David O. Russell

Life of Pi AFI FEST

October offered up plenty of films to give this awards season a proper start. Ben Affleck once again showed he’s got one of the best eyes for tension working today; John Hawkes gave another year’s best performance in Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions; Martin McDonagh made another wicked, original dark comedy with real bite; and, who could forget, The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer made a huge box office smash which received unabashed praise up the wazoo, especially for the seamless makeup work. While I wish Cloud Atlas did fit that description, at least for a few more years the trio’s daring and moving film will go down as a box office bomb which may or may have not been ahead of its time. No matter how Cloud Atlas stands up in a few years, it was the type of ambition which served as another reminder of how important going to the movie theater is and to truly have experiences while you are there, be they good or bad. With November 2012, there are plenty of movies to have a similar experience with, from Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi to a triumphant new Bond movie. Keep reading to find out what other eight movies you must see this month.

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David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper

In a nice bit of Friday confirmation clean-up, Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures have just circulated a press release that firms up a spat of casting buzz we’ve long been reporting on. The release confirms that David O. Russell‘s formerly-titled American Bullshit (which is currently looking for a perhaps more marketing-friendly title) will star Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Amy Adams, along with a somewhat unexpected Christian Bale. Russell is writing the film’s screenplay with scribe Eric Warren Singer, who first wrote his own original script for the project (a script that appeared on the 2012 Black List with the title American Bullshit). The press release also provides our first official synopsis of the film, which we’ve long known would revolve around the true story of an F.B.I.-launched sting attack aimed at rooting out corruption on Congress, one that was notably conceived of by “the world’s greatest con man.”

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Silver Linings Playbook

In a word – no. Over the weekend, the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up and, like the end of all good things, the festival closed out with the bestowing of awards to various films. Winners included Artifact, Seven Psychopaths, Laurence Anyways, Keep a Modest Head, Antiviral, Blackbird, Call Girl, In the House, and the big winner – David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook. The Bradley Cooper- and Jennifer Lawrence-starring film won the BlackBerry People’s Choice Award, which is generally considered to be TIFF’s most important award and an indication of a film’s chances at a Best Picture nomination come Oscar time. As Wikipedia tells it, “Given that the festival lacks a jury and is non-competitive, regular awards handed out at other festivals for categories such as ‘Best Actress’ or ‘Best Film’ do not exist at the Toronto International Film Festival. The major prize, the People’s Choice Award, is given to a feature-length film with the highest ratings as voted by the festival-going populace.” Plenty of stories on the film’s win have noted that this all but guarantees that Silver Linings will end up with Oscar nominations, particularly a Best Picture nod. And why is that? Over the past five years, two People’s Choice winners have gone on to win Best Picture (The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire) and one film picked up a nomination in the same category (Precious). Good odds, right? Well, maybe not so much.

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David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper

The Toronto International Film Festival has so far issued few surprises – after all, most of us were surely expecting that Cloud Atlas would divide, Argo would be solid, The Place Beyond the Pines would enthrall, and that Thanks for Sharing would play like Shame-lite – but there has been one film whose praise has surprised many, most of all this writer. The pieces of David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook are all good – the director, the source material, the cast (including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro) – but the film’s first trailer just hinted at a film that was light and amusing. Apparently, though, the film is much more than that, and a number of critics are already throwing “awards-worthy” praise all over it. That said, it seems like the casting of Cooper (swapped out for Russell’s frequent star, Mark Wahlberg) was an unexpectedly solid choice, and neither Russell nor Cooper seem ready to let that magic go.

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Uncharted

Ever since Neil Burger became attached to helm Uncharted well over a year ago there hasn’t been much movement on bringing the game to the big screen. With that lack of development, it comes to no surprise that, according to Variety, Burger has left the project. The reason for Burger’s departure is unclear, although it was reported hours before this news the Limitless director may adapt Divergent for Summit. Unfortunately, Burger isn’t the only loss the project has faced today, as screenwriting duo Cormac and Marianne Wibberley have signed on to handle scripting duties. For those of you unfamiliar with the Wibberley’s writings, they worked on The Shaggy Dog, I Spy, The 6th Day, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and, of course, Disney’s hamster epic, G-Force. There’s not a whole lot of impressive adventure in those films to prove they can handle Uncharted, but the duo was most likely hired because of their work on the National Treasure series. They’re about as safe as a pick can get. What’s most disheartening about this news is the downgrade from David O. Russell, an Oscar nominee, to the writers behind bland, middle-of-the-road action films. Russell’s script was considered “epic” and “ambitious,” something that apparently frightened Sony. With work-for-hires like the Wibberleys, they most likely won’t have to worry about that.

