kottke.org posts about Steven Soderbergh

Magic Mike XXL trailerFeb 04 2015

I liked Magic Mike and I hope this one is going to be as good, although no McConaughey hey hey girl, so I dunno.

And also, Soderbergh is not returning as director, although he is responsible for the movie's cinematography, editing, and even some camera operating.

Soderbergh's edit of 2001Jan 14 2015

So. Steven Soderbergh has cut his own version of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like, !!!1

I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, so I don't know what's different about it aside from the shorter runtime of 1h50m. If someone watches it and wants to report in about the differences, let me know. Soderbergh also guessed that Kubrick would have liked shooting on digital:

let me also say i believe SK would have embraced the current crop of digital cameras, because from a visual standpoint, he was obsessed with two things: absolute fidelity to reality-based light sources, and image stabilization. regarding the former, the increased sensitivity without resolution loss allows us to really capture the world as it is, and regarding the latter, post-2001 SK generally shot matte perf film (normally reserved for effects shots, because of its added steadiness) all day, every day, something which digital capture makes moot. pile on things like never being distracted by weaving, splices, dirt, scratches, bad lab matches during changeovers, changeovers themselves, bad framing and focus exacerbated by projector vibration, and you can see why i think he might dig digital.

See also Soderbergh's B&W edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark. (via @fengypants)

Update: Reader and 2001 fan Dan Norquist watched Soderbergh's edit and reported back via email:

I love everything Soderbergh does and I love the fact that he cut this film. It's fun to see it in a more concise form. Really, there's no choppy edits or anything that doesn't make sense (except the whole movie of course!). I did miss some of my favorite parts. I love when the father is talking to his daughter on the video phone. Also, if you weren't around in 1968 it's really hard to describe how scary the Cold War was. There was always this thing hanging over our heads, that the Russians really had the means to destroy us with nuclear weapons. So you really need the full scene where the American meets the Russians (Soviets). The forced, unnatural politeness is so brilliant and helped to give the film context in its time.

All the important stuff is there -- the apes, the monolith, HAL turning evil, astronaut spinning away, the speeding light show (shortened?), old man pointing at space child -- and it's all recut by a master.

Finally, there is something about the full length of the original film that is part of its strength as a piece of art. There is no hurry, no cut to the chase. It's almost as if you have to go through the entire journey before you can earn the bubble baby at the end.

No surprise that he tightened it up into something less Kubrickian and more Soderberghish. Dan closed his email by saying he would recommend it to fans of the original. (thx, dan)

Update: I've seen some comments on Twitter and elsewhere about the legality of Soderbergh posting the 2001 and Raiders edits. The videos are hosted on Vimeo, but are private and can't be embedded on any site other than Soderbergh's. But any enterprising person can easily figure out how to download either video. The Raiders video has been up since September, which means either that Paramount doesn't care (most likely in my mind) or their lawyers somehow haven't caught wind of it, even though it was all over the internet a few months ago (less likely). We'll see if whoever owns the rights to 2001 (Time Warner?) feels similarly.

An interesting wrinkle here is that Soderbergh has been outspoken about copyright piracy and the Internet. From a 2009 NY Times article about a proposed French anti-piracy law:

In the United States, a Congressional committee this week began studying the issue. In a hearing Monday before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Steven Soderbergh, the film director, cited the French initiative in asking lawmakers to deputize the American film industry to pursue copyright pirates.

Deputizing the film industry to police piracy sounds a little too much like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. I wonder if Soderbergh feels like these edits are legal to post publicly, if they are fair use for example. Or rather if he feels it's not but he can get away with it because he is who he is. (thx, @bc_butler)

Update: Soderbergh has removed his cut of 2001 from his site "AT THE REQUEST OF WARNER BROS. AND THE STANLEY KUBRICK ESTATE". So, that answers that question. (via @fengypants)

  1. I also found out that apparently I had jury duty last week on the same day in the same room as Soderbergh. Total embarrassing fanboy meltdown narrowly avoided.

