David O. Russell

Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Director

Best Director is a strange category, particularly because of its tenuous relationship to Best Picture. Does it refer to the best cohesive film, under the assumption that the director is responsible for overseeing nearly all aspects of how that film comes to be? Or does the award refer to a film’s most conspicuous control of visuals, tone, and style – the things that we most associate as evidence of a director’s guiding influence? The vague sense of what qualifies someone as worthy of honor in this category (we, of course, only assume what the director did by virtue of the finished product) is perfectly on display in one of this year’s most heated competitions: between Alfonso Cuarón’s enthralling real-time spectacle of a woman lost in orbit and Steve McQueen’s intricate, decade-long depiction of one man’s harrowing subjection. But let’s take a look at how the five nominees shake out, with my surprise predicted winner in red…

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Christian Bale;Jeremy Renner;Bradley Cooper

What makes a great director? Is it more about the technical visual achievement that we can see on screen? Is it about getting exceptional performances from the actors? For a great director, it’s both. For a Best Director of any given year, as so named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one or the other might do. This year, for instance, Alfonso Cuaron is the frontrunner for the Oscar, and his recognition is mostly based on the film being “an absolute technical marvel in every possible way,” as our own review from Kate Erbland puts it. Like James Cameron before him, Cuaron will be honored for work where the performances from the cast weren’t as much a priority as the performances from the camera and special effects. Yet also like Cameron, Cuaron has been paired with a Best Actress nomination for his leading lady. Sandra Bullock has won an Oscar in the past for her acting, but she still surprised many with her performance in Gravity. Do we have Cuaron to thank for that? It’s hard to tell. He’s never really gotten bad work from his actors before, but he’s certainly not thought of as an actor’s director in the way his four companions in the category are. This is his first instance of directing an Oscar nominated performance. Including this year’s additions, Martin Scorsese has 22 under his belt, David O. Russell has 11, Alexander Payne has 7 and Steve McQueen has 3 — of course, […]

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David O Russell and Jennifer Lawrence

Scorsese and De Niro. McQueen and Fassbender. Tarantino and L. Jackson. Sometimes the forces of filmmaking are so profound that director and actor are willed into a state of artistic BFFship; a bond that cannot be broken unless some homewrecker named Leonardo DiCaprio saunters into Gangs of New York with the intention of stealing away another man’s bestie. Now, the latest pair of cinematic buds seems to be David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence. They’ve spent Russell’s last two films together (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), and today Deadline reports their intent for a three-in-a-row teaming. It seems Russell is in talks to direct a biopic of Joy Mangano, the world’s leading pioneer of self-wringing squishy mop-thing technology, and he’s looking at Lawrence to star.

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Princess Mononoke

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review american hustle

It’s 1978 in New York City, and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is working hard to perfect the mother of all comb-overs. It’s an elaborate and time-intensive endeavor, but if he’s going to do it he wants it done right. He treats his businesses the same way, both the dry cleaning front and the illegal scams he runs on the side, and he’s a success because he works hard, does the job right, and never gets greedy. Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), his partner both in crime and in the bedroom, is a fan of v-necks and faux British accents, but she’s not too hot on Rosenfeld’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Trouble arises in the tightly-coiffed form of F.B.I. agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who busts one half of the criminal duo with the intention of coercing them into helping him take down some far bigger fish. Target number one is the easily corruptible Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) from the nearby New Jersey shore, but as DiMaso’s eyes grow at the thought of nabbing even higher profile targets the entire operation threatens to spiral out of control. It doesn’t bode well for Irving’s tenuously-constructed combover either.

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david-o-russell1

When assessing what present and future filmmakers can learn from David O. Russell’s ideas and practices, it really depends on which David O. Russell we’re talking about. Is it David O. Russell the mad genius auteur, who was as notorious for insisting on his vision as he was for getting in much-publicized spats with actors on set? Or is it David O. Russell the comeback king who, with this weekend’s American Hustle, seems all but guaranteed a third critically lauded and commercially successful film in a row? In several notable ways, the themes of David O. Russell’s films haven’t changed all that much – he’s still as preoccupied as ever with depicting various types of dysfunctional, untraditional, and ultimately affirming oddball “families” – but his filmmaking has changed greatly, a switch that he chalks up to lessons learned from the troubled shoot and reception of (the still-underrated) I Heart Huckabees as well as his unfinished film Nailed. Whatever you think of Russell’s films, he’s found himself in a position to speak about filmmaking from an encyclopedia of experiences (good and bad) and attitudes (egotistical to humble). So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who got Bruce Wayne and Katniss Everdeen their first Oscars.

