay in focus. In Short Cuts Altman has opted to go for a carefully controlled illusion of random events, as opposed to the disorganized real thing. Cuts do more than just recharge scenes that have run dry. Subtle character reactions are carefully nurtured while broader actions, like the Finnegan boy's accident, are covered in unbroken long takes.

There's a lot of sex in the film both wayward and faithful. In most of the pairings, at least one partner is looking elsewhere out of boredom. The unstable characters played by Robert Downey Jr., Chris Penn, Peter Gallagher and Tim Robbins demonstrate a capacity for violence that creates an uncomfortable tension. Altman keeps this all going, perhaps showing his own preferences through the recurring use of frequent female nudity. The film's success can be measured in the fact that it does indeed play as a series of interlocking short stories, little slices of drama that can change from the absurd to the tragic on a moment's notice, all tied together with smoky jazz music from Annie Ross and the Low Note Quintet.

Criterion's 2-disc DVD set of Short Cuts is almost exhausting in its thoroughness. There is no commentary but Altman is well represented in a feature-length making-of docu, along with many of his stars. Author Raymond Carver is also covered through several shorter featurettes and a 60 minute audio interview from 1983. There a number of deleted scenes and original demo recordings of some of the songs in the movie. One extra shows over sixty graphic concepts for unused marketing campaigns. Finally, there's a specially-printed edition of Short Cuts, Carver's collection of short stories assembled as a companion to the movie.

Short Cuts was also prophetic: Only a few months after its release, Los Angeles was hit by a major earthquake like the one depicted at the end of the movie.

For more information about Short Cuts, visit Criterion Collection. To order Short Cuts, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Short Cuts On Dvd

