Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's look at the career of Director David O Russell

"The Fighter" is director David O Russell's fifth feature length movie and it's very different from his previous works.  In fact all of his movies differ very much from each other.  So much that you don't believe they are directed by the same guy.  But when you look a little closer you can see that they each feature unforgettable characters and they have a certain rhythm to the dialogue that can not be duplicated by anyone else. 

Spanking The Monkey

This is David's debut movie about a son who is taking care of his disabled mother during summer vacation.  Jeremy Davis as the son is sexually frustrated and to make matters worse the mother(Alberta Watson) keeps asking him to play inappropriate games so that she can feel like someone is paying attention to her.  Despite it's dark subject matter including a huge Oedipus complex between the son and the mother. "Spanking the monkey did win the audience award at Sundance in 1994 which led producers to  finance his next comedy.

Flirting With Disaster

One of the best comedies ever made.  It's a comedy buffet of dark, slapstick, screwball and raunchy humor all mixed together with great characters and a heartwarming finale.  Mel Copeland(Ben Stiller) is on the road with his wife(Patricia Arequette) and adoption worker( Tia Leoni) as they search for his biological parents.    The cast is wonderful and very funny  Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Alan Arkin and Lilly Tomlin give scene stealing performances in this very rich and rewarding comedy.  

***Note*** when watching this for the first time please make sure that you watch this on either VHS or collector's edition DVD.  There is a scene that is cut from all other versions that is only available on this.

Three Kings

"Three Kings" takes place after The U.S. has just liberated Kuwait in 1991. Three soldiers discover a map that shows them where gold bars are being held by Saddam's soldiers.  They decide that with the uprising no one is going to care if they steal the gold back since it did once belong to Kuwait.  Problems start to happen when our soldiers decide to do the right thing and help the Iraqi refugees out.  I was a bit surprised that this didn't pick up any major award nominations when it was released.  A lot of people went to see this expecting a silly little war comedy and what  was shown is that the whole war process is a comedy. I like the way your attitudes and feeling change along with the characters as you are watching it.  Plus it's the only war movie that gives a voice to our opponents and let's them speak truthfully and honestly about their problems with America without them being ridiculed.   "Three Kings"is a great satire in the same absurd style as Dr. Strangelove and the cast is wonderful.  George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice cube, and director Spike Jonze are all fantastic.

I Heart Huckabeees

I find myself watching this movie at least once a year, but still can't really explain what it's about.  Which may frustrate some of you viewers who like their movies to be explained to them.  When viewing this tale of existentialism, it's important  to not pay attention to the story and just focus on the characters instead  Albert(Jason Schwatzman ) hires two existential detectives( Lilly Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to help solve his coincidence with this one man  who keeps showing up in his life, but instead they lead him to a confrontation with the man who helped take his job away from him. I loved the message about how everyone is connected in the world despite our physical differences, and I get the absurd humor but I can also understand while a lot of people considered this to be a big mess. It sort of  reminded me a lot of a sitcom where the story doesn't make much sense but you keep coming back because you love the characters.


The Fighter

The most praised movie in David O Russel's career, tells the story of real life boxer Mickey Ward( Mark Wahlberg in his third movie with Director Russell) as he goes from being small time to champion.  Christian Bale and Mellisa Leo are just perfect as Mickey's mother and brother who seem to be controlling what he should do with his life instead of him making those choices. While not as creative and inventive as his other movies  "The Fighter" still hold up as one of the best movies about boxing next to "Raging Bull" The somewhat basic story line is upstaged by it wonderful characters who help it by going off the road a little but still stay on track. I hope it's seven nominations will help secure more work for this creative story teller.


I'll be back in a few days to post my final Oscar picks of the year.