film review: short cuts

This movie is terrible. First of all, it’s over three hours long. If you’re going to make a movie that long, it better be good…damn good. I watched the first 10 minutes or so, which consisted of flickering credits interspersed with long opening scenes (an annoying stylistic affectation). At this point, I switched to scanning through the scenes. This film, billed as Robert Altman’s “masterpiece,” purports to swirl Raymond Carver’s work into a cinematic “mosaic.” Having read most of Carver’s stories, I decided to cut to the chase and find the scenes that I consider his finest work, and see how Altman mangled them. I don’t know if it was the disgust I felt at reliving the trappings of 1990s American culture (perhaps our most sickening decade to date) or the horror of seeing the fresh young faces of so many now well-established American actors and actresses contribute to what amounts to a pissing contest on the collected short fiction of one Raymond Carver, but when I arrived at the bastardization of “A Small, Good Thing” (possibly my favorite Carver story), I could go no further. I guess I don’t get it. The cast of this film reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood. And not necessarily bad Hollywood. There are definitely some good actors in here (Hello Julianne Moore, Frances McDormand, Tim Robbins: I’m looking at you, among others). Maybe it was the 1990s that warped them (Sorry, Tom Waits, but I don’t think this excuses you). On the other hand, Alex Trebek has a cameo, so take that for what it’s worth (keeping in mind that we have Canada to blame for him). The fashion alone in this film is enough to make you vomit profusely. Carver’s stories are still popular today because they are timeless. But this film is dated, its stylistic baggage weighing down on the strength of any given scene to the point of crushing Carver’s lifeblood out of it. We all know that film adaptations of literature are always a disaster-in-waiting, but few approach the extravagant failure of this bloated celluloid monstrosity.

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  1. 1994: I loved it!
    And actually its not very long since I thought about getting a copy to watch it again. Now I just have to!

    Apropos bad films: I just watched the much appraised French film “Les petits mouchoirs” (, absolutely the worst film I have seen this year!

    • Are you talking about this film? If so, it looks good.

      • Oh – sorry, no! I was talking about my first (and so far only) rendezvous with Short Cuts

        • Ah! I’m curious what you liked about it. Have you read Raymond Carver at all?

        • Yes, I did read Carver once, I guess it was about the same time I watched the film, that is almost 20 years ago – so to tell you the truth: I have no idea what I liked about Short Cuts – an thats why I wanted to see it again, to find out if I still like it.

          I must admit though that I’m more interested in the film as an Altman “thing” than as a screen-version of already canonized literature.

  2. Don’t know why it is that movies seldom seem to live up to the books on which they are based. One exception comes to mind – “The Dead”.



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