With a little less than two weeks away from opening night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has slid in one more honor for its big round of tributes held throughout: the Outstanding Director Award to “American Hustle” helmer David O. Russell.
Now is as good a time as any to give Russell an honor like this. He’s stuck the awards season landing with three films in a row (though some might say films like “Three King” and “I Heart Huckabees” remain is most daring and compelling work). “American Hustle” is set to be a dominant force this season, and that could all begin tonight with a SAG ensemble win. It could frankly continue tomorrow with a PGA win and I would not be at all surprised if Russell wins the DGA honor next weekend.
“It was at the first-ever screening of ‘American Hustle’ for the SBIFF Cinema Society last November that I knew precisely who should receive our Outstanding Director Award,” festival executive director Roger Durling said. “Now I’m glad I can let the cat out of the bag. Russell has matured into one of the most essential voices in film today. His deeply personal trilogy, comprised of ‘The Fighter,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’ tap deeply at the core of the American dream where anyone should be guaranteed the opportunity of a second chance, of reinvention and triumph. As a writer and director, he is not afraid to push the envelope in the cinematic world. He has the eye for the picture he wants to present and then does so, with an expertise that is as bold as it is a joy to watch.”
It’s interesting watching that “reinvention” narrative continue to find purchase this season. It’s certainly well spun, though there are those – like The Dissolve’s Andrew Lapin – who have taken specific umbrage with it. But a strong narrative is part of the winning formula this time of year, and Russell’s could finally be set to run the table. Or maybe “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” still have something to say about all that. We’ll see how it goes the next couple of weeks.
Russell will receive the Outstanding Director Award tribute at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara on Friday, Jan. 31.
The 29th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs Jan. 30 – Feb. 9.