Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ON STORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Film Crit Hulk Smash: THE FALLRISE OF DAVID O. RUSSELL

Why is it that the filmmaker's winning awards now instead of earlier in his career? Hulk has a theory.

Film Crit Hulk Smash: THE FALLRISE OF DAVID O. RUSSELL

MAKE NO MISTAKE - ALL THIS PRETTY MUCH COMES DOWN TO IS THE FACT THAT HULK WANTS TO SIT DOWN AT A BAR WITH DAVID O. RUSSELL AND TALK ABOUT IT.

* * *

There's glass between us. You can't deal with my infinite nature, can you?

ALL DIRECTORS GO THROUGH UPS AND DOWNS. ALL DIRECTORS HAVE CAREER TRAJECTORIES. ALL DIRECTORS EVOLVE IN SOME WAY. BUT PERHAPS NO OTHER FILMMAKER IN RECENT MEMORY HAS HAD AS WEIRD A CAREER TRAJECTORY AS DAVID O. RUSSELL. PUT SIMPLY: HE'S A MAN WITH A DECISIVE BREAK IN HIS OEUVRE. THERE ARE THOSE WHO CLAIM THIS NEW PERIOD IS EVIDENCE OF HIS MATURATION AND GROWTH. AND THERE ARE THOSE WHO CLAIM THIS NEW PERIOD IS EVIDENCE OF HIS SELLING OUT OR SOMETHING. EITHER WAY, THE ONE THING THAT SHOULD BE CLEAR IS THAT THE GUY WHO MADE I HEART HUCKABEES IN NO WAY FEELS LIKE THE GUY WHO WOULD MAKE AMERICAN HUSTLE. AND IF HE IS THE SAME GUY, THEN WE REALLY NEED TO TALK ABOUT THAT CHANGE.

* * *

Oh, so I'm 'Neurotic Guy,' is that my designation?

YOU MAY FEEL DIFFERENTLY ABOUT THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT, BUT FOUR FILMS INTO HIS CAREER, DAVID O. RUSSELL WAS ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE FILMMAKERS. HULK IMMEDIATELY TOOK TO HIS DEBUT FILM, SPANKING THE MONKEY, A DARK COMEDY ABOUT, WELL, INCEST AMONG OTHER THINGS. WHAT WAS MOST REMARKABLE ABOUT IT WAS THE WAY IT NEVER FELT LIKE IT'S EXPLOITING THE SUBJECT. HE WAS JUST A GUY WHO WAS CLEARLY WORKING IN DEEP OEDIPAL METAPHOR AND YET COLORED THAT METAPHOR WITH A REAL RELATIONSHIP. DESPITE A MORE BITING AND OVERT TONE, WHAT HE WAS DOING WAS DOWNRIGHT KIESLOWSKIAN (THAT MAY SOUND LIKE EMBELLISHMENT, BUT THINK ABOUT IT). RUSSELL FOLLOWED UP THAT FILM WITH FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, WHICH IS NOT ONLY ONE OF THE JEWELS IN BEN STILLER'S CROWN, BUT A MOVIE THAT ALSO SERVED UP THAT SAME METAPHORICAL APPROACH. FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE A SURREAL AND SILLY ROAD TRIP FILM IS REALLY COUPLED WITH A TANGIBLE QUEST FOR LINEAGE AND IDENTITY (WITH THOUGHTS DRIFTING TOWARD PROPAGATION). FOR ALL THE SEEMINGLY RAMBLING COMEDY, IT DOUBLES AS ONE OF THE BEST MODERN SNAPSHOTS OF AMERICANA AND OUR HISTORY THAT YOU'LL COME ACROSS. WHAT HULK ADORES ABOUT BOTH OF THESE FILMS IS THAT THEY ARE DEEPLY UNAFRAID TO WEAR THEIR THEMES ON THEIR SLEEVES.

BUT IT WAS WITH THREE KINGS THAT HULK TRULY GOT THE SENSE OF HOW FAR RUSSELL WOULD BE WILLING TO PUSH THAT APPROACH. AT TIMES IT'S THE BEST WARTIME SATIRE SINCE STRANGELOVE ("Are we shooting people or what?"). AND AT OTHER TIMES IT'S AN EARNEST PLEA FOR HUMAN EMPATHY AMONG THE RUBBLE. IT BOUNCES BETWEEN THOSE TWO AIMS WITH SURPRISING GRACE AND SOMEHOW EMBODIES AN ATTITUDE THAT IS AT ONCE SOPHOMORICALLY POLITICAL IN ITS FERVOR, BUT ALSO COMPLICATED ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY THAT FERVOR BY EXPLORING THE HUMAN CONTRADICTION (THAT SOUNDS REALLY COMPLICATED, BUT IT'S JUST A WAY OF SAYING THAT HE MAKES THE OLD CLICHES ABOUT WAR AND THE NEED FOR EMPATHY FEEL LIKE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE UNIVERSE... PROBABLY BECAUSE THEY ARE). IT'S LIKE, YEAH, THREE KINGS IS ONE BIG OBVIOUS METAPHOR FOR THE AMERICAN MOTIVES IN KUWAIT, BUT YOU WILL RARELY SEE A METAPHOR MADE MORE COMPELLING, FUNNY AND VIVID. AND IT WAS HIS CONFIDENCE WITH THIS EXACT APPROACH, ALONG WITH ITS SUCCESS, THAT LEADS SOMEONE TO MAKE SOMETHING AS BRAZEN AS I HEART HUCKABEES, A STAR-LADEN BRECHTIAN VEHICLE FOR PURE EXISTENTIAL PHILOSOPHY. AGAIN, SO MUCH OF IT IS YOUR BASIC SOPHOMORIC PHILOSOPHY STUFF, BUT THERE'S SUCH AN EARNEST DIRECTNESS TO ALL OF IT THAT IT WORKS WHOLEHEARTEDLY. WITH HIM, THERE'S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TEXT AND SUBTEXT. RUSSELL HAD SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT LIFE ON THIS PLANET AND HE WAS GOING TO SCREAM IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS. IT'S THE KIND OF PASSION AND COMMITMENT THAT MAKES YOU REALIZE THAT EVEN CALLING SOMETHING "SOPHOMORIC" IS KIND OF A DUMB EVALUATION ANYWAY. THERE ARE SIMPLY FILMS THAT EARN THEIR TRUTH AND FILMS THAT DON'T... AND HIS ALWAYS DID.

