Oceans 11 was a movie made by and with The Rat Pack, a group of Hollywood pals, most famously, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Peter Lawford who found the story and pitched it to Sinatra who liked it.
The movie was about a daring plan to rob all the major Las Vegas casinos on New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight. While the movie was being made, Sinatra and pals performed in the very casinos they were robbing in the movie. It was the first major cross-media marketing in show business.
Oceans 11 was a big hit. What held the plot together was more than the chemistry of its stars - it had a story. Danny Ocean headed a platoon of soldiers in WWII that was a great fighting unit, but, after the war, when they went their separate ways, they all flopped. Danny is an ever-losing gambler whose wife left him because he can't see a woman without making a pass. Dean Martin's character is a two-bit singer still playing the lounge. Davis works on a garbage truck. Lawford is a rich mama's boy, still dependent on her for financing his playboy lifestyle. The caper to rob the casinos is not just a chance to finally strike it rich, it's a chance to be a team one more time - to go back to being part of a something bigger than any of them could ever be alone. To fight the good fight once more, but this time, victory pays. What causes their downfall (this was 1960, crime did not pay) are their individual faults. A woman Danny played around with then dropped takes revenge. Lawford's new 'stepfather' agrees to help the casino's owners get back their money and he tracks the heist to his new stepson and his friend, Ocean.
Great caper movies are all about characters and relationships, just like all great movies. Sure, there has to be some gimmick, some kind of raz-ma-taz to make us sit up and think - wow, cool. But it needs something more - it needs a reason for the heist.
One of the first caper movies was The Asphalt Jungle, a John Huston movie about a jewelry heist and a bunch of underworld characters who can never escape the flaws that have kept them losers for most of their lives. Rififi , The Killing, Topkapi, How To Steal a Million (the only rom-com caper film ever made), The Thomas Crown Affair, Seven Thieves, Thief, The Great Train Robbery (a period piece caper), The Sting (the only caper movie to win Best Picture) a pair of English caper-comedies, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers and more recently, The Score. All have a common element - the caper is just the excuse for the characters to do something else, something that's more than just robbing money, something that's about soul.
In 2001, Warner Bros. dusted off the Oceans 11 script and developed a new franchise with George Clooney taking on the role of Danny Ocean. There have been three Oceans movies, all a little worse than their predecessor. The main problem is that they are all just about the caper. There is nothing that ties the group of thieves together other than their quest for bucks - kind of like the movies themselves. They all made a ton of money, so they were all successful. Right?
Now, WB has gathered eight actresses to star in a #metoo Oceans movie - Oceans 8. I am certain that some genius at Warners came up with the number 8 as the rounded, sensual, feminine equivalent to the double penile 11. Oceans 8 stars eight actresses led by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett. The conceit is that Bullock is Danny Ocean's felonious sister. Her caper is to steal $150 million in diamonds from a Met Museum Ball during Fashion Week in New York. It will be released on June 7.
There is nothing to suspect from the trailer that Oceans 8's makers have understood the true nature of a great caper movie, but one can hope. What we do know is that if this movie is more successful than the distaff Ghostbusters was, then we will see an Oceans 18 (combine the casts for a movie that stars both men and women? What an idea!), Jane Bond (Gillian Anderson has been mentioned), Hilliary Potter, Missioness: Impossible and Spider Woman - wait, they made that one already and there will be no more female arachnid movies. But there will be more action and franchise movies led by actresses. Of course, that is a good thing. But what is not good is if the makers of these movies just substitute females for males and change nothing else. Men and women are different - there are no female mass murders and the senseless violence that seems to be attractive to most young males is not to most young females. So, please include more women in franchise movies, but make them from that feminine point of view and not just a rehash of the same senseless and unreal violence but with lipstick. Let’s really change movies, for the better.