Rank ‘Em: Steven Soderbergh’s Films

My interest in Steven Soderbergh is strongly rooted in his general lack of commonality within his oeuvre. With the notable exception of the Ocean’s series, no two films share an overwhelming vibe that screams “Soderbergh,” despite his fondness for working with certain actors … and that strikes me as an unusually rare quality. Werner Herzog’s films are distinguished by the protagonist battling personal demons. The majority of David Lynch’s films are defined (or undefined) by the surreal. Clint Eastwood is a paradigm of simplicity. Terrance Malick aims to characterize nature. Great directors all, yet all with a clearly defined comfort zone.

To be fair, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a distinguishing characteristic. In fact, Herzog and Lynch are likely my favorite directors, and my least favorite of their works are those that stray too far from their respective wheelhouses. It is for this reason that I became intrigued with Soderbergh’s filmography – I have no natural biases created by a want for a specific theme or philosophy.

Without further ado:
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Extended Thoughts: Drive

I often find myself at a loss for words when trying to encapsulate my thoughts on a film. This is true with films that I love, films that I hate, and most everything in between. Truly, my appreciation for cinema as an art runs so deep that I cannot help but feel as if I have done a disservice if I do not spend ample time digesting what I have just seen before regurgitating something onto the page. That more so than anything else explains my meandering thoughts that constitute my reviews. Such is not the case with Drive, as I departed from the theater with one word on my mind:


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Review: Warrior

Director: Gavin O’Connor
Story: Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman
Screenplay: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman
Producers: Greg O’Connor
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 140 minutes

In order for a sports film to become transcendent, it must seamlessly blend the emotion and physicality of the sport with the heart and soul of the athletes themselves. I am not sure that I could have written a more cliché sentence to introduce my thoughts, yet I am equally unsure that it is possible to provide thoughtful analysis of something as grounded in clichés as sports without delving into the metaphorical. Few sports films accomplish this, choosing to focus too much on either the person or the event and failing to enthrall the viewer. In reality, such a film must make us love or hate the athlete so much so that we carry our emotions into the competition, creating an actual rooting interest in a decidedly unreal event.

Rocky is such a film. Raging Bull is such a film. The Wrestler is such a film. And Warrior is such a film.
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Extended Thoughts: Submarine

Director: Richard Ayoade
Story: Joe Dunthorne
Screenplay: Richard Ayoade
Producer: Ben Stiller
Starring: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 97 min.

It was nearly a year ago that those of us in the third row ventured to the Great White North for TIFF, and it was there that the discussion of the remarkable Submarine essentially began and ended. I cannot say whether this was a product of ambivalence or the simple fact that the widening release of the film has progressed at a veritable trickle … but I can say with certainty that further discussion is a necessity.

Speaking in broad strokes, it is fairly simple to see the ample influence of Wes Anderson and, to a lesser extent, Michael Gondry. I feel that that is something of an oversimplification, as we are oftentimes pigeonholed into a comparative mindset in the all too common “coming of age tale,” but it would be naive to suggest that the similarities aren’t there. That being said, I do feel that viewing Submarine as an homage of sorts is a great disservice to a very charming, very personal film.
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