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american hustle poster bradley cooper

During the production of David O. Russell‘s American Hustle, the public was been concerned with one thing, and one thing only: Bradley Cooper‘s perm. And rightfully so. Though the trailer and some stills have shown it off in context of the film, new character sheets are letting us get a look at the thing up close and personal, along with rest of the cast in all their seventies glory. American Hustle focuses on the infamous ABSCAM operation, in which a con artist (Christian Bale) and his mistress/partner in the scam (Amy Adams) are forced to team up with a federal agent (Cooper) to catch other criminals. But because this is the seventies, there is a whole lot of debauchery and side-boob going on to distract them from their goals.

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American Hustle

Yesterday gave us our first glimpse at the sweet ‘dos of David O. Russell‘s latest film – American Hustle. Today, we have the opportunity to witness all that greased-hair goodness in motion, and I strongly implore you to take that opportunity. Those who hit “play” on this trailer without knowing what American Hustle is about probably won’t know that much more by the trailer’s end. So here’s the scoop – Hustle is a fictional account of the ABSCAM sting operation from the ’70s-’80s, wherein the FBI and a con artist (Christian Bale) team up to take down both thieves and corrupt public officials. But if the trailer didn’t want us to know that, then it’s probably not super important right now. What is important is the performances, the style, the haircuts, the costumes and the music (which tells us everything we need to know – there will be both good times and bad times). And there’s plenty of goodness within that series of flashing images. Be on the lookout for a menacing Jennifer Lawrence, Bale playing a butt like a bongo drum, and a Quentin Tarantino-style trunk shot. There are also a few peeks at the juicier bits – guns and weeping and a bag-over-the-head-style kidnapping. American Hustle is definitely one to keep your eye on. Check out the first trailer after the break.

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American Hustle

The past three years have been very kind to David O. Russell. The director is responsible for 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, so naturally he’s stepping back into the game with a new film that combines the very best forces from both movies to contend this award season. American Hustle is set in the 1970s and ’80s in New York, which is ever-evident from this new batch of  stills, released by USA Today. The film centers on the FBI’s Abscam sting operation and will deal with government agents and conmen on both sides of the affair. Let’s talk about that perm. Bradley Cooper, who plays an “unhinged FBI agent” has a head full of curls that is just truly terrible, but the beard almost makes up for it. Almost. According to USA Today, the hairstyle was popular among ’70s professional baseball players, but that really doesn’t make it okay. Christian Bale as the greasiest Bronx conman there ever was serves up some fantastic crumpled suits in that orange-brown-putrid green color combination you just never see outside any other decade. I think those aviators paired with the combover are a nice touch, but who am I to judge? Check out one more still, after the break.

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Kyra Sedgwick

What is Casting Couch? Today, it’s welcoming TV’s Kyra Sedgwick back to the big screen. In recent years, Kyra Sedgwick has had a cushy gig going as the lead of TNT’s The Closer, but now that the series is coming to an end, it’s time for her to get back out there and score some gigs in the film world; and a report from Variety suggests that this is just what she’s doing. The latest feature that she’s signed up for comes from first-time feature director but long-time Terrence Malick collaborator Batan Silva, and it’s an indie sci-fi flick called Rays of Light. Word has it that Sedgwick will be playing the matriarch of a family who’s trying to survive in their estate house after the dying of the sun. Good lord, that’s got to be a metaphor for something.

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director_russell

In the latest addition of Release Date Round-Up, just about every single film that needed a release date gets dated, or at least this giant installment of everyone’s favorite release date feature (sure) makes it seem that way. We’ve got dates for every kind of film under the sun (vampires! true life trauma! comic book movies! historical dramas!), including a hefty number of totally new dates (and a smidgen of some simple change-ups) for many of the films. What we’re saying is, there is a lot of stuff here, so better pull out your day planners and get cracking on configuring your movie-watching for the rest of the year. After the break, find out when you can see David O. Russell‘s untitled reunion with his Silver Linings Playbook stars, Christopher Nolan‘s next, and seemingly everything else in between. Your wallet is about to take a big hit.