Short Cuts on DVD

Flush from the success of The Player, maverick director Robert Altman wasted no time in embracing more idiosyncratic movie material. He immediately tackled the job of reshaping a stack of moody short stories into a larger tapestry with a couple of dozen leading players, you know, something like a classic Robert Altman film! In actuality, Altman's famous ensemble films tended to gather a lot of kooky characters around some major event and let them go off on various tangents. Short Cuts is neither improvised nor random but a careful interweaving of a half dozen unrelated tales. Altman and co-writer Frank Barhydt do their darndest to replicate the capricious nature of Raymond Carver's short stories; we never know whether a particular incident will become central to the story, or turn out to be just another random occurrence. The film starts and ends with quintessential Los Angeles events, Malathion spraying for the Medfly and a heavy-duty earthquake of the kind that takes Angelenos by surprise every twenty years or so. A rough synopsis can only suggest the film's complexity. Waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin) hits a child with her car, and frets when he runs away claiming he's unharmed. The kid then falls into a coma, which sends his parents Ann and Howard Finnigan (Andie MacDowall and Bruce Davison) into a panic mode that isn't helped when Howard's estranged father Paul (Jack Lemmon) suddenly chooses to come back into their lives. Unemployed salesman Stuart Kane (Fred Ward) and his wife Claire, a children's party clown (Anne Archer) make a dinner date with the Finnegans' doctor Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and his artist wife Marian (Julianne Moore). Stuart takes off on a fishing trip with two buddies; they find a dead woman's body in the river but wait two days to report it, until they've caught their limit. Phone-sex worker Lois Kaiser (Jennifer Jason Leigh) doesn't realize her job is having a negative effect on her husband Jerry, a pool guy (Chris Penn) who works for night club singer Tess Trainer (Annie Ross), whose daughter Zoe (Lori Singer) plays the cello and is deeply concerned about the Finnegans, her neighbors. Jerry Kaiser is also the best friend of makeup artist Bill Bush (Robert Downey Jr.) who cheats on his wife Honey (Lili Taylor). Finally, divorced mother Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand) is seeing married policeman Gene Shepard (Tim Robbins), much to the consternation of Gene's wife Sherri (Madeleine Stow) and Betty's ex Stormy, who happens to be one of the helicopter pilots spraying Malathion (Peter Gallagher). The tangles continue. Sherri Shepard is a friend of Marian Wyman. Claire Kane gets her birthday cakes from the same unhappy baker that the Finnegans frequent, Andy Bitkower (Lyle Lovett). Honey Bush's photos of her husband's gruesome makeups get switched with the snapshots of the dead body in the river taken by Stuart Kane's fishing pals Gordon and Vern (Buck Henry and Huey Lewis). The fishermen also like to stop at Doreen Piggot's cafe to ogle her short waitress dress, much to the consternation of Doreen's alcoholic husband, Earl (Tom Waits). That mass of relationships explains why the whimsically titled Short Cuts is three hours long. Beautifully crafted, the film interweaves its various subplots without bothering to make the frequent character intersections any more meaningful than the random nature of life itself; the effect is a sprawling mosaic of Los Angeles life, from the unemployeds through the wannabes up to the more successful citizens in their hilltop houses. To say the characters are richly drawn is an understatement as the talent arrayed here is staggering. There isn't an inappropriate actor in the bunch. Tim Robbins plays an atypically obnoxious cop, while Jennifer Jason Leigh's porn-spouting young mother is certainly disturbing. And you can feel the inner conflict in roles like Anne Archer's disappointed wife, or Frances McDormand's desperate single mother. It's all done without hype or grandstanding for Oscars, and Altman's careful direction plays to the narrative. He avoids showoff effects and overreaching dramatic fireworks of the kind seen in the trashy, mostly false potboiler Magnolia. It was easy to take potshots at some of Altman's 70s films, many of which (Nashville, Buffalo Bill and the Indians) seemed to be directed by training five telephoto cameramen on a complicated scene, saying 'action,' and trying to stay in focus. In Short Cuts Altman has opted to go for a carefully controlled illusion of random events, as opposed to the disorganized real thing. Cuts do more than just recharge scenes that have run dry. Subtle character reactions are carefully nurtured while broader actions, like the Finnegan boy's accident, are covered in unbroken long takes. There's a lot of sex in the film both wayward and faithful. In most of the pairings, at least one partner is looking elsewhere out of boredom. The unstable characters played by Robert Downey Jr., Chris Penn, Peter Gallagher and Tim Robbins demonstrate a capacity for violence that creates an uncomfortable tension. Altman keeps this all going, perhaps showing his own preferences through the recurring use of frequent female nudity. The film's success can be measured in the fact that it does indeed play as a series of interlocking short stories, little slices of drama that can change from the absurd to the tragic on a moment's notice, all tied together with smoky jazz music from Annie Ross and the Low Note Quintet. Criterion's 2-disc DVD set of Short Cuts is almost exhausting in its thoroughness. There is no commentary but Altman is well represented in a feature-length making-of docu, along with many of his stars. Author Raymond Carver is also covered through several shorter featurettes and a 60 minute audio interview from 1983. There a number of deleted scenes and original demo recordings of some of the songs in the movie. One extra shows over sixty graphic concepts for unused marketing campaigns. Finally, there's a specially-printed edition of Short Cuts, Carver's collection of short stories assembled as a companion to the movie. Short Cuts was also prophetic: Only a few months after its release, Los Angeles was hit by a major earthquake like the one depicted at the end of the movie. For more information about Short Cuts, visit Criterion Collection. To order Short Cuts, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Co-winner, along with Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Trois Coleurs: Bleu" (France/Poland/Switzerland/1993), of the Golden Lion for best picture at the 1993 Venice Film Festival. The film was also awarded a Volpi Cup for its entire cast.

Madeleine Stowe was named Best Supporting Actress of 1993 by the National Society of Film Critics.

Winner of the Independent Feature Project/West's 1993 Spirit Awards for best film, best director and best screenplay. Film was also nominated for best supporting actress (Julianne Moore).

Released in United States Fall October 3, 1993

Released in United States October 8, 1993

Expanded Release in United States October 22, 1993

Expanded Release in United States November 12, 1993

Expanded Release in United States January 21, 1994

Released in United States on Video June 1, 1994

Released in United States 1993

Released in United States October 1993

Shown at Venice Film Festival (in competition) August 31 - September 11, 1993.

Shown at MIFED in Milan October 24-29, 1993.

Shown at New York Film Festival (Opening Night) October 1-17, 1993.

This is director Robert Altman's 30th feature-length film.

Began shooting July 26, 1992.

Completed shooting October 1, 1992.

Paramount Pictures was once attached to this project.

Released in United States Fall October 3, 1993

Released in United States October 8, 1993 (Los Angeles)

Expanded Release in United States October 22, 1993

Expanded Release in United States November 12, 1993

Expanded Release in United States January 21, 1994

Released in United States on Video June 1, 1994

Released in United States 1993 (Shown at Venice Film Festival (in competition) August 31 - September 11, 1993.)

Released in United States October 1993 (Shown at MIFED in Milan October 24-29, 1993.)

Released in United States October 1993 (Shown at New York Film Festival (Opening Night) October 1-17, 1993.)

To the cast of "Short Cuts"