Few filmmakers follow their own muse more than Steven Soderbergh. Since his first feature Palme d’Or in 1989 Sex, lies and video, Soderbergh has hustled from genre to genre, making absolute bangers time and time again for over thirty years. He did everything outrageously elegant Ocean’s Eleven at shooting psychological horror film on iphone Foolish experimental comedy Schizopolis, and he’s always finding new ways to advance himself as a filmmaker. Add to that that he was the cinematographer and editor of his films for many, many years at this point. One can only be inspired by the impressive volume/quality ratio that Soderbergh has achieved during his career.
After winning the Best Director Oscar in 2000 for Traffic (where he was nominated alongside him for directing Erin Brockovitch) and the massive financial success of the oceans trilogy, his creative impulses were not necessarily the most commercial. movies like whack and Side effects weren’t making much of a splash at the box office, and the types of movies he wanted to do were getting tougher. behind the candelabrahis biopic on Liberace featuring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, was carried away by HBO, even if it is an excellent film and a good bait for the awards, because no studio wanted to take the financial risk. After Lucky Logan and Foolish had been released and had done very little business, Soderbergh told Atlantic:
“The minute I knew, which is usually around noon Friday, that ‘Logan Lucky’ was not going to work and that ‘Unsane’ definitely wasn’t going to work – as soon as that happens, the studio should let me drop the film on a platform next week. There should be a mechanism for when something dies at the box office like that.”
Since Foolish, Steven Soderbergh has released five films in the space of three years. These five films were released directly to streaming services. It’s a fascinating time for the director, because he’s making films for very little money and really marching to the beat of his own drum. Here, let’s count down Soderbergh’s five streaming efforts, see how they stack up against each other, and how he continues to push himself as a storyteller.
5. The Laundromat (2019)
The only movie from Steven Soderbergh’s streaming era that really fell on his face was 2019 The laundery, his second (and so far last) film for Netflix. While boasting an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wrightand Will Forte, this review of the history of the Panama Papers tries to do a lot and doesn’t really accomplish much. It is presented more in the tradition with the recent release of Adam McKaywith movies like The big court and Don’t look up, than anything else, with the breaking of the fourth wall, the graphics and all that makes these films a little boring too. At least McKay’s anger and brashness come from the same place, while Soderbergh and the screenwriter Scott Z. Burns are certainly angry, but brashness does not suit them. Plus, the movie features Meryl Streep in brownface as a Panamanian woman named Elena, and there’s absolutely no excuse for that.
4. Let Them All Talk (2020)
Forgive me, Meryl, for putting your two collabs with Steven Soderbergh at the bottom. That being said, the 2020s let them all talkwhere Soderbergh had moved from Netflix to HBO Max, is a major step up from The laundery. The film stars Streep as an ailing writer who travels from the United States to the United Kingdom on the ship Queen Mary II, as she is unable to fly due to her health. Along the journey with her are her nephew (Lucas Haies), its agent (Gemma Chan), and two old friends she hasn’t spoken to in a long time (Candice Bergen and Diane West). The film is an extremely low-key, mostly improvised comedy about regret, aging, and the hope for a second chance. Candice Bergen gives a performance that should have been in the conversation for Best Supporting Actress, though HBO Max really isn’t sure how to market this movie or give it proper consideration during the pandemic. It’s an odd little movie, but definitely a charmer.
3. No Sudden Movement (2021)
If there’s one genre that Soderbergh pretty much perfected, it’s the detective film. No sudden movement is yet another example of why. What begins as a simple job for Don Cheadleis Curt and Benicio del Toro‘s Ronald for Easy Money in 1954 Detroit turns into a story that features twist after twist, double cross after double cross, and it all ends up being a rant about automakers deliberately silencing news about cataclysmic effects of pollution on the environment. Again, Soderbergh pulls out all the stops to mount a cast, because Kieran Culkin, David Harbor, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta, Julia Fox, Noah Skirt, Jon Hamm, Bill Dukeand an absolutely fantastic uncredited Matt Damon join Cheadle and del Toro here. Much of the film is shot with extremely wide, bordering fish-eye lenses, giving every moment a slightly queasy feeling. It mixes having a good time looking at a crime picture with some really important messages about corporate corruption. A real “they don’t make them like that anymore” movie.
2. KIMI (2022)
Speaking of ‘don’t do ’em like that again’, we’ve got Soderbergh’s latest film KIMI. Here we have a real kind of throwback to the surveillance paranoia thriller. Zoe Kravitz plays Angela, an agoraphobic woman who works for a giant tech company that created the Alexa Kimi-style device. She analyzes people’s Kimi order records and updates the data for things like regionalisms, song titles, and other ways to improve the algorithm. A stream, she hears something particularly disturbing, possibly a woman being mugged or worse. For various reasons, some people do not want this information to come to light. Kimi is a true crackerjack movie, filled with tense sequences throughout and a commanding central performance from Zoë Kravitz. Her physique and the expression of her past traumas create that person you so desperately want to root for. Beyond thrills Kimi has a lot to say about the good and bad of our overreliance on technology, working women, and life during COVID, which the film acknowledges and unfolds during. For whatever reason, Kimi didn’t get a ton of fanfare before its release, but you can check it out on HBO Max right now. Well worth your time.
1. High Flying Bird (2019)
Steven Soderbergh’s first film in the streaming era is his best film, as well as being one of the best of his career overall. High flying bird takes the caper/heist structure of what made so many of his best films and places it in a setting you would never think of, the NBA. Andre Holland plays a sports agent trying to keep his clients under contract while the NBA is on lockdown. Written by Moonlight playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney and shot on an iPhone 8, High flying bird plays such a wonderful magic trick on you, because the capricious nature of the movie doesn’t surprise you until near the end of the movie. You’ve spent so much time trying to figure out the relationship dynamics between the characters and how the company treats black athletes, but when you realize what’s been going on the entire time, the elation is unmatched. Interspersed throughout the film are interviews with NBA players Karl Anthony Towns, Donovan Mitchelland Reggie Jackson about their experiences entering the league which gives the film an extra whole new dimension. High flying bird is one of those movies that could never get made if a theatrical release was in the balance because it would fetch around $36, but it couldn’t be worth your time more.
Steven Soderbergh’s streaming era may not have changed whether his name on a movie poster meant it was an event or generated awards buzz, but the streaming has really allowed him to do what he wants. Great people want to work with him, his movies are cheap, and streaming services want as much of it as possible on their platforms. He has the ability to take risks and has made great movies with those chances. Streaming isn’t going away anytime soon, and I hope Steven Soderbergh doesn’t walk away from it anytime soon, either. Although, if they want to put these movies in a theater once in a while, that would be fine too.
And it might be released sooner than you think.
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