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pride_and_prejudice_and_zombies_book_cover_01

While it’s certainly amusing that one of the projects that Hollywood simply refuses to let die is a film about zombies, the long road to the screen for Pride and Prejudice and Zombieshas been so long and so arduous that it simply doesn’t seem worth it at this point. And yet, this is Hollywood, and the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s “novel” does come with a script by David O. Russell and it does fall under the newly-hot “zom-rom-com” genre that moviegoers seem to like these days (thanks, Warm Bodies). So let’s throw some more money at it and hope it all works out. Deadline Hollywood passes along word that Panorama Media has joined the long list of the film’s producers – including Darko Entertainment, Handsomecharlie Films, and producer Allison Shearmur – to give the project (which still doesn’t have a cast or a director) still more money to get made. Money is cool and all, but you know what’s really cool? A director and a cast. The news also assures us that the film is out to potential directors, but considering that Zombies has already cycled through plenty of potential directors – with Craig Gillespie last attached to direct back in August of 2011, and other names like Russell himself and Mike White on board at various points to helm – that doesn’t mean much. At least this is a small piece of good news for a plagued project that, again, still doesn’t have an attached director or any semblance […]

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Best Director

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. The Best Director category at this year’s Academy Awards, regardless of how it turns out, has been tainted by an incredible snub. No, I’m not referring to Kathryn Bigelow’s helming of the controversial Zero Dark Thirty or even Rupert Sanders’ double tap of Snow White and the Huntsman and Kristen Stewart. I’m talking about Ben Mothereffing Affleck. His third film as director, Argo, is nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Script, Best Editing and more, but the man himself did not make the cut. It’s anybody’s guess why, and while it obviously made Benh Zeitlin’s day, the rest of us are left wondering how exactly it happened. But don’t feel too bad for Affleck… not only will his movie take home the Oscar for Best Picture on February 24th but he and the film have been cleaning up elsewhere left and right. But that’s enough about Ben Affleck. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Director along with my predicted winner in red…

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jennifer-lawrence6

Director David O. Russell hasn’t even found a new title for his next project, the formerly named American Bullshit, yet, and already he’s hashing out what he’s going to be working on next. According to THR, Russell is all set to make his third film in a row that will feature actress Jennifer Lawrence, as he’s committed to directing a new drama that she’s attached to star in called The Ends of the Earth. This, of course, will follow Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated turn in Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook, and the small role she recently took in the former American Bullshit. Lawrence was rumored for the role back in August. There aren’t very many exact plot details yet available for The Ends of the Earth, but the trade describes it as being “a fact-based love story about a powerful oil tycoon who has everything stripped from him after he is caught in an affair.” So, presumably, Russell is eventually going to have to find a male lead to play the dastardly adulterer. Might he go all the way and make this the third film in a row where he works with both Lawrence and Bradley Cooper?

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jennifer-lawrence6

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column that’s rounding up all the casting news that fell through the cracks. Today we have some doozies, including word that Paul Walker’s remaking a French film. The last time Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and director David O. Russell all worked together, the result was Silver Linings Playbook, a movie that currently has them all nominated for Oscars. Rejoice, then, that Jennifer Lawrence has just been added to Russell’s next project—that movie about the sting operation that took down a bunch of congressmen in the 70s that used to be called American Bullshit. According to Deadline, who broke the news of Lawrence’s involvement, she’ll be joining the film in the role of the Christian Bale character’s wife. Oh yeah, maybe that should have been mentioned. Christian Bale is also in this. As well as Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Who’s got room on their shelves for more acting Oscars?

