How to Do Pop Culture the Steven Soderbergh Way

CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 25: Director Steven Soderbergh poses in the press room at the 66th annual Directors Guild of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 25, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
You cannot fathom the knowledge that lies within this forehead. Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty

Stephen Soderbergh does his homework. The director just released his diary of all the media he consumed in 2014 (it’s an annual tradition), and the totals are astounding: More than 100 different films, 30-some-odd books, and dozens of TV shows. And he did all that while working on The Knick and Magic Mike XXL! Surely you, with your comparatively minuscule workload, could afford to mimic Soderbergh’s watching habits and thus gain a small measure of his encyclopedic film knowledge. If you’re so inclined, here’s how to do it:

Be a Polymath
The most interesting thing about Soderbergh’s taste is that there is no real “Soderbergh taste.” The guy watches everything. He’ll watch the Elia Kazan melodrama The Arrangement, then follow it up with a Katt Williams comedy special the same night. Then, the next week, he’ll watch another Katt Williams comedy special, followed by Citizenfour and a Smithsonian documentary on the Nazca Lines the next day. You can’t pin him down.

Incorporate Fun Themes
Of course, a grab bag can get exhausting, so try to incorporate a little bit of rhyme and/or reason to the proceedings. In March, Soderbergh apparently got really into the idea of bad things happening on boats and planes, watching Liam Neeson in Non-Stop, 1974 cruise-ship disaster film Juggernaut, and a documentary about the crash of TWA flight 800. And like everybody else, Soderbergh reserved December for catching up on the Oscar race, watching a new contender almost every day.

Plan Interesting Double Features
On December 4, Soderbergh watched the bleak Polish post-Holocaust drama Ida, followed by Peter Pan Live! What a day that must have been.

Get to Know Your Favorites
If you like a movie, don’t watch it just once. Over the course of 2014, Soderbergh watched Jaws twice and 2001: A Space Odyssey three times. It’s how he knows enough about the classics to take them apart.

Mix Binges With Live Viewings
When it comes to TV, not all shows are meant to be watched exactly the same way. Soderbergh binged on House of Cards, Transparent, and The Thick of It, watching seven episodes of the latter in one stretch on May 24. But he was mostly a dutiful week-to-week viewer of Mad Men, The Americans, and Inside Amy Schumer.

Know When to Quit
Soderbergh showed little hesitation in dropping the hammer on a show early, giving up on True Detective after five episodes, Silicon Valley after three, and Orange Is the New Black after only two. Life is too short.

Honor the Departed
After the death of Mike Nichols, Soderbergh screened Carnal Knowledge and The Graduate in quick succession.

Be Friends With David Fincher
This is the hardest tip to pull off, but if you can, it’s apparently worth it. Thanks to his close relationship with his fellow director, Soderbergh got to watch Gone Girl — twice! — in March, months before the rest of America. He returned the favor by screening Fincher’s Se7en and Panic Room. When you’ve got friends, it’s good to support them.

* This post incorrectly characterized The Paper Chase as a newspaper movie.

How to Do Pop Culture the Steven Soderbergh Way