Russell Does Figure-Eights Around Durling

Legendary steam-of-consciousness surfer and genius director David O. Russell, who is currently Oscar-nominated for American Hustle, was tributed last night at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Festival director Roger Durling tried to conduct a normal “interview” but Russell wasn’t going for it. In fact he advised the befuddled Durling to loosen up and just let it happen. Interviewers need to understand this. DOR doesn’t answer questions. Well, he does but if I’ve heard him say “I forgot the question” once I’ve heard it 15 or 20 times. All an interviewer needs to do is drop a thought or a memory byte or some fleeting observation into the vast lake of free-associating consciousness and tap-dancing, lightning-reflex improv that is Russell’s grab-bag mind and just….let him rip!


David O. Russell during last night’s tribute interview at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre.

Russell and SBIFF festival director Roger Durling.

And yet if you go on too long (as I feel Durling did last night — the interview lasted two hours or about 30 minutes more than ideal) Russell’s incandescence can burn out. SBIFF interviews are a dance but Russell’s rap is a world-class “act” and it all ended well. And yet there’s a lesson to be learned: Always leave them hungry for more.

Is Russell going to win Best Director for Hustle, having been denied a win for Silver Linings PLaybook and The Fighter? The betting seems to favor Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron but who knows? I love Russell. I could listen to his always perceptive but scattershot observations and recollections every day. It doesn’t matter if I don’t feel quite as enthusiastic about Hustle as I did about his previous two films. I’m in for the long haul, and so is DOR. Right now is the best time of his life (and mine). Russell is on a roll, nothing can stop him but eventually something will. It’s inevitable. But Russell has the spirit to keep punching and pitching so he’ll bounce back when that happens — no concerns on that score.

  • lazarus

    “Genius”?? Wow. Interesting guy, but easy on the hyperbole there.

    The only film of his that might suggest that label is Huckabees (and I enjoy several other works of his).

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      Get out a bit more. Meet more people. The word is thrown around a lot by sucker-uppers. I don’t use it unless it truly applies.

      • m_00_m

        “The word is thrown around a lot by sucker-uppers.”

        Like you?

        Seriously, though – what’s his “Rashomon”? His “Vertigo”? Maybe making a comparison between some of his “legendary” films and some stone-cold classics should be made before you start throwing the g-word around.

      • brenkilco

        Really? You’re saying that Russell isn’t just an original film maker, or an artist, or even an extraordinary artist, but somebody whose talent is so transcendent we need to label him a genius. Honestly, when it comes to movies I’m not sure anybody but Edison deserves the label. But to suggest at this stage that Dave deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with directors like Kubrick, Hitchcock, Welles, Bresson and Mizoguchi on the strength of stuff like Silver Linings Playbook is ridiculous.

    • otto

      I agree. ‘Genius’ and ‘brilliant’ are so overused they’re devalued. Genius implicates an exceptional, rare intellect, and there is nothing about Russell that suggests he is extraordinary. In fact, his inability to focus on or answer a question directly suggests this is an affecf. It’s easy to spit provocative when you get to decide what the conversation is about.

  • Bobby Peru

    “Legendary” again? Do you understand what it means? David O. Russell is “legendary” (he isn’t; he’s notorious), Inside Llewyn Davis is “legendary” (it wasn’t by a long shot), Leonardo and Jonah are also “legendary” (they were amazing but time will tell if they go on to become the stuff of legend).

    David O. Russell was not “denied” a Best Directing Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, a movie no one but yourself regards as “legendary,” nor was he denied one for The Fighter. There is a reason why he has not won an Oscar yet and that reason is that his films have not measured up to the visionary achievements of his contemporaries. Don’t get me wrong — I love many of his films, but they have never deserved to win Oscars versus their competition.

    I like Russell quite a bit, but you’re off a cliff on him.

    • Diane_Chambers

      To be fair, plenty of directors who were not visionaries have won Oscars, and plenty of visionary directors have not. It’s hard to argue that Russell’s lack of a best director Oscar has to do with the quality of his films when he lost on his first nomination to Tom Hooper.

      As for Inside Llewyn Davis, time will tell if it is legendary. In 1998, no one was calling Lebowski legendary, but it is.

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      Russell is fueled by a certain kind of lightning. Some people are; most aren’t. It’s immaterial, no offense, if you’re disputing or failing to see this.

    • AnnaZed

      “There is a reason why he has not won an Oscar yet and that reason is
      that his films have not measured up to the visionary achievements of his
      contemporaries.”

      Wait, I had no idea that was the basis on which Oscars are awarded; truth be told it’s a bit hard to discern that from the results. Just sayin’

  • Hollis Mulwray

    When did Russell’s image get repaired. Punched by Clooney. Filmed screaming like a lunatic at Tomlin ( no gentlemen there). The untoward incident with the niece. Maybe the Academy is calling him on his shit.

