Things We’re Digging This Week – Soderbergh Edition

The gang goes into all the muscles and moments we love from Soderbergh

Each week the Lewton Bus gang will get together and write up a brief account of something we’re digging hard on this week. It can be a movie, TV, a puppy you met on the street, music, or anything, really! This week, though, we’re celebrating the cinematic marvels of director Steven Soderbergh with a whole week of articles focused on his work! Stop by our Soderbergh Week page for more.

Bee McGee The Ocean’s Sequels

While a lot of the praise for these films are thrown at the rather excellent first one, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen both have significant charms of their own. Twelve is Sodorbergh tricking a major studio into giving him $110m his meta, arthouse take on the heist genre, and it’s brilliant because of that. Thirteen is more like the first film as a result, but at the same time it’s a blast to watch Danny Ocean and the crew take on Al Pacino, who’s essentially playing Donald Trump.

Also, Vincent Cassel breakdancing through lasers is probably the high point of the whole series.

Jared EvesSoderbergh’s Subversion of Hollywood

Steven Soderbergh has always been able to easily dance between studio pictures and indies, at times even blurring the lines between the two thanks to his commitment to experimentation not just on set, but in his approach to all aspects of filmmaking.

This weekend brings us the release of Logan Lucky, the auteur’s newest film (remember when he “retired”? Yeah, neither do I, thankfully), and with it is his experiment in film advertising. Eschewing the normal and exorbitant advertising costs that seem to accompany even the most modestly budgeted Hollywood release, Soderbergh is hoping that word of mouth will help to drive the majority of ticket sales in most markets.

The other side of this is the limited distribution deal he has in place with the film’s distributor. This approach should yield better return for the film’s investors, producers, and cast and crew (as applicable). I admit I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but that doesn’t change my admiration toward Soderbergh and his willingness (need?) to push the envelope in order to secure greater creative freedoms for himself, and for other filmmakers.

It feels like the landscape for film distribution is shifting almost daily, and usually in favor of the corporations, so it’s nice to see some progress be made on the behalf of filmmakers and content creators (I kind of hate the word content – it feels like a cheapening of the artistry that goes into making a film or television show).

Shannon Hubbell The Possible Heists from Ocean’s 12

“We can’t train a cat that quickly.”

Kevin Kuhlman Spalding Gray

Steven Soderbergh is a cinematic chameleon. From his early days making festival darling indie-films like Sex, Lies, and Videotapes to the mainstream Ocean’s films, Soderbergh has constantly pushed himself to never rest on the laurels of what has worked in the past. And while they aren’t, by any means, my favorite of his filmography, Soderbergh’s work focusing on actor and monologist Spalding Gray are the most interesting works of his career.

Coming right before his career exploding works of the late 90s/early 2000s (Out of Sight, Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and Ocean’s Eleven), Soderbergh spent ten days with Spalding Gray (having previously worked together on King of the Hill) shooting and editing Gray’s Anatomy, the last monologue Gray would release cinematically. It’s an interesting look into the minds of both men, as Soderbergh is constantly playing with his backdrops, cameras, and angles while Gray chats away about the fears of surgery and Christian Science.

Sadly, Gray passed away in 2004 having committed suicide three years after a debilitating car accident. Working with his widow Kathleen Russo, Soderbergh directed And Everything is Going Fine as a tribute to Gray. The film is taken from clips of Gray’s various monologues as well as home video footage, which Soderbergh edited together to form a narrative of the life and legacy of his friend. Soderbergh uses a similar editing style as he did with Gray’s Anatomy, weaving clips in and out to form a narrative merely through Gray’s words. As Russo said, “[he] wanted Spalding to tell the story, as if it was his last monologue, and I think he accomplished that.”

As the founder of our ongoing Stream of Consciousness series, it would behoove me to mention that both of these films are streaming on the Criterion Channel on Filmstruck. Both are worth a viewing.

Andrew Clark The Abdominal Muscles in Magic Mike

You know I had a couple of things I wanted to say but you’ll have to wait for me to pick my jaw up off the floor before I can say it.

That’s it for this week’s Soder-Digs, friends! What do you love most about the acclaimed director? Is it a performance, a moment, a song choice? Let us know in the comments and continue the conversation! And be sure to check out Lucky Logan and then our review!

  • Jamikel

    With all due respect to Joe Manganiello, my favorite Soderbergh abdominals is definitely Contagion. It’s a great thriller, but also a celebration of science, and especially a celebration of women in science. It’s one of the smartest and flat-out best films of the past decade, and doesn’t get nearly the amount of love it deserves.