The last two weekends have made me realize how much I love and enjoy the work of director Steven Soderbergh.
Last weekend, much to my surprise, I saw Magic Mike (the infamous “Channing Tatum stripper movie!” that most people probably call it) and found myself enjoying it very much because it had the marks of a typical Soderbergh film: time jumping, realistic dialogue and performances, non closure and great unknown actors. I was the only male in the theatre, and while the marketing of the film makes it look like it’s just a full on nude fest of good looking actors (it’s really not), I think the film is similar to Saturday Night Fever of a man trying to find a way out and do better for himself.
Contagion (Soderbergh’s previous film from last Fall) was what I watched last night – completely freaked me out. It contains what I would call my “dream cast” (Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow (
throw in Cate Blanchett and you have a Talented Mr. Ripley reunion!)Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet (obsessed with) and Marion Cotillard) and a plot so fit in the realm of reality (a virus epidemic breaks out across the globe) that it’s damn creepy to watch. A great viewing experience – loved every minute.
What I love about Steven Soderbergh’s films is that he still works on a roots level when it comes to filmmaking. On most of his films, he works as the camera man and I find his technique brings forth excellent performances from his actors, and he has a fresh take on plot devices that spice up and show dimension that, on face value, might seem boring, done before or just plain dumb.
So, this got me thinking about other Soderbergh flicks that I love. (I haven’t seen Sex, Lies and Videotape so that’s one I definitely must see, as it’s considered the first film that launched the independent film movement.)
Out Of Sight: This is probably one of the first Soderbergh films I have seen. Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, this film is an absolute gem of a caper film. The films stars some regulars from the Soderbergh oeuvre (Don Cheadle) and features George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. I should really watch it again. The chemistry between Clooney and Lopez is palpable. This can show any critic that J.Lo. can indeed act if given a meaty, great part.
Erin Brockovich: I find this film gets slagged by people a lot, but I personally think it’s a great one. I saw this film in 2000 on a flight to Calgary – and I was riveted the entire time. Once again, a real testament to his directing as Julia Roberts’s performance is the most real that she has ever done (and I remember thinking when I had finished watching, I said to myself that she was going to win the Best Actress Oscar – and she did!). Albert Finney (Daddy Warbucks!) is also fantastic in this film. The film takes its time developing characters and storyline that once we get to the big verdict, Soderbergh still surprises and downplays – and goes for a more emotional impact (God bless you, Marg Helgenberger!).
The Limey: This film just assaults your senses and completely takes over you. About a man seeking vengeance for the death of his daughter, Terence Stamp is awesome in this film – and clearly his character is very shady and in theory an evil person. But as a viewer, you root for him because you want him to get his revenge. This film, for some reason, makes me think of another great film, Sexy Beast.
Traffic: I find this film bears a resemblance to Contagion in that there is an overarching theme (drug abuse, drug trafficking) and a cast of many from different global locations with isolated and intersecting storylines. I can still see a pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones screaming in her cell phone while driving “Shoot him in the head! Shoot him in the head!”. This was an adaptation of a British TV series (which I vaguely remember my sister watching on PBS a long time ago). It’s a trailblazing film. Really landmark stuff.
Ocean’s Eleven : Forget Ocean’s Twelve (which, quite frankly, aside from the fantastic score essentially was an opportunity for the cast to reunite and jack off, in my opinion) and Thirteen (which tried to go back to the basics of Eleven moderately successfully), the first film (based on the Rat Pack film) is an absolute joy to watch unfold. It’s a fun puzzle that just entertains and challenges. Pure bliss.
Full Frontal : I think this was the director’s attempt to go back to the era of Sex, Lies and Videotape but for the 2000’s. It’s a really strange, odd affair (Welcome back to the fold, Julia Roberts! Hello, Brad Pitt!) but really compelling to watch. It’s a bit of an odd viewing experience but worthwhile I think.
From what I’ve read at the moment, Steven Soderbergh is currently working on an HBO film on the life of Liberace and his lover – played by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, respectively. Now THAT I will definitely want to see.