Oct 142016
 

No Escape is an all around entertaining film perfect for a Saturday movie night. No, it doesn’t make you think or have any profound performances but the acting isn’t bad with Owen Wilson serving as a fine everyman type of character and Pierce Brosnan in his small part is a lot of fun. This is probably worthy of a rental.

 

 

Short Cuts
— The Criterion Collection —
(1993)

Genre(s): Drama, Comedy
Criterion Collection | R – 187 min. – $39.95 | October 18, 2016

Date Published: 10/14/2016 | Author: The Movieman

 


MOVIE INFO:
Directed by:
Robert Altman
Writer(s): Raymond Carver (writings); Robert Altman & Frank Barhydt (screenplay)
Cast: Andie MacDowell, Bruce Davison, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Anne Archer, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey Jr., Madeleine Stowe, Tim Robbins, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits, Frances McDormand, Peter Gallagher, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Jack Lemmon, Lyle Lovett, Buck Henry, Huey Lewis

DISC INFO:
Features:
Featurettes, Interviews, Deleted Scenes, Gallery, Trailers
Digital Copy: No
Formats Included: Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 2

Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 2.0), English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 45.4 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A

 


THE MOVIE — 3.75/5


Robert Altman was the master of the ensemble and while they weren’t always great (see Dr. T and the Women), he did have quite a few gems from MASH to The Player and even his poetic and poignant final film, A Prairie Home Companion. Short Cuts is perhaps his opus, a three-hour long drama featuring a plethora of (often despicable) characters set against the city of Los Angeles.

There are nine sets of stories going on, often interacting with one another:

  1. Howard (BRUCE DAVISON) and Ann Finnigan (ANDIE MACDOWELL) are loving parents of a young boy (ZANE CASSIDY) who is hit by a car crossing the street and falls into a coma. While at the hospital, Howard’s estranged father (JACK LEMMON) comes by to visit his grandson, whom he’s never met, but also makes a strange confession to his son. The couple is harassed by a baker (LYLE LOVETT) angry their son’s birthday cake wasn’t picked up.
  1. Ralph (MATTHEW MODINE), a doctor, and Marian Wyman (JULIANNE MOORE), an artist, have a strained relationship made worse when she confesses to having affair years ago. Ralph is the Finnigan’s son’s doctor.
  1. Stuart (FRED WARD) and Claire Kane (ANNE ARCHER) are also married but a working class couple, Stuart looking for a job while Claire works as a clown. During the duration of the film, Stuart goes on a fishing trip with two buds. The two sit next to the Wyman’s at a theater.
  1. Gene (TIM ROBBINS) and wife Sherri (MADELEINE STOWE) have their own relationship problems with Gene being a serial adulterer and all around asshole who hates the family dog and goes as far to drop the pooch off miles away in a different neighborhood. Sherri is Marian’s sister.
  1. Jerry (CHRIS PENN) and Lois Kaiser (JENNIFER JASON LEIGH) have a chaotic home with a couple of kids. Jerry works as a pool guy while Lois works from home as a phone sex operator. Jerry maintains the Finnigan’s pool.
  1. Bill (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.) and Honey Bush (LILI TAYLOR) are probably better known to be lousy house sitters asked to look after their neighbor’s apartment and proceed to go as far as hold a cookout with their best friends… the Kaisers.
  1. Earl (TOM WAITS) and Doreen Piggot (LILY TOMLIN) are in an especially strained marriage, Earl an alcoholic limo driver while Doreen works as a waitress. Doreen is the person who hit the Finnigan’s son with her car.
  1. Betty Weathers (FRANCES MCDORMAND) is separated from her husband, Stormy (PETER GALLAGHER), together they have a son named Chad, and is involved with Gene, fully aware he is married.
  1. Tess Trainer (ANNIE ROSS) is a lounge singer working for a dimly lit bar visited by the Kaiser and Bushs. Her daughter Zoe (LORI SINGER) lives with her and has her own pool served by Jerry. The Trainer’s also live next door to the Finnigans.