THAT'S THE THING, REALLY. ALL FOUR OF THESE MOVIES HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY AND WERE COMPLETELY UNAFRAID TO PUT IT OUT THERE. HULK ADORED HIM FOR IT. WE LIVE IN A CINEMATIC WORLD THAT IS SO FULL OF POSTURE AND GRATIFICATION-OVER-MEANING, AND HE WAS THE KIND OF FILMMAKER WITH A SENSE OF COMPASSION, PURPOSE AND FERVOR THAT (TO PUT IT WEIRDLY) MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE IT WAS JUST POURING OUT OF HIS EVERY ORIFICE. GROSS? SURE. BUT THAT'S THE EMBODIMENT OF A PURE ARTIST, FOLKS.

THE PROBLEM, IT WOULD TURN OUT, IS THAT HE WAS MUCH LIKE THE CLICHE OF PURE ARTISTRY: DAVID O. RUSSELL WASN'T THAT EASY TO WORK WITH.

***

Brad, I've thought about chopping your head off with a machete many times.

LOOK. HULK'S KNOWN SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE WORKED WITH HIM AND THE REALITY LIKELY FITS THE OLD ADAGE THAT 50% OF THE BAD THINGS YOU HEAR ARE COMPLETE NONSENSE AND THE OTHER 50% MIGHT BE WORSE THAN THEY'RE SAYING. BUT HONESTLY, THERE ARE LOTS OF SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE IN SHOW BUSINESS WHO HAVE TEMPERAMENTAL PERSONALITIES (JUST LIKE THERE ARE LOTS OF NICE PEOPLE WHO DON'T MAKE GOOD STUFF). NOW, THIS IS NOT TO EXCUSE ANYONE'S BEHAVIOR IN ANY WAY; IT'S JUST TO POINT OUT THE TECHNICALITY THAT WHEN IT COMES TO WHAT'S ON SCREEN, THE DIRECTOR'S PERSONALITY DOESN'T ACTUALLY MATTER. (STILL, IT WILL LIKELY BE RELEVANT TO THE QUALITY OF YOUR CAREER, SO IT'S WAY BETTER IF YOU'RE NICE). BUT IF ACTORS BELIEVE IN THE MATERIAL AND THEY BELIEVE IN YOUR PASSION, THEN TECHNICALLY IT CAN ALL KEEP GOING. WHICH IS EXACTLY THE REASON THE SAME ACTORS KEEP WORKING WITH DAVID O. RUSSELL: THEY GET HIM. AND THEY'RE OFTEN THE KIND OF THICK-SKINNED PEOPLE WHO CAN GO TOE-TO-TOE WITH HIS INTENSITY AND UNDERSTAND THE UPS AND DOWNS OF HIS WORKFLOW. THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WITH PASSION. AND IN LIGHT OF SO MUCH RECENT PUBLIC TALK, IT'S ACTUALLY SOMETHING WE UNDERSTAND ABOUT HIM MUCH BETTER NOW. HECK, DAVID O. RUSSELL HAS COME TO UNDERSTAND HIMSELF, TOO. AND HE'S BEEN VERY FORTHCOMING ABOUT ALL THIS STUFF. REALLY, IT SEEMS HE'S CHANGED.

BUT THERE WAS AN EVENT THAT SPARKED THAT CHANGE. THAT EVENT BEING A VIDEO OF HIM AND LILY TOMLIN SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER ON SET. WHEN SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPENS? SUDDENLY, ALL THOSE PERSONALITY PROBLEMS ACTUALLY START TO MATTER BECAUSE NOW IT'S SOMETHING THE AUDIENCE SEES. NOW, IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE WORK, BUT THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION. AND WHEN YOU COUPLE GOSSIP WITH BOX OFFICE FAILURES THEN THE FAULT IS NO LONGER ABOUT THE WORK, IT'S ABOUT YOU. AND THEN, WHETHER YOU WANT IT TO OR NOT, IT BEGINS TO INFECT AND LEAD TO A KIND OF SITUATION LIKE WHAT HAPPENED WITH NAILED.

IN CASE YOU ARE UNAWARE, THAT'S THE MOVIE THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HIS FOLLOW-UP TO HUCKABEES, BUT IT WAS PLAGUED WITH SO MANY PRODUCTION PROBLEMS - WHICH ONLY REVOLVED AROUND MONEY BY THE WAY, BUT THE DIFFICULTIES OF THAT PRIOR VIDEO COLORED EVERYTHING. WHICH SUCKS BECAUSE THE MOVIE WAS A HARD SELL TO BEGIN WITH. IT'S ABOUT A YOUNG WOMAN WHO GETS A NAIL IN HER HEAD THAT CAUSES IRRATIONAL SEXUAL BEHAVIOR AND THEN IT ALL TAKES A SURPRISING POLITICAL BENT. HULK'S READ THE SCRIPT AND IT'S THE SAME M.O. AS HIS PREVIOUS WORK: A CLEVER DISPLAY OF METAPHOR BEING EXPLORED THROUGH A WILD AND CRAZY, YET SPECIFICALLY HUMAN, STORY. TO BOOT, IT'S A MUCH NEEDED INVESTIGATION INTO AND EVISCERATION OF SEXUAL GENDER NORMS AND THE WAY SOCIETY EXPLOITS WOMEN THROUGH DOUBLE STANDARDS. JUST LIKE ALL HIS PREVIOUS WORK, IT'S FUCKING GREAT... BUT IT DIDN'T MATTER. THE FILM WAS STILL SHUT DOWN AND NO ONE WANTED TO INVEST. HE SPENT YEARS TRYING TO FINISH IT, BUT THE STINK WAS EVERYWHERE. IT GOT TO THE POINT THAT PEOPLE GENUINELY THOUGHT WE WERE LOOKING AT THE END OF DAVID O. RUSSELL. AND THUS HE LANGUISHED FOR SIX YEARS WITHOUT A FILM.

The woods are hopeless. Don't waste your time, they will be destroyed. So will the marsh. It is a losing game mankind has played for more than a century. Sadness is what you are, do not deny it. The universe is a lonely place, a painful place. This is what we can share between us, period.

AND THEN IT ALL CHANGED.

* * *

What's the most important thing in life?

Respect.

Too dependent on other people.

What, love?

A little Disneyland, isn't it?

God's will.

Close.

What is it then?

Necessity.

As in?

As in people do what is most necessary to them at a given moment.

MARK WAHLBERG RECENTLY MADE THE JOKING OBSERVATION THAT YEAH, OF COURSE HE SAVED DAVID O. RUSSELL'S CAREER. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THE STATEMENT WAS MEANT AS GENTLE RIBBING FOR THE PRESS, BUT THERE'S NO DENYING THAT HE'S TECHNICALLY RIGHT. WAHLBERG BROUGHT HIM IN ONTO THE FIGHTER AND VOUCHED FOR HIM WHEN NOBODY WANTED TO TAKE THE RISK. LOOKING BACK, HULK REMEMBERS THAT PEOPLE WERE PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT THIS. AFTER ALL, RUSSELL HAD ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF THE GUYS WHO GETS GREAT WORK OUT OF WAHLBERG, WHO IS SOMEONE THAT HULK REALLY LIKES, BUT LET'S FACE IT, HAS A TENDENCY TO BE DIRECTOR-DEPENDENT. HE JUST HAS THIS SPECIFIC DEMEANOR AND AFFECTATION THAT REALLY NEEDS TO BE PUT IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT IN ORDER FOR IT TO WORK. WAHLBERG COULD TECHNICALLY BE DOING THE SAME EXACT KIND OF PERFORMANCE IN TWO MOVIES, BUT ONE OF THEM WILL BE THE YARDS AND THE OTHER WILL BE THE HAPPENING.... SO YEAH, CONTEXT RULES. BUT WHILE MANY DIRECTORS LOOK AT HIM AND WRING OUT THAT GRUFF IN-YOUR-FACE SENSIBILITY, IT'S RUSSELL WHO REALLY GETS WHAT'S SILLY ABOUT WAHLBERG. IN THREE KINGS HE HAS THIS DOPEY, NAIVE, WELL-MEANING EVERYMAN QUALITY WHICH INADVERTENTLY TURNS HIM INTO THE HEART OF THE MOVIE (AND IS MADE ALL THE MORE EFFECTIVE BY HIS PAIRING WITH THE SCHEMING CLOONEY). IN HUCKABEES HE'S FULL OF THIS NAKED, ADOLESCENT BLUSTER, LIKE A MAD-AS-HELL HIGH SCHOOLER WHO JUST LEARNED ABOUT OIL POLITICS AND REALLY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT AT YOUR ADULT DINNER PARTY. HE'S COMPLETELY UNHINGED IN THAT FILM AND IT'S SERIOUSLY HULK'S FAVORITE PERFORMANCE OF HIS TO DATE. BUT AS MUCH AS THIS REUNION WAS THE CAUSE OF HULK'S EXCITEMENT, IT DIDN'T QUITE WORK OUT LIKE THAT. NO, THE REAL REVELATION OF THE FIGHTER WAS CHRISTIAN BALE. AND IT WOULD ACTUALLY GO ON TO DEFINE EVERYTHING THAT FOLLOWED.

LIKE RUSSELL, BALE HAS HAD AN INTERESTING CAREER. AND LIKE RUSSELL, BALE ALSO HAD A BEHIND THE SCENES OUTBURST GO PUBLIC. HE'S ACTUALLY SPENT MOST OF HIS CAREER DISAPPEARING INTO LEAD ROLES, BUT MOST OF THEM COULD BE CHARACTERIZED AS HAVING A COLD AND CEREBRAL QUALITY, OFTEN FULL OF THIS SACRIFICING GRIT THAT MADE HIM THE LOVE OBJECT OF MANY A POWER-CRAVED MOVIE NERD. BUT ALL THE WHILE, HULK WAS WAITING FOR THE CHARACTER ACTOR FROM VELVET GOLDMINE AND AMERICAN PSYCHO TO COME BACK TO THE FOLD. AND WITH THE FIGHTER, HE NOT ONLY DID THAT, BUT CRAFTED THE KIND OF PERFORMANCE THAT STRUCK A CHORD WITH JUST ABOUT EVERYONE. THE UBER-SERIOUS BALE WAS SUDDENLY EMBODYING THIS WARM, TROUBLED, MAGNETIC PRESENCE. AGAIN, THAT'S ONE OF RUSSELL'S DIRECTING GIFTS: HE SEES WHAT IS A SILLY, TROUBLING ASPECT OF A PERSON AND BRINGS IT RIGHT TO THE FOREFRONT. BUT WHAT WAS DIFFERENT WITH RUSSELL'S HANDLING OF THE FIGHTER IS HOW LITTLE IT FELT LIKE... HIM. GONE WERE THE IN-YOUR-FACE THEMATICS. IN WITH THE ORGANIC SHAKY CAM AND FAMILIAR STORY BEATS. AT THE TIME IT FELT LIKE IT MADE MORE SENSE. HE WAS REBOUNDING FROM THE NAILED NIGHTMARE AND WAS ON HIS BEST BEHAVIOR. HECK, HE DIDN'T EVEN WRITE THE MOVIE. AS FAR AS WE WERE CONCERNED, HE JUST NEEDED TO COME IN AND DO A SERVICEABLE JOB HANDLING THE TROPES OF THE GENRE AND GET GOOD WORK OUT OF PEOPLE. HE ABSOLUTELY DID THAT. AND YEAH, YOU COULD STILL TELL HE WAS HAVING FUN WITH IT, AS EVERY TIME THE WARDS PILED UP TOGETHER IT MADE FOR A WILDLY FUNNY, BUT COMPLETELY OFF-KILTER MOVIE. IT WASN'T "HIM" EXACTLY, AND DIDN'T EVEN TRULY WORK AS A COHERENT HUMAN TAKE, BUT IT WAS AT LEAST THE BOOST HE NEEDED TO COME BACK IN THE EYES OF THE PUBLIC.

Hey, I don't know if I can do this. I got a family. If I'm gonna shit in a bag for the rest of my life because I got shot after the war was over, that would be pretty fucking stupid, wouldn't it, Major?

BUT THEN WITH SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, WE OFFICIALLY HAD A TREND.

