Che

Soderbergh Schizopolis

In contrast to other well-respected filmmakers whose revisited obsessions traverse and develop across a litany of discrete works, Steven Soderbergh has most often been described as a expressive and ever-experimenting formalist, a master technician, a “process-rather-than-results person,” but never an auteur. But with Soderbergh’s immanent retirement on the horizon (his last theatrical film, Side Effects, will be released Friday, followed by his HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra), there seems to be a sense of urgency in attempting to make sense of a talented filmmaker who’s worked within and without the studio system, through various genres, and with budgets ranging from giant to shoestring. While Soderbergh is rather open about his process, what compels him to tackle certain subjects, and how they’re tied together, may remain a mystery – if, in fact, there’s any logic informing his choices at all beyond stylistic exercise and an addiction to workahol. But when examining the five (or, arguably, six) films of his that have been released through The Criterion Collection, an interesting pattern emerges – perhaps not one that encompasses all his works, but one that certainly applies to several films outside the small percentage of the prolific filmmaker’s career represented here.

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Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh is one of the most prolific filmmakers of our era. Though his early retirement is immanent, he’s released more films – and a greater variety of films – in his twenty-three years of directing than some filmmakers helm in a lifetime. Since bursting on the American independent film scene in 1989 with sex, lies, and videotape, Soderbergh has made studio blockbusters and micro-budget experiments, strange remakes and films that blur the line between narrative and documentary, not to mention semi-biopics of public figures as diverse as Spalding Gray, Che Guevara, Erin Brockovich, and Channing Tatum. He’s been a leader in exploring the possibilities of new digital filmmaking technologies, and it seems there isn’t a genre or scale of filmmaking that he hasn’t yet touched. He’s even made a film that you’ll never see. Last week, the trailer for Side Effects, Soderbergh’s last theatrical film and his penultimate film project (the final, final one being the made-for-HBO Liberace biopic Beyond the Candelabra), made its debut on the web. So with the supposed final days of an impressive career by a prolific filmmaker upon us, here’s a bit of free film school from a guy that considers both George Clooney and Sasha Grey his muses.

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Culture Warrior

A very strange thing happened at this year’s Golden Globes ceremony. Somewhere between Ricky Gervais’ biting monologue/critique and Robert De Niro’s uncomfortable lifetime achievement acceptance speech, an epic international arthouse film won the award for Best Made for Television Movie or Miniseries, beating out the other nominations in the typically HBO-dominated category. Olivier Assayas’ Carlos is, from an American perspective, quite difficult to classify. We first heard about it when it was met with rave reviews at Cannes and other festivals, then it was distributed theatrically through IFC (in its original 5 ½ hour run time) while it had a three-episode “miniseries” run on the Sundance Channel just as it had done in France when originally commissioned for French television. Now, before an explicitly planned DVD release (though there is some certainty that the film will be the latest IFC release to get the Criterion treatment), it’s available streaming in its three-part miniseries form via Netflix (which is how I eventually saw it). All this is to say that it’s quite a task to say with any certainty precisely what Carlos is and in which medium it belongs. The film was financed by French television, yet it’s shot in a widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1) typically reserved for theatrical cinema, and its 3-episode structure doesn’t follow the expectations of brief closure at the end of each segment typical of, say, an American television miniseries (it comes across more like a necessary break for exhibition and an arbitrary break in storytelling). Now […]

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Culture Warrior

Today is the day of the midterm elections, a day which will mark the stark transition from functionaries on the center who can’t accomplish anything holding office to functionaries on the right who are too busy yelling in every direction to accomplish anything holding office. Under that grand political tradition whose unwavering slogan is “Losing = Tyranny,” much has been made from candidates on the far right (who will become mainstream right if elected or exponentially grating windbags if not) about staging an armed revolution if, y’know, that whole democracy thing doesn’t work out for them. Well, before the pasty and overweight turn off the Fox News echo chamber and actually embody the daunting degree at which human action can precede human thought by taking arms against an administration that has done nothing to challenge their 2nd Amendment rights, I’d like to use the history of cinema to illustrate what true revolt against actual political oppression looks like.

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The Criterion Collection released the latest film in their catalog this week, Steven Soderbergh’s Che. We take a look under the hood and see what’s what with that guy on your t-shirt.

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dvdsboughtheader

Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves working as Jack Burton’s favorite mechanic helping to keep the Pork Chop Express tuned to a 6.9 on the Richter scale. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs.

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No one likes a sell out. But selling out goes both ways. This time of year, directors sell out in a different way. I’m talking about all the major mainstream Hollywood directors who “sell out” to do the award film released at the end of the year.

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I’m pretty sure no one is ever all that confused about what they should or shouldn’t wear to the movies, but just in case you are confused, or are drunk, this guide might help. But probably not.

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I currently have 28 different DVDs of award films that various studios have sent me. That’s about 50 or 60 hours of movies to get through in the next two weeks before the nomination window opens… in addition to the other seven mainstream movies I have to see in the next week.

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The folks at IFC have finally unveiled the domestic trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s grueling epic Che, which will be released in two parts starting January 9, 2009.

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Che Banner

The new ad banner shows star Benicio Del Toro as Che Guevara set against the very familiar red background which has been seen on dorm room walls and coed chests all across the world.

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2008 Toronto International Film Festival

Catch round 2 of our epic non-coverage of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), in which we live vicariously through our friends and neighbors around the web.

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The first international teaser poster for director Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming two-part biopic Che, which stars Benicio Del Toro as Ernesto “Che” Guevara, has made its way onto the web.

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Benicio Del Toro in Che

Director Steven Soderbergh’s fight to get Che released in the U.S. is looking tougher than the title character’s fight against the Cuban dictatorship. But shouldn’t stop you from checking out this YouTube clip of Benicio Del Toro as Che Guevara.

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Cannes Logo

The 2008 Cannes Film Festival is over and the awards have been announced. Cue the crickets. Sorry, that was wrong, cue le crickets.

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