Steven Soderbergh's 2014 media dietJan 09 2015

Once again, Steven Soderbergh kept track of every book, TV show, movie, play, and short story he read or watched in 2014. A sampling: Girls, True Detective, Gone Girl, 2001 (3 times), Dr. Strangelove, Olive Kitteridge, My Struggle: Book One, Boardwalk Empire, and his black & white version of Raiders of the Lost Ark (twice).

Here are his lists for 2013 (House of Cards, Koyaanisqatsi), 2012 (This is Spinal Tap, The Lady in the Lake), 2011 (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Senna), 2010 (Mad Men, Where Good Ideas Come From), and 2009 (Breaking Bad, Slap Shot). (via @khoi)

Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and whiteSep 23 2014

In 2011, Steven Soderbergh revealed he'd repeatedly watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white. Now he's released a full-length version of the film in b&w, with no dialogue and an alternate soundtrack (Reznor and Ross's score to The Social Network) so that you can focus on how the film is constructed visually.

So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot -- whether short or long -- held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I've removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I'm not saying I'm like, ALLOWED to do this, I'm just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are -- that's high level visual math shit).

Steven Soderbergh: The state of cinemaMay 07 2013

At the recent San Francisco Internation Film Festival, Steven Soderbergh gave a keynote about the current state of cinema. It is worth reading if you enjoy movies or are engaged in any sort of creative work.

But before we talk about movies we should talk about art in general, if that's possible. Given all the incredible suffering in the world I wonder, what is art for, really? If the collected works of Shakespeare can't prevent genocide then really, what is it for? Shouldn't we be spending the time and resources alleviating suffering and helping other people instead of going to the movies and plays and art installations? When we did Ocean's Thirteen the casino set used $60,000 of electricity every week. How do you justify that? Do you justify that by saying, the people who could've had that electricity are going to watch the movie for two hours and be entertained - except they probably can't, because they don't have any electricity, because we used it. Then I think, what about all the resources spent on all the pieces of entertainment? What about the carbon footprint of getting me here? Then I think, why are you even thinking that way and worrying about how many miles per gallon my car gets, when we have NASCAR, and monster truck pulls on TV? So what I finally decided was, art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it's because we are a species that's driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that's impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being - literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you're experiencing that piece of art, you're not alone. You're connected to the arts. So I feel like that can't be too bad.

Update: If you prefer to watch the speech, have at it:

(via @MikeShefferNJ)

Steven Soderbergh on quitting the movie bizJan 29 2013

Director Steven Soderbergh is not making any more Hollywood movies and plans to focus on his painting, importing Bolivian liquor, reading more, and doing more theater/TV. This conversation with him is informative and delightful.

On the few occasions where I've talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, "What are the stories you want people to tell about you?" Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then-Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998's] Out of Sight after I'd had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he'd see me was when we screened the movie. If I'm an asshole, then I don't get that job. Character counts. That's a long way of saying, "If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that's a big plus."

(thx, david)

Ten modern movies that are better in black and whiteMay 24 2011

Last month, Steven Soderbergh's list of what he's been watching and reading told us that the director watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white three times in one week, presumably to emphasize the film's structure and cinematography. Flavorwire's Jason Bailey wondered what other films might be better in black & white and compiled a list of ten, with video examples and commentary of each. Included are Raiders, Fargo, and A Christmas Story.

Soderbergh's media dietApr 11 2011

Steven Soderbergh recently shared a list of all the movies, books, TV shows, plays, and short stories he watched and read over the past year. Among the movies he watched were The Social Network (at least five times), Raiders of the Lost Ark (three times in one week), Network, Idiocracy, and both worthwhile Godfather films. (via studio 360)

Chopping widescreen moviesAug 17 2009

Steven Soderbergh on the new pan-and-scan: the cropping of 2.40:1 films to fit the HD TV screen.

