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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Short Cuts (1993)

Set in Los Angeles, the three hour film begins with a pesticide spraying over Los Angeles to kill Mediterranean fruit flies (which are infecting fruit crops) and ends with an earthquake. In between, we meet 22 characters whose lives criss cross and involve murder, suicide, molestation, adultery, alcoholism among other things. The great Robert Altman (watching this film again made me realize how much he's missed) returns to NASHVILLE territory with a superb ensemble cast (with one irritating exception) in a fascinating journey. Based on a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver which Altman changed from the Pacific Northwest to LA., he offers up a rich tapestry of human links whose experience range from the tragic to the perverse. Of the storylines, especially notable are Bruce Davison and Andie MacDowell as parents whose child's life is hanging by a thread, Matthew Modine and Julianne Moore as a doctor and his artist wife whose marriage begins to crack under suspicion of infidelity. The one awful performance is courtesy of Jack Lemmon who at this stage of his career was recycling his SAVE THE TIGER schtick. The minimalist jazz infused score by Mark Isham is perfect. If it weren't for MAGNOLIA (which is definitely influenced by Altman), I'd call this the best American film of the 1990s. The massive cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Lily Tomlin, Tim Robbins, Frances McDormand, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Gallagher, Madeleine Stowe, Fred Ward, Anne Archer, Lili Taylor, Chris Penn, Lori Singer, Buck Henry, Huey Lewis, Annie Ross and Tom Waits.

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