As a nominee for five Academy Awards and four Golden Globes for a variety of films, it is evident that film director, David O. Russell, has experienced great success in his work. Through his repeated use of both cinematic and thematic techniques, David O. Russell has gained the reputation of being an auteur, meaning that he, as a director, is the primary creator and makes his own unique style apparent in his films. While there are many films that sufficiently support the idea of Russell as an auteur, The Fighter, Three Kings and American Hustle are three films that showcase the imprint that David O. Russell’s leaves through his similar uses of cinematic and thematic techniques in his films.The Fighter was released in 2010, which is based on a real life struggling boxer named Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg. Micky’s family is very involved with his boxing, as his mother Alice, played by Melissa Leo, acts as his manager and his half brother Dicky, played by Christian Bale, works with Micky as his trainer. However, after being repeatedly beaten one match after another due to their poor managing skills, Micky questions whether he wants to continue with his boxing career. After meeting Charlene, a bartender played by Amy Adams, he begins a relationship with her and falls in love. He is influenced by her to cut off his family as his management, but continue to go for his dream: winning a title. Under new management, Micky begins to win matches and gain confidence, allowing him to go for the title shot he has always dreamed of. Russell uses a variety of techniques to support the film’s plot, as well as to enhance the viewing experience of the audience. The most obvious techniques used by Russell can be observed when Micky is fighting in the ring. Russell uses swish pans, close-ups and rapid cuts to create the illusion that the audience is experiencing the fight first-hand and is consequently becoming disoriented. Diegetic sounds of the crowd booing and high pitched ringing are also present to create the sense that the audience is part of the fight. When Micky wins in the title match, all other sounds are drowned out by victory music, allowing the viewer to focus on the actions and expressions of the characters in this celebratory moment. Another technique used by Russell is the subjective camera to create a sense of voyeurism. When Micky first meets Charlene in a bar, the audience watches from his point of view, as he watches her from afar and tries to peer around the people blocking his view. This showcases his strong feelings for her, as well as his hesitancy to approach her. Lastly, Russell uses cinematic bookends to tie the film together and show the growth of the characters. During one of the first scenes, a quiet Micky and a crack-cocaine addicted Dicky are sitting down in front of a camera while Dicky rambles on about his measly achievements as a boxer. However, the film ends with them sitting down in the same location and speaking to the camera, only this time Dicky looks much healthier and even gets emotional about his brother’s achievements, showing his growth as a character and the improvement in their relationship. In my opinion, this film utilizes both common and uncommon themes of sports films successfully, such as family, redemption and reconciliation. I thought that the advanced camera work used in the film allowed the audience to feel as if they were part of the moment, not just viewing it. I also appreciated the fact that the film shined a light on issues that are not discussed frequently in mainstream media, such as drug addiction and family issues, but are still prominent in the lives of many people.Three Kings was an action/adventure film released in 1999, which focuses predominantly on four soldiers, Archie Gates (George Clooney), Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) and Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze), who are reaching the end of their service in the Persian Gulf War. They make the bold decision to set out on a heist to steal from Saddam Hussein’s gold supply which was stolen from Kuwait during the war. However, upon arriving at the village that possesses the fortune, the team witnesses the unjust execution of an anti-Saddam dissident by an Iraqi Republican guard. After successfully obtaining millions of dollars in gold bullion, the troops try to help the Iraqi prisoners escape their village, ultimately resulting in the kidnapping of Troy by Iraqi guards. In an attempt to get Troy back, the troops ask for the help of the Iraqi dissidents, with the promise to sneak them over the Iranian border to safety, in return.In this film, Russell uses a variety of techniques to evoke different emotions from the audience, as well as to make differ this film from other generic action movies. While Russell does use common action movie techniques such as slow motion, big explosions and a dramatic soundtrack, he uses a variety of other techniques, as well. A masked lense is used multiple times; once when Troy is looking through the scope of the gun and again when a soldier is looking through night vision goggles. This use of masking allows the audience to see the point of view of the soldiers looking through the equipment and relate more to their experiences. Extreme long shots are also used throughout the movie, usually depicting a light utility truck driving through the desert, surrounded by nothing but sand and dry land. This primarily allows the viewer to gain a sense of the location of the film, but also creates a sense of isolation and self dependence that these troops are experiencing. Russell frequently uses high angle and low angle shots when showing the interactions between the troops and the Iraqi people. High angle shots are used to portray the Iraqi dissidents, who are constantly begging the troops for help and support, while low angle shots are used to portray the soldiers, who obviously possess substantially more authority and power. This film showcases themes such as courage, sacrifice and greed, in that the plot is centered around the soldiers’ gold heist. However, once they realize that there are innocent people who need their help, they must act selflessly and guide the Iraqi people to safety. As a viewer, I was pleased with the combination between action and adventure, as well as the few comedic scenes that flowed well with the sequence of the film.American Hustle