265 Short Cuts

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Hrossa
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#26 Post by Hrossa » Fri Jan 28, 2005 3:25 pm

I guess I'm a little late to chime in with Whipsilk's remarks about Pret-A-Porter. I like it (and Dr. T and the Women) quite a lot. Dr. T and the Women actually hasn't been mentioned as being constructed in the same "tapestry" as Short Cuts. Like The Player, it has a strong, central (male) character, but it dips liberally into the lives of a large ensemble of characters.

I'm actually not a huge fan of Short Cuts, but then again, I've only seen it on VHS. I was thinking about the suicide scene by the cello player (what's her name?) today for some reason. That was one of the biggest cliches I couldn't get past, but there are a lot of nice moments, too. I personally prefer The Player to Short Cuts by a pretty wide margin.

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#27 Post by jorencain » Fri Jan 28, 2005 6:17 pm

hrossa wrote:I was thinking about the suicide scene by the cello player (what's her name?) today for some reason. That was one of the biggest cliches I couldn't get past, but there are a lot of nice moments, too.
What's cliche about that? She's an overly emotional person who can't get any real attention from her self-involved mother. Unless I'm misinterpreting it, her suicide seems like an act to make her mother finally "notice" her. Is this cliche??

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#28 Post by Hrossa » Sun Jan 30, 2005 4:37 pm

What I see as cliched is the fact that she dies inhaling exhaust in her garage while playing the cello. To me the fact that her character never seems to be fleshed out - we know she has strong emotions and she's quirky, but never get beyond the surface - contributes to my feelings about her character and suicide. It just came off as a bit of pastiche by Altman, you know, "insert clinically depressed, artistic girl here". But, if it resonates with genuine emotion for you, then maybe it isn't cliched. Maybe I've just seen too many people kill themselves in movies with carbon monoxide.

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#29 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 02, 2005 6:01 am

Has anyone else noticed that the TV spots "Soap" and "Revised Soap" are completely wrong in depicting the relationships between the characters? I guess I can understand the reasoning behind it, as I suppose the marketing rationale is to make the trailer as confusing as possible so the audience goes "wow, I didn't understand any of that, but it looks like there's a lot going on". The problem is that if you followed any of the announcer's dialogue over the montage and then compare it to the film, then it is completely misleading, and it does look like the marketing people couldn't understand the film themselves and so just wrote their own speil over the montage!

Although I do think the theatrical and teaser trailers aren't bad for what they are, and at least like the other TV spots, play fair with the potential audience for the film.

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#30 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 02, 2005 6:43 am

I was thinking about the comments above on Lori Singer who played the cellist. Could this be a case of Altman changing the role to fit the strengths of his actress in the same way that he accommodated Madeline Stowe when she felt unable to play the nude arguement scene that eventually was done by Julianne Moore. Perhaps that is why there are not too many big talky scenes on Lori Singer's part (although this is purely speculation and I think she does a very good job in a small part) and more emphasis on her playing, as well as integrating her playing into the suicide scene. I must admit to finding it a little ridiculous (although I think I should more properly think of it as an absurd chain of events, like many of the other stories, such as the nusiance phone callls by the baker story) myself, but I'd guess it was an attempt to give her a big send off with minimum dialogue in practical terms, and a way to use her playing to give her a proper dramatic send off, and as has been said a cry for attention from her mother using the instrument that her mother continually complains about. I was also wondering, the daughter says that the mother is close to death to one of her fellow players, but there is no other indication of this, and it does seem that the daughter is more mentally unstable than the mother is (from the glass incident). I guess this is another area where you can place any interpretation you want as to the events that have been occuring before those you see in the film. Is the daughter mad, or has she been driven to it by the mother, or is she just stressed? Is the mother ill, or unaware of what her daughter has said about her? What motivates the daughter to say such a thing if it is untrue? Is it perhaps a way of stopping people asking her questions about her mother? It is all open to our ideas of what we think happened between them.