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It was announced back in March that David O. Russell had been attached to direct a Black List script from writer Eric Singer called American Bullshit. Well, seeing as casting has now begun, it would seem like the project is officially a go, but it’s no longer going to be called American Bullshit. Already on board this now untitled drama – which tells the true story of a con artist helping the F.B.I. weed out political corruption – are Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner; and THR is reporting that a deal has just been signed to add an exciting young actress who’s previously worked with Russell into the mix. The Fighter’s Amy Adams is now on board to play Maxine Gardner, the mistress to Cooper’s character, con man Mel Weinberg. Renner, for his part, will be playing an F.B.I. agent. As is the case with many of the more interesting-sounding projects that are chock full of fan favorite actors and creators these days, Russell’s latest is being brought to us by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

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It’s an understandable expectation that when one sees “new David O. Russell trailer,” they automatically ready themselves to see Mark Wahlberg’s face pop up once they hit “play.” But, oops, the Funky One was traded out as the lead of Silver Linings Playbook by Russell himself last summer in favor of someone else apparently willing to work for less pay (and less fuss) – Bradley Cooper. And while that’s the sort of casting might-have-been trivia we could all still be talking about years from now, hopefully the film’s first trailer will silence that, because it’s hard to imagine that Wahlberg could infuse the part of bonkers old Pat Solitano with as much desperation and joy as Cooper appears to do in just two minutes. Wow. Based on Matthew Quick‘s novel of the same name (sans a “the,” apparently), Cooper stars as a former teacher who attempts to reintegrate into normal life after four years in a mental institution. For Pat, “normal life” apparently means staying up till 4AM reading Hemingway, bugging his probably loopy parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro), running around with a trash bag on his body (sweat it out, Pat!), and just possibly falling in love with the equally-as-off-the-wall-nutty Jennifer Lawrence. Even better? The whole thing absolutely feels like a Russell film.

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Vincent Albert “Buddy” Cianci, Jr. has an awesome name and a fascinating history. The two-time mayor of Providence, Rhode Island was convicted of felonies twice while in office – which pushed him out twice – and his absurd career was chronicled in “Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Advised a President, Dined With Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community and Lived to Tell the Tale.” They may have to squeeze that title into something more slimming because a movie is in development. David O. Russell (The Fighter) wants to stick with the biopic world and live to tell this tale. According to the LA Times, he’s officially signing up with the project being produced by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. A colorful character from the northeast? Sounds like a Russell repeat with political ambitions. It also looks like a soap opera covered in marinara. Does anyone know if Burt Young is available? And if they can get that title under control?

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When we’re introduced to Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford‘s white-collar characters in the opening scene of The Cabin in the Woods, it becomes wildly apparent Drew Goddard‘s film is not your typical horror picture. They’re tasked with delivering an exceptional amount of exposition, which Goddard and Joss Whedon let them deliver with a pure sense of glee. Unlike Jenkins’s previous horror film performance, The Father in Let Me In, this is a character who is about as Average Joe as they come, and he just happens to have a not-so-Average-Joe occupation. Here’s what Jenkins had to say about comedic exposition, the brilliance of unexpected filmmaking, and why his character Ted in Burn After Reading deserved getting axed to death:

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Though he can reportedly be a bit of a handful to work with, whenever director David O. Russell manages to get along with everyone long enough to actually get a movie made, the results are usually pretty intriguing. And ever since his 2010 film, The Fighter, crossed over into the mainstream and became a financial success, he’s become a personality whose moves everyone is watching very closely. He currently has two films in post-production, a strange-sounding project about a waitress with a nail in her head who takes her cause to Washington D.C. called Nailed, and a movie about an ex-mental patient trying to make his life right called The Silver Linings Playbook. That’s a lot to have on your plate already, but it doesn’t look like he’s waiting for those films to hit theaters before he lines up his next job. THR is reporting that Russell has signed on to helm a script from the 2012 Black List called American Bullshit. Written by Eric Warren Singer, American Bullshit tells the true story of a sting operation that the F.B.I. put together to root out corruption in congress back in 1980. Internally called Abscam, the undercover operation was conceived for authorities by a man who is described as being “the world’s greatest con man.”

