David O. Russell. Russell has a put together an impressive body of work. I have not been able to catch his debut yet- 1994’s Spanking the Money– but five of his subsequent six films (has seven total) have landed in the archives. His greatest stretch was an extremely fertile period from 2010-2013 with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (getting a little stronger with each). It felt like he was (and his muse Jennifer Lawrence) taking over after American Hustle and indeed, for a snapshot in time, was one of the best auteurs on the planet. He has a good case for this list; the depth of filmography is here- his fifth and sixth best films are something to be proud of—and though it sometimes get lost now in a very strong 2013, American Hustle is a very notable best film.
Best film: American Hustle. I think it’s this or Three Kings. Sure it borrows from Goodfellas, but many great films and filmmakers are influenced by Scorsese and/or his 1990 masterpiece- that’s not a deterrent. It pops with masterful lighting and period-rich production and color detail. The swaggering confidence of the Russell in this film can be felt in every level of the production and resulting work.
total archiveable films: 6
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (American Hustle)
most overrated: Not a thing for O. Russell in this category. Three Kings is the only film mentioned on the TSPDT consensus top 2000 and it is way back at #1697.
most underrated : Take your pick. Though he has four films on the 21st century top 1000 on TSPDT and that’s an impressive feat (The Fighter, Silver Linings, I Heart Huckabees, American Hustle) none of them fall in their years respective top 20 according to the consensus. At least three of them would be in the top 20 of their year for me.
gem I want to spotlight : Three Kings. Another film that is far too often lost in the shuffle of the brilliant slew of films that came out in 1999. The washed out lighting is a stroke of genius—and this is a year before O Brother Where Art Thou?
- Showcase bravura acting—with an O. Russell film you’re almost always amazed at the ensemble assembled- and then almost marveled how each actor has a really good part. The 7th best part in like five of his films probably should have been nominated for an Oscar.
- Greed and the pull of commerce is a theme in 3-4 of the films, characters with neurosis or phobias
- Great work in close-ups (stylistic trait that lends favorably to actors and great acting)—a couple of nice shots with foreground background work as well and angle play in Three Kings and American Hustle
- Rapid-fire dialogue and snappy editing
- The lighting in Three Kings and lighting/décor work in American Hustle in particular are inspired- certainly showcases Russell as much more than director of masterful acting and sharp writing
- American Hustle
- Three Kings
- Silver Linings Playbook
- The Fighter
- Flirting With Disaster
- I Heart Huckabees
By year and grades
|1996- Flirting with Disaster||R/HR|
|1999- Three Kings||HR|
|2004- I Heart Huckabees||R|
|2010- The Fighter||HR|
|2012- Silver Linings Playbook||HR|
|2013- American Hustle||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives