In an earlier post about composer Cliff Martinez, I mused about the (seemingly long-shot) potential of a release of Steven Soderbergh’s King of the Hill, writing “one of my dream projects for a film restoration would be for Steven Soderbergh to recut and remaster his film King of the Hill. This movie from 1993 features superb performances by Jesse Bradford and the rest of the cast, striking cinematography by Elliot Davis (whose trio of films with Soderbergh are all visually stunning, the other two being The Underneath and Out of Sight), and pitch-perfect direction by Soderbergh; it is a sorely under-appreciated movie.” Well, the news is very good indeed: King of the Hill is going to be released in a Criterion edition along with The Underneath as a bonus. I mention this for the mediateacher.net blog because King of the Hill is a fitting movie for use with certain units of Moving Images (and it will certainly be incorporated into the instructor’s resources materials in upcoming revisions) and it is also an exceptional film for social studies curricula because of its unique and compelling depiction of the Great Depression. And The Underneath is a perfect contemporary counterpoint to classic film noir, quite suitable for use in university film studies courses; for me, it is one of the most underrated movies of the past couple decades (and particularly by Soderbergh himself!).
My title for this post is one that I use for programming and lectures focusing on one of the most important themes of Soderbergh’s work: the pursuit of wealth and its importance in American culture. Starting with King of the Hill, Soderbergh has returned again and again to the exploration of pressures and moral issues associated with “achieving the American dream” and the illusion of fulfillment through affluence, in such movies as The Underneath, Out of Sight, The Limey, Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen), Erin Brockovitch, The Informant, and Magic Mike, among others, as well as in his writing and lectures.