Will 'American Hustle' Continue David O. Russell's Hot Streak At The Oscars? (Video)

EXCLUSIVE: If ever there was a director who is on a roll there can be no doubt it is David O. Russell whose hot streakAmerican Hustle started in 2010 with The Fighter, continued last year with Silver Linings Playbook and now has gained more steam with the current American Hustle which won the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Picture and has been nominated for two SAG awards including Best Cast, 7 Golden Globes and 13 Critics Choice Movie Awards. Russell is up for Best Director at the latter two and shared the Best Screenplay prize of the NYFCC with Eric Singer who wrote the original screenplay for Hustle  as more of a procedural about the Abscam scandals of the late 70’s before Russell fictionalized much of it and took it in a more character-driven direction. Although he had success in the mid to late 90’s with Flirting With Disaster and Three Kings among others, his current streak is impressive, a comeback that has put him in the best place in his career, overcoming controversies that plagued some of his earlier work.

Both Fighter and Silver Linings won him Best Director Oscar nominations, were both up for Best Picture and brought Oscars to Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for the former and Jennifer Lawrence for the latter. In fact throw in Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings and Amy Adams for Fighter and Russell brought seven actors Academy Award nominations for those two films. And this year that total will only swell with Bale, Adams, Lawrence and Cooper once again in the mix (all are up for Globe and CCMA awards in addition to the SAG ensemble prize). It’s no wonder actors want to keep coming back for more of what David O.Russell has to offer.  The films all offer a rich mixture of comedy and drama, There’s no clear definition of what makes them tick but all carry some level of truth to one degree or the other. In this featurette his stars explain why they like working on a Russell set.

Last season as he was on the awards circuit for Silver Linings he told me he was also simultaneously re-writing Hustle and prepping the shoot, somehow pulling it all off. Russell’s streak reminds me of Billy Wilder in his late 50’s-early 60’s later prime. In the span of four years that prolific writer/director turned out Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), One Two Three (1961),  and Irma La Douce (1963), offering choice roles repeatedly to the likes of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine to name two. Actors loved Wilder and returned to work with him often. And they seem to love Russell. It’s important to remember the actors branch is the largest in the Academy by far and that could increase his chances of going all the way in this highly competitive year. It’s likely Russell will again be among the nominated directors when Oscar nods are announced on January 16th and American Hustle is a cinch to be up for Best Picture, making it three-for three in his remarkable four year run.

23-american-hustleRussell’s way of working is unique and he shoots from 360 degree angles, something’ always happening in every corner of the frame.  And he makes no apologies for switching the emphasis of the screenplay. At the beginning of the film a card says “Some of this may have happened”.  The movie focuses on the relationship between a couple of cons played by Bale and Adams and the wildly out-of-control FBI agent played by Cooper who enlists them in an elaborate government sting. After the film’s first screening on the Sony lot Russell explained what he was after in mixing elements of truth and fiction in order to tell this tale. “With the real guys in real life people ask ‘how much is true, how much isn’t true?’ If I told you what was true you wouldn’t believe me. But of the things that weren’t true I wanted to make the love triangle and the emotion the center of the piece. I am interested in what goes on in the bedroom and the kitchen and what goes on with each other,” he said.

  1. With reference to nominations…absolutely. Winning will be a tough battle with other excellent films like 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, etc. in the mix.

    I would be shocked if most of the actors were not nominated along with David for writing and directing. I have no problem with American Hustle winning Best Picture, but I am not confident that others will see it as the Best Picture among the competition.

    It completes a trifecta for David, and a terrific trifecta at that.

  2. I didn’t really love the movie. My issue was that first 20 minutes or so was kinda messy. The the initial setup was also kinda confusion and not specific. I felt like Jennifer Lawrence had a great role in it. The rest was kinda unmemorable.

  3. I saw this over the weekend and felt it was highly overrated. The story was all over the place, the performances were over the top, and the art direction didn’t feel like 1978 at all, and I was there… This one was a miss for me.

  4. I’m thinking that if the film gets a best picture nomination, it will undoubtedly be the only comedy in the mix. That could certainly help it win because there will be a split vote for the serious films.

    You make a good point respecting the best director nod, with Russell being an actors fave.

    As for the acting nods, I do think that Jennifer Lawrence may well be the only nom in the cast.

  5. I was looking forward to this more then anything else so maybe my expectations were too high, but it is all over the place.
    Doesn’t seem to be in the Oscar tier.

  6. Abscam in real life was a depressing story about despicable people. DOR did something brilliant by keeping the entertaining facts of the scandal and fictionalizing the rest. Lesser directors would have made a “based on a true story” movie that was either unpleasant or insultingly dishonest. Turning this ugly story into a critic and crowd pleasing hit deserves a bunch of Oscar nominations.

    1. Actually,ABSCAM was an incredibly interesting movie and this film was not incredibly interesting. It was a poor, meandering, boring script that ran way too long. David Russell just is not a good writer. Silver Linings Playbook was goofy and that is being kind. American Hustle was 2 1/2 hours of him desperately trying to be Scorcese and falling waaaaaaay short.

  7. I’m glad to read I’m not the only one who thought this movie was messy. The beginning is incoherent and really does a poor job helping you understand the plot, characters, etc. From there it gets better but archived mediocrity, while Amy Adams did a fine job Jennifer Lawrence got a golden globe nomination because she’s Jennifer Lawrence. Her role and performance are one note static. And I think it’s more of a bland drama than a ‘comedy’.

    I wouldn’t even suggest it for a rental.

  8. But D.O.R. fan but I was disappointed. It was dinner-theater Scorcese. Tone was all over the place. Mayor Polito was a nuanced character but none of the others were especially compelling, especially Amy Ryan’s, whose goals and motivations eluded me from start to finish. But there were some great performances–Bale, Lawrence, and most of all Jeremy Renner, who stole every foot of film he was in.

  9. Painfully aware of all the actors – and not the story. I really wanted to like it (and I did) but my least favorite.

  10. I’m thrilled that Russell is finally working at a better consistency than he was a decade ago. His early works Spanking the Monkey, Disaster and 3 Kings demonstrated a great talent in the making and I’m thankful that he’s (hopefully) put some of these past issues behind him in order to move forward.

  11. I was able to see American Hustle over the weekend and loved it….Russell did a phenomenal job with the ABSCAM story. I thought everything the look, feel of the decade was spot on (I remember ABSCAM and I survived the 70’s (LOL!)) so, Russell did indeed hit the bullseye with this film. Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic…hit her role out of the fucking park.

  12. Over the last couple of weeks I have had several friends see American Hustle (as I did). Whenever I ask them if they liked it their responses, almost to a person, are “uh, it was okay”.

    My feeling exactly. HIGHLY overrated.

  13. As someone who’s not a huge fan of DOR’s movies, I went in with hesitation. Half my friends said it was extremely boring and the other half loved it. I thought it was fantastic and the best movie of the year (in my opinion). It felt good to watch something that was positive and engaging, with great dialogue, acting, etc. Contrary to what I thought, it wasn’t a “Goodfellas knock off”. Even though costumes and hair were over the top, I thought it fit the style of the movie as a characterization of a 1970’s film. Definitely deserves best “comedy/musical” Golden Globe

  14. This is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I think Jennifer Lawerence was outstandingly fanatical, and Amy Adams performance was a pleasure to watch. Bale, Renner and Cooper all portrayed the Characters with such finese. A really well put together story that had my interest from the opening scene to the closing one. I didn’t find it messy or over rated and will be recommending all my friends to go see it and I don’t think they will be disappointed. A fresh clever movie with a comedy realism about it that we can all telate to! Well done to all involved.

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