Will Schube will fight you if you talk bad about The Counselor.
I. Magic Mike (2012) – Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Another Soderbergh because Soderbergh is the best. He sprays this entire film in a yellow hue, an odd decision for a movie about male strippers starring McConaughey and Tatum—anyone else thinking they should start a hot guy law firm? Anyways, it doesn’t seem like anyone gives a shit about this ‘artistic’ coloring decision because the movie made a kajillion dollars. Soderbergh made it for seven million which comes out to a net profit of whatever a kajillion minus seven million is.
There are many things I truly, truly enjoy about this movie. I think there’s a really interesting narrative emerging with movies like this, The Counselor (2013) and Spring Breakers (2012). That all these movies were made in a one year span doesn’t feel like a coincidence as much as it does a response to the film industry and the fall of American excess post-recession. Sterile times call for wild films and each of these deflects off the society (American film, American culture as a whole) in which they participate to create truly unique art. They’re schlocky and heartbreaking, aspirational while sneering at those exact dreams.
Magic Mike is set in Tampa which is the perfect location for this film. I’ve never been to Tampa. I love how McConaughey occasionally gives an, “Alright, alright, alright,” because, c’mon. Soderbergh sometimes uses cuts to emphasize humor, and he does this better than anybody. He’ll cut moments short to highlight their absurdity and turn them into acerbic moments from dumb hot dudes. He also cuts from loud to quiet again and again to highlight how loud this world is and how isolating and lonely it can be moments later. It’s really a masterclass in editing for narrative gain. Soderbergh also shoots a car scene from some of the weirdest angles I’ve ever seen in any film—whether it be art house-y naval gazing ‘cinema’ or Transformers 14. The closeup of McConaughey getting ready to dance during his club’s 4th of July spectacular is one of the most beautiful shots I’ve ever seen. Soderbergh doesn’t need to do any of this for Magic Mike to work. He could have let his stars run the show and the movie probably would have made just as much money as it did. But even when he’s on the ‘one for them’ side of his, ‘one for me, one for them deal,’ Soderbergh is still better than everybody else.
II. Talk to Her / Bad Education (2002/2004) – Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
I’ve run out of things to say about Almodóvar, but these two films are both creepy and horrifying and beautiful and heartbreaking. I’m gonna start calling Almodóvar The Stew Man because he puts all of these disparate genres into a pot and makes a delicious stew out of them. If I were to choose between these two films I’d choose Bad Education, but both are excellent. Just be ready for some feelings when you see ‘em. The Stew Man is coming for ya.
III. Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) – Directed by Edward F. Cline
Movies were funny in 1941—Sullivan’s Travels is one of my favorites ever—and Never Give a Sucker… proves that jokes from almost a century ago (!!!) can still be hysterical. This thing was directed by a dude named Edward Cline but it’s certainly W.C. Fields’ film. Fields stars in this short little flick—it clocks in at an hour ten—about nothing in particular. There isn’t really a coherent narrative, just a bunch of situations in which Fields can show off his acting chops. It’s really an impressive film, and Fields is clearly in the Chaplin/Keaton category of really fucking funny. If you’ve got an hour or two, Fields’ films are well worth it.