    • DukeSavoy

      And what’s with the three-piece? Most people dress like slobs these days, but isn’t that style WTF? If it was one of the directors Wells dislikes you know he’d bring it up.

      • bastard in a basket

        He’s wearing the same damn thing in every production still I see of him directing Hustle. It just gives off douche vibes (perhaps he’s trying to impress Lawrence on set?). I’m fully prepared though for his well acted “sitcom” to win best picture.

      • Correcting Jeff

        Three-piece suit? This post is sadly lacking the requisite upskirt shots.

    • Brad

      The better question is: when did Clooney and Russell swap careers? Russell couldn’t catch a break from ‘I Heart Huckabees’ until ‘The Fighter’, a period during which Clooney won an Oscar and was nominated for three more. He won an Oscar last year for producing, but who’s hanging out for one of his directorial features anymore? Conversely, in LA (a populace – with the exception of the working class – FUCKING HATES MOVIES), people couldn’t get enough of ‘American Hustle’. I don’t know, ‘The Monuments Men’ just looks tired and old-hat to me. Russell is constantly throwing lines at actors and pushing them to give personal, emotional performances, with the script’s gags coming from a character-driven place. Comparatively, TMM has puns delivered with phony accents like “How can I help you steal our stolen art?” Why the fuck is that funny? For someone with the reputation for wit and charm, Clooney’s humor seems hackneyed and fucking ancient.

  • Pertwillaby

    ‘Three Kings’ was a masterpiece but nobody will remember the last three movies by O. Russel 10 years from now. Anybody who calls the director of ‘The Fighter’, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’ a genius is clueless eloi. The sooner the Academy stops blowing this hack’s dick the better.

    • Pertwillaby

      Look! A clueless DOR fan downvoted me!

      • Reverent and free

        The cellphone scene in Three Kings is one of the sharpest social commentaries on modern warfare. It’s mind boggling to reflect that it was made pre-9/11.

        Just on the level of craft, his confidence with the camera and editing was like an Orson Welles debut. Perfect scene and theme setting opening shot.

  • Clockwork Taxi

    Truly amazed by the HE comments today. Either you get O.Russell or you don’t. People who don’t are wrong.

    • Pertwillaby

      “Three Kings” is a masterpiece and one of the best movies of the 90s but the last 3 movies by O. Russel were all run of the mill efforts. You may think you are right but you are not. If you think DOR is a great director you know nothink about cinema.

      • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

        Nope. I’m fairly certain I know a LOT more about cinema than you do, no offense.

        • Pertwillaby

          I admit I need to calm down. It’s just that I seriously don’t get the love ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’ received.

          • GigglesForGigli

            Based on reading all of Wells SLP posts, I think I can sum it up for him: Jennifer Lawrence.

          • moviewatcher

            I get the love for AH and The Fighter… somewhat. AH is his best post-2004 film, but it still goes over the top, repetivtive or has jarring tonal shifts one too many times. Amy Adams and Christian Bale deserved theirnods though. I can’t believe Lawrence is the one withthe most chance of winning out of thatcast.

        • Gabe_Toro

          I love that an adult can type something this hilarious.

        • joeybot

          HA HA HA HA HA!!!

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      This is a put-on reply, I think, but it’s partly true.

      • Clockwork Taxi

        It’s not a “put-on reply.” Believe it or not, you’re not the only one who adores the work of Mr. O.Russell.

        • joeybot

          No, he IS! You don’t appreciate Russell enough, you don’t adore him, breathe the same as he does, swim in the same waters, etc.

  • Edward

    Also not sure about the “genius” label, but I’ve liked all of his films, some more than others. Hustle is on my list, but I’m so far behind. Nice to see a youngish male in a suit and no ball cap.

  • jason

    would rather watch an episode of storage wars than rewatch SLP again and i love movies

    • jason

      by the way, american hustle and huckabees are terrible. don’t be fooled.

      • Pete Miesel

        Huckabees kind of falls apart in the last act.

  • Steven Gaydos

    In the words of a dear friend who worked with one too many self-promoting hotshot commercials directors, many of whom went on to VERY successful film careers, “You can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a genius.”

  • scooterzz

    speaking of ‘genius’ directors, anybody else catch kristof’s column in todays nyt?…yikes!!

    http://tinyurl.com/l97uem5

  • Steven Gaydos

    Also, two hours is WAY too long for any discussion that doesn’t involve Michael Caine.

  • K. Bowen

    I like American Hustle and The Fighter. The first 45 minutes of Three Kings are excellent but the last hour is barely watchable.

    But he’s not in the class of the Andersons, Linklater, Aronofsky, etc.

  • Perfect Tommy

    The Academy should sponsor I.Q. tests and publicize the results to settle this “genius” question once and for all.

  • Steven Kaye

    Russell is “legendary” and a “genius”. Wow, I didn’t know those words had been redefined.