HULK COULD GET INTO THE WHOLE THING, BUT LET'S JUST SUM IT ALL UP BY SAYING THAT THE FILM REALLY DOES FEATURE A KIND OF CATHARTIC DISHONESTY THAT UNDERCUTS PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE MOVIE. AND FOR A FILM THAT IS SUPPOSEDLY ABOUT CHARACTERS OVERCOMING THEIR WANTS AND DESIRES TO REALIZE THEIR SOBERING NEEDS, IT ENDS UP BEING A FILM THAT NAKEDLY CATERS TO THE AUDIENCE IN ALMOST JAW-DROPPING FASHION (DON'T AGREE? WE WILL GET INTO MORE OF THIS LATER). BUT AGAIN, THE THING THAT MOST STANDS OUT ABOUT SILVER LININGS IS HOW REMARKABLY DIFFERENT IT WAS FROM RUSSELL'S PRIOR WORK. HERE WAS THIS INCREDIBLY PERSONAL FILMMAKER, MINING A NOVEL ABOUT OBVIOUSLY PERSONAL THINGS (HIS SON IS BI-POLAR), BUT SUDDENLY HE WAS TURNING IT INTO THE VERY KIND OF MOVIE HE ONCE SEEMED TO RAIL AGAINST.

AND IT WOULD ONLY GET WORSE.

* * *

Why is everyone getting worked up all of the sudden? I thought we were gunna talk about getting new carpeting. Taking out this crap and putting in the wall-to-wall.

SO AMERICAN HUSTLE GOT LIKE 10 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS OR SOMETHING THIS WEEK, SO WHATEVER HULK HAS TO SAY LIKELY DOES NOT MATTER IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION. THAT'S OKAY. BESIDES, HULK'S GENUINELY HAPPY FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED BECAUSE IT'S KIND OF DUMB TO BEGRUDGE SOMEONE'S SUCCESS (IT'S NEVER ABOUT THE OTHER GUY), AND IT'S EQUALLY DUMB TO GET ALL BENT OUT OF SHAPE ABOUT PEOPLE LIKING THINGS (IT'S NOT REALLY ABOUT THAT EITHER). BUT IF HULK WERE TO TALK ABOUT THIS FILM AND WHAT IT TRULY "IS," THEN HULK HAS TO ADMIT THAT IT'S A MOVIE THAT NOT ONLY HUSTLES, BUT KIND OF HATES ITS AUDIENCE.

GRAND, PROVOCATIVE STATEMENT? OKAY FINE. BUT THIS IS GOING TO TAKE A FEW PARAGRAPHS, SO LET'S START HERE:

WHEN WRITERS ARE BREAKING A STORY THEY OFTEN USE THESE THINGS CALLED "BEAT SHEETS." THERE ARE ACTUALLY LOTS OF NAMES FOR THEM AND THE PROCESS IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE (AND IT DOESN'T EVEN MATTER IF WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MOVIES OR TV OR ADAPTATIONS, ETC), BUT THE POINT IS THAT YOU SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT EVERY SCENE IN YOUR STORY AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, YOU TALK ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF THAT SCENE AND HOW IT HOPEFULLY EVOLVES X, Y, OR Z FORWARD. HULK TALKED ABOUT THIS IN THE OL' SCREENWRITING BOOK, BUT HOPEFULLY YOU CAN LOOK AT EACH SCENE AND THEY AREN'T CONNECTED BY A SERIES OF MEANINGLESS "AND THENS," BUT INSTEAD CONNECTED WITH STATEMENTS LIKE "THIS HAPPENS, THEREFORE THAT HAPPENS, BUT THIS HAPPENS, THEREFORE THAT HAPPENS." (OR THE CHARACTER EQUIVALENT OF: "SHE DOES THIS, WHICH CAUSES HIM TO DO THAT, BUT THAT OTHER GUY DOES THIS, WHICH CAUSES HIM TO THAT!"). BASICALLY, YOU LINE UP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS ACCORDING TO THE RULE OF CAUSE AND EFFECT AND THUS THIS KIND OF APPRAISAL BECOMES YOUR WAY OF TRACKING THE ECONOMY AND DIRECTION OF YOUR STORY (WHICH IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE YOU ONLY HAVE SO MANY SCENES TO GET YOUR POINTS ACROSS). AND IT DOESN'T MATTER IF IT'S PLOT-HEAVY OR ABOUT THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT (IDEALLY, IT'S A NICE BLEND OF BOTH), THE IDEA IS THAT EVERY SCENE EFFECTIVELY HAS A POINT. AND WHAT HULK IS DESCRIBING HERE IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. IT'S REALLY JUST BASIC WRITING.

THE THING IS THAT WHEN PEOPLE SIT DOWN TO WATCH A MOVIE OR TV SHOW, THEY DON'T REALLY THINK ABOUT THAT STUFF, AND WHY SHOULD THEY? THEY JUST NEED TO FOLLOW ALONG. AND HEY, WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT BUT THIS VERY STRATEGY OF INGRAINING MEANING AND PURPOSE INTO YOUR STORY BEATS TENDS TO BE THE VERY THING THAT GETS PEOPLE TO FOLLOW ALONG AND BE INTERESTED IN YOUR STORY. FUNNY? HUH. NOW, OF COURSE HULK'S NOT SAYING THAT EVERY FILM HAS TO FOLLOW THIS KIND OF MODEL AND IF IT DOESN'T IT'S AN OBVIOUS PIECE OF CRAP. HECK, YOU CAN TOTALLY GO THE JARMUSCH ROUTE AND COME AT THE STORY FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE. BUT YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THOSE KIND OF MOVIES HAVE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT GOALS AND USE AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT LANGUAGE. AND MORE TO THE POINT, THOSE FILMS AREN'T REALLY WORRIED ABOUT SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF A MAINSTREAM AUDIENCE. BUT MOST HOLLYWOOD OUTPUT SHOULD BE VERY CONCERNED WITH IT. IT'S HOW YOU ROPE 'EM IN LONG-TERM. IT'S HOW YOU TELL STORIES THAT LAST FOR GENERATIONS. SURE, YOU'RE ALWAYS ALLOWED A LITTLE LEEWAY, AND SOME MOVIES DO TANGENTS WELL AND SOME DON'T. BUT YOU CAN ONLY PLAY WITH VARYING DEGREES OF PURPOSELESSNESS SO MUCH BEFORE YOUR AUDIENCE WILL TURN. AND EVEN IF YOU LOOK AT RUSSELL'S EARLIER WORK, IT MAY SEEM LIKE HE'S NOT CARING ABOUT DRAMATIC URGENCY, BUT ALL OF HIS STORY BEATS CONSTANTLY ENGAGE THE THEMATIC ANGLES WITH THE SAME KIND OF URGENCY. HE WAS NEVER A CLASSIC "PLOTIST" (THOUGH YOU CAN MAKE A CASE FOR THREE KINGS), BUT THERE WAS MEANINGFUL PURPOSE TO IT ALL BECAUSE EACH OF HIS FILMS WORE THE POINT OF THE SCENE RIGHT ON ITS SLEEVE.

