Oceans 11
My Rating:

Brilliant, snazzy, wow!

Bitable Bytes:
"The living embodiments of cool!"
"...Risk-taking, lady-killing!"
"For a Vegas aficionado...a must!"
"Star power!"

Add a quarter star if: You are partial to Las Vegas.
Add a quarter star if: You are partial to Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, or Joey the Lemur.

What to do while watching:
Mimic the facial expressions of Frank, Sammy, and Dean while crocheting.

What to eat while watching:
Cocktails. Alternately, PB & J.

Ending on a scene which seems the direct inspiration for the Reservoir Dogs poster, Ocean's 11 depicts the attempted heist of five Vegas casinos on New Year's Eve, 1960-something. Looking young-for-middle-aged, dapper-yet-tough, aloof and wizened all at once, the cast of 11 struts from the Flamingo, casually smoking, shuffling their feet, gazing away from the camera. Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, a few other guys, Normal Fell (who looks like a young Mr. Roper), and finally, Sammy Davis, Jr. execute the swankiest group mosey you ever saw.

The living embodiments of male cool in 1960, the extended rat pack plays a group of retired paratroopers, reunited about 15 years after the end of the war. They are older and wiser, but still up for adventure. Sergeant Danny Ocean (that's Frankie) is still a ball-busting, risk-taking, lady-killing rabble-rouser, the head of the current operation. The reunion of the 11 starts with a lot of fake punches thrown, wise-cracks, racial slurs (guess who's the butt of these) and other Eisenhower-era gestures of male tenderness. Yes, it's all pretty dated. The women stay in the background, coming into the script only as back-stabbers, gossips or "jilted Janes." And the only Asian cast member is conspicuous in his role as grinning side-line manservant.

A whiny Greek felon is the idea-man of the group, who proposes the idea that army-trained men would have a good chance at pulling off a casino heist. The plan is to black out the town 1 minute and 38 seconds after midnight (the duration of the song "Auld Lang Syne"), then to hotwire the safes and "liberate" their fortunes. The casinos are The Sahara, The Sands, The Riviera, The Dunes, and The Flamingo.

Fans of Las Vegas (do any of them visit The Big Empire?) will groove on the scenes of these defunct resorts back in their non-high-rise hey-days. The Flamingo looks a lot like a Denny's from the outside. You also get a good glimpse of the Golden Gate Casino and the once great Mint Hotel. For a Vegas aficionado, this movie's a must.

Almost as much a tribute to Las Vegas, the place the Rat Pack would call its home base, as a narrative, this movie gets a bit long with its yesteryear sense of cinematic pacing. And yet, there are enough good lines, humorous situations, and tense moments to entertain. The audience in 2000 will notice the decelerated transitions from scene to scene, and may want to have something else to do while watching, like balancing a checkbook, knitting a sweater, or alphabetizing the CDs. Just because it's slow and old doesn't make it Hitchcock. Mainly, this is a vehicle for star-power, Las Vegas, the brightest of all.

Several musical numbers punctuate the film, highlighting another filmic aspect that has vanished since the 60's. Personally, I like them. They don't interfere with the story here. And I'm still humming "Yo Eleven!"

This has been on my list to see since I caught a clip of it at the Las Vegas Museum at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. So, I'm glad to have seen it on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and can recommend it to any Vegas or Sinatra fan with time on his or her hands.

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Gooden's Reading:

Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed


Gooden's Listening to:

Frank Zappa - Lather


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