What I enjoyed about Short Cuts, and this is speaking as someone who never was over the moon on Robert Altman (though I did like The Player and A Prairie Home Companion), it’s simplicity that unlike the recent Garry Marshall (RIP) ensembles, this never felt like it was stretching connecting each of these sets of characters and instead, like the fly on the movie poster, this is very fly-on-the-wall, we as an audience are observers in each of these characters’ lives. That said, it’s unfortunate that more than a few are outright assholes in one respect or another.

The performances for the most part are well done especially considering these actors don’t get much screen time to make a connection. Andie MacDowell and Julianne Moore are the standouts, Tim Robbins plays the biggest douche in the film rather well, Jack Lemmon in his brief role was nice to see while others like Robert Downey Jr., Annie Ross, Lori Singer and Lili Taylor don’t get much to do, with the Ross/Singer storyline never quite hitting the right note (so to speak). And then there’s Lyle Lovett… thankfully he’s only in it for a few minutes, unfortunately one is a key scene where McDowell/Davison give emotional performances while Lovett shows his utter lack of acting skill.

Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Short Cuts and seeing the 3+ hour running time, it seemed like a daunting task to sit through a talky drama for that long, and yet the time went flying by with some fascinating stories and characters. Simplicity at its best and Altman, as he did in his career, did a wonderful balancing act.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5


The 2-disc set comes housed in Criterion’s clear Blu-ray Keep Case. Inside is a booklet filled with production stills and essays.

Additional Scenes (TRT 4:10; HD) – There are three scenes, two deleted and one is alternate take. Nothing special and the one, involving the baker played by Lyle Lovett was especially cringe-worthy.

Music Demos (TRT 10:49; HD) are songs, in raw form here, submitted for use in the movie.

Luck, Trust & Ketchup (1:30:02; HD) – Filmmakers Mike Kaplan and John Dorf had extensive access to the set of Short Cuts and produced a feature-length making-of documentary.

Marketing (HD) contains a text introduction on the campaign for the movie; advertisement gallery; and Teaser (1:08; HD), Trailer (2:23; HD), and 6 TV Spots (TRT 3:00; HD).

To Write and Keep Kind (56:48; HD) is a 1992 PBS documentary on the life and works of Raymond Carver and features interviews with the writer’s family and friends.

Raymond Carver (51:47; HD) is a rare 1983 audio interview with the author, a native of my home state of Oregon as it so happens.

Reflections on Short Cuts (28:56; HD) – This is an interview between Tim Robbins and Robert Altman recorded by the Criterion Collection in 2004.

 


VIDEO – 4.5/5


The Criterion Collection hits another homerun with Short Cuts. Presented in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and given a nice 1080p high-definition transfer from a restored 4K digital transfer which was approved by cinematographer Walt Lloyd. Looking at the old footage, it’s frankly a great job done here. Colors are vibrant, detail is sharp and well defined and it looks clean, free of any dirt, dust, scratches and other flaws making for the best this film has ever looked, though I really should get out my DVD Criterion release to compare…

AUDIO – 4.0/5


The disc comes with both a 2.0 (default) and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and honestly, either option is suitable. Given this is very much a dialogue-driven film, with some lounge music thrown in providing with some depth, the center channel probably gets the most usage though the front and rears, on the 5.1 track, is used primarily for ambient noises. Neither track is exceptional but like the DVD, it’s probably a modest upgrade.

 


OVERALL – 4.0/5


Overall, propelled by several solid performances and a fly-on-the-wall form of storytelling, Short Cuts is perhaps Robert Altman’s opus in his legendary career. While it’s not as good as The Player and some might get bored real quick since this is a talkfest not to mention 3+ hour running time, I still recommend this well written drama. The Blu-ray released through The Criterion Collection offers good video/audio transfers and some nice selection of features.

 

 

 

 

Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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