THE REASON FOR THIS LONG EXPLANATION IS THIS: THERE IS ALMOST NO REAL CHARACTER SEQUENCING OR MEANING OR IMPORT OR THEMATIC COHESION OR DIRECT PURPOSE TO MOST OF THE SCENES IN AMERICAN HUSTLE.

THAT MAY SEEM LIKE A MEAN EMBELLISHMENT, BUT TRY RETROACTIVELY MAKING A BEAT SHEET FOR THAT MOVIE. MOST OF THE TIME YOU WILL NOTICE THAT IT IS A) REHASHING THE SAME BITS OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, OR B) INDULGING IN AN UNPRODUCTIVE TANGENT, OR C) LAYING A FEW BITS OF EXPOSITION THAT WON'T ACTUALLY HAVE RELEVANCY, OR D) GOING BACK ON AN EARLIER POINT, OR E) LINKING SCENES CONSTANTLY WITH "AND THENS" OR F) MAKING A CONTRADICTORY POINT THAT DOESN'T SEEM TO BE AWARE IT'S A CONTRADICTION. HONESTLY IT ALMOST FEELS LIKE A FIRST DRAFT. SURE, THERE ARE TALKING POINTS CONCERNING WHAT THE FILM WANTS TO BE "ABOUT" (LOYALTY, WANT, HUSTLING, TRUST, ETC), BUT REALLY IT'S NOT BACKING THOSE THINGS UP WITH STORY OR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. THERE'S NO COORDINATED APPROACH. WHICH MEANS IT'S NOT ACTUALLY SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE THINGS, IT'S ONLY "ABOUT" THOSE THINGS (SAVE FOR ONE COHERENT AND TROUBLING IDEA HULK WILL GET INTO LATER). THE EFFECT OF ALL THIS IS THAT EVERY SCENE OF AMERICAN HUSTLE COMES ACROSS LIKE IT DOESN'T CARE WHAT IT'S SAYING. EVEN IF THE FILM IS "FULLY WRITTEN," IT JUST ENDS UP FEELING LIKE THE ACTORS WERE IMPROVISING (AND NOT IN THE GOOD WAY). IT FEELS LIKE THE CHARACTERS ARE ALL UNHINGED AND REACTING TO EACH OTHER IN WAYS THAT DON'T FIT, AS IF EACH ONE IS IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MOVIE. THEIR BEHAVIOR ISN'T EVEN MATCHING LINE-READINGS. IT'S WEIRD. THERE'S NOTHING TO GRAB ONTO. EVERYTHING IS JUST "OFF."

Hey - didn't most people like this movie?

WELL, THAT'S THE PROBLEM: DAVID O. RUSSELL IS STILL A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GOOD FILMMAKER. THE KIND OF FILMMAKER WHO, AGAIN, KNOWS HOW TO BRING OUT WHAT IS INHERENTLY SILLY ABOUT PEOPLE AND BRING THEM TO THE FOREFRONT. SO EVEN IF EVERYTHING IS OUT OF SYNC, HE'S STILL KEEPING ONE THING MIRACULOUSLY IN SYNC: HE'S CONSCIOUSLY BRINGING ALL THE MOODS THAT "FEEL" GREAT TO THE AUDIENCE RIGHT TO THE FOREFRONT OF THE MOVIE. WE CALL THIS KIND OF STUFF "TONE CONTROL" AND IT'S HARD TO DENY THAT RUSSELL IS BECOMING CRAZY GOOD AT IT (IT SEEMS TO BE THE MAJOR TAKEAWAY COMING OFF THE FIGHTER AND SILVER LININGS). AND THUS EVERY SCENE IN THIS MOVIE IS LESS ABOUT "THE PURPOSE" OF THE CHARACTERS AND STORY, BUT COMING RIGHT AT THE AUDIENCE WITH THIS CHARMING-AS-HELL TONE. AND BOY OH BOY DOES THE SUCCESS OF THIS FILM SHOW THE POWER OF TONE. HE MADE A MOVIE THAT FEELS LIKE GETTING A MASSAGE. IT PRACTICALLY ENCOURAGES NON-CARING AND FALLING FOR THE GOOD TIMES "TEXTURE" OF THE MUSIC, THE VIBE, THE PERFORMANCES, THE STYLE. AND MAKE NO MISTAKE THAT IT IS ABSOLUTELY INFECTIOUS AT TIMES... BUT IT'S ALL A RUSE. AN ILLUSION. YOU CAN MAKE A CASE THAT THE FILM IS WHOLLY EMBODIED BY THE "LIVE AND LET DIE" SEQUENCE, WHEREIN THE EQUALLY CHARMING-AS-HELL JENNIFER LAWRENCE JUST DANCES AROUND WHILE CLEANING HER HOUSE. IT'S FUN AS HELL, BUT IT REALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING (SOME MAKE A CASE FOR HOW THE SONG IS ABOUT HER LEAVING HER HUSBAND, BUT THAT DOESN'T FIT THE CONTEXT, THE POINT OR EVEN THE RHYTHM OF THAT PART OF THE MOVIE). AND THAT'S THE MOVIE: FUN AND PURPOSELESS.

NOW, YOU MAY ASK, "JUST WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT?" AND YOU'RE RIGHT. HONESTLY, ALL OF THIS WOULDN'T BE SO MUCH OF A PROBLEM WERE IT NOT FOR THE FILM'S ULTIMATE SENSE OF MORALITY.

They have half a million men in the desert and they send four guys to pick up all this bullion? I don't think so.