I also liked the poster for the remake of The Blob in the background of the Robert Downey Jr makeup department scene. I'm not joking when I say that I think it would have been great to see the remake packaged with the original. The remake is an excellent example of 80's teen horror, with excellent special effects, and is more than worthy of being considered next to the Steve McQueen original. The poster image of the first 'blob death' of Shawnee Smith's boyfriend is still one from the film that I find brilliantly disgusting, going further than you ever thought it would go, and has always haunted me as a 'did I really see that or just dream it up' image! I'm glad it is out on DVD already, but I would have loved a Criterion double bill of both!

I really like the way that the film takes the time to give a lot of the characters little moments, especially in the case of the fisherman. Once the Stuart (Fred Ward) character gets back from the fishing trip, I'd be expecting the usual thing from a film, and that is that the other two fishermen he was with have served their dramatic purpose and we wouldn't be hearing from them again. But I really like the elegant way that you get one last moment with the one fisherman and Tim Robbins when he gets the dog back, and the brilliantly funny photo mix-up between the other and the Lili Taylor character, where they are both trying hard to remember the other's licence plates! It is something that is not necessary to the plot, or is even necessary to notice, but it makes the world of the film a lot richer and shows that even though they may not have a dramatic function now that their part in the film is mostly over, they are still living their lives.

I was thinking about the ending: I'd agree with the points made about the breakdown of the Jerry character above. You don't know how long his wife working for the phone sex line has been getting to him and you see he is ready to crack from the start. I was wondering, is this a little hint that Jerry might have been responsible for the murder of the girl the fishermen find? So his even more agitated state around his wife and not wanting to let his children hear her talk is partly due to his having already killed someone?

I think it is purposefully left to the audience to make a connection if they see one. After all Jerry does not have to have been responsible for all the murders in Los Angeles! But it is an interesting resonance with the earlier body. He now cannot control himself when his friend drags him into a situation where he is about to cheat on his girl, in a similar way that it might have been playing on his mind that she has been cheating on him through her sex talk. Or is it just an unpremeditated lashing out at a similar type of woman. One he might perceive as being able to treat the possibility of sex (through the acceptance of the beer) as casually as his girlfriend could talk dirty while changing her child? So in a way, he is frustratedly striking out at the Jennifer Jason Leigh character.
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#31 Post by zedz » Wed Feb 02, 2005 4:33 pm

I think we'd need at least one piece of linking evidence to make the connection suggested. And doesn't the scene read more as the release of long pent-up tension rather than
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merely the latest in a series of violent episodes?

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#32 Post by Martha » Wed Feb 02, 2005 5:44 pm

You guys, the description of the whole part of the forum dedicated to CC releases indicates that there will be spoilers in the threads. You don't have to tag them here.

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#33 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:38 am

Yes but what I'm saying is that it is a possibility that is left vague and open for the audience to read into it what they wish.
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#34 Post by scotty » Tue May 10, 2005 6:19 pm

I sure wish I could nab those Dr. John demos (especially "To Hell With Love"). I think the DVD people thought of that, unfortunately.

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#35 Post by Penny Dreadful » Sun Jun 19, 2005 1:48 am

Immediately before the earthquake, Jerry salvagely hit a girl at the park. So out of blue, so unexpected. I thought - why did he do that!? Was it necessary?! After the film ended, it finally dawned on me that if Altman decided to explain/spell out Jerry's action, it would be an insult to his character because he probably couldn't even understand why he moved to strike and kill the girl just like that. Am I right on the money?

Or maybe it's Altman's style to leave everything up to us to make the conclusion?
Those were my immediate thoughts as well. The film ties up most plot-points in a satisfying manner, but then Altman leaves this dead body floating around [literally]. Throughout the whole movie I kept wondering which character killed the girl, and when Jerry snapped, I thought "Ah-ha!"

It makes sense that the big mystery would be solved by the shock ending, though of course Altman leaves it ambiguous and open to interpretation. Maybe a second viewing would offer more clues?

