The Aviator. I often struggle with biopics, but I liked this one a lot. I like how the film stock and coloring shifts with the passage of time, the recurring hands imagery, and the sympathy we feel as we see this man changing. “Nothing’s clean, Howard. But we do our best.”
The Grand Budapest Hotel. I dig it. It’s got the usual fussy-awesome art direction and some technically interesting camera stuff, but what I really liked here: a good heart. Didn’t have much of the rooted dysfunction or cynicism or weariness that made some of his previous movies kind of a drag for me at times. I think I’ll call this my favorite of the Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen.
Side Effects. I made this a Soderbergh-takes-on-controlled-substances double-feature with Traffic. Hitchcockian psycho-thriller here. It gets too clever in the final act, but I like that you see new facets of these characters all the way up to the end. I think his understated style helps manage those swings. Soderbergh can be pretty overt with his themes, especially with some side characters that are basically there for social commentary. The leads are strong, though. I totally forgot about the intro and did the jaw-drop forehead-slap thing with the kitchen scene. Good soundtrack tends to linger and push things along, like in Contagion.
And now to catch up on rankings for all the Soderbergh movies I’ve seen:
- Out of Sight
- Magic Mike
- The Girlfriend Experience
- The Informant!
- Ocean’s Eleven
- Side Effects
- Ocean’s Twelve
- Ocean’s Thirteen
Seriously, what a great director. I don’t think you can credibly use the word “mediocre” or even “average” about any of those movies until you get down to number 10 or 11 maybe.
The Talented Mr. Ripley. I had to re-watch after reading the appreciation in Bright Lights. Like Drive, this is one of those movies where I go in thinking, “I’ll just watch the opening 20 minutes or so, then skip around a bit”, and then an hour later I haven’t moved… Tom is even more pitiful than I remembered. Dickie is even more of an asshole. I can’t help but find Marge adorable–such a sunny, blank foil to the other two. Freddie is one of those characters you root for and also find kind of insufferable (Hoffman!). I still think Plein Soleil is a bit better.
Contagion. Pretty good. Deliberate, precise, dispassionate. It’s not a weepy melodrama. The point is to get a sense of all the moving parts. I’d call it scifi, but in the less-fantastical sense of exploring a hypothetical that isn’t (yet!?!!?!?!) true. Jude Law’s blogger/gadfly was a hoot. Another good score by Cliff Martinez (Cf.). This is only the third Steven Soderbergh movie for me, outside of the Ocean’s trilogy.
Sherlock Holmes. Mediocre. Too long. Seems to exist only to make way for a sequel. It’s frustrating to see so many actors I like stuck in a weak movie.