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Welcome back to another edition of the YOMYOMF Blockbuster Showdown, where a group of Offenders watch this season’s biggest Hollywood releases and see how they hold up. Here, we express our VERY SPOILERY OPINIONS on all the big Hollywood tentpoles. For this edition, we review OCEAN’s 8, the latest film in the OCEANS heist franchise, but with an all female crew. It’s the second major Hollywood property where the main cast has been gender-swapped after GHOSTBUSTERS from two summers ago, which was met with a mixed reception. How does this new film work out? Read below!

1. This is a new chapter in an existing franchise. How did OCEAN’S 8 pan out for you all?

DOM: If, like me, you had a brief period where you were in love with Sandra Bullock, OCEAN’S 8 will make you fall for her all over again. The feeling will pass, again, but Bullock carries this film with a sort of heightened replication of George Clooney’s blasé cool from the earlier films. She’s deadpan, mischievous, subtly evil, and wears a lot of snazzy outfits.

BRIAN: True confession: I’ve had some wine. True confession pt. 2: I really wanted to like this movie. True confession pt. 3: I didn’t and I did, in that order. Gary Ross did his best facsimile of Steven Soderbergh. The music was David Holmes-esque. The murderer’s row of female stars was on par with the orignal. It was just a little… off. Like an evil clone or a Coach bag bought on Canal Street. That’s my beef with most of the movie. It all felt familiar, but not in that fun, nostalgic-way. More in the, I’ve-seen-this-before-and-I’m-a-little-bored-way. I will say, it was amazing to see so many talented women on-screen together, with no men or mansplaining in sight. But my high-expectations may have doomed my viewing experience from the start.

ERIN: Before I make any critical assessments, let me say this first: WOMEN POWER OH YEAH! As obvious as that may sound one major reason I did enjoy this film was because it was an all female cast. Storyline wise, it follows the same style as all the other “Oceans” films so there is nothing really “unexpected”. The film was fun and engaging in every sense so I was not bored during any part of the film. Also I loved all the outfits and the strong personalities of the women.

2. How does it compare to 11, 12 and 13?

DOM: OCEAN’S 11 was one of those “deeply shallow” celebrity-eye-candy movies that wasn’t very meaningful, but it was really nifty, man. 12 and 13 were the same, but more absurd, and also dumber. OCEAN’S 8 transplants the exact vibe of the “original trilogy,” swaps the genders of the very famous cast, and replaces Las-Vegas-casino porn with museum-and-jewelry porn. So, if you liked the old O11, you’ll probably like O8, and if the reason you don’t like O8 is because of the new cast, then you’re probably sexist, because it’s really almost exactly the same movie.

BRIAN: I love OCEAN’S 11. When it’s on TNT (it’s always on TNT) I have to stop whatever I’m doing (probably folding 2T underwear) to watch. It’s peak George Clooney and peak Brad Pitt. I agree with Dom in that these two movies are similar, except for a few key story points. First, OCEAN’S 11 was, at its core, a love story between Clooney and Julia Roberts. OCEAN’S 8 is… well, it’s a pretty thin revenge story with lesser stakes. Eleven had Vegas, 8 had… the Met? Eleven’s characters felt real (as real as con-men get) while 8’s characters felt written. And I don’t think it’s sexist to say the superstar-wattage just couldn’t hide these story problems.

ERIN: Again, I am biased and loved number 8 the most because I saw so many women, with over 25% of them being women of color. On a more critical note, I agree with both Dom and Brian that 11 was just fun – nothing deep or meaningful and yes 12 and 13 was just pure fun. I think for me what makes OCEAN’S 8 different from the others is that by default it carries a strong political statements about diversity and its progressive so if you go by that then it is quite deep. I felt the characters in OCEAN’S 8 were also quite developed whilst with 11 I think it took till at least 12 to see the development of the characters.

3. What worked and what didn’t work?

DOM: I think Brad Pitt observed that OCEAN’S 11 was less a story about characters and more a filmic exercise in looking cool, and Bullock and Blanchett spend most of O8 looking tres cool. Not like, doing stuff or having emotions or any of that. Just like, flicking at a lighter, or sitting in a Warhol-esque pose, just being cool movie stars. And then Rihanna shows up and everything she does is cool.

What doesn’t work is, again, consistent with the old OCEAN’S 11: the plan for the big heist is utterly preposterous, as ridiculous as any superhero movie. Every step in the plan seems so convoluted, unlikely, and incredibly expensive, the audience is literally robbed of any dramatic investment in these characters because it seems like they can just show up at the Vogue magazine office and get a job there effortlessly because it’s necessary for this one trivial bit of the master plan.