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The last time there was news about David O. Russell’s upcoming film The Silver Linings Playbook I lamented the fact that we hadn’t been giving it enough coverage. No more! The drama about a former mental patient trying to rebuild his life keeps adding intriguing names to its cast, so I’m going to keep blathering on about it. Russell and company started off strong by getting Bradley Cooper to star as our hero mental case. That’s enough to catch my interest right there. Cooper’s career is on fire right now and he hasn’t even really had the chance to work with great directors yet. Seeing him and Russell do something together sounds like a great time. But the movie didn’t stop there, it followed the Cooper casting up by getting a couple of Oscar Nominees in Jennifer Lawrence and Jackie Weaver to play his new love interest and mother respectively. If there were two actresses that left a huge impression on me by the end of 2010, it was Lawrence and Weaver, so I can’t wait to see what they bring here.

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It has come to my attention that we here at FSR have left David O. Russell’s upcoming film The Silver Linings Playbook criminally uncovered. We’ve got one little mention of it being announced in a Movie News After Dark and that’s it. Probably it’s time to remedy that, because Russell is a director who always makes interesting stuff, even when it ends up being kind of a mess. And this time around he’s assembled a pretty intriguing cast to yell at and be mean to during filming.

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If you love video games and hate David O. Russell, then boy do I have some good news for you. You might have to help me on this one, I don’t really know video games, and I’m not sure what “Uncharted” is all about. But it was my understanding from being around a lot of movie buzz that fans weren’t too happy with Mark Wahlberg starring as Uncharted’s protagonist Nathan Drake. And I also heard some rumblings that O. Russell was taking the property in his own direction and not paying much heed to the source material. While that might have made a good movie, it wouldn’t have done much for video game fans. They need not worry though, because O. Russell is out, Limitless director Neil Burger is in, and it looks like this entire video game to movie adaptation process is starting over.

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Akira, at this point, is starting to look like a modern-day Watchmen. Plagued with difficulties, personnel changes, and misfires – maybe it’ll be a couple of decades before it actually gets made. Someone being born this year might end up playing Kaneda. But, still, Watchmen eventually got made, so who knows what fate has in store for the live-action remake of the anime classic. What it doesn’t have in store, according to Deadline Osaka, is Albert Hughes as director. One half of the Hughes Brothers directing team was set to make the film, but now he’s reportedly off the project and parting on friendly terms. It leaves a job open, though, and it allows film fans to dream of who their top choice for the job would be. For weirdness’s sake, I’d say either Terrence Malick or Terry Gilliam channeling Brazil. It’s not the only project to lose a director today, though. Variety is reporting that David O. Russell is off of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The profound change there comes, also, from creative differences, but it will mean finding a new screenwriter as well. Thus, Uncharted is back to square one. Does that mean he might be able to go back and finish Nailed or get an early start on the Untitled Ice Cube Project? One can only hope.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that enjoys having Saturdays off. But it’s not Saturday yet, is it? That means it’s time for another round of the best movie-related links from around the web. So lets get on with it. We lead tonight with the first shot of Bruce Willis in Rian Johnson’s Looper, which includes a look at Willis likely eviscerating something or someone. This one comes to the world via Empire, who has promised that they will be bringing you some news from the set. I’ll read that.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It is a nightly movie news column dedicated to featuring painfully overtread characters from the part of the Marvel universe owned (cinematically, at least) by the 20th Century Fox corporation. It might as well be called X-Men After Dark. Hmm… maybe Fox will buy some sponsorship rights. They need all the help they can get after X-Men Origins: Wolverine. “A good Wolverine film could be an amazing thing.” Duncan Jones said this mere days before he confirmed that he will take a meeting with 20th Century Fox about the possibility of directing The Wolverine, taking a director’s chair left empty by the departure of Darren Aronofsky. As geek cred goes, Jones has perhaps as much as anyone working right now following Moon and Source Code, and he’s smart enough to pull it off. Here’s hoping the project is a good fit and that Fox makes the right call.

