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Five signature Steven Soderbergh scenes

Five signature Steven Soderbergh scenes (photo)

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Tomorrow, if your germaphobia can handle it, you can go check out the latest movie from director Steven Soderbergh, the disease/disaster thriller “Contagion.” It’s definitely his latest; it may also be one of his last, since rumors about his potential retirement have been swirling since last December (this week, he started calling it “a sabbatical”).

In celebration of “Contagion,” and with the possibility of impending retirement on our minds, it seemed like a good time to look at some of the highlights from Steven Soderbergh’s career. There were a lot to choose from. We decided to pick five signature moments; may not the “best” moments, but the ones that immediately jumped to our minds when we thought of his work. If Soderbergh does retire next year, moments like these are what we’ll miss the most.

The Love Scene(s)
From “Out of Sight” (1998)

Though clearly inspired by the iconic sex scene in Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now,” the chronologically fragmented encounter between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in “Out of Sight” stands on its own as an incredible sequence. In Roeg’s version, a couple’s lovemaking is intercut with their getting dressed for a dinner party later the same evening. For his version, Soderbergh reversed things; mixing a sex scene with an exchange between the characters from earlier the same evening. Jack (Clooney) and Karen (Lopez) flirt over a glass of bourbon in a bar overlooking snowy Detroit. When Jack touches Karen’s hand, Soderbergh jumps to the future, and a hotel room where Jack’s hand is now on Karen’s leg. The conversation in the bar continues on the soundtrack, while things heat up back in Karen’s bedroom. Roeg’s scene was the trailblazer, but Soderbergh’s scene is arguably sexier, despite the fact that it contains a lot less actual (simulated) sex. It’s all about glances and pauses and that sultry David Holmes score, and sparks of physical chemistry so powerful they’re capable of breaking the space-time continuum.


“You tell him I’m coming!”
From “The Limey” (1999)

When I think of Steven Soderbergh, I think of a director who tells conventional stories in unconventional ways. Though he’s made some truly eccentric films over his career, he’s also perfectly happy working in mainstream genres like biopics or crime stories. But whatever he makes, his unorthodox execution sets him apart. Take this classic example from early in the neo-noir “The Limey.” The movie is a revenge thriller, one of the most popular subgenres of action movies. So what does Soderbergh do in this scene? He leaves out the action. When Wilson (Terrence Stamp) goes into that building to repay the men who just roughed him up, the camera stays outside and the violence stays off-screen. We only hear what’s going on, and it doesn’t sound good. Not seeing Wilson destroy these three guys robs us of some of the satisfaction we expect to get in a revenge thriller. But it also creates a larger-than-life aura around Wilson as an unstoppable killer. And it does it in a highly unconventional way.

To watch this scene, go to YouTube. Below is the trailer for “The Limey.”


Julia Roberts Knows Every Phone Number Ever
From “Erin Brockovich” (2000)

I don’t know Steven Soderbergh as a person; I’ve never even met him. But based on his work in “Erin Brockovich,” I have to assume that he understands what it feels like to be underestimated. That’s what comes across so well in this scene, and in so many scenes from “Brockovich:” the character’s conviction that she belongs in this world despite the insistence of everyone around her that she does not. In scene after scene, her co-workers and colleagues diminish her work, but Brockovich (Julia Roberts) always gets the last laugh. When she puts this stuck-up snob down for her bad shoes, man does it feel good. Nowadays, Soderbergh’s widely regarded as a great director, and the mere mention of his possible retirement sends the media into a frenzy. But at some point in the past, someone must have spoken to Soderbergh the way that snob talks to Erin Brockovich. I wonder how he responded.


Movie Star Banter At Its Best
From “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)

While Soderbergh rarely writes his own movies — his last credited screenplay is 2002’s “Solaris” — he is nonetheless a great director of dialogue. His remake of the Rat Pack classic “Ocean’s Eleven” is loaded with bombastic heist sequences, but the most memorable moment in the film is one of its simplest: a feisty encounter between Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his ex-wife Tess (Roberts). The scene is like an inversion of “Out of Sight”‘s seduction. The lighting is immaculate, the surroundings are glossy, and the stars are the most gorgeous human specimens on planet Earth. It’s the most romantic ambiance anyone could ever want. But all that’s left between the couple is bitterness. This one back-and-forth has more high quality zingers than some entire movies. “They tell me I paid my debt to society,” Danny says. “Funny, I don’t remember getting a check,” Tess snaps back. For scenes like this one, we’re the ones in debt, to the director.


The Corporate Culture’s Gonna Change A Little
from “The Informant!” (2009)

A lot of Soderbergh’s work reminds me of Karl Marx’s famous quote about history repeating itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Soderbergh likes to repeat himself, first sincerely, then satirically. He makes “Erin Brockovich,” this serious story about an idealistic whistleblower whose exposes a major case of corporate malfeasance, then a decade later he makes “The Informant!” which basically makes fun of every movie ever made about idealistic whistleblowers who expose major cases of corporate malfeasance. Instead of Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, dogged crusader for the little guy, you have Matt Damon in paunch, bad hair, and worse mustache as Mark Whitacre, a man so hopelessly corrupt and mentally deranged that he’s planning to take over his company even as he’s helping the FBI spy on his fellow employees. In maybe the best scene in the film, Mark’s so focused on upward mobility he’s oblivious to the hard truths in front of him. He never realizes that, like his director, he may be headed for early retirement.


What’s your favorite scene from a Steven Soderbergh movie? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.