BRIAN: Look, I love heist movies. In every heist movie, the audience has to give up one, maybe two, major lapses in suspension of belief. But OCEAN’s 8 red-lined in the ridiculousness of an ultra-elaborate plan. But hey, I get it – this a summer popcorn flick, it’s not brain surgery.

But for me, the writing just wasn’t as smart as Ted Griffin’s original script for 11. While it was tough for me to invest in Debbie Ocean getting back at the lover who ratted her out, I was all in on Danny trying to win Julia Roberts back. Which brings me to another nit. In O8 there was no Roberts-like love interest, just a guy who looked vaguely like Matthew McConaughey crossed with Bradley Cooper. And all I can think was – WHY DIDN’T THEY GET MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY OR BRADLEY COOPER? I mean, OCEAN’s 11 had JULIA FREAKIN’ ROBERTS – they couldn’t have cast a superstar male actor to go toe-to-toe with Sandy Bullock?

That all said, the female star power was dazzling, although I wish Bullock played more of a traditional Bullock character vs. doing her best Clooney imitation. That felt a little flat. Blanchett was amazing as always, but I couldn’t get past the first scene where she was watering down vodka in a club while looking like a billion bucks. These criminals all felt a little too petty (running bingo scams, shoplifting, and playing three-card monte) to be able to pull off such an elaborate score. That said, after a slow first half, the back-half with the heist sequence gained momentum. The standout of the film for me was Awkwafina, and her introduction gave the film a much-needed, original character that helped breathe some life into the film. Which is the perfect segway to…

ERIN: As I stated for me what worked was how the film was able to bring out a strong political/social statement but making it fun and not serious in doing so. The chemistry between all the women was extremely strong, particularly between Bullock and Blanchett ( both actresses who I have always loved for years) so going by that the film was already not going to be a flop. Having the women of color worked and throughout the film I saw interesting dynamics between Awkwafina, Rihanna and Kaling which was awesome.

What didn’t work – well I think I agree with Brian, the entire premise is ridiculous in terms of how everything was planned, but I guess that is the style of all the “Ocean’s” films that they are meant to be preposterous and ridiculous. Also when the investigation at the end happened and how Bullock’s character in some ways “admitted” guilt, yet she was let go which I was thinking huh?? I felt the end went too fast and there could have been more invested in fleshing out the end because I felt it was too rushed.

4. Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling repped Asians hard. Were there any other Asians?

DOM: Oh yes, there were, yes there were.

Did we notice that the one scene of Awkwafina and Kaling together totally failed the Bechdel test? Not that I give a big shit about the Bechdel test, but O8 is so full of scenes of women not talking about men, that one scene was conspicuous.

Awk and Mindy were just fine, charming as heck, but didn’t get to truly milk any moment…despite the fact that they do the most important shit for the heist. I note that, along with Rihanna, the POC women of O8 are the skilled operators of the squad, with technical expertise in computers, sleight-of-hand, and jewelry. The white gals’ main expertise seems to be bullshitting people. But who am I to judge?

BRIAN: Dom, don’t you know Asians are good at math? Back to Awkwafina… Now the only thing I knew about her was her amazing “Queef” video that was brilliant and hilarious and ridiculous and made me ugly laugh the first time I saw it.

Awkwafina owned that queef corner, but who knew she’d be such a great actor? There was something about her voice and delivery that really popped in this cookie-cutter movie. I found myself leaning in whenever she was onscreen (okay, maybe there’s an Asian bias here, but I ams what I ams). Unfortunately, Kaling’s character was a bit underdeveloped and failed to highlight the quirkiness that makes Kaling, Kaling.

The big Asian appearance was (***SPOILER ALERT***) the return of our pint-sized acrobat, Yen, from the original OCEAN’S ELEVEN. That was a nice reveal… but you know what would have made for a nicer reveal – and possibly would have made the film’s ending about 243% better? A Danny Ocean/George Clooney cameo. I mean C’MON! It’s low-hanging fruit, but you need to give the people what they want! In fact, why couldn’t this film be about Debbie stealing a million dollar necklace from Danny’s killers? Now that would have been interesting (sorry if I’m mansplaining). Also, why not hire a female director? Anyone? Anyone?

