Tag Archives: Steven Soderbergh

The Set of 400: #94 – My Favorite Incriminating Area Code

Today! Because it’s not just lysine, it’s citric. It’s gluconate. There was a guy who left the company because he wouldn’t do it. He was forced out. The gluconate guy, he’s out of a job –

The Informant! (2009)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (x3)

Starring Matt Damon (x7), Scott Bakula, Joel McHale (x2), Melanie Lynskey, Tony Hale, Tom Papa (x2), Rick Overton, Thomas F. Wilson (x2), Scott Adsit (x2), Ann Dowd, Patton Oswalt (x2), Andrew Daly (x2), Clancy Brown (x3), Tom Smothers, Dick Smothers, Paul F. Tompkins (x2), Candy Clark (x2), Frank Welker (x2), Larry Clarke, Eddie Jemison (x2), Allan Havey, Ann Cusack (x3)

One of the most underrated comedies of recent times, The Informant! is a brilliant, hilarious true story centered around the very sexy, cinematic subject of price fixing in the lysine market. Thus, the trailers had no idea how to convey the story, never mind the tone, so the movie was an almost complete mystery when it was released. I know people who saw this movie and hated it – expectations being for a fairly normal film at the least, but what you get one of the most unreliable narrators ever taking you through a film filled with great comedians not being obviously funny. The subtlety of the movie, the quiet satire of super corrupt big business in a very dull corner of corporate America, populated by the likes of Scott Adsit, Tony Hale, Patton Oswalt, and the Smothers Brothers playing lawyers and government agents and judges heightens the ridiculousness of, again, a relatively normal setting. It’s just oft-kilter enough, just five degrees off center at all times, so that the longer you don’t buy into the manner the story is being told, the less you can possibly enjoy the weirdness. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #172 – My Favorite Tussle

Today! Because this is the dumbest fucking shakedown in the history of shakedowns –

Out of Sight (1998)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (x2)

Starring George Clooney (x3), Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames (x3), Don Cheadle (x3), Albert Brooks (x4), Dennis Farina, Nancy Allen (x2), Michael Keaton (x5), Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener (x3), Luis Guzman (x4), Connie Sawyer, James Black, Viola Davis, Paul Calderon, Samuel L. Jackson (x4), Isaiah Washington, Keith Loneker

All of the sleek cool on display in #249 Ocean’s Eleven is directly attributable to Soderbergh’s work on Out of Sight – one of the great unacknowledged sequels of all time. There is again a heist at the center of the film, but it unfolds in a completely different way. Where Ocean’s is pretty straightforward, with only some narrative somersaults at the end to heighten the impact of the caper itself, Out of Sight flips in and out of the linear tale, explaining the characters prior interactions in prison (virtually all the guys were in prison at some point), and how and why this grand Detroit house robbery came about.

The cast is first rate across the board, but none more so than Jennifer Lopez as Marshal Karen Sisco, kidnapped while Clooney’s Jack breaks out of jail, plunging them both in the trunk of the getaway car, where the hot, sweaty romance begins to blossom. Ridiculous, right? But it totally works, in that marvelous Elmore Leonard way. I want to emphasize how good Lopez is here, because I don’t think she will ever really get the credit she deserves as an actress. As time went by, she did more and more romantic comedies and middling TV shows, but her career’s start – with Selena and Out of Sight and…Anaconda – signaled her as a major talent, capable of a lot more than she’s done. Sure, her music career always came first, and those Affleck films sure didn’t help things, but I always hoped she’d get back to some great character work. Not too late, JLo!

No reason to get blue about it!

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The Set of 400: #249 – My Favorite Prison Tuxedo

Today! Because you can’t have six cards in a five card game –

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring George Clooney (x2), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia (x2), Elliott Gould (x2), Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner (x3), Bernie Mac, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle (x2), Topher Grace, Joshua Jackson (x2)

A remake so much better than the original that it’s almost unfair to mention its existence, 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven was the movie that I think everyone assumed Steven Soderbergh could make, but never would. Sure, Out of Sight hits largely the same tone, and with Clooney, too, but it isn’t quite the bustling movie star popcorn extravaganza that this film is. But while in some cases I’ve advocated that a filmmaker winning an Oscar was detrimental to society as a whole – Spielberg’s four year hiatus after Schindler’s List, James Cameron’s everything after Titanic, etc. – Soderbergh’s win for Traffic may have actually freed him up to make something more purely fun, purely Hollywood than we would’ve expected.

And boy did it deliver. Yes, the sequels were underwhelming and unnecessary, straight through to last year’s okay-if-beating-a-dead-mare Ocean’s 8, but the first movie is a dazzling gem of subterfuge and sleight of hand. From Danny Ocean’s first appearance, getting out of jail in a full on tuxedo, this movie is chocked full of style, attitude, and more than a little winking-at-itself humor that totally works. Sure, with a cast this large and accomplished, it’s bound to feel like some folks got a little wasted through lack of use, but they do manage to give everybody just enough character bits and snappy lines to satisfy – for the most part. Continue reading

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