Tuesday, December 11, 2007
After nearly twenty years of feature length filmmaking, Steven Soderbergh remains one of the most original and important of all American directors. His career has been a fascinating mixture of fiercely independent work and overwhelmingly commercial but uncompromising material. He is one of the few directors around who has managed to combine the two, and be successful at both. I have seen the majority of Steven's work, with SCHIZOPOLIS and BUBBLE being my two biggest omissions, and I thought to go along with OUT OF SIGHT week I would give a nod to my favorites. So in descending order, here are my favorite Soderbergh projects so far. I have no doubt that his upcoming GUERRILLA will make this list "Soderbergh's Fourteen".
13. THE UNDERNEATH (1995): Soderbergh's disappointing, but still worthwhile, mid nineties noir finds him in a bit of a rut just before his major creative rebirth. Still, the film is better than most give it credit for and Elisabeth Shue is extremely good in it.
12. KAFKA (1991): I've never quite warmed up to Steven's odd SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE follow-up but it is still an intriguing little experiment. The film is gorgeous to watch and both Jeremy Irons and Theresa Russell are excellent. The rumored upcoming Criterion disc is sure to make it all the more inviting.
11. ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000): My distaste for Juila Roberts clouds what is otherwise a very strong film. Roberts is good in the main title role, but the real reason to watch it is for Steven's confident direction and the scene stealing Albert Finney.
10. OCEAN'S THIRTEEN (2007): The newest was the weakest but it was still a lot of fun. The addition of Pacino and Barkin certainly helped what could have been a very tired retread of the first two.
9. TRAFFIC (2000): The film that won Steven many awards is a solid and thoughtful production, although it doesn't compare to the original BBC or USA remake. It is hampered by some poor casting choices, but the work of Benecio Del Toro and Catherine Zeta Jones is remarkable.
8. FULL FRONTAL (2002): The little film everyone loves to hate is half a masterpiece, and only slips in the Julia Roberts movie section. Mary McCormack is sublime and Catherine Keener is savagely good in this, one of Soderbergh's most under appreciated films.
7. OCEAN'S ELEVEN: Soderbergh's most financially successful film is undeniably infectious and fun. Featuring a cast of some of the brightest stars in modern American cinema, and an astonishing score by David Holmes, OCEAN'S ELEVEN is is unstoppably entertaining.
6. K STREET (2003): One of the great television series of the decade that was unfortunately cancelled after less than ten episodes. Smart, funny and searing with Mary McCormack delivering yet another showcase performance for him, Soderbergh's K STREET was too good for television.
5. SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE (1989): Soderbergh's feature length debut remains one of the most important first films of the past three decades. Smart, funny, inventive and undeniably great. This film, along with Gus Van Sant's DRUGSTORE COWBOY, helped bury the eighties and signaled the nineties as a much more invigorating decade in American cinema.
4. OCEAN'S TWELVE (2004): Trumps the first one on every count...genre bending, self-referential and masterful, OCEAN'S TWELVE is one of the great films of the decade. The fact that it continues to be reviled only fuels my love for it.
3. SOLARIS (2002): Along with IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE, I'm not sure if there is a more underrated film from this decade around. Criminally ignored by both the critics and public, Soderbergh's great remake is a haunting, emotional masterpiece. For my money its the best science fiction film since Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER.
2. THE LIMEY (1999): Soderbergh's thrilling tribute to the sixties is the stuff of legend. Featuring Terence Stamp in a career defining performance, and some of the most inventive cutting ever, THE LIMEY is an unforgettable experience that works on a near impossible number of levels...a really stunning film that just gets better and better with each viewing.
1. OUT OF SIGHT (1998): The film that put Soderbergh back on the map and teamed him up with his most valuable cinematic partner, George Clooney, for the first time. My look at this film will continue throughout the week.
I really need to see the handful of Soderbergh's productions that I haven't yet soon. Any recommendations on where to start are appreciated.
For more on Steven Soderbergh please visit this excellent site.