A friend doesn't go on a diet because you are fat. -Erma Bombeck
Question #14656 posted on 04/25/2005 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

In "Ocean's Eleven," when Brad Pitt and George Clooney are talking about knocking over the casinos, Brad Pitt says they're going to need "Off the top of my head, a Boesky, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethroes and a Leon Spinx. Not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever" (spelling courtesy of the subtitles). What the heck do all those mean?

- Victory

A: Dear Victory,

That's what is funny about it: nobody knows.

Both 11 and 12 had a lot of fun with con-man code-word jargon. They were talking about the types of characters they would need to pull of the job.

In Oceans 12, Linus, one of the Mormon Twins, and Basher were all talking about different types of jobs using the same code word jargon.

From watching the Extra Features, it looks like a lot of both movies was improvised. Heaven only knows if they are supposed to mean anything. I would guess they thought of some tricks or person types and gave them names. In 12, of course, they ended up using a Looky-Looky with a partial Bundle of Joy to (fake) steal the egg.

Regardless... good movies. In fact, I just barely finished watching 11. Clever stuff.

That is all.

Horatio the Cinema Geek
A: Dear Victory,

I quote "Ask FlickChick" from TV Guide online:

Question: During one scene in Ocean's Twelve, the characters played by Matt Damon, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are sitting in a bar with this guy (Robbie Coltrane) and they start speaking in gibberish. Damon's character is completely thrown; are they speaking in some sort of code, or is it just plain nonsense? - AJ

Flickchick: Your question epitomizes the difference between Ocean's Eleven (2001) and Ocean's Twelve (2004). The virtuoso list of needs for the casino robbery in Eleven - "a Boesky, a Jim Brown, Two Jethros, a Leon Spinks, a Miss Daisy and the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever" - sounds like gibberish, but it's sheer, smirking hipster showing-off. Thing is, it's clever - each term actually means something by way of a highly personal kind of free association, as Steven Soderbergh himself explained (and all I had to do was ask!):

"We [Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin] felt we had to come up with some funny, Damon Runyon-esque turns of phrase that weren't arbitrary - we did sit down and think them out. So, Carl Reiner is the Boesky, as in Ivan, the powerful, rich magnate, inside kind of guy. Jim Brown is the confrontation Bernie Mac has with Matt Damon - the 'Don't mess with me or you're in for it' moment. The two Jethros are Casey Affleck and Scott Caan, the idea being 'We're going to need gear heads, car fanatics... some people who are total hillbilly under-the-hood guys.' A Leon Spinks is the disruption of the boxing match: A sporting event with some controversy to it - that's what Leon Spinks means to me. The Miss Daisy association is driving; that was the SWAT van, a ruse involving transportation. The Ella Fitzgerald is the tape of the fake vault, which they're going to play back and have [Andy Garcia's character] Benedict think is live: 'Is it live, or is it Memorex?'"

Makes snarky sense, right? But the gibberish in Twelve is just that: gibberish, though it's supposed to be some kind of sophisticated code that allows thieves to talk freely in a public place about setting up a job. "A doctor who specializes in skin diseases will dream he has fallen asleep in front of the television," says Rusty Ryan (Pitt). "Later, he will wake up in front of the television, but not remember his dreams." "If all the animals along the equator were capable of flattery, then Thanksgiving and Halloween would fall on the same date," replies Ocean (George Clooney). "When I was four years old," counters Matsui (Robbie Coltrane - hey, that's funny, a guy who looks like Robbie Coltrane playing someone named Matsui), who's in a position to set them up with a much-needed gig that involves robbing a reclusive Amsterdam antiques dealer, "I watched my mother kill a spider with a tea cozy. Years later, I realized it was not a spider. It was my Uncle Harold." The desperately baffled Linus (Damon), aware that it's his turn, chimes in with lyrics from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir": "O let the sun beat down upon me/Stars to fill my dreams/I am a traveler in time and space/To be where I've been." Ryan and Ocean swear Linus just called Matsui's niece a whore, but they're obviously jerking his chain. Which is all very well and good, but jerking the viewer's chain is something else. You could do your nut turning over the goofy non sequiturs in your mind, trying to grab will o' the wisp clues. Halloween and Thanksgiving on the same date... You wear masks on Halloween, you know, like a burglar, and if Halloween and Thanksgiving are on the same date then that means the job will go well. But what about the equator animals and flattery? Maybe that means that if you can get your crew - the animals (thanks a lot, boss) - to play nice together and work toward a common goal ("equator" = "line," as in getting your ducks in a row), then the job is doable. Whatever. The actors seem to be having a blast, but the scene oozes contempt for poor schmucks who shell out their hard-earned bucks to see a movie. And that, in my book, is the problem with Ocean's Twelve in a nutshell.

(The reason I'm bothering to quote instead of linking it is that I could only find the cached version on Google, not the current one, which leads me to believe a current link may not exist.)

On the other hand, the "random" slang that Basher uses is completely legit--it's part of Cockney rhyming slang, which uses a (sometimes logical) single or multiple word phrase to replace another common phrase. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockney_rhyming_slang (with apologies for the crude language). According to imdb, cockney rhyming slang is a trademark of Steven Soderbergh, the director.

- Katya