After a quarter century in a handful of different media, there’s plenty of work to consider from the career of Steven Soderbergh. With his latest output on the immediate horizon, we took the impending premiere of the Cinemax series “The Knick” as an opportunity to ask the members of our Criticwire Network which films, performances and moments they found to be most praiseworthy.
Despite the intervening sixteen years between its initial release and now, “Out of Sight” finished first in three different categories: Best Film, Best Scene and Best Screenplay. It’s hard to declare it the overall favorite, considering the outpouring of support for other beloved entries “Traffic,” “The Limey” and his debut “sex, lies and videotape.”
Our poll featured separate categories for Best Film and Best Direction. Those who participated took that distinction to heart, as the results for both were not a direct, one-to-one overlap. “Traffic,” “Che” and “The Informant!” all finished higher as behind-the-camera achievements than as actual films.
“Ocean’s Eleven” featured a number of Soderbergh front-of-camera favorites, including those he had previously worked with and those who he would go on to feature time and again. Three of the top five Best Lead Performances in our survey came from actors in the Ocean’s stable, but not for any part of that trilogy. Matt Damon’s performance in “The Informant!” led the way, followed by Julia Roberts’ award-winning turn in “Erin Brockovich” and George Clooney’s Jack Foley finishing in fifth. Two title roles, Terence Stamp in “The Limey” and Benicio del Toro in “Che” finish out the upper tier.
32 performances received multiple picks in the Best Supporting Performance category, from 2012 Indiewire Critics Poll top finisher Matthew McConaughey (“Magic Mike“) to Debbie Doebereiner in 2005’s “Bubble.” Other notable members of this category’s upper echelon include del Toro (“Traffic”), Laura San Giacomo as sister Cynthia in “sex, lies and videotape” and the “Behind the Candelabra” plastic-surgery nightmare duo of Damon and Rob Lowe.
We also asked critics for their choices for Soderbergh’s Most Underrated Film, the movies that they felt deserved more attention or have been unfairly treated by the passage of time. The ambitious Tarkovsky remake “Solaris” nabbed the most mentions in that category, ahead of 1993’s “King of the Hill” and the more recent “The Informant!”
One area of Soderbergh’s filmography that has seen some of the greatest variety is in the music that plays behind (or, in some cases, part of) the on-screen action. The Best Music or Score list featured multiple entries from longtime Soderbergh collaborator David Holmes, including top pick “Ocean’s Eleven.” The rest of the top five features Holmes’ “Out of Sight,” the score for “The Informant!” by the late Marvin Hamlisch, Cliff Martinez’s eerie ethereal contribution to “Contagion” and the soundtrack to “Magic Mike.”
The Best Screenplay list featured work from five different writers. As mentioned above, Scott Frank’s script for “Out of Sight” snagged a first-place finish, topping Stephen Gaghan’s “Traffic,” Scott Z. Burns’ “The Informant!” Lem Dobbs’ “The Limey” and “sex, lies and videotape,” written by Soderbergh himself. As for the Best Scenes from those scripts, they are far too numerous to mention, but they include a trunk rendezvous, a hotel fight, an elaborate heist and a thief dancing through a laser grid.
Overall, the results represent a healthy distribution between the different phases of Soderbergh’s career. Although the top five in the Best Film category all came from the first dozen years of his career, four of the top ten lead performances came from “Che” onward. All of Soderbergh’s work was eligible, so the results even include some advance acclaim for “The Knick” and Clive Owen, but also some recognition of the short-lived series “K Street” and the short film “Equilibrium,” featured as part of the omnibus film “Eros.”
For a complete rundown of the results in all nine categories and to see critics’ full ballots, visit the survey homepage here. (And for more on “The Knick,” you can read stories from across the Indiewire Network about it here, including an interview with Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, the show’s creators.)