2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

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Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

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Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

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David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

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Miranda Richardson, Spider

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Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

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Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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The Blog:
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Ocean's Twelve (d. Steven Soderbergh, 2004)

NOTE: I wasn't originally going to post this review here, but I felt strangely compelled after reading Lons' generally positive take on the film. Enjoy.

You know, it's very hard to write an opening sentence for what's ultimately going to be a negative review of Ocean's Twelve when you're fan of both the original remake [oxymoron?] and of Soderbergh in general. In the end, you're ultimately forced to write one like the one that you just read: one that's as smugly self-reflexive as the film you're about to attack.

As mentioned above, I was a big fan of Soderbergh's "original" Ocean's Eleven (2001), a film that oozed a certain, effortless old school charm, much like its all-star cast [particularly Clooney and Pitt] seemed to. I was, for this very reason, looking forward, with zeal, to the sequel, a film that, unlike its predecessor, pushes its old school charm too far – the effortlessness becoming far too forced – as it commits the cardinal sin of "borrowing" [primarily from the French New Wave and from Godard in particular] for little more than the sake of showoff-ish cleverness. I'm a huge fan of Soderbergh's Full Frontal (2002), which used its inherent "in-joke-ish-ness" to great thematic effect, but there's simply nothing of substance behind it here like there was it that film: this film's style, from its framing to its flashbacks [and especially] to its titles, is pure cinematic masturbation in the most Tarantinean [!] of veins. It's nice to know that Soderbergh has seen Pierrot le fou (d. Jean-Luc Godard, 1965), but that doesn't mean his title cards [particularly the introduction to A-M-S-T-E-R-D-A-M] have to needlessly reflect this. As David Lowery wrote in his brief review, "Soderbergh seems to be taking the European setting to heart," and the results of this – in my mind, at least – are, on the whole, rather negative. Maybe if there was more to them, perhaps – some solid reasoning other than film geek showboating – but there isn't, and showboating isn't enough.

I remember how, when the first film came out three years ago, people were talking about how the original Ocean's Eleven (d. Lewis Milestone, 1960) was really just a hedonistic excuse for the Rat Pack to get together and take over Vegas for the duration of the shoot. This one, however, they assured us, was in actual fact a real film, with a real story and a real heist; more than just an excuse, in other words, for the cast to act "hip" on camera. This time 'round, one can't help but feel that hedonism is back in vogue; plot gives way to the whole "European-holiday-on-the-company's-tab"-type feel; script gives way [at times] to incoherent ramblings of the film's ensemble cast; the characters, so vivid and alive in the first film give way to pretty much nothing at all. There's nothing there where the characters should be, not even the actor's star personas. The only one who walks away unscathed is Julia Roberts [who's also the subject of the film's most original and genuinely funny self-reflexive plot twist]; Damon and Clooney, who I normally love, have absolutely no "stand out" moments worth mentioning here, and Pitt is the dullest I've ever seen him [and to think that Rusty was so alive in the first film!].

It's a shame, it's a shame, it's a shame, to be sure; there was more than enough fuel in the "original" Ocean's [bar its unnecessary coda] for a bang-up sequel, but this one really misses the mark. I have no doubt that everyone involved will make out like bandits, of course – they got a swellegant working holiday out of it if nothing else – and I'm sure that they'll all redeem themselves in my eyes soon enough. But I still can't help but find myself wishing that they'd gone for gold instead of for a lazy, mock-Godardian tax dodge, which is ultimately, by the final freeze frame, all that Ocean's Twelve really is.