Soderbergh on Cinema
April 29, 2013 9:52 PM   Subscribe

The problem is that cinema, as I define it and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience. The reasons for this, in my opinion, are more economic than philosophical, but when you add an ample amount of fear and lack of vision and a lack of leadership you’ve got a trajectory that is pretty difficult to reverse. - "Retired" director Steven Soderbergh speaks to the San Francisco International Film Festival about the state of cinema - (summary, full audio at bottom of page 2)
posted by Artw (49 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I haven't looked at anything in any of these links.... but based on my own experience, the fascinating concept of "cinema", as was being explored 40 years ago, is pretty much dead in any form of mainstream consciousness. I find this saddening and troubling, and it makes me fear for the future of the artform unless a major cultural shift takes place that values being challenged and doens't demand simple answers and easy endings.

Okay, now I will see what Soderbergh has to say.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Goddamn it. I need to go to bed.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:22 PM on April 29, 2013


This is viral marketing for Iron Man 3, isn't it?
posted by mazola at 10:27 PM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Soderbergh recalled being startled during “Ocean’s 13” at the information that the electricity cost for keeping their casino set operating ran the production $60,000 a week.

I know you're startled, Mr. Soderbergh, but here in Vegas $60,000 is a pretty reasonable amount to lose. Tell ya what. Your room is free.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:29 PM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Haha Meta dude http://imgur.com/yjsV41y
posted by dubitable at 10:50 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing I love about Soderbergh is that he has such a nuanced and deep awareness of the history of cinema, both in front of the lens and behind it - and he loves talking about it, and thinking about it. He understands how the studio system has evolved, where it came from, why it is the way it is, and he doesn't shy away from that, or scapegoat it.

He can also - for all his modesty - work successfully within and without it, a kind of delicate dance, just like he does with his films and genre conventions of one stripe or another.

I suppose for this former film studies major he is a director sculpted to precisely answer my needs: aware, articulate, entertaining; part of the mass discourse, yet also apart from it in curious and stimulating ways. Not a film studies professor's director, but definitely a student's director - a true amateur, one who does it for love.

I think he is a literate, thoughtful, interesting and interested filmmaker - our generation's Billy Wilder, and people will still be talking about him long after your Nolans and the like have been consigned to footnotes. He could well have gone the way of Coppola, succumbing to megalomania and irrelevance, but instead he stepped back, and has continued producing interesting movies year after year. I'll miss him. I hope he does tv; he seems made for it.
posted by smoke at 10:56 PM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I notice the exquisite belt worn by Thorin Oakenshield, I see excellent cinema. But I'm just one of the complacent audience members, so what do I know.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:57 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find Soderbergh impossible to like or care about. I need somebody to give me that one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes it possible for me to sympathize creatively, philosophically or economically with somebody that made a killing pumping out that Ocean's crap.
posted by phaedon at 10:57 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you watched any of his other films, Phaedon? He has made around 30.
posted by smoke at 11:00 PM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I need somebody to give me that one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes it possible for me to sympathize creatively, philosophically or economically with somebody that made a killing pumping out that Ocean's crap.

Is this the piece you're looking for?


Ok, I kid. This is the piece you're looking for.
posted by mazola at 11:03 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I need somebody to give me that one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes it possible for me to sympathize creatively, philosophically or economically with somebody that pumped out that Ocean's crap.

If you'll look at his chronological filmography, you'll see that he likely used "that Ocean's crap" to allow himself the freedom to do several interesting films in between each of those movies.
posted by hippybear at 11:06 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ocean's was very good crap. I mean, if you're going to make crap, you may as well make good crap.

Just rewatched The Limey last night. I remembered the gist of it quite well, but had completely forgotten the point, so to speak. The Informant! is utterly inspired. Never liked sex, though.
posted by dhartung at 11:35 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


When he was at a test screening for "Contagion" and a guy stood up and said, "I hate the Jude Law character, I don't know if he's a hero or an asshole," he thought "there it goes."

I'd like to see a comedy-horror film about an exasperated film director whose latest film is ruined when the ending is changed to satisfy the complaints of the morons at a test screening. The director goes insane, tracks them down and rips their eyes out.
posted by homunculus at 11:47 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Him and Clooney do those so studios will work with them on their passion projects, stuff like Goodnight and Good Luck, right?

Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen were odd for big time movies too.Twelve had Julia Roberts playing Tess Ocean as well as Herself. Tess Ocean, played by Julia Roberts, impersonates Julia Roberts for a heist. That is some experimental shit right there. Thirteen I don't remember the plot at all but it had some strange split screen effects going on.

The thing I was stuck by is that Jim Jarmusch has a vampire move, which upon reflection, makes perfect sense.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:01 AM on April 30, 2013


Jim Jarmusch has a vampire move

Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.
posted by homunculus at 12:07 AM on April 30, 2013


If you'll look at his chronological filmography, you'll see that he likely used "that Ocean's crap" to allow himself the freedom to do several interesting films in between each of those movies.