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If there’s one thing that’s really great about the Academy Awards it’s the manner in which they decide who gets nominated and, ultimately, who wins for each category. It makes little sense to have directors vote on who did the best acting, or musicians deciding on who had the most splendid photography, or screenwriters deciding who made the best non-scripted picture. Professionals in their field decide on which other professionals in their same field did the most exemplary work to represent their profession.

And thank God, because I can’t imagine how you would define what constitutes great directing. The job encompasses so much that great directing can be equally applied to someone obsessively anal about their “vision” just as much as someone who relies on spontaneity and ad-lib to achieve the best results. It can be applied to someone with incredible photographic technique and an eye for scene setup, and another who seems to have little regard for visual appeal. As the matter of fact, as of last year it no longer even matters whether you have a penis or not.

I absolutely have no clue what constitutes great directing despite having my own opinion, which carries no weight because I’ve never done it in my life. I probably couldn’t direct traffic let alone tell someone to film me doing it from a specific spot and focus on my anxiety in close-up and then cut to a slow-mo clip of me weeping when drivers don’t pay attention to me. If I could do that then maybe I’d have an idea what a great director really does.

Thankfully, I don’t have to as the Best Director is decided upon by others who have been there, done it and conquered it in their own way to acknowledge how difficult it must have been to focus all collaborators’ attention to the right areas at the right times to arrive altogether at the same, desired destination; which is ultimately arriving at a final product they can all be proud of.

Here are this year’s nominees for Best Director:

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But first they are probably going to work on a project called Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which is apparently a video game adaptation. If both of these films end up getting made, the Wahlberg and Russell team is going to start looking like one of those important Hollywood power duos. They might have to challenge Scorcese and DiCaprio to a three-legged race. I’m not so interested in video game movies, but I’m ready and willing to be surprised, and Russell seemed to be enthusiastic about Uncharted when talking to The Playlist. He said, “I’m really digging it, I think the story’s coming together in a really intense, cool way …” That’s all well and good, and I hope it turns out great, but the project I’m instantly interested in is Cocaine Cowboys. It will be a dramatization of a 2006 documentary of the same name that was about the ins and outs of the Miami drug scene of the 80s. The doc, directed by Billy Corben, was a pretty interesting watch. It had turf wars, illegal plane flights to Columbia, secret boat rendezvous off the coast, a hitman that talked like Benicio Del Toro, and an evil kingpin lady who chops everyone up into little pieces. Plus it’s one of those classic, “hey look at all this coke, money, and girls; everything in the world is perfect right now and nothing could possibly go wrong” stories. If Boogie Nights taught us anything, it’s that Wahlberg is at his very best when […]

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This year, someone who has never won a DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement will win a DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. The filed includes three first-time nominees – Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan; Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech; and David O. Russell for The Fighter – as well as two returning nominees – David Fincher for The Social Network (who was previously nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and who has won several commercial directing awards from the DGA) and Christopher Nolan for Inception (who was previously nominated for The Dark Knight and Memento). None of these directors has won the award, which means the Director’s Guild of America’s pattern of celebrating new talent (even talent that’s been around a decade) will continue. In the past 25 years, the DGA has only had 4 repeat winners – Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Oliver Stone. With this list of nominees, it’s guaranteed that yet another new name will join their ranks.

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The power that The Fighter displays is immense. As unconventional a conventional sports film as has been seen, David O. Russell has directed a film where the comedic impact is just as strong as the emotional. It is a triumph of real people on screen in a film culture that has become more and more frightened of stories that are well-rounded enough to not need a dimension tacked on. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a blue collar worker with a dream of making it big as a boxer. In his corner is Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard and has lived off the local fame and crack cocaine ever since. His mother (Melissa Leo) is the older version of a pageant mom who desperately wants success for her boy but struggles against her own selfishness. Everyone in his corner is working against him until he meets Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams) who helps him get his career and his life on track.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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