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Spielberg Lucas Coppola

This weekend, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects opened to better-than-okay reviews and less-than-okay box office. With Soderbergh’s prolific output, this release would be altogether unremarkable, yet another strong if not entirely memorable entry by a director who would likely release another film six months later. However, Side Effects is notable as a quiet swan song, the proposed last theatrical film by a director who has reportedly done all he’d like to do in filmmaking. But Soderbergh is simply the latest (and on the younger side) of a group of directors that have made unofficial pronouncements towards making an exit of sorts from the business in which they made their name. George Lucas is currently in the process of overseeing the path of Star Wars’ cinematic future at Disney before officially going into retirement. This is monumental. A filmmaker known for keeping very tight reigns on his creative property is now fully embracing the potential of other directors’ and corporations’ visions toward his subject matter for film. There’s a dynamic shift here that doesn’t end with Lucas or Soderbergh either.

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Broken City Trailer

Broken City seemingly has all of the ingredients to be one of those action/dramas that is so cheesy it delivers – there’s Mark Wahlberg being tough, there’s Russell Crowe with a horrendous spray tan and a Donald Trump-lite combover, there’s Catherine Zeta-Jones with an equally horrendous spray tan, and there’s director Allen Hughes, who has some street cred as one half of The Hughes Brothers directing team. And corrupt politician dramas are usually fairly entertaining, right? Not so much here. Broken City, instead, is largely a misfire. The film’s plot meanders and leaves many open threads, likely the result of re-edits, and none of the characters are particularly likable. There’s just so much a balls out Russell Crowe performance can save a movie, and shockingly enough, Crowe doesn’t even have all that much screen time. The film opens with Wahlberg’s NYC Detective Billy Taggert shooting someone in the head in a NYC housing project, Bolton Village – he has a beard, so clearly, he is coded as being troubled. He is tried (now beardless), since his self-defense plea is questionable at best. There is evidence that surfaces that can put him away, but Republican-seeming Mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Crowe) decides to keep that evidence for his own eventual gain, allowing Taggart to go free, albeit without his job.

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Louis CK

What is Casting Couch? It’s the column that’s rounding up all the casting announcements the studios have released now that the buzz surrounding the Golden Globes has died down. They’ve been hoarding. Before his show on FX became such a well-respected thing, people thought of Louis CK mostly as being a stand-up comedian and not really as an actor, despite the fact that he’s shown up in a few small roles here and there. That might be about to change though, because not only does CK  star in Woody Allen’s upcoming movie, Blue Jasmine, but THR is reporting that he’s also in talks to join David O. Russell’s next project: that con-man movie starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Amy Adams that used to be called American Bullshit. If CK’s involvement becomes official, it will see him rubbing onscreen elbows with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, which is probably going to feel a little weird at first.

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Silver Linings Playbook

Editor’s Note: Allison’s spot-on review originally ran way back at the beginning of the month, but the film is opening wide today so we’re sharing it once again. Sharing is good. Maybe we are all a bit crazy – whether we are lying to ourselves about the relationships we are in or why we believe holding a handkerchief or having the remote at a certain angle will determine the outcome of a game. But unlike most of us, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), has been deemed mentally unstable by both the court and his doctors at the mental institution we find him in at the start of Silver Linings Playbook. Pat may seem fairly sane, albeit unflinchingly honest, but as we learn why he ended up in such a facility and watch him unravel at the sound of a certain song, it becomes clear that Pat is dealing with issues he may not be able to easily control with simple positive thinking. Pat is released to the care of his big-hearted mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), and his hot-headed father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), and while their family dynamic is slightly dysfunctional, it is clear that they all truly care about one another.

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Silver Linings Playbook

UPDATED: The Playlist now reports that the cities getting an early release include NY, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, DC, Miami, San Diego, and Austin. David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook swiftly (and not entirely unexpectedly) became the film to see after its strong Toronto International Film Festival showing, so it’s no surprise that the film’s distributor, The Weinstein Company, is trying to put this thing in front of audiences on the quick side. Deadline Hollywood report that, though the Bradley Cooper- and Jennifer Lawrence-starring production will still open wide on November 21, the film will premiere in ten markets on November 16. Of course, we still don’t know which ten markets that will be (though, Los Angeles and New York, you’re probably safe on this one), and a quick check of both MovieTickets and Fandango don’t shed too much light on the situation, and even the Weinstein site and the film’s official site contain no new information on this limited early release, but we suspect we’ll find out soon enough. Perhaps staying on top of the film’s Twitter is wise? Until then, let’s all look back at Allison’s solid review of the film from AFI FEST. Ah, loonies in love.

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