Not to mention that in one of his many interviews around the time Side Effects came out he was adamant that while blockbusters like the Oceans movies helped him do smaller, less profitable films he would never commit the time and effort to a project he didn't believe in. They might have been more typical of big Hollywood movies, but he isn't opposed to Hollywood (the first link in the OP mentions his favorite movie is Jaws).
posted by edeezy at 12:07 AM on April 30, 2013


Ocean's was very good crap. I mean, if you're going to make crap, you may as well make good crap.

Indeed! It's the cinematic equivalent of my dog taking his 6am crap directly in front of the garbage can and complimentary dog waste bags, and it comes out in one solid splendid log, and I'm able to scoop it up and dispose of it in one motion while sipping my coffee. Mmmmm!
posted by mannequito at 12:19 AM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I understand not liking OCEAN'S 11, but claiming that it's crap is more a reflection on you than the movie. It's also a really fucking stupid reason to decide that Soderbergh isn't worth listening to.
posted by incessant at 12:24 AM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Soderbergh knows how to make a good movie, but he doesn't know how to make a great movie. I don't think it's the studios holding him back. If Contagion was going to be representative output, yeah by all means try different things.
posted by fleacircus at 12:26 AM on April 30, 2013


(Though for a few years I loved Out of Sight way too much.)
posted by fleacircus at 12:27 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Out of Sight is pretty terrific. I think that's maybe my favorite movie of his. I recently saw Side Effects (Side Affects(?)) and was impressed with his craftsmanship as a filmmaker and director but not the script. I thought the same about Erin Brockovitch which had a better script, though. They are not revolutionary films, by any means. But they are smart and clean and well put together and don't suck.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:32 AM on April 30, 2013


Soderbergh knows how to make a good movie, but he doesn't know how to make a great movie.

I totally agree with this sentiment. But I guess anyone who kills off Gwyneth Paltrow in the first five minutes of a movie deserves a more charitable read in my book.
posted by phaedon at 12:45 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Soderbergh, and most of his movies. Here's a terrific recent interview with him.
posted by muckster at 12:52 AM on April 30, 2013


Black text on dark grey background. I hope this website is gonna pay for my freaking eye surgery after reading this.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 2:09 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cyclopsis Raptor: "Black text on dark grey background. I hope this website is gonna pay for my freaking eye surgery after reading this."

Readability bookmarklets are going to be your best friend today, then!
posted by barnacles at 2:47 AM on April 30, 2013


He's the guy that makes the remakes yeah?
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 2:54 AM on April 30, 2013


Soderbergh knows how to make a good movie, but he doesn't know how to make a great movie.

Yeah but at least he seems to be trying to make interesting movies when so many mainstream filmmakers have given up.
posted by octothorpe at 3:27 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find Steven Soderbergh both interesting and irrelevant. Perhaps there's some love/hate mixed in there, to boot. An eye-rolling shake of the head is my usual reaction to hearing about the latest Soderbergh movie/opinion/auteur antic. I don't have time to read the above links right now, but my take on him is (and has been for awhile) that he's the result of errant postmodernism combined with tremendous publicity instincts and a large chip on his shoulder. To me he's an example of someone who uses the intellectual tropes of postmodern literary theory combined with ironic distance fueled by gargantuan self-esteem issues to wiggle his way across the increasingly thin cultural landscape. I enjoy some of his movies (The Limey) but find many a bit dull; sometimes because they are simply dull and other times because he seems to be trying so hard to be an auteur. I don't always love/like Jim Jarmusch or Hal Hartley movies but I never feel like they're grasping for relevance and recognition. I think of Steven Soderbergh as being a latter-day James Dean, walking around the set wearing a pair of tortoise shell glasses and carrying an appropriately "weighty" book so as to be recognized for the intellect he wishes he was. Kind of harsh, I know. But after awhile it's just too much bother to tease out.

That being said, I'm glad he's been around making films. Sometimes certain filmmakers suffer for their early critical successes. Quentin Tarantino and Wes Andersen pop to mind. I suspect they have too many sycophants hanging around and no one to say "Really? That's what you want to do next?" when that would come in rather handy.

I don't know if the Slate writer really watched Soderbergh's whole filmography, but if he did I kind of feel sorry for him and hope his health insurance covers therapy.
posted by kidkilowatt at 3:59 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or does this thread prove his point.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:19 AM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I recently saw Side Effects (Side Affects(?)) and was impressed with his craftsmanship as a filmmaker and director but not the script.

Starts as Hitchcock and ends as a superior episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
posted by Artw at 4:38 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shakespeherian: Ironies abound. The "What's Poppin" sidebar on the IndieWire article reads, "Watch: 3 Stylish and Violent clips from Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives".

