The Naughts: The Director of the ’00s

The Naughts: The Director of the ’00s (photo)

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Steven Soderbergh had a remarkable 12 films in theaters between 2000 and 2009. That includes two shiny Oscar winners, “Erin Brockovich” (which nabbed Julia Roberts a statuette) and “Traffic,” and a potential third, “The Informant!”; all three installments of the blockbuster “Ocean’s” franchise; three fast-and-loose video experiments (“Full Frontal,” “Bubble” and “The Girlfriend Experience”); an anti-period piece period piece (“The Good German”); an anti-biopic biopic (“Che”); and a sorely underrated remake/distillation of a sci-fi classic (“Solaris”).

And that’s not even counting his contribution to the 2004 omnibus “Eros,” or the ten episodes of HBO series “K Street” he helmed. By virtue of unstoppable output alone, Soderbergh’s made more of a mark on the ’00s than any other working director. But that’s not why he’s my pick for director of the decade.

Back in 1989, Soderbergh kicked off the giddy golden age of independent film with “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” and while the following ’90s days of Park City wine and Miramax roses weren’t as immediately good to him as to other now brand name filmmakers, he remained, as Roger Ebert put it, the “poster boy of the Sundance generation,” the kid who showed studios that the world actually wanted to watch talky, low-budget relationship dramas, provided they were, you know, really good.

12112009_Bubble.jpgIn the Naughts, the floor creaked, sagged and eventually fell out from under the film industry, leaving only those perched on the edges — blockbusters and microbudgets, everyone says, are the safest future if you want to stay in business. Well, Steven Soderbergh, king of the one-for-me, one-for-them career, has been making variations of both for years now.

Actually, “one-for-me, one-for-them” makes it sound as if he shuffles like Persephone from colorless stints in the commercial underworld to brief bursts in the bright daylight of unfettered creativity. There’s no sense that his studio work is any less his own, less distinctive, or less invested in than his more overtly personal projects — as A.O. Scott put it, “Soderbergh may have zigzagged in and out of the movie-industry mainstream in the course of his career, but he has remained, throughout, to an extent matched by very few of his peers, an experimental filmmaker.”

That Soderbergh’s an auteur there’s no doubt, but he’s one whose foremost identifying quality is a quicksilver versatility — the artist as journeyman-for-hire, just as ready to test out new technology and non-professional actors as he is to command a budget in the tens of millions and the biggest stars in the world. You may not like every one of the dozen features he’s turned out in the ’00s, but you can’t deny that they’re all interesting.

He stretches the constraints of genres until they’ve bent into something new, and tests, in a similar way, the limits of the industry’s unwritten rules. Looking back, it’s hard to believe the uproar over “Bubble”‘s 2006 day-and-date theatrical and VOD release — it’s now in no way unusual, but at the time, the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners called it “the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today.”

The same goes for his toe-dips up and down the production scale — if you want to make a movie free of outside oversight, you deal with the constraints of budget, and if you want to make a movie with more resources, you deal with the different constraints that come with them. An innate understanding of those facts, of how to work the system, and of film’s place between art and commerce, seems to underline his career. Not to paint that career in too rosy a financial light — “Che,” while a relative success domestically for a four-hour foreign language film, still only made back half its budget worldwide, and Soderbergh was booted off “Moneyball” days before it was slated to begin shooting because of script disagreements, making it seem like the director’s era of sneaking a more challenging approach into a seemingly standard project might be coming to an end.

12102009_OceansTwelve.jpgIf it is, that’d be a shame. For me, honestly, it’s films like the “Ocean’s” trilogy, collectively light as a feather, that have the most intriguing underlying push and pull to them between what’s prescribed and what’s possible when you color outside the lines. There’s the unexpected delight in the movie stardom of their leads, a hedonistic joy in taking in their glow, beautifully wardrobed, traveling high-end settings — don’t they look good on camera? — the blurring of public persona and character as the films continued a more interesting examination of our concept of the famous than, for sure, “Full Frontal.”

But there’s no doubt that Soderbergh will keep working. It’s what he does best. He’ll be headed back to Park City next month with a new documentary, “And Everything Is Going Fine,” and not to Sundance but to its punkier cousin Slamdance, where he’ll also participate in a summit on new models for content distribution. I’d listen to what he has to say — he’s done pretty good so far.

This feature is part of the Naughts Project.

[Additional Photos: Debbie Doebereiner in “Bubble,” Magnolia Pictures, 2005; Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney in “Ocean’s Twelve,” Warner Bros., 2004]

Gigi Does It Ep6

Get Freaky With Gigi

5 Ways Gigi Can Help You Become a Better Lover

Gigi limbers up for love tonight at 10:30 PT/ET.

