“Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.”
– Danny Ocean
WE HAVE A PODCAST! LISTEN TO US TALK ABOUT Ocean’s Eleven ON ITUNES OR WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS.
Cate Blanchett’s outfits were enough to get us excited for Ocean’s 8, so there really wasn’t a lot of convincing that we needed to revisit Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 hit Ocean’s Eleven. What has now been canonized in heist-movie lore, Ocean’s Eleven follows Danny Ocean in his quest to steal from three casinos on the Vegas strip during their busiest night of the year. Fast, quippy, and beautifully shot, Ocean’s Eleven was sure to be a good ride.
If you have been following our journey through food and film, you know that we like a strong and maybe even at times convoluted concept when developing our menus. Sometimes, however, we just want to make something that we think will go well with the key item on the menu. Is that wrong? Are we cheating ourselves of a better menu? Are we losing our edge? No! Menus are varied, different, and worthy no matter what shape they take or what they look like. So we made some delicious Chinese pickled cucumbers because we love these things so darn much.
Now, on to the centerpiece of this menu. We made delicious Xiaolongbao (steamed shanghai soup dumplings) using a recipe from The Woks of Life because we needed some expert direction before heading into the complex world of XLB. We felt soup dumplings were an appropriate metaphor for the preparation phase of the heist being that you have the aspic, a solid when refrigerated, blending in and taking the form of the ground pork inside and eventually breaking out to present you with the delicious prize of soup, inside a dumpling.
Now we needed to close out the menu with something that felt appropriate to the casino theme while also hitting that sweet, sweet taste of victory after pulling off a successful heist. Enter Alfajores: the Latin American cookie with a tasty dulce de leche center to really hit home the sweet sense of walking out of a casino completely undetected. We modified these a little bit to drive home the casino chips look and feel. These cookies were delicious and only got better a couple days away from the heist.
Here’s a fun little piece of Hollywood trivia for you: George Clooney (you may know him better as Amal Clooney’s husband) started a tequila company in 2013 called Casamigos and it’s actually pretty good (if a tad pricey), as far as celebrity-backed alcoholic drinks go. Apparently, George decided to make a tequila he could drink all day long (#goals), and he ended up with one he liked well enough to put his autograph on every single bottle. Despite the fact that he sold the company last year (for A BILLION DOLLARS NO JOKE), we knew we would have to use it for our cocktail when we found a recipe for a drink called the Danny Ocean on their website. The Danny Ocean is a citrusy mix of Casamigos, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and agave nectar, and it is absolutely delightful even if it is a little simple. We could definitely drink this all day long.
We threw around quite a few options for our drinking rules on this film but finally landed on:
👶 Drink for dazing (Damon-hazing).
🎰 Drink when you meet a new team member.
🍤 Drink when Brad Pitt is eating or drinking.
The vibe of Ocean’s Eleven (and yes, the movie definitely has a vibe) is ‘cool.’ Every main character does their best to encapsulate a different aspect of cool. Brad Pitt casually snacks wherever he goes. Don Cheadle drops cockney slang into every conversation he has. George Clooney always has a half smile on his face. Elliott Gould is never seen without a silk robe and a cigar as oversized as his glasses. Andy Garcia (playing Terry Benedict) walks around like he owns the place (and to be fair, he does). The fumbling, nervous, and sometimes even outright neurotic supporting cast throw the cool-ness of the head honchos into stark contrast.
For better or for worse, the cool vibe the actors carry bleeds into the script. We’re treated to one droll (in the best way possible) line after another, which is a treat for those of us who appreciate the subdued humor. However, there are also lots of hand-wavy plot devices that the writers were too cool to worry about tightening up. If a weapon powerful enough to knock out the power in a city as big as Vegas exists, why is only one security guard guarding the 10,000 square foot building it resides in? How was Amal Clooney’s husband able to create an exact replica of a safe he has never been in? And how did the thieves manage to obtain full riot gear, assault rifles, and SWAT vans for their whole team without being noticed?
If we had to air one gripe with Ocean’s Eleven, it’s that it is a film stacked to the brim with men (large majority of them white*) and makes absolutely no space for any woman to meaningfully factor into the film, of course with the exception of Tess (played by Julia Roberts). Tess is the ex-wife of Danny and is confident, focused, and capable. But the ultimate reveal of the film is that it is actually Tess who is the treasure in Terry Benedict’s “vault” to be rescued and saved by Danny Ocean, and all of the work earlier in the film is set up for this moment. Sure, it plays itself relatively well and we have no gripes about hating on the guy who values money over the woman he is with, but it leaves Tess feeling like she is merely the treasure to be stolen away at the end of the film. Tess, fortunately, isn’t a completely helpless character, and it is her decision to finally choose to be with Danny.
*Switching out the brothers for two Latinx siblings would have been a great move and would have cleared up some of our issues with Ocean’s Thirteen.
We have a more to say ABOUT Ocean’s Eleven! Listen ON ITUNES OR WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS.
André: On a scale of 1 to 10, this one is an Ocean’s 11. I’m sorry. I had to. I don’t actually think Ocean’s Eleven is the perfect movie; it’s just a really good heist film. It doesn’t transcend the genre in any way – it has a pretty formulaic structure, and there aren’t any outstanding performers – but it is certainly well executed. It’s funny in an understated way, and there are just enough twists and turns to keep you pleasantly surprised. I’d swim in these waters again, but I’m not rushing to go back.
Leanna: This movie ages as well as Amal Clooney’s husband. Sure, you’re starting to be able to sense its age and that it’s from a different time, but you still appreciate its character and style after all these years. I’ve always been a big fan of heist films, and I think have to credit the Ocean’s trilogy to for that. If only they had more women in this film, but fortunately, we have Ocean’s 8 on its way and a generous amount of fabulous pantsuits, long coats, and female friendship with it.
Ben: 90%. Ocean’s Eleven is a wonderful experience of a film, and one of those movies that you recognize as being tightly and smartly produced, acted and directed from beginning to the end. Conversations seem to flow casually and effortlessly from the actors and it leaves you with a sense of the history between everyone, ultimately serving to build out the world of Ocean’s Eleven. It is, of course, not without its faults as a film heavily featuring at least eleven men and leaving really only one decent speaking role for the lone woman of the film. And, the fact that it took them until 2018 to rectify this issue is tiresome. But, despite its flaws, Ocean’s Eleven is an enduring piece of pop culture that I will probably continue watching for years to come.
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