Refn is another interesting/frustrating filmmaker.
posted by kidkilowatt at 4:46 AM on April 30, 2013


But who will direct Oceans 14-19?
posted by nathancaswell at 4:49 AM on April 30, 2013


There has always been a large slice of Hollywood with an aversion to taking chances. I think the takeaway here is that the slice is getting bigger, even though there are more independent movies than ever.
Those independent movies are getting better and better distribution online, luckily.
Today with digital projection, there is no reason not to offer more independent (and classic) movies in the theater, even if they have a run of one night only.
On the other hand, it seems like a lot of the creatives who got frustrated with Hollywood went to make awesome TV shows, which is fine by me.
posted by starman at 5:24 AM on April 30, 2013


A confession: I've seen a good sized batch of Soderbergh's movies, big ones and small ones, arty ones and commercial ones: The Limey; Haywire; Ocean's Eleven and Twelve; Out of Sight; Traffic; sex, lies, and videotape. On paper, they all sound great. They should be. Many people love 'em. But they leave me cold. There's something in his style that won't mesh with me, and I wish I could put my finger on it. Maybe they feel too consciously constructed rather than felt? Hm.

The article linked above is solid, though it feels like I've been reading these complaints from various sources for decades. Hollywood's tension between Art and Commerce continues, and wow, lookit that, Commerce is winning as it always does. Given the insane sums of money involved, I understand why. The rise of alternative distribution avenues is our only hope for halfway decent movies. At least until that becomes big money as well, and then we're boned again.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:00 AM on April 30, 2013


I do kind of feel like Soderbergh is protesting too much. If he doesn't like the studio system, he should get out of it and make smaller indie movies. If people like Shane Carruth or Patrick Wang can managed to make movies that the studios would never finance, I'm sure that someone with the connections that Soderbergh has could too. He might not be able to afford to hire Jude Law or Rooney Mara but he could make movies without interference.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 AM on April 30, 2013


I don't think his complaint is about whether he personally can make XYZ movies, I think his complaint is larger and systemtic.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:40 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's also been tweeting under the handle Bitchuation now that he's retired.
posted by lowest east side at 6:48 AM on April 30, 2013


Count me in as a huge fan - The Informant! dazzled me so much that I watched it twice in one day. I like his dark stuff, the lighter stuff is usually at least well made (and the cast on Ocean's 11 was having a blast, it comes through on screen), and the cinematography is clearly something he is very skilled at. I like that he's experimental and brave and has something to say, yet he's not making the same movie over and over again (*cough* Wes Anderson *cough*.)

At this exact moment in time, I'm going to go hunt for some of Ebert's reviews of Soderbergh's films, because Ebert. It's about to dump buckets in New Orleans, I wasn't planning on going anywhere anyway...
posted by polly_dactyl at 8:45 AM on April 30, 2013


Metafilter: I haven't looked at anything in any of these links...

It had to be said.
posted by ersatz at 9:06 AM on April 30, 2013


Soderbergh knows how to make a good movie, but he doesn't know how to make a great movie.

Fish in a barrel. Even without looking IMDB, I can say:

Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a great movie.
Out of Sight is a great movie.
The Limey is a GREAT movie.

If he doesn't like the studio system, he should get out of it and make smaller indie movies.

You know what? Bubble is a great film. Ebert says so too.

I don't think his complaint is about whether he personally can make XYZ movies, I think his complaint is larger and systemtic.

Yeah, he's (supposedly) done with movies (thought it's now called a "hiatus") and I suppose here he is explaining why. This part in particular is insane:

Soderbergh dropped the problematic math: a $10 million dollar studio movie, that spends $60 million to market it, needs to make $140 million to break even.

6x marketing:production costs?! SHENANIGANS. "Cinema" has already moved on to YouTube and Vimeo.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:11 AM on April 30, 2013


I demand more love for Full Frontal.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:20 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and here's the video, released "due to unprecedented demand."
posted by muckster at 2:21 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The Limey" is great for the lap pool alone. Lo these many years later, after watching the film, I am still drooling over that lap pool.
posted by raysmj at 5:28 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


raysmj, I found this interesting take on the choice of Astral House (the place with the cantilevered lap pool) being an example of a "systematic denigration" by Hollywood of the architectural heritage of Los Angeles, since these interesting luxury homes are often cast as those of movie villains.
posted by dhartung at 7:06 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was guessing that would reference "Los Angeles Plays Itself." Thanks!
posted by raysmj at 11:21 PM on April 30, 2013




Guess I'm the last one here, but still: State of the Union: The 5 Key Points of Soderbergh’s Speech
posted by muckster at 4:15 PM on May 2, 2013


Full transcript.
posted by Artw at 12:42 PM on May 5, 2013


The thing I was stuck by is that Jim Jarmusch has a vampire move, which upon reflection, makes perfect sense.

Watch Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston transform into Rock God Vampires
posted by homunculus at 7:30 PM on May 15, 2013


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