was released in 2013, starring Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser, Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso and Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld. The film is based on the infamous Abscam case that took place in the 1970s, which investigated and convicted dozens of political figures for corruption. Irving is a con-artist who meets and falls in love with a former stripper named Sydney, who becomes his partner in opening a fraudulent company and stealing money from people looking to get a loan. Despite Sydney finding out that Irving is married to Rosalyn, an emotionally unstable woman whom he does not get along well with, she still believes that he loves her and that they have a future. Unfortunately for them, they are busted by undercover FBI detective Richie DiMaso. However, he agrees to help them out if they provide assistance to the FBI in taking down corrupt politicians, including Carmine Polito, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, who is played by Jeremy Renner. The couple agrees to help DiMaso in order to gain immunity for the crimes they have committed, but still continue their fraudulent ways along the way.Russell utilizes a variety of film techniques to add to the visual appeal of American Hustle. There are several american montages used throughout the film; first, when Irving recalls different memories of his childhood. Another montage is used when Sydney and Richie are dancing at a disco club to show how much time has passed without them noticing. There are also several dramatic zooms used throughout the film, mostly on Sydney. These zooms are used when something surprising has occurred and dramatizes the sense of shock visible on Sydney’s face. Match cuts are also used effectively, such as when Richie opens one door and enters through a different one after he believes he has successfully caught a politician in an act of bribery. This not only adds to the visual appeal of the scene, but also creates a relationship between the location Richie was first in and the one he enters afterward. Framing is another technique that was used efficiently in the film. An example of this is when there is a flashback to Sydney working as a stripper. The framing is very tight and there is a close-up on her face, suggesting that she felt cornered and aimless in her life. The prominent themes of trust, greed and corruption serve as a staple to the plot of American Hustle. These themes not only allow for the plot to advance in different directions, but also cause the viewer to question the reality of the actions of the characters. I enjoyed how for many instances throughout the film, the audience was not sure which characters were putting on a show or being genuine. Their true intentions only became clear at the conclusion of the film, which efficiently tied the film’s plot together.Despite the time difference in releases between the three films, The Fighter, Three Kings and American Hustle all share both cinematic and thematic similarities. David O. Russell’s label as an auteur is evident when viewing and comparing these three films, as there are several repeated techniques, themes and film styles across all three films. Upon watching the films, I noticed that each film begins with light background noise, but no visuals. Words will then appear on the screen that either give the date, location or other background information regarding the film. A more specific similarity is between the opening scenes of The Fighter and Three Kings. Both films star Mark Wahlberg and begin with the camera panning across dry, sandy ground. In both films, Mark Wahlberg enters from the bottom of the frame, which Russell confirmed was done intentionally to pay homage to Mark Wahlberg, who has starred in several of his films. Many other well known actors, including Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams, have starred in multiple Russell movies. This also contributes to the fact that David O. Russell is going for a consistent style with his films, as he has admitted that his reason for using actors repeatedly is to have a throwback to old Hollywood. There were also cinematic similarities between The Fighter and American Hustle, in that they both used zooms to dramatize scenes. In The Fighter, there is a dramatic zoom on George Clooney’s character after he announces his plan for the heist. In American Hustle, there are multiple zooms on Amy Adams’ character, as well as on Robert De Niro, who plays a mafia boss and makes dramatic entrances. There are also thematic similarities between the films, such as the recurring themes of perseverance and personal struggle. While the situations of the characters in each of the films differ from each other, their reactions to the problems at hand are similar in that they rise above and strategically get through their difficulties. These similarities are a clear indication that David O. Russell is an auteur, as his style of directing and various techniques are evident with many of his films.Based on the films I have viewed by David O. Russell, I believe that the auteur theory is both valid and valuable. While some may argue that the director is not the sole contributor to a film and that they receive assistance from others working on the set, the decision is ultimately the directors. After watching only three films directed by David O. Russell, I was able to common across endless thematic and cinematic similarities between his films. However, I believe that these similarities exist largely because Russell decided to put them there. David O. Russell once said in an interview that his “holy trifecta” was to have music, emotion and camera working together to draw emotion from the audience and allow them to feel as if they are living in the scene. It is ultimately David O. Russell’s decision in the way that a film turns out.While there are countless similarities between many of Russell’s films, I believe that these connections are especially evident with The Fighter, Three Kings and American Hustle. These films not only share an abundant amount of cinematic and thematic similarities, but the general style and feel of the films are comparable, as well. I believe that the auteur theory is legitimate especially in terms of David O. Russell’s work, as his style and imprint are evident across many of his films.


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