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#36 Post by justeleblanc » Sun Jun 19, 2005 4:59 am

Did I post this?:

Honestly, I must be an idiot because I never made the connection between the murder before the Earthquake and the dead girl during the fishing trip. Instead, I always compared Robert Downey's actions to the little boy getting hit by the car. In a sense they are both two murders that we see as murders (one very much unintentional, and one very much unexplained) but no one else knows they ever happened.
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#37 Post by jorencain » Sun Jun 19, 2005 6:27 am

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It's not Robert Downey who kills the girl, it's Chris Penn. And is someone suggesting that the floating dead body is this girl killed by him? (I may have misread what you were saying). That would be, of course, impossible, as the stories are all going on at the same time, chronologically. By the end, the dead girl in the water has already had her funeral, and the girl that Chris Penn kills becomes the death reported by the newscaster at the end. I don't see how anything could be ambiguous about that.
Also, it IS a surprise that he does this, but his character builds up to this kind of action throughout the film. He seems to feel ineffective as a person, and his actions don't matter to people, except to make them laugh at him. When he wants his wife to talk dirty to him, she laughs at him; when he wants to stand up to the guy in the bar, but backs down, he (feels like he) gets laughed at by everyone at the table; him and Robert Downey are always telling over-the-top sexual stories that they would never really go through with. With a young girl out in the park, it's no stretch to imagine that he came on to her, she laughed or said no, and that's the one time he decided to "stick up for himself", and went completely overboard. Since she's a teenage girl, she has little or no threat to him, so it's finally someone that he can respond back to when he's denied what he wants.

Anyway, I don't think there's really any mystery or ambiguity around it. Or maybe there is, and I'm only seeing this one way of interpreting it.

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#38 Post by justeleblanc » Sun Jun 19, 2005 11:52 am

Ah, First I must tell you yesterday was my birthday and I was drunk when writing the post.

Second, I meant Chris Penn, not Robert Downey Jr.

And Third, the girl in the Earthquake is not the same girl as the fishing girl, but we have a dead girl with the fishing trip, and then we have another girl getting killed at the end in the "wilderness" as well. I think when you're drunk certain connections might be more exciting.

No worries.

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#39 Post by Penny Dreadful » Sun Jun 19, 2005 6:15 pm

In response to jorencain's comment:
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It's not Robert Downey who kills the girl, it's Chris Penn. And is someone suggesting that the floating dead body is this girl killed by him? (I may have misread what you were saying). That would be, of course, impossible, as the stories are all going on at the same time, chronologically. By the end, the dead girl in the water has already had her funeral, and the girl that Chris Penn kills becomes the death reported by the newscaster at the end. I don't see how anything could be ambiguous about that.
If you were referring to my earlier post...
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I didn't mean that the dead body and the teenage girl at the end were the same person; I meant I thought that Jerry had been a killer all along, only no one suspected it. As I recall, he does have a few creepy moments early on in the film, like spying on cello-girl when she's swimming naked in the pool. Remember, she pretends to be dead as she floats there, so this could be a moment of foreshadowing.

When I saw him hit the girl with the rock, I immediately assumed that he had also raped and killed the girl whose body is found floating in the lake.

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#40 Post by jorencain » Sun Jun 19, 2005 7:51 pm

A-ha! I hadn't thought of it in that way, but that seems completely plausible. Because all of the threads in the film come from different stories in Carver's writings, I just never made that leap from one to the other.

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#41 Post by zedz » Sun Jun 19, 2005 9:38 pm

Surely if that were the conclusion we were supposed to reach, Altman et al would have to have included some corroboration
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unless you think there's only one murderer at a time allowed in LA
Also, that interpretation would tend to make the apparent character development we follow with Penn's character (alluded to in jorencain's previous post) redundant.

A lack of evidence against a given interpretation is not the same as evidence for it.

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#42 Post by Penny Dreadful » Sun Jun 19, 2005 10:14 pm

Well no, it doesn't absolutely have to be the conclusion, but it is plausible, solves the movie's otherwise unsolvable mystery, and follows the general trend of the film [all the characters are connected somehow]. Also, Altman does provide evidence for it: the foreshadowing I alluded to in my comment above. I may have missed other clues, since I've only seen the film once, but personally I find it much more unbelievable that
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the floating body was left by some totally unconnected person, as opposed to the raving maniac who is exposed at the film's climax.
Penn's character development isn't redundant, either; he simply becomes less able to hide his frustrations and reactions over the course of the film.