THERE'S BEEN MUCH COMPARISON MADE LATELY BETWEEN AMERICAN HUSTLE AND THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. THIS IS FOR GOOD REASON. THE SCORSESE FILM HAS COME UNDER IMMENSE FIRE FROM THOSE WHO EITHER A) DID NOT LIKE ITS PENCHANT FOR NUDITY, DRUGS AND GENERAL DEPRAVITY OR B) DID NOT LIKE IT BECAUSE THEY FELT IT GLORIFIES ITS MAIN CHARACTER. BUT WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE MISSING IS THE ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING THAT THE FILM IS NOT ADVOCATING JORDAN BELFORT IN THE SLIGHTEST. IT ACTUALLY THINKS HE'S RIDICULOUS AND HORRIBLE (MARTIN SCORSESE PRACTICALLY FEELS LIKE HE'S POKING HIS HEAD OUT AFTER EACH SCENE AND SAYING "CAN YOU BELIEVE THESE ASSHOLES?"). THE "PROBLEM" WITH WOLF, IS THAT IT HAS THE GALL TO RECOGNIZE OUR SOCIETY'S COMPLICITY WITH THIS BEHAVIOR AND ALL THE WAYS WE HELP IN PROPITIATING THESE MONSTERS AND CON ARTISTS BY GIVING THEM A PASS OR MAYBE EVEN WORSHIPING THEM. IT'S NOT THAT THE FILM DOESN'T PUNISH BELFORT. IT'S THAT WE DON'T. WE LET OUR HEROES RIDE THE SUBWAY WHILE BELFORT LAUGHS ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK. SCORSESE IS JUST SHOWERING US WITH THE COSMIC RIDICULOUSNESS OF ALL THIS. AND WE DON'T LIKE THAT. WE LIKE OUR MOVIES TO PUNISH BAD GUYS BECAUSE WE DON'T DO IT IN REAL LIFE. WE WANT THE INDULGENCE. WE WANT THE UNREPENTANT CON ARTISTS TO PAY, DAMMIT!... WELL, EXCEPT WHEN OUR MOVIES TELL US TO LIKE THEM. BECAUSE AMERICAN HUSTLE IS A MOVIE THAT WORSHIPS THE CON ARTIST. AND UNSURPRISINGLY, PEOPLE LOVE IT. BUT THAT'S THE THING ABOUT MOVIES AND SOCIETY: PEOPLE LIKE TO BE INDULGED, NOT PUNISHED. AND BETWEEN THE TWO FILMS WE SHOULD BE AGREEING WITH THE THEMES OF WOLF OF WALL STREET (WHICH ACTUALLY SECONDS OUR RAGE AT THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL, BUT ASKS TOUGH QUESTIONS OF THE AUDIENCE ABOUT WHY WE DO NOTHING), BUT AMERICAN HUSTLE IS THE ONE THAT HOLDS UP THE MOVIE-GOING AND SOCIETAL STATUS QUO. AND THUS IT'S THE ONE WE WORSHIP. THE ONE THAT GETS AWARDS THROWN AT IT. THAT'S THE ONE THAT PROVES EVEN OUR BEST AND BRIGHTEST FILM-LOVERS JUST LIKE TO BE INDULGED. HULK EVEN HEARD SOMEONE SAY THE FILM "OUT-SCORSESE'S SCORSESE," WHICH MUST BE A STATEMENT DERIVED FROM THE FACT THAT IT SETS THE RECORD FOR LOW-ANGLE ZOOM-INS OR SOMETHING. BECAUSE THERE COULD NOT BE A MORE PERFECT ILLUSTRATION OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE TWO MOVIES: SCORSESE IS A GUY WHO IS ALL ABOUT PURPOSE. AND RUSSELL... WELL, THAT'S WHAT MAKES THIS ALL FEEL SO WRONG...

DAVID O. RUSSELL USED TO BE THAT GUY TOO.

CONSIDER THE FACT THAT IT'S THE GUY WHO MADE I HEART HUCKABEES, A FILM THAT AMOUNTS TO NOTHING MORE THAN A DESPERATE PLEA FOR HUMANISM AND EMPATHY IN THE CORPORATE AND CONFUSING WORLD, WHEREIN PROFIT RULES OVER BASIC KINDNESS. HE'S ALSO THE GUY THAT MADE THREE KINGS, A FILM ABOUT WAR-TIME CROOKS FINDING THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS TURNING FOR REFUGEE CONCERNS. HOW DOES THE GUY WHO MADE THOSE TWO MOVIES GO ON TO MAKE A JOVIAL-YET-LACKADAISICAL FILM THAT UPHOLDS THE STATUS QUO OF HOW MUCH FUN IT IS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SCHNOOKS? A FILM WHOSE ACTUAL RELIEF COMES IN THE FORM OF IMMENSE RESPECT FOR MURDEROUS GANGSTERS AND SYMPATHY FOR THE CROOKED "GOOD GUY" POLITICIANS. HULK'S SORRY TO YAMMER ON ABOUT THIS, BUT THE GAP BETWEEN THESE TWO THINGS MATTERS. IT'S NOT THAT IT'S EVEN A GAP. IT'S A CAVERNOUS GULF. AND HULK CAN'T HELP BUT SEE IT AS THE DEAFENING SYMBOLISM OF A GUY EMBRACING HIS OWN CHANGE OF APPROACH. GOING FROM A GUY WHO WOULD SUFFER FOR HIS BOLD STATEMENTS OF EMPATHY, TO A GUY WHO HAS SIMPLY CONSIGNED HIMSELF TO GETTING AWAY WITH CATHARTIC DISHONESTY.

... IS IT REALLY THAT EXTREME? HULK'S NOT SURE. BUT WHAT HAS TO BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS TRANSFORMATION IS THAT HE AT LEAST WENT FROM A GUY WHO MADE FOUR OF THE MOST DIRECT, THEMATICALLY COHERENT FILMS OF THE MODERN AGE, ALL CENTERING ON MEANING-OVER-GRATIFICATION, TO MAKING THREE OF THE MOST SURPRISINGLY HOLLOW OSCAR-BAIT EXERCISES IN TONE MANIPULATION THAT HULK'S EVER SEEN, WITH THE LAST TWO ABSOLUTELY ADVOCATING GRATIFICATION-OVER-MEANING. THE RESULT? HE'S NOW A MADE MAN IN HOLLYWOOD CIRCLES WITH A PENCHANT FOR LANDING AWARDS FOR SOME OF OUR BEST ACTORS - BUT DOES DAVID O. RUSSELL UNDERSTAND THIS? HOW DOES HE EVEN FEEL ABOUT THIS CHARACTERIZATION? IS THIS EVEN LEGITIMATE? YOU MAY BE INCLINED TO SAY NO, BUT PLEASE CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

What in God's name is happening to you? We trusted you. We took care of you. We made you into a national icon. Pulled you out of a mall. Eh, you've been given everything by Huckabees!

