Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Short Cuts (1993)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Short Cuts (1993)

In Robert Altman's naked depiction of desperate people in Southern California:

  • the exhilarating opening credits scene with images of noisy helicopters dumping insecticide onto Los Angeles neighborhoods to kill medflys - and in the film's conclusion, another disaster - an earthquake
  • the film's fluid interweaving and overlapping of the tragi-comic stories/lives of 22 characters in about ten separate episodic story-lines, including:
    - classical cello-playing musician Zoe Trainer (Lori Singer), the pretty blonde daughter of alcoholic cabaret jazz singer Tess Trainer (Annie Ross), both next-door neighbors to the Finnigans; Zoe committed suicide by carbon monoxide asphyxiation in her garage
    - three fishing buddies on a three-day fishing trip: out of work salesman Stuart Kane (Fred Ward) - who was married to clown-performer Claire Kane (Anne Archer) who entertained at childrens' parties, Gordon Johnson (Buck Henry), and Vern Miller (Huey Lewis); they stopped off at Doreen's restaurant for breakfast before leaving on their trip; they found a dead 23 year-old raped girl's body floating lifeless near their campsite and decided to postpone reporting the murder
    - hit-and-run waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin) who was married to abusive drunk limousine driver Earl Piggot (Tom Waits), who hung out in the nightclub where Tess Trainer performed
    - mother Lois Kaiser (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who engaged in phone sex while diapering and feeding her baby, and was married to swimming pool cleaner Jerry Kaiser (Chris Penn) - who cleaned the pools of the Trainers and the Finnigans (and while on the phone spyed through a fence at skinny-dipping Zoe Trainer)
    - jealous surgeon-doctor Dr. Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and redheaded faithless wife Marian Wyman (Julianne Moore - while naked from the waist down - confessing her infidelity to her husband as she blow-dried her dress with a hair-dryer); Dr. Wyman cared for a young boy (a hit-and-run victim)
    - painter's model and housewife Sherri Shepard (Madeleine Stowe), Marian's sister, who was married to philandering cop Gene Shepard (Tim Robbins) - he was having an affair with adulterous Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand), and at one point sexually-harrassed and taunted a female driver - Claire Kane in her clown makeup
    - TV commentator Howard Finnigan (Bruce Davison) and his wife Ann Finnigan (Andie MacDowell) whose son Casey - on his 8th birthday - was run down by an automobile and eventually died in the hospital
    - Howard's estranged father Paul (Jack Lemmon), who during a visit with his son at the hospital discussed past infidelities that led to their estrangement
    - Honey Piggot Bush (Lili Taylor), Doreen's daughter, who was married to Hollywood make-up artist Bill (Robert Downey Jr.), was friends with young phone-sex mother Lois Kaiser
    - sinister, disgruntled and lonely baker Andy Bitkower (Lyle Lovett), who baked a cake for Casey Finnigan's 8th birthday, who repeatedly made nasty and anonymous return phone calls about their unclaimed cake when he was abruptly hung up on by distressed father Howard Finnigan
    - ex-husband and helicopter pilot Stormy Weathers (Peter Gallagher) who, in an enraged state of mind, used a chain-saw to divide up community property in his ex-wife Betty Weathers' house


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