In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Another Technical Note
  2. La Ligne Maginot
  3. Actress Notes
  4. Technical Day
  5. Peripheral Explanation
  6. More Immigration Links
  7. Another Graphic Detournement
  8. Peripheral Artists (5): Mikhail Vrubel
  9. Illegal Update

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« New Graphics Language | Main | Question for the Day »

June 01, 2005

"Ocean's 12"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Until tonight, I'd been under the impresssion that the least engaging don't-take-me-seriously buddy-heist movie of all times was the Clooney/Pitt/Soderburgh remake of "Ocean's 11." Tonight I watched "Ocean's 11"'s sequel, the Clooney/Pitt/Soderburgh "Ocean's 12," and learned better.

Well, to be honest, I watched about 20 minutes of "Ocean's 12." Then I fell asleep. As far as I could tell, the movie consisted entirely of two kinds of passages: one a barely-staged, badly-acted -- in a really annoying, "we know we're being bad," nonwitty mock-witty way -- expositional passage; the other a barely-staged, badly-acted action montage set to hysterically-pitched bongo-electronica. Every time I woke up for a few seconds, the movie had grown even more contrived and antic, and even more pleased with itself. I hope all involved enjoyed cashing their over-large paychecks.

George Clooney bobbed and weaved his head in Clooney-esque, teeny-tiny ways; reaching for something fresh, he also made the choice to speak in Clooney-esque, roguishly sexy, tolerant/impatient vocal patterns. Brad Pitt phoned in a Vanity Fair version of "Brad Pitt," volunteering that racy Brad Pitt thing of wearing tacky '70s clothes, flaunting thick Method lips, rubbing too-short hair, talking while eating, and wearing godawful sunglasses.

Second and third-stringers vented and bickered, hoping to contribute to the hoped-for tone of "spontaneous" and "offhand." BTW, if God were kind He'd spare me any more scenes of characters venting in wannabe-amusing ways. If there's anything I'm temperamentally prone to find reprehensible, it's someone who vents, then looks shit-eatingly pleased with himself. Venting alone is hard enough to put up with. Zany camera angles and a lot of image-processing for the sake of image-processing contribute to a most unwelcome Maxim-does-George-Peppard atmosphere.

What a chaotic wallow in self-congratulatory clever-cleverness and charmless charm. But I understand the picture was a hit. Evidently it's exactly the kind of movie some people want to watch. I wonder if they take it as glamorously playful trash. Can't they see how truly weird the film's offkey, thrown-together quality is? But then I've been pretty much immune to the appeal of all of Steven Soderburgh's movies. I find him one of film history's most tone-deaf, least-engaging directors. And I find his movies to be very peculiar artifacts: Shootshootshoot. Cutcutcut. Deaddeaddead. Soderburgh has whatever the film director's equivalent of echolalia is.

I'm grateful for any insights anyone might have into the film's appeal. My guess is that "Ocean 12"'s fans experience Soderburgh's tin-eared, autistic-geek obviousness as a fresh kind of semi-put-on, cool drollness. But I could certainly be wrong about this.

Please: no "it's just a movie" lectures. I've got absolutely nothing against meaningless fun, the occasional wallow in glossy media trash, or the don't-take-me-seriously buddy-heist genre. But "Ocean's 12"? Damn near beyond forgiveness.



posted by Michael at June 1, 2005


You'll really hate Schizopolis, Michael. There's lots of spoken subtext, Bald Soprano style. Sample exchange: "Generic greeting!" "Generic greeting returned!" Lots of jabs at easy targets like consumerism, whatever the hell that is. He's even got a character named Lester Richards (get it? get it?). The whole thing makes me want to lie down for a very long time.

I've always thought of Soderbergh as a slightly dense hack who wants to be liked - sort of the straight man's Todd Haynes, if you will.