YEAH, THAT QUOTE IS BY SOMEONE WHO IS YELLING AT ANOTHER SOMEONE FOR THEIR QUITTING AS A HUCKABEES SPOKESMAN (AKA, SPOKESMAN FOR "THE MACHINE" / BIG BUSINESS / HOLLYWOOD / PICK YOUR INSTITUTION). IT'S A LINE SERVED UP WITH THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF IRONY AND DISTRUST OF OUR CORPORATE OVERLORDS AND THE FLEETING NATURE OF THEIR "GIFTS." SO HOW COULD A PERSON SO DISTRUSTFUL OF HUCKABEES / "THE MACHINE" COME TO HAVE THIS NEW APPROACH? WHAT HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST IS THAT DAVID O. RUSSELL MIGHT BE COMPLETELY AWARE OF ALL OF THIS CATHARTIC DISHONESTY AND HE'S HAVING A DEVILISH GOOD TIME WITH IT.

CONSIDER THIS CRUCIAL ASPECT OF SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK'S CATHARTIC DISHONESTY AS PROOF THAT HE'S 100% AWARE OF IT: EARLIER IN THE FILM BRADLEY COOPER FREAKS OUT WHILE READING HEMINGWAY'S "A FAREWELL TO ARMS" AND GOES UP SCREAMING TO HIS PARENTS SAYING THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE ENDED THE BOOK EARLIER. HE SAYS THAT THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A HAPPY ENDING WHERE WE SEE THE TWO LEADS TOGETHER, BEFORE ALL THAT BAD LIFE STUFF HAPPENS IN THE VERY END. WHAT SEEMS LIKE A NICE SENTIMENT ACTUALLY HAS A REAL POINT IN THAT SCENE: THIS CHARACTER IS A MAN WHO KEEPS CONSTRUCTING FALSE, MOVIE-LIKE ANSWERS TO HIS PROBLEMS AND HE CAN ONLY SOLVE THEM BY EMBRACING THE SOBERING REALITY OF HIS DISEASE AND THE BAD THINGS HE DOES. THE FILM REPEATS THIS POINT TIME AND TIME AGAIN. REALLY, IT'S A FILM ABOUT THE IMMENSE NEED FOR HONESTY. THE CHARACTERS LIE AND LIE AND YET THEY ONLY MAKE STRIDES WHEN HONEST. AND SO, WHEN IT COMES TIME FOR THE MOVIE ITSELF TO END AND MAKE THIS POINT CLEAR, RUSSELL REINFORCES ALL THAT BY... LETTING IT DEVOLVE INTO THE HAPPY TIMES THIRD DANCE SEQUENCE (COMPLETE WITH FORCED THIRD ACT STAKES), AND THE TWO CHARACTERS GET THEIR HAPPY ENDING WITH ABSOLUTELY NO HINT OF SOBRIETY UNDERNEATH. FADE TO BLACK... HUH. WHAT FEELS LIKE SUCH "A BETRAYAL" TO THE POINT OF THE MOVIE IS TURNED INTO SOMETHING MORE OBVIOUS (AND DEVIOUS) BY THAT EARLIER SCENE. IT'S DAVID O. RUSSELL THROWING UP HIS ARMS AND CLEARLY SAYING "OKAY, THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF ENTERTAINMENT? FINE. FORGET YOUR NEEDS. HERE'S WHAT YOU WANT EVEN THOUGH IT'S BAD FOR YOU. HERE."

... 62 WINS AND 77 NOMINATIONS LATER... IT'S SAFE TO SAY WE FELL FOR IT.

THE SAME GOES FOR AMERICAN HUSTLE, WHICH WHEN YOU PUT IN THAT SAME LIGHT OF SELF-AWARENESS, SUDDENLY BECOMES HIS OWN FORM OF A CINEMATIC HUSTLE. IT FEELS LIKE A GUY THROWING EVERY POSSIBLE NONSENSICAL CONTRADICTION AT US AND WATCHING US EAT IT UP WILLINGLY BECAUSE WE LIKE THE RHYTHM OF THE SONG. SERIOUSLY, HE THROWS EVERY POSSIBLE INDULGENCE AT US: BOOBS. GOOD TIMES SEQUENCES. SILLY WIGS. TWISTS AND HUSTLES AND CONS AND THINGS THAT AREN'T REALLY INGRAINED INTO ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE MOMENTARY FEELING OF ELATION. AND YOU'LL NOTICE THAT'S THE ONLY THING THE CHARACTERS ARE DOING TOO, WHICH MEANS IT'S THE ONLY COHERENT POINT TO THE MOVIE. THE MOVIE OFFER ITSELF UP TO US LIKE A DRUG. A HIGH. AN ELATED BIT OF NONSENSE TO GET US TO FORGET. AND IN THAT LIGHT, THE MOVIE FEELS LIKE HE MADE IT ON A DARE. IT HAS TO BE A CON. BECAUSE OF INSTEAD OF ASKING US TO GO ALONG WITH IT, THE AUDIENCE IS ACTUALLY THE MARK. ONE OF THE MOST ULTIMATE CON MOVIES EVER MADE, THE BROTHERS BLOOM, ARTICULATES THIS VERY IDEA, EFFECTIVELY SAYING: THE ONLY PERFECT CONS ARE THE ONES THAT GIVE THE MARK SUCH A GOOD TIME THAT THEY DON'T EVEN CARE THAT THEY'VE BEEN CONNED. IN THAT SPIRIT, AMERICAN HUSTLE IS A PERFECT CON OF A MOVIE. AND IT WOULD PERHAPS BE ONE THAT HULK WOULD MUCH MORE READILY ACCEPT FROM ONE THOSE CINEMATIC RAPSCALLIONS OUT THERE (HANEKE, VON TRIER, REFN) WHO NOT ONLY LIKE TO PLAY WITH THEIR AUDIENCE, BUT AT LEAST LET YOU KNOW IT BY PUTTING THAT TAUNTING ATTITUDE RIGHT UP ON THE SCREEN.

SO AGAIN, THE REAL PROBLEM HERE IS NOT THAT SOMEONE IS MAKING LOVABLE ROMPS THAT SKIRT THEIR POINTS IN FAVOR OF AUDIENCE PLACATION, IT'S THAT THIS SPECIFIC FILMMAKER IS NOW DOING IT. DAVID O. RUSSELL, THE ONE-TIME HERO OF THE IMPASSIONED EMPATHETIC PLEA IS NOW SLINGING PURPOSEFULLY HOLLOW OSCAR-BAIT THAT DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS HIS LONG-TIME ETHOS... ISN'T THAT A FAIR BIT OF CYNICISM? ARE THESE MOVIES AN EYE-ROLL WHERE THE JOKE IS ON US? OR IN THE VERY LEAST, COULD IT BE SAID THAT IT FEELS LIKE A WORLD CHAMPION CHESS PLAYER THROWING A GAME TO A 10 YEAR OLD? COULD THIS ALL JUST BE THE GREAT HUSTLE OF DAVID O. RUSSELL? AND IF IT IS, HECK, WHAT DO WE EVEN CALL THIS KIND OF CAREER TRAJECTORY?

