Every January, Steven Soderbergh provides a valuable service: He reveals what he spent the previous year watching, reading and listening to. Over at his site — which he tends to occasionally pepper with random miscellany, like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” reworked into a silent B&W movie backed with music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross film scores — the TV and filmmaker just revealed his 2016 list. And judging from it, he’s a pretty prolific media-imbiber, especially for someone who’s already a prolific media-maker. (He might not still technically be on hiatus from cinema, but he executive-produced “The Girlfriend Experience,” worked on his TV movie “Mosaic” and still ran his Bolivian brandy line with the hilarious ads.)
Plowing through the list, arranged by date, we can see Soderbergh binge-watches TV like the rest of us. (Or those of you who don’t have to watch hundreds of movies a year.) In 2016 he Hoovered up the likes of “Billions,” “Horace & Pete,” “Black Mirror,” “Fleabag,” “Atlanta” and more. He even seems to have revisited a couple episodes or more of “The Thick of It,” the genius English government comedy that birthed the movie “In the Loop” and was superficially adapted for America with “Veep” (which he also watched).
Far as movies go, it’s a mixed bag of new releases (we hope he enjoyed “The Brothers Grimsby” as much as we did) and rando oldies. We’re not sure if his viewings of “Sleuth,” Akira Kurosawa’s “The Bad Sleep Well,” the 1968 “The Thomas Crown Affair” or Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Ivan’s Childhood” were repeats. Likewise, we can’t say why he did deep dives into the CVs of both David Fincher and Alan J. Pakula. (We can guess he watched Orson Welles’ “The Trial” because he was reading Simon Callow’s third and latest volume on his life.)
But what does it all mean? Perhaps each viewing was tied into something he was working on. Will “Mosaic” be inspired in some fashion by, say, the starkly apocalyptic Russian war film “Come and See” or the Robert Redford-starring heist pic “The Hot Rock”? Can we glean that some future project will owe a debt to “Juggernaut,” the sorta-disaster movie made by Richard Lester, with whom Soderbergh conducted a career-length interview for his book “Getting Away With It”? Is that how Soderbergh the viewer works? Only time (or sifting through previous years’ logs and then comparing them to the work that came subsequently) will tell.
Either way, Soderbergh’s reading/viewing/listening logs are a fascinating glimpse into the artist’s day-to-day. We’re not sure how he finds time to keep up with art every year, how he manages to read so many books, ranging from the latest Zadie Smith, Don DeLillo and Jonathan Safran Foer to science texts, like “Failure: Why Science is so Successful.” (He even found time to thumb through James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” and Agatha Christie’s “The Mousestrap” — again, why, exactly?) This is something we wish more artists would do, even if it only leads to reckless speculation by nerds.
The music section is a bit misleading, as he doesn’t list every album he listened to — only the vinyl he appears to have bought. In that regard, kudos for getting a wax copy of Fripp & Eno’s “No Pussyfooting” and John Barry’s excellent pop-jazz soundtrack to Richard Lester’s great “The Knack.”