Posted by: Brian on June 1, 2005 05:23 AM

OK so Frank Sinatra and his rat pack buddies decide to make a film as a goof, while the group's performing in Vegas. The movie stinks; the performers know it, but they're banking that the public will pay to see it anyway cause of the group's allure. And they do. Forty years later, George Clooney assembles a team of modern day superstars to remake the goof as a goof of a goof and it does so well they make a sequel. I don't understand why they were so successful. I prefer meaningless trash that tries harder. Take "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World." Same general vintage as the first "11," same desperate bid to include as many stars as possible. But occasionally it actually manages to be funny.

Posted by: Rachel on June 1, 2005 08:06 AM

I've not seen Ocean's 12, but otherwise, Michael, you and I are pretty much on the same page vis-a-vis Soderbergh. His Full Frontal was the worst film I saw in 2002. Of all the other movies I've seen by him, I don't think I've seen one that hasn't irritated me in some way.

Posted by: James Russell on June 1, 2005 09:04 AM

Nope, you nailed it. I cannot defend that flick. Like the original, it was just an excuse for the folks involved to carouse and cruise - sort of a paid vacation. Too bad we were asked to watch the results.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on June 1, 2005 10:39 AM

I think Soderbergh should collaborate with the Coen brothers on some ungodly project, and soon. The three of them seem to comprise a "film generation" that produces films which, when they fail, don't just irritate the viewer, but genuinely offend - on an aesthetic level, or on a "stewarship" (i.e., mismanagement of talent) level.

By the same token, I keep my eye on Soderbergh and the Coen Bros because when they do connect with me, it's like having someone scratch an itch I didn't know I had. The Limey hit me that way; it's also one of those rare DVDs that has a recommended "director's commentary", because the film's writer, Lem Dobbs, is sitting beside him carrying a chip on his shoulder the size of Montana-and-change (ah, Hollywood writers - gotta love 'em!).

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on June 1, 2005 10:46 AM

My guess is that the film's appeal has to do with a lot of wishful thinking/self-delusions on the part of its admirers. The critics who were positive about it wrote about the way Soderbergh "played with genre conventions" and "undermined audience expectations", but I didn't get the sense that these critics were really all that hot on the movie--they seemed like they were going through the motions because Ocean's 12 is supposed to be the kind of smart, snappy Hollywood movie that movie critics are supposed to like. Its kind of interesting that Soderbergh has managed to build his rep as a "Second-Coming of the American New Wave" filmmaker and a critic's darling on the basis of some pretty conventional movies.

Posted by: J.W. Hastings on June 1, 2005 11:40 AM

"Nah, you can't train a cat that fast."

Posted by: Steve Sailer on June 1, 2005 12:01 PM

You said you have nothing against "meaningless fun." Sounds like Soderburgh forgot the "fun."

Posted by: annette on June 1, 2005 01:24 PM

1) echolalia

n 1: an infant's repetition of sounds uttered by others 2: (psychiatry) mechanical and meaningless repetition of the words of another person (as in schizophrenia)

2) For a worst movie, see Soderbergh's and Clooney's Solaris. You get to do these things when you're George Clooney or George Clooney's buddy.

I forgot that I had seen Solaris this year when I wrote on my blog that Anchorman was the worst movie I'd seen this year.

3) I had to watch Ocean's 12 because I was in Rome when they filmed it, and I love Rome. But Soderbergh managed to film a Roman movie with much Roman beauty. I'll watch Roman Holiday again.

Posted by: john massengale on June 1, 2005 05:26 PM

From a Boston College student newspaper: "The tragedy of our everyday lives is that we cannot escape the prison of our own consciousness."

Or as Woody Allen said, "The universe and I are two."

Posted by: john massengale on June 1, 2005 05:28 PM

By the end of the film, I was already anticipating the moment when Clooney would look directly into the camera and speak to us like Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.

Posted by: Bill on June 1, 2005 09:17 PM

I think there is a desire among the lemmings to hurl themselves into an abyss of charmless, witless nothingness.
In a big dying butter-popcorn scented megaplex pile, they find comfort in their one and only mission in life -- annoying the hell out of me.

Posted by: King S. on June 1, 2005 09:29 PM

Bill's comment made me laugh out loud. It's that bad, huh?

