Is Steven Soderbergh one of Hollywood’s least appreciated filmmakers?
On the one hand, the man has achieved his share of success. He won an Oscar for Traffic, he helmed the commercially successful Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, and several of his earlier works are adored by critics — Out Of Sight perhaps most of all. The man consistently puts out solid product, with only a couple of titles that have been adject artistic failures. (Ocean’s Twelve was particularly dismal.) Yet it seems we take him for granted. Maybe that’s because his movies tend to be more like genre exercises than passion projects; he executes them so expertly, and yet we rarely (if ever) feel his beating heart behind the story and characters. He always seems a tad removed from the films he’s made, whether or not that is actually the case.
Since my live blog of the Golden Globes this year was surprisingly popular (really, I didn’t think anyone would care what I have to say), I am again live-blogging and tweeting up a storm for the Academy Awards this evening.
It’s that time of year again, folks! What I like to call “movie Christmas.” And like an actual holiday, the Academy Awards often end up as more of a disappointment than anything else — any Oscars handed out to not-so-great nominated films like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Iron Lady can be chalked up to the cinematic equivalent of “ugly sweaters from grandma we’ll throw in the back of the closet and never speak of again.” But it’s really the excitement leading up to the big show and the discussions of film it creates that make it all worthwhile.
So here’s where I like to make up for the Academy’s occasional lapses in good taste by recognizing the movies and performances that are really worthy of celebration. Because what has a group of thousands of filmmakers with decades of experience in the entertainment industry got on me?
Though so many of us take the Oscars very seriously (guilty as charged), really, it’s just a game. It’s no different than the Super Bowl, except there are about five teams playing in every “quarter” and it’s actually quite embarrassing to be wearing the same outfit as anyone else. No jerseys on the red carpet.
Naturally, I was on Team Shame until it was not-too-shockingly nominated for nothing. That happens a lot in sports — your team doesn’t make it to the playoffs. Whatever. You pick another horse and bet on that one instead. (I’m almost done mixing sports metaphors, I swear.)
Predicting the Oscars is useless. Sure, it can be fun guessing the winners when the big night is nigh, but what’s the use of predicting nominees? I’m telling you, there is none.
And yet, people do it. I use the term “people” to refer to that small handful of folks like myself for whom the Oscars are like Christmas; meaning the Golden Globes are like Thanksgiving — basically the same thing, but ultimately meaningless and less rewarding. So predicting the Oscars is like warming up for the holiday season — getting a jump on shopping, putting the lights and tree up, and already exhausting the holiday playlist on iTunes before most people have started caring yet.
(Films discussed in this post: The Skin I Live In, Contagion, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.)There are two kinds of filmmakers in this world: those that suck, and those that do not. And when it comes to taking risks, the former group tends to play it safe, while the latter category pushes the envelope.