50 Indie Movies You Need to See Before You Die

Short Cuts (1993)

Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Matthew Modine, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Fred Ward, Anne Archer, Buck Henry, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waitz, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Frances McDormand, Bruce Davison, Jack Lemmon, Lyle Lovett, Peter Gallagher

There's a certain kind of short story, maybe you've read it? They're about lower class white folks, there's usually more drinking and staring at walls than talking, couples fighting and lots of blank space on the page. Blank space because the sentences are clipped and curt, like stabs of words. Ray Carver is the writer most associated with this style, and it's his work that Robert Altman adapted for his ensemble film Short Cuts.

The kind of crisscrossing Los Angeles epic that many shitty films have aspired to be, Short Cuts is long and frequently mean. There's no lesson about racial harmony here, no moral instruction. There are only many lives, some of them tangled in families, unfolding in the familiar ways: people argue, jobs suck, friends gather together for security but nothing goes as planned. A fishing trip uncovers a body. A dinner party becomes a clown show.

Working with a cast of incredible talent, Altman's crowning achievement is a movie you live inside. —RS

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