Posted by: annette on June 2, 2005 10:01 AM

This movie made me cry...

I was sitting in the theatre, watching the celluloid heroes of the day on the big silver screen and a tear welled up in my right eye. This was roughly about 10 minutes into the movie.

The absolute nothingness that surrounds 'Ocean 12' is suffocating. About the time that Julia Roberts started acting as if she was Julia Roberts I couldn't take it anymore... Others in the room stood up and screamed, we started hissing and yelling profanities at the big magic silver screen and we wondered why it was showing us such hideous images of fake plastic people.

It made me realise that Hollywood is an evil place were people will eagerly sell their soul to Satan or Soderbergh.

Posted by: Veldkampf on June 2, 2005 10:42 AM

It was truly boring and even the opening scenes dragged. Sometimes, the way the scene was filmed I couldn't figure out what was happening. The best example was toward the end during the flashback explaining how they stole the Coronation Egg on the train. Suddenly a fight breaks out? Huh? That scene happened too quickly. And what was the point of putting the Asian guy in a hangbag? Whaa? Tried to be hip without actually being hip, and Julia Roberts looked rough. During pregnancy, the face should fill out some, but her's was quite skeletal. She needs to figure out what to do with that because it's not pretty.

I liked the soundtrack but didn't think it was always right for the movie.

Posted by: lindenen on June 2, 2005 11:36 PM

At least Smoky and the Bandit was entertaining. Burt Reynolds had a twinkle in his eye, but the cast of Ocean's Twelve was just a bunch of smug bastards.

Posted by: lindenen on June 2, 2005 11:38 PM

You're right, Smokey and the Bandit was entertaining, worth it just to watch Jackie Gleason playing a Texas sheriff.

Posted by: Bill on June 3, 2005 10:28 AM

"Smokey and the Bandit" is a brilliant comparison! It's so much more casual, and so much less determinedly cool than "Ocean's 11." A real populist entertainment. Come to think of it, I wonder why Hwood seems to have lost the ability to generate the occasional truly populist piece of trash entertainment.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 3, 2005 12:10 PM

Ocean's 12 was not meant to be populist any more than The Italian Job. It's upper middle class fantasy which is overly conventional and sheltered from reality. The conventions of this fantasy have to be agreed upon by all upper middle class not-yet-adults.

I did like the scene in Ocean's 12 where the thief boogied his way through the laser lights. I don't know if that was meant to be funny but it was hilarious.

Posted by: Matt on June 5, 2005 02:13 PM

perhaps i have no business posting a comment in this room, but all ocean's 12 rooms pretty much same the same things.

everyone complains that such-and-such a scene happened too fast or was too confusing, and that the whole movie was just done for shits and giggles but the cast and director. essentially true, but if you get the jokes they have among themselves, it's fairly entertaining.

the plot was partly ruined by their mockery of the genre, though. but enough is left that if you follow, the movie will make sense. for example, the fight breaking out during the explantion of the Egg stealing is a ploy. prior to the fight, the camera shows men with earpieces setting across from the two theives, who begin fighting (Sox/Yankees fight, btw) to cause enough commotion so that the "earpieced" men, told to follow Ocean by his French competitor, will not notice when Linus makes the switch of bags, one of which contains the Coronation egg.

also, for anyone who owns the Ocean's 11 dvd, watch the commentary. Soderbergh explains himself well enough in what his intentions were for that film. i strongly suspect that's why the Ocean's 12 dvd had no director commentary, because the whole movie was really and excuse for Soderbergh and the gang to go to Rome (where Clooney also has a villa on Lake Como) and "make a movie." but some of this "just-doing-it-because-we-can" fun is captured in the movie, in dialouge between the A-listers.

i enjoyed this particular aspect of movie making, that these big-name celebs can make a shoddy flick, but to unsuspecting, starstruck audiences it is good clean fun. apparently others of you do not.

Posted by: tzoma on June 27, 2005 11:22 PM

crohpy erdfcv

Posted by: Meredith on June 28, 2005 05:41 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?