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#43 Post by justeleblanc » Mon Jun 20, 2005 1:23 am

Can we say that the murder has more to do with his own marital issues and his equating the victim with his wife? If this is the case then I would say that he probably is not the murderer of the "fishing" girl, but that we see why that "fishing" girl or someone like her might have been killed in the first place.

Can we also make the assumption that no one would be reading this deeply into a thread without having seen the film? So, the whole spoiler thing may not be needed.

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#44 Post by CSM126 » Fri Nov 25, 2005 7:57 pm

I recently purchased the Short Cuts LD, and I was wondering if anyone here could answer a question I have.

Does anyone here have any clue as to why Criterion neglected to carry the Pauline Kael and Michael Wilmington interviews over from the LD to the DVD? They're very good, indeed Kael's is excellent, and it's a shame that they didn't make it to the DVD so more people could experience them.

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#45 Post by exte » Sat Nov 26, 2005 12:05 am

How long is the commentary? I just bought six Criterion Laserdiscs in the last two months, and I really thought that would be it, but now I'm feeling compulsive again... Isn't the commentary real short, not even the length of the movie?
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#46 Post by Andre Jurieu » Sat Nov 26, 2005 12:56 am

CSM126 wrote:Does anyone here have any clue as to why Criterion neglected to carry the Pauline Kael and Michael Wilmington interviews over from the LD to the DVD? They're very good, indeed Kael's is excellent, and it's a shame that they didn't make it to the DVD so more people could experience them.
I believe it was rumored that Altman did not want the commentary track included.

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#47 Post by CSM126 » Sat Nov 26, 2005 5:56 am

exte wrote:How long is the commentary? I just bought six Criterion Laserdiscs in the last two months, and I really thought that would be it, but now I'm feeling compulsive again... Isn't the commentary real short, not even the length of the movie?
Each interview is around an hour in length. They don't play over the movie itself, but as bonus features on the Luck, Trust, and Ketchup disc, as seperate audio channels.

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#48 Post by Ishmael » Sat Nov 26, 2005 5:45 pm

CSM126 wrote: Does anyone here have any clue as to why Criterion neglected to carry the Pauline Kael and Michael Wilmington interviews over from the LD to the DVD? They're very good, indeed Kael's is excellent, and it's a shame that they didn't make it to the DVD so more people could experience them.
I was glad they dropped Kael. She doesn't really like the film. She says that she really only enjoyed the acting and the biggest pleasure she found was in waiting to see who was going to show up next. Now, I'm all for alternative viewpoints, but I paid $100 for that LD back in the day and I certainly didn't enjoy turning on a commentary track that told me I wasted my money.

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#49 Post by LightBulbFilm » Mon Nov 28, 2005 11:50 am

I don't know if it has been said yet, partly because I don't plan on reading through every post (Although your posts are enlightening.) but I beelieve the murder of the girl in the end was due to Jerry's pent up sexual frustration... He felt jealous that his wife was on the phone all day talking to men giving them hard ons, even if it was her job. In his mind he did not have her to himself, she was not HIS. When he gets the chance to possibly get some kind of sexual pleasure from this girl something snaps in his head... I think that he believed she was a cock tease because she took off her shirt, he realized that he wasn't going to get anything from her, she was just teasing him... Another thing he couldn't have for himself. He got pissed, went crazy, and smashed her with a rock. I hope that makes sense to you guys the same way it does to me... Just my opinion.

marty

#50 Post by marty » Sun May 28, 2006 12:55 am

In the Cannes Film Festival, Ray Lawrence's Jindabyne was based on a short story by Raymond Carver (the same story as featured in Altman's Short Cuts). It got me thinking what other films have been based on the works of Raymond Carver. I know there is a 50 minute Australian featurette called Feathers made in the eighties and there is another Australian short I saw recently called Everything Goes starring Hugo Weaving and Abbie Cornish. There is also another short made in the US called Tropical Fish which was also based on a Carver short story.

Does anyone else know what other features and shorts were based on any story written by Raymond Carver?

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