Steven Soderbergh

Behind the Plastic Surgery

Matt Damon is the real star of HBO's Liberace biopic

Matt Damon is the real star of this Liberace biopic.

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Steven Soderbergh has made a career of balancing ambitious films with crowdpleasers. His rotten new movie suggests why he may be getting out of the game.

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There is a scene in Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s global mega-pandemic thriller, in which the scalp of a dead patient—played by one of the film’s biggest stars—is sliced open during an autopsy. A flap of marbled flesh flops limply over her forehead; in the screening I attended, this was definitely the moment that elicited the most grossed-out gasps. It wasn’t the most jarring part of the movie, however. What I found way more shocking was the notion of a film in which the good guy is played by … the government. Our times are awash in the swill of anti-government paranoia.

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The Orrscars 2009

What does it say that three of the top five films on my list this year--and another that could easily have made the top ten, Coraline--are “kid’s movies”? In the end not much, I think. Two of the three, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, were directed by talented indie auteurs (Spike Jonze and Wes Andersen, respectively) who merely happened to adapt children’s books in the same year.

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So this is what Matt Damon has been keeping bottled up during all those taciturn hours playing Jason Bourne. In Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!, Damon plays--and plays very, very well--a character in every way the opposite of his efficient, amnesiac superspy: a babbling bumbler who goes undercover for the FBI to gather information against his own employer but winds up exposing mostly himself.

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Years Past

The Good German (Warner Bros.) A war correspondent for The New Republic, in the Berlin of July 1945, gets beaten up four times in pursuit of a story but nonetheless keeps going. That is one way The Good German could be described.

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EROS (Warner Independent) WINTER SOLSTICE (Paramount Classics) MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI, a master of masters, has contributed a short film to a trio of shorts called EROS. His film is “The Dangerous Thread of Things,” which is also the title of one of three brief prose pieces in a book of his. (The book itself is That Bowling Alley on the Tiber.) The pieces were adapted for the screen by Tonino Guerra, his collaborator since L’Avventura (1960). For any Antonioni enthusiast, and I insist on a place in the front rank, all this advance information was exciting.

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