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
Joy (2015) is better than I heart huckabees (2004).It also has the always watchable Jennifer Lawrence to boost.
@ Chris – thanks for the comment. I owe Joy another visit. I saw it in theater when it came out but haven’t revisited since. I remember being very disappointing coming off of American Hustle.
I hate the fighter. The only thing that keeps it from being truly terrible is the great mark wahlberg. Easily Christian bales worst. It does seem class condescending and o russell is not a visual director. I remember him saying once that it is not a cliche If it really happened, which just seems like the master of cliches trying to defend himself. People i respect like you and armond white seem to love it but i don’t. Its too derivative of scorsese and of Oliver stones great any givsn sunday. What it is missing is the genius of raging bull a truly original film which is also based on real life and boxing and has brotherly reconciliation. Also like the searchers it is a cautionary tale of what hatred and jealousy does to us. Drake, I wonder what you think of Any Given Sunday. I don’t think I saw it in the archives.
I don’t even know what to say about this. Does it look that weird for everyone else?
Yes, that is strange. It does indeed appear very different than all of the other TSPDT pages on my screen as well. There are examples of differently appearing pages on The Cinema Archives also, though they are not nearly as contrasting as that: the bar on the side listing the recent posts and comments cannot be found on some pages, includingv2002.
@Zane- the blue page? If that’s what you’re talking about it is a really old page. The entire site looked like this back in the day
I figured, since it said it was dated to 2012 at the bottom.
Drake, does the creator of TSPDT know about The Cinema Archives? I’m sure they would adore it. It would, in fact, be hilarious if your list already happened to included among the thousands used for the site’s rankings, though I find this extremely doubtful because you are not a professional critic (a horrible measure of cinematic intelligence, as you know immensely more about the art than the wide majority of critics).
@Graham- well hey- thank you for the compliment. I don’t know if Bill knows about the site here. He always seemed very agreeable when I emailed him about his site– and if you read his responses to comments on his site he is always polite and thoughtful.