ERIN: YES YES YES – they repped Asians hard and they did Asian women like myself proud. Yes and there were other Asians in it specifically the cameo from the Mandarin speaking acrobat that everyone can understand when he speaks Mandarin. Of course both Awkwafina and Kaling were not “main characters”, but their characters were smart and very cheeky- like the rebel Asian woman I always hoped I would be as a child. All in all, I had the opportunity to interview Awkwafina on her role in OCEAN’S 8, and I asked her about how it was working in an all women’s cast and as usual her response is dynamic:

“In terms of the chemistry building – it was already there to start off with. We really didn’t need to build it and it was amazing how it all came together. Without the chemistry there wouldn’t be a fun ride – that was what made this group of 8 women so special. There were rumors that we were all fighting with each other which are all untrue. Certain people ( and that goes back to your question of toxic masculinity, misogyny and patriarchy) can’t believe that a group of powerful women can work together in sync and not fight. We can love and support each other and it was this memory and experience which I will never forget.”

Again looking at the team, I agree with Dom, that the women of color were the ones with the “actual” skills which would not have made the heist successful if their skills were not utilized and the “white women” were the talkers mostly.

5. Although apples and oranges, OCEAN’S 8 is following a trend in Hollywood of gender flipping existing properties after GHOSTBUSTERS (Read our review). Your take?

DOM: I didn’t care for the GHOSTBUSTERS remake ‘cos it just wasn’t as well-made a film as O.G. GHOSTBUSTERS. OCEAN’S 8 is equal to OCEAN’S 11 in both stylishness and vapidity, and the story is more interesting, informed by the gender flip. Basically O8 should’ve been the sequel that immediately followed O11 (because O12 and O13 were pointless), and then they should’ve made the third of the trilogy with non-famous people (as the high concept).

BRIAN: I’m down with gender-flipping, but please gender-flip characters into better movies. There’s a real reboot and sequel fatigue out there (see SOLO) so if you’re going to gender-flip you better come with a fresh take that’s going to make the material stand on its own..

ERIN: Oops… I think I should have read this question because I have already answered this in just about all the other questions. I think though, on a deeper level, OCEAN’S 8 showed that women can be powerful, yet badass and strong willed. It also shows how we can multi talk our personal lives with our hyper dynamic lives and this film shows women power more than GHOSTBUSTERS ever did. To me GHOSTBUSTERS showed that women can be badass and fight ghosts and demons, but OCEAN’S 8 showed what regular women do everyday ( minus being criminals) – that we can multi task effectively better than men. 🙂

6. What existing film or film franchise would you like to see with an all female cast? Pitch me!

DOM: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS! They should also remake the 80’s NBC series MANIMAL except now it’s WOMANIMAL.

BRIAN: Keeping with the numbers theme, how about an all-women DIRTY DOZEN? Or perhaps an all-female SEVEN SAMURAI? Fun-fact, there were actual female samurai called “onna bugeisha” (Google it, but I have dibs on the script). A movie that I love that’s a bit of a weiner-roast is SNEAKERS. A group of smart, fun-loving, female code-breakers, swept into a world of government secrets and stolen online information? Who wouldn’t want to see that?

But my ultimate gender-flip movie pitch is… well, it’s less of a gender-flip and more of a spin-off… wait for it…

JEANIE BUELLER’S DAY OFF.

I know, right? It practically writes itself.

ERIN: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, AVENGERS (although I have read rumors this may be happening?) and THE USUAL SUSPECTS….

7. Rate it! 1 Banana (Bad) 4 Bananas (Great)

DOM: 3 Bananas. But I like OCEAN’S 11. And also sparkly evening gowns.

BRIAN: 2 Bananas. Maybe I’ll grow to like it more after the 27th viewing on TNT.

ERIN: 3 bananas – Asides from the end seeming rushed, I thought the film was fun and yes showed “WOMEN POWER”!

Dominic Mah is a writer, director, erratic blogger at dommah.com, and rock musical enthusiast. He tweets pop-culture critique as @thorhulkcritic. Pretty soon he will be premiering a new reality web show about karaoke bars at karaokerhapsody. He is a regular contributor to YOMYOMF.

Brian Watanabe (@BrianWatanabe) is an advertising creative, blogger, screenwriter and Star Wars nerd. His screenplay THE ROGUES GALLERY was turned into the film OPERATION: ENDGAME starring Rob Corddry, Maggie Q, Ellen Barkin and Zach Galifianakis.

Erin Chew (@echewy) is an activist rooted in Asian Australian issues. She is a contributor for YOMYOMF and pens a regular column Chewing the Fat and podcast #OffendedAF.

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