Can a film with George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt be all bad? Yes.
Future generations will study Steven Soderbergh’s latest, Ocean’s Thirteen. Not future film scholars, of course, but future MBAs, seeking to learn how El Stevo delivered what looks to be an all-star mega-pic on a B-movie budget. A few pointers:
Wardrobe: The fewer changes, the better. Ellen Barkin, the one chick in the picture, wears the same red dress in 90% of her shots. Guys’ clothes, of course, we don’t even notice. Which leads to rule 2.
The fewer chicks, the better: Chicks are expensive — hairdressers, makeup, clothes, it all adds up, and fast! And, when it comes to chicks, guys are pretty much happy to look at one pair of tits through the whole picture. Ellen’s boobs floated Ocean’s Thirteen, and a similar (even cheaper!) set can float your picture too.
Choreography, choreography, choreography: So many stars, so little time! Get them in, have them do their shtick in a tight close-up, and get them out.
Keep it simple, stupid! Rehearsals! Who needs them? Put the dialogue on cue cards — little words in big letters — and keep it moving!
Props are cheaper than people: A model of a nonexistent hotel (a flamboyant, Gehryesque skyscraper) gets more screen time in Ocean’s Thirteen than half the cast put together. And the five-minute documentary sequence on how dice are made was fantastic.
Outside is expensive: Natural light tends to wash out colors, tends to glare, and tends to cast harsh shadows. Correcting this is expensive, so don’t do it! Let your audience suffer!
Be correct! We know that Ellen Barkin is a bad person because she fires a waitress for gaining four pounds. Because it is so wrong to discriminate against fat people.
I confess that some of Ocean’s Thirteen was a little over my head. For example, I thought that Andy Garcia was Alec Baldwin, so I kept waiting for Alec to show up and do something mean, and instead Andy Garcia showed up and did something mean. What was up with that? But I finally figured it out. Also, I didn’t get the bit about the $11 million at all.1 But there is one gag at the end that is well set up and quite funny, so if you go to Ocean’s Thirteen you won’t always be laughing at your own gullibility.
It was hardly all work and no play on the Ocean set. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Ellen Barkin all took the time to chew the fat with Times man Greg Williams. Among the major revelations — movie stars are “whores” (GC), Ocean’s Thirteen is more Cannonball 3 than Lord of the Rings 3 (BP), the “extras” put on DVDs are shit (MD), the performances in Ocean’s Thirteen are shit (MD again), and Greg Williams is a putz (EB). In a serious give-away-the-store revelation, Clooney acknowledges that guest star Al Pacino, also a whore, does not have a “hoo-ah” moment in Ocean’s Thirteen. Brad counters by acknowledging that not only is he more popular than Jesus, he’s better looking, so it’s only fair that he’s fucking Angelina Jolie, and goes on to say that he dropped Jennifer Aniston after seeing her performance in Along Came Polly.2