Mar 21, 2016

i'm a poet, now you know it: happy #worldpoetryday

In honor of #worldpoetryday this March 21st of 2016, I've decided to dust off an old poem I wrote initially entitled "points of view" and write a companion piece entitled "reflection":

(a.k.a. "points of  view")

i am who i am perceived to be,
i am who you perceive me to be,
your perception of me is who i am,
i perceive you to be who i am,
who i am is a perception of you,
          and you are the perception i would like to be.
i am not who you perceive me to be.



i once told a man that i loved him like a statue.
           upon reflection, i realize that was not quite true

a mirror

i love(d?) him like a mirror
like narcissus, my perception of the reflection drew me in
nearly drew me under

a (funhouse) mirror in which to peer
an idealized, (un?)realized version of my self in which to gaze
take caution not to drown
i should have left town

his waters may be still
(not quite sure if they run deep)
"i wish i had a river to skate away on"
i wish i knew how to swim in a river whose current i have yet to properly gauge 
my reflection distorted, unsure of what is being reported, i found myself enraged

how many years of bad luck have i doomed myself to
                  by finding this mirror to be cracked
i'd like to tell myself to give approximately zero fucks
                  but i am unsure of whether or not i can manage a different tack

Feb 28, 2016

tipsy televisualist: Your Oscar/Leap Day 2016 Edition!

How long has it been since I did a tipsy televisualist post?  Hannibal was still on the air & inspiring cocktail creations.  While it will be sorely missed, we should focus on the good things that Saint Chiara, the patron saint of Television (yes, really), brings us.  

Like the Oscars!  Which, for as much as I snark on them, I do actually have a great deal of affection for them and the telecast as it was basically the equivalent of Christmas Eve/Day in my house, with my parents letting me stay up as late and as long as they ran.  Plus? Sometimes deserving stuff actually wins!  Or someone has a cool dress!  Or makes a good speech!  Yes, they're horrible and awful and silly, but once you accept that they can be both silly *AND* sublime, watching can be a great deal more fun.  Why not have a little bit of faith that the Leap Day lining up with the end of the festivities and AMPAS making membership changes might help us make a leap forward in terms of representation in the nominated films?  And, if they don't, we always have snark and a stiff drink to cope. 

So no matter who you're rooting for or how they turn out, you will either need to drink from joy or to drown one's sorrows, so let's break out our best mixologist outfits and hit the red carpet stumbling.  The following cocktails should help you endure however long the telecast runs over and might help make you the host/hostess with the drink mostess of any Oscar Party you're throwing:

What You Need:

  • A Publicist
  • A thoughtful speech that you wrote down and pretend to have forgotten while acting fake humble
  • A Bottle of Gin
  • A Bottle of Grand Marnier
  • A Bottle of Cuervo
  • A Bottle or Two of a dry-ish Prosecco/Cava
  • A Six Pack of Kaliber, by Guinness
  • Sugar Cubes
  • Bitters - Orange, but pick up Angostura while you're at it
  • Fresh Lemons/Limes (or the Real Lemon/Lime Juice bottles)
  • A Cocktail Shaker - the Metrokane Bullet is the one I swear by

The Drink: Kaliber Beer, by Guinness:

inspired by: Brooklyn, Sobriety
the backstory: I know you're thinking "wait a minute, Hunter, the first tipple you're 
recommending is non-alcoholic beer?"  What the heck?  So I've been on new anti-depressants these last few weeks and have been trying to take it kinda easy,  drinking wise.  During this time, I've gotten to know and loathe many a N/A beer.  This?  Is different. Makes you feel like you're actually drinking a real beer.  It has the weight/heft and taste profile of Guinness, not sad malt flavored water.

drink whenever: Brooklyn is mentioned/wins, someone thanks their sponsor/etc., someone mentions on the red carpet that their fur/jewelry is faux, a celeb's substance abuse issues are joked about by a presenter/host/etc.

The Drink: French 75:

the recipe:
  • 1.5 ounces of gin
  • one sugar cube
  • 3/4th ounce (fresh, preferably) lemon juice
  • Put the above into a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, shake vigorously to chill the mixture and to dissolve the sugar cube, pour into a champagne flute and top with the Prosecco/Cava.
mixologist note: While the stars may be sipping Veuve & Cristal, you shouldn't be.  It is foolish to waste a good champagne on a champagne cocktail that is gonna add sugar & gin to the mix.  Stick w/ a moderately priced decently dry bubbly.

drink whenever: a European wins or presents, a non-American name is mispronounced/mangled, the award is given to such an undeserving winner that you wish to throw your hands up and surrender, as the French are wont to do.

The Drink: the Leap Dave Williams:

the recipe:
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, along with a citrus twist.
mixologist note: this recipe is adapted from the aforementioned "Perfect Drink for Every Occasion" - which states its origin as the Savoy Hotel in 1928.  I've renamed it in honor of one of 30 Rock's most delightful spoofs.

drink whenever: you escape from Mickey Rourke's sex dungeon, the sight of Julianne Moore or Boston being mentioned (re: Spotlight) triggers terrifying flashbacks to her accent, you find yourself thinking wistfully about Tracy Jordan's EGOT, someone does not employ the correct pronunciation of the word "camera," someone is being played off:

The Drink: Cuervo with No Chaser:

the recipe:
  • duh
drink whenever: #OscarsSoWhite has you so exasperated that you find yourself turning to praying to Queen Bey to give you/us strength so that we can get in formation.

Not a cocktail person?  More of a wine guy?  Well, there's only one to serve.

Find out who your true friends are.


Oct 26, 2015

personal best: TV dramedy: the unbearable lightness of bunheads

[Formatting note/advance precaution: all links open in a new window.]

"I think that the film Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness." – Alicia Silverstone

“A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.”  Milan KunderaThe Unbearable Lightness of Being

It’s just that a mantle of sadness hangs over this most stylish of comedies — weightlessly, like a silken web — and afterward, I always feel as if it’s quietly drifted onto me, too. “Holiday” never cheers me up, but it always opens me wide.
-Stephanie Zacharek

Not to take away from the excitement from the next phase of Lorelai squared, but someone has to…years from now, after Netflix informs us of those four words, when Dean and Jess and coffee-cubed are nothing but dust…

‘Bunheads’ will stand as Amy Sherman-Palladino’s masterpiece. If there is justice. Which there is not always.

The biggest compliment I could pay to the show is that I don’t have words to do it justice. I mean, I’ll try, but if the excessively verbose banter at the speed of Sorkin-squared dialogue of the gals of Stars Hollow could always be summed up as such, the Bun Broads always add up to more than the sum of their quips.

This has become a clich̩ in the Tumblr era, but I mean this as sincerely as possible РMichelle is my spirit animal.

I don’t necessarily mean that in the aspirational way – if Lorelai was the mother we always wanted to have or to be, Michelle is the – well, not a mother, exactly.  Or a daughter. Or a teacher.  Or…she’s not anything but being. 