Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly: Steven Soderbergh


When Jenny (JBT) pitched the idea for a recurring feature called The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly, I was immediately on board. If there is one thing I have learned from blogging about films, and talking to those who love film, it is that everyone has different opinions on what makes up the best works of an actor, director, writer, etc. Some of the best discussions arise when people are adamantly defending a work that someone else hates.

The premise of this is simple: if someone, who knows little about the director/actor/etc. in question, asked you to select one film for each of the following three categories below what films would they be?:

1) The Good – A film they should seek out right away
2) The Bland – Not among the best, but still a film they should see.
3) The Ugly – If pressed for time, this is the one film that they should skip in order to squeeze in more hours for the top works.


Keeping this in mind, my three would be as follow:


The Good – As a Steven Soderbergh fan I would argue that 90% of his films fall into this category. However, keeping in mind the rules established, if I am only allowed to pick one film to support it would have to be Out of Sight. My knee-jerk reaction is to go with The Limey, Solaris, or Schizopolis, but Out of Sight is the Soderbergh film I find myself revisiting the most. Out of Sight tells the tale of a bank robber (George Clooney) and a U.S. Marshal (Jennifer Lopez) who fall in love after being forced to spend time in a car trunk together. What I like about this film is that it perfectly displays Soderbergh’s style while still being accessible to the mainstream. An added bonus is that the script is just so immensely pleasing to the ear. Not to mention that it is one of the sexiest film ever made that features very little sex.


The BlandKing of the Hill. The story focuses on a young boy (Jesse Bradford) who struggles to survive on his own in a hotel during the Great Depression. To me this film always seems to be forgotten when movie lovers are debating Soderbergh’s films. I would like to think it is because it came in that period just after Sex Lies and Videotapes where everything he released (e.g. Kafka, The Underneath, etc.) was compared to that film. Outside of Erin Brockovich, this is probably Soderbergh’s most mainstream film to date. Regardless, the film works well for what it is. Those looking for a more stylized, and/or more experimental, Soderbergh film will probably be disappointed. However, those looking for a nice way to kill a few hours should give this film a chance.


The Ugly – There was a time when Ocean’s Twelve would have been in this spot but, after several blogger pub night debates that led to me re-watching the film, I have seen the light on that film and now quite enjoy it. So I will go with a film that I had the exact opposite experience with, Bubble. The film is a murder mystery of sorts revolving around a group of co-workers at a doll-making factory. I had originally liked the film when I first saw it at TIFF back in 2005. However, I find that the film does not hold up well upon subsequent viewings. While I am all for Soderbergh experimenting with various techniques (e.g. using non-actors) and technology, it is actually the main story that is just not that gripping.

What films would you select for each category? Provide reasons for your selections in the comments section.

14 comments:

  1. I freakin love this. I'm going to need time to decide where to place my film choices, but what did you think about Magic Mike?

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    1. Magic Mike is the only Soderbergh film I have yet to see. I was planning to go on Saturday but unforeseen circumstances curbed that. Looking forward to catching it this week though.

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  2. For me so far,

    The Good: sex, lies, & videotape, Out of Sight, The Limey, Traffic, & Che.

    The Bland: The Oceans trilogy, Solaris, The Informant!, and Contagion.

    The Ugly: Full Frontal and The Girlfriend Experience

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    1. Che part one would be in my The Good, and Che part two would be in my bland column. Also, I thought he did a great job with both Solaris and Contagion. They would be in my The Good as well. I need to see The Informant! again, did not like it that much the first time I watched it.

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  3. I could pick a lot of good ones. The other choices are harder. I'm going to choose two for each.

    The Good: Che Part One, The Limey

    The Bland: The Good German, Ocean's Thirteen

    The Ugly: Ocean's Twelve, Bubble

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    1. Glad to see Che Part One on your list, really loved that film.

      The Good German was almost going to be my pick for The Bland but went with King of the Hill instead.

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  4. THE GOOD: Almost everything he does (yes, everything) except the ones below

    THE BLAND: Contagion

    THE UGLY: Ocean's 12

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    1. Interesting that you ranked a lot of his films higher than Contagion. I thought that Contagion was one of the better virus related films to be released.

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  5. The Good = TRAFFIC. I guess maybe you were being kind and highlighting one of his other masterpieces (OUT OF SIGHT), but in my mind he hasn't beat TRAFFIC. It's a great movie.

    The Bland = THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. I quite enjoyed this movie, but at the same time due to it's low key experimental nature (very much like Bubble) it's a movie I don't expect a lot to love but I find a lot of merits.

    The Ugly = BUBBLE. pretty much meandering nonsense.

    More Soderbergh awesome people should watch

    KAFKA, OUT OF SIGHT, CONTAGION, SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE.

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    1. Traffic is definitely up there for me as well, but I would actually rank it slightly behind Out of Sight and The Limey.

      Seeing the trailers for Magic Mike has me itching to watch Kafka again. It has been far too long since I last watched that film.

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  6. Really cool idea here, and what a great subject. Soderbergh is one of my all-time favorite directors. I just love his work.

    The Good = I called Traffic the best film of the 2000s. It is a modern American masterpiece.

    The Bland = I've seen all of the dude's flicks, and I've honestly never seen a bland Soderbergh film. The Good German didn't do as much for me as his others, so I guess that counts.

    The Ugly = Again, I haven't seen a bad Soderbergh flick, but I will say King of the Hill is the one I find most uninteresting. And his short, Equilibrium, in the film Eros is his most pointless.

    Great post!

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    1. I have to agree with you on Equilibrium, if pressed for time I would tell people to save that for the very end when going through his filmography.

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  7. I'm so grateful OCEAN'S TWELVE isn't here. I have significant like (not quite love) for that movie. ERIN BROCKOVICH is my favourite work of his, though I've not seen all. His ability to make a film that's part thriller, part family drama, that's got heart, and wit and all unfolds so easily is enviable.

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    1. There was a time when Ocean's Twelve would have been near the bottom for me, but now I can appreciate the direction in which Soderbergh took the film.

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