HULK'S GONNA GO WITH FALLRISE (ONE WORD).

IT'S THE WORD FOR A FILMMAKER WHO HAS FALLEN FROM THE NOBLE, EMBATTLED GRACES OF PURE ARTISTRY AND IS WHOLLY REWARDED FOR IT. THERE'S JUST SOMETHING SO OBVIOUSLY FAUSTIAN ABOUT ALL THIS. HE'S BEING GIVEN EVERYTHING HE'S EVER DESERVED, BUT HE'S GETTING IT FOR GIVING IN. FOR PLAYING RUSES ON THE AUDIENCE. OR HEY, MAYBE HULK'S BEING TOO HARD HERE. PERHAPS HULK IS BEING TOO HARD ON THE PEOPLE WHO LIKE THESE NEW MOVIES (PROBABLY). OR MAYBE WE AUDIENCES DESERVE IT FOR NOT BETTER SUPPORTING HIS EARLIER WORK. OR PERHAPS RUSSELL'S CHANGE OF TACT COULD BE BEST CHARACTERIZED AS A MERE EFFECT OF GETTING OLDER. OF SEEING THAT PURE ENTERTAINMENT AIN'T SO BAD. OF SEEING THAT THE ALTERNATIVE OF NOT WORKING AFTER THE NAILED DEBACLE IS A MUCH WORSE FATE. LIKE ARCHIE SAYS IN THREE KINGS, PEOPLE DO WHAT IS THEIR NECESSITY AND THERE IS NO ARGUING WITH THE REWARDS OF HIS CHOICE. BEYOND THE MEANINGLESS OPINIONS OF A GREEN ALL-CAPS MONSTER, WHO IS REALLY COMPLAINING? AND WHO THE FUCK IS HULK TO BEGRUDGE HIS SUCCESS? EVEN GOING BEYOND THE GOALS OF ART, ISN'T THE HUMAN CONCERN HERE MORE IMPORTANT? ISN'T THE CERTAIN STATUS OF HIS INNER PEACE TOTALLY WORTH IT?

What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing. I'm doing the best that I can. I know that's all I can ask of myself. Is that good enough? Is my work doing any good? Is anybody paying attention? Is it hopeless to try and change things? The African guy is a sign, right? Because if he isn't then nothing in this world makes any sense to me; I'm fucked. Maybe I should quit. Don't quit. Maybe I should just fucking quit. Don't fucking quit. Just, I don't know what the fuck I'm supposed to do anymore. Fucker. Fuck. Shit.

THAT QUOTE COMBINES WITH ALL THESE LINGERING QUESTIONS AND BECOMES THE EXACT REASON HULK WANTS TO SIT DOWN WITH HIM AT THAT BAR. FAR AWAY FROM THE KIND OF CONTEXT WHERE HE HAS TO SAY ALL THE RIGHT THINGS. FAR AWAY FROM A PLACE OF INDUSTRY CONCERN. IT'S NOT LIKE HE OWES HULK (OR ANYONE ELSE) SOME DAMN ANSWERS ABOUT THIS, BUT HULK CAN'T HELP BUT ASK THE QUESTION: IS IT ALL CYNICAL? HAS HE GENUINELY EMBRACED THIS CHANGE? IS IT PROBABLY A BIT OF BOTH? IS THIS ALL SOMETHING HE'S DOING SUBCONSCIOUSLY? AND THE THING HULK WANTS YOU TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT, FOR ALL THESE POINTED QUESTIONS, OF COURSE HULK STILL ACCEPTS THIS NEW GUY. MAYBE IT'S JUST BECAUSE THOSE FIRST FOUR FILMS STILL MAKE HIM ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE FILMMAKERS. THEY'RE ALSO ENOUGH CAUSE TO BE SURE THAT HULK SEES EVERYTHING HE EVER DOES. BUT WITH THAT FAVORITISM COMES THE FASCINATION: HULK JUST WANTS TO UNDERSTAND THE PROVERBIAL WHY IN HIS OWN WORDS AND DEVOID OF ALL THE POLITICS. IT SUCKS THAT ALL THIS COMES OUT IN A SEEMINGLY JUDGMENTAL ESSAY (ONE IN WHICH HULK HOPES JUDGEMENT IS NOT JUST RESERVED FOR HIS WORK, BUT FOR THE COLLECTIVE AUDIENCE FOR ADVOCATING AND SUPPORTING THE STATUS QUO OF THIS POTENTIAL RUSE), BUT HULK SWEARS IT'S PART OF THE NEVER HATE A MOVIE MANTRA. ALL PART OF THAT IDEA AT THE END OF HUCKABEES WHERE YOU SEE ONE ANOTHER AS EACH OTHER. IF EVERYTHING GOOD COMES FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY AND HONESTY, THEN THAT'S WHAT THIS HAS TO BE, RIGHT? AND THAT'S WHAT UNDERSTANDING ITSELF IS?

You live all the time with things you can't see. You can't see electricity, can you? You can't see radio waves, but you accept them.

SO YEAH, HULK CAN ACCEPT THE FACT THAT THIS IS LIKE SHOUTING A QUESTION INTO THE DARK. AND OVER TIME WE MIGHT GET SOMETHING THAT SHEDS A LITTLE MORE LIGHT. LITTLE SLIVERS AND GLIMPSES INTO THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND THIS TRAJECTORY. MAYBE THERE WILL BE A SUDDEN RETURN TO BRECHTIAN EMPATHY. OR THE RE-EMERGENCE OF NAILED. BUT IT COULD ALSO BE ANOTHER AUDIENCE PLACATION. ANOTHER CON. ANY OF WHICH WILL PROBABLY BE OKAY FOR HUMANKIND... BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THOSE FIRST FOUR MOVIES, WHEN YOU LOOK AT ALL THE QUOTES THAT RUN THROUGH THIS ARTICLE... HULK CAN'T HELP IT...

HULK MISSES THE GUY WHO HAD SOMETHING TO SAY.

<3 HULK

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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