Television operators, the people who buy and produce things for people to watch on TV, are taking the position that films photographed in the 2.40:1 ratio should be blown up or chopped up to fit a 16:9 (1.78:1) ratio. They are taking the position that the viewers of television do not like watching 2.40 films letterboxed to fit their 16:9 screens, and that a film insisting on this is worth significantly less -- or even nothing -- to them.

He has particular contempt for AMC and HBO:

[HBO wants] everything pan/scanned. On the Ocean's films I had to get somebody VERY HIGH UP WITH WAY BETTER SHIT TO DO to call them and make an exception. Their influence means they could make this problem go away single-handedly, but since they won't, they get to be the poster child for stupidity. Not that they're uninterested in hypocrisy too; while their PR caters to the most adventurous TV watchers, their actions indicate they think their viewers are very, very afraid of anything actually different.

I watched The Darjeeling Limited on Starz a few months ago. This is a movie where the wider aspect ratio is almost another character and the knuckleheads at Starz chopped the hell out of it. Blech.

Moneyball movie back on againJul 10 2009

Let's take a look at who's still alive here. Brad Pitt: yes. Aaron Sorkin: yes. Steven Soderbergh: no. Expected soon: Michael Bay, Alan Ball, Sam Mendes, McG, and M Night Shamalamadingdong. (thx, david)

Moneyball movie dead for nowJul 02 2009

The combination of Pitt and Soderbergh and Lewis wasn't enough to keep the Moneyball movie afloat...Sony canceled it "days before shooting was to begin".

Accounts from more than a dozen people involved with the film, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid damaging professional relationships, described a process in which the heady rush toward production was halted by a studio suddenly confronted by plans for something artier and more complex than bargained for.

Sony was probably looking for something more BIG RED TEXTish.

Moneyball directed by Soderbergh?Apr 21 2009

Wait, Steven Soderbergh is directing the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' Moneyball? When did this wonderfulness happen?!! Last I heard, the director was the guy who did Marley & Me. Perhaps Pitt put the kibosh on that and lobbied for Soderbergh? (via fimoculous)

Steven Soderbergh interviewJan 23 2009

A longish interview with Steven Soderbergh about his Che movie and filmmaking in general. The first question is about how all his movies are related.

The good news is that I don't have to know if there's a link. Wells had a great quote once where some critic asked him a similar question. He said, "I'm the bird, and you're the ornithologist." I don't really sit down and think on a macro level how or if these things are connected. They obviously are in the sense that I wanted to make them. And so there must be something in them that I'm drawn to.

Soderbergh also talks about following your interest when choosing projects and not worrying so much about the money.

Yeah. And I'm a big believer that if there's something you really want to do, don't walk away because of the deal. I see it happen a lot. I see people walk away from things because they didn't get the deal they wanted.

Teaser trailer for Oceans 13. Looks like #13 is Andy Garcia.Feb 12 2007

Teaser trailer for Oceans 13. Looks like #13 is Andy Garcia.

Interview with Steven Soderbergh, mostly about TheDec 19 2006

Interview with Steven Soderbergh, mostly about The Good German but also about some upcoming projects. "I think for the most part intellectuals don't make very good movies. It's an emotional medium and I think you can really outsmart yourself." That quote reminds me of something I read on Clusterflock last night: "the giants of the imagination can set the giants of the intellect aquiver".

An interview with Steven Soderbergh: "The hardestAug 30 2006

An interview with Steven Soderbergh: "The hardest thing in the world is to be good and clear when creating anything. It's the hardest thing in the world. It's really easy to be obscure and elliptical and so fucking hard to be good and clear. It breaks people. Because you don't often get encouragement to do that, to be good and clear."

Steven Soderbergh will create a series ofApr 29 2005

Steven Soderbergh will create a series of HD films that will be simultaneously released in the theatre, on DVD, and on TV.

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