Friday, March 7, 2014

David O Russell

First up in the Six Degrees of Katie at the Movies series is writer and director David O Russell. Each post in the series will spotlight a different artist and the next entry will have one degree of separation from the previous, as collaborators. I have prepared a list of 37 artists or castmates and at least one project that links them.

David O Russell was born and raised in New York. He won Spirit Awards for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay for the independent and dark Spanking the Monkey. Between I Heart Huckabees and The Fighter, Russell wrote Nailed with Kristin Gore, a political comedy starring Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tracy Morgan, Catherine Keener, Paul Reubens, Josh Brolin, and Kirstie Alley. The film has never been released and is not expected to be. Russell is the only director to have two consecutively released films, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, that were nominated for Academy Awards in all four acting categories.

Three Kings
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube, this 1999 flick had the tagline, "They're deserters, rebels and thieves. But in the nicest possible way." Best known as a writer and director, Spike Jonze also co-stars. The film takes place at the end of the Gulf War and was filmed in Arizona, California and Mexico. Many extras were real life Iraqi refugees. This was early in Clooney's movie career but it seems to have set the tone for the sort of political, writer/director and team focused projects that he selects or now creates. Three Kings is available on Streampix OnDemand.

Flirting with Disaster 
An independent film from 1996, Flirting with Disaster stars Ben Stiller as Mel who is married to Patricia Arquette's Nancy. Mel is unable to name their newborn baby before finding his birth parents. Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal co-star as Mel's wacky adoptive parents. Téa Leoni works for the adoption agency Stiller's character has contacted to find his birth parents. After leaving their home in New York to meet Mel's newly located parents, a road film ensues. Richard Jenkins and Lily Tomlin who appear in Russell's I Heart Huckabees also co-star, as well as Alan Alda and Josh Brolin. Flirting with Disaster is available for streaming on Netflix.

I Heart Huckabees
My favorite of all Russell's pictures, Huckabees seems to be, for at least the time being, the last of his really wacky and truly independent films. A tone of that quirk is present in all his movies with his flawed and honest characters. The movie begins with Jason Schwartzman's work with existential detectives played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, and then their partnering of him with Mark Wahlberg's firefighter who is obsessed with fossil fuels. One of my all time favorite movie quotes is Wahlberg's "But there's no way I could stop its use in my lifetime is there? I mean, Jimmy Carter would have an electric car by now. I could have a Cadillac Escalade and it could be electric." You have to see the 2004 film to find out how their unique characters all connect to Jude Law's megastore executive and Shania Twain. I Heart Huckabees is available to rent on Amazon Instant View.

Next up in the series is frequent Russell star, Mark Wahlberg and the Fighter.

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