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Coming down off this weekend’s Pixy Stix sugar high? Well, rather than raid your grandkids’ candy sacks for some stray Charleston Chews, tune in to tonight’s all new Gigi Does It at 10:30P ET/PT for enough sweet sass to send you into a diabetic coma. But before you fire up the ol’ Life Alert, here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s episode that will also improve your moves in the boudoir.

1. Relive your crazy Halloween.

Sure, you’ve already rung in All Hallows’ Eve with some petty vandalism and your best Taylor Swift getup. But it’s never too late to break out the spooky ghoul costume and do like Gigi and put that TP in the trees to good, practical use.

2. Try something new in the bedroom.

Every healthy relationship ought to include some variety in the intimacy department, which is why it’s always smart to brush up on what those wild kids are doing in the bedroom these days. (If you’re confused with any of the terms, consult your male nurse.)

3. Limber up.

Physical therapists advise against sitting or lying down for extended periods of time, so take a moment to stretch out those quads and hammies with Gigi – regardless of how many “good legs” you have.

4. Browse the Web with a friend.

Surfing the ‘net with a pal can be fun. Just watch out for those nasty pop-up ads.

5. Watch the video that is too hot for Facebook.

Deemed “Too Hot for Facebook,” this Gigi clip removes the bleeps and blurs for a raw, NSFW look at the foul-mouthed granny in action.


Sweatpants 4 Ever

5 Great Moments in Sweatpants History

Spend Thanksgiving in sweatpants with IFC's Sweatsgiving Weekend.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/courtesy Everett Collection

Ah, sweatpants. They give us so much and ask for so little. Before you pull out your sweats for IFC’s Sweatsgiving weekend, take a moment to remember some iconic moments in sweatpants history.

5. Regina George wears sweatpants in public, Mean Girls

Regina George Mean Girls

Head “mean girl” Regina George discovers the wonderfully elastic qualities of sweatpants after gaining weight from the Kalteen bars Cady gave her.

4. Meg Ryan watches TV in sweatpants, Sleepless in Seattle

Everett Collection

Everett Collection

In the ultimate meta movie moment, Meg Ryan watches TV on the couch in sweatpants while scarfing on popcorn. This process would be repeated a million times over in the real world with every Meg Ryan movie ever made.

3. Johnny Depp hangs out in sweats, A Nightmare on Elm Street

Johnny Depp A Nightmare on Elm Street

Johnny Depp burst onto the movie scene in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, forever immortalizing the sweatpants and a half-shirt look. And then he was never heard from again. Whatever happened to that guy? Be sure to catch his one and only film when A Nightmare on Elm Street airs Friday, November 27th during IFC’s Sweatsgiving weekend.

2. Rocky jogs through Philly, Rocky franchise

Rocky Balboa

Robert “Rocky” Balboa brought sweatpants into movie history thanks to his triumphant training montage in Rocky. The sweatpants returned in Rocky II and Rocky Balboa, hopefully thoroughly washed.

1. That time you hung out in sweatpants and watched awesome shows and movies, IFC’s Sweatsgiving Weekend

What better way to spend Thanksgiving weekend than in your sweatpants while watching your favorite IFC shows and hit movies? All weekend long starting Thanksgiving day, IFC is airing marathons of That ’70s Show and Todd Margaret. Plus, you can scare off the calories with Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist and Resident Evil movie marathons. And since you’re spending the weekend on the couch, be sure to tweet or Instagram a selfie while watching IFC with the hashtag #IFCSweatsgiving and you’ll be entered to win a sweet pair of IFC pants. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can never have too many pairs of comfy pants.


Balls to the Wall

Meet a Dysfunctional Dodgeball Team on Ball or Nothing

Catch new Comedy Crib episodes every Tuesday.

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In the first episode of Comedy Crib‘s Ball or Nothing, Chloe just wants to hit her ex in the face — with a dodgeball. Since her ex really, really deserves such a fate, her teammates are more than happy to have her back on this one.

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The new series will take you onto the sidelines of an adult dodgeball team, revealing that like on Benders, sometimes real life happens on the sidelines. The show is written and created by Megan Rosati of the hit comedic web series 52 Ways to Break Up and features actress Brea Grant (Heroes, Real Housewives of Horror) as the very intense teammate Chloe.

Also on Comedy Crib this week, the latest episode of Does Dave Know We’re Here? shows how a group of friends kill time in the car while waiting for their pal Dave. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the tuxedo shirt business, this episode is for you.

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Gigi Wrote a Book for You

Read Gigi’s Outrageous Children’s Book ‘Call Your Grandmother’

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This week on Gigi Does It, Gigi Rotblum (David Krumholtz) pens a heartwarming children’s book about the perils of not calling your dear grandma. And now you can read the full story below!

Gigi Does It Book Cover

Gigi Book Page 1

Gigi Book Page 2

Gigi Book Page 3 REV

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