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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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This Week in Blu-ray

This week provides another interesting round of Blu-ray releases. Just before George Lucas delivers Red Tails, HBO is ready to release the original — and great, if you ask me — Tuskegee Airmen film they produced years ago. But that’s not getting a review this week, as a review copy was not available. Notable as it may be, that original Tuskegee film doesn’t hold a candle to Ryan Gosling’s political career, or Criterion’s take on Steven Soderbergh’s drug trade epic, or even Ed O’Neill duking out with a pretentious kid on the way home for the holidays. It’s an exciting week, despite the fact that we’re clearly caught in the  doldrums of the winter movie season. The Ides of March In its own sneaky way, George Clooney’s high tension political drama stayed under the radar and snuck in late as one of 2011’s best dramas. The Golden Globes took notice, awarding the film four nominations — though it did not take home any awards. The key to the whole thing is Ryan Gosling, in his best performance of a year filled with best performances, as an idealistic campaign staffer who gets caught in some seriously dirty politics. In a world that is most often all talk, it’s his ability to weave a web of words that ultimately leads him through a forest of deception. Clooney delivers as director, assembling one hell of a cast — Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman and himself, to name a few — and keeps the pace with a […]

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Culture Warrior

For the past few weeks, cinephiles, journalists, and critics have been grappling with the notion of what ‘post-9/11 cinema’ is, has been, will be, and/or looks like. What they’ve come up with are a group of wildly different, potentially specious, but ultimately quite fascinating explorations on the relationship between art, commerce, and life – and by ‘life’ I mean, in this case, that rare type of event whose effect takes on an enduringly profound, universally personal, omnipresent ripple. The overwhelming conclusion that most of these observations end with is, rather appropriately and naturally, “I don’t know, but here are some thoughts.” Besides those works of audiovisual media that were directly inspired by, intentionally referenced, or somehow directly related to 9/11, it’s difficult to say exactly what a post-9/11 film is unless one allows for literally every film made afterward to potentially enter such a category. But perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong question.

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After two very light weeks of releases, This Week in Blu-ray is as full as she’s ever been. We’ve got new movies, movies from yesteryear, good movies, bad movies and seemingly everything in between.

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Driving Miss Daisy is one of three films in history, and the only one in modern history, to do something incredible at the Academy Awards. Find out what the phenomenon is inside.

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cultwarrior_decadeinreview

This week’s Culture Warrior gives an exhaustive review of the decade that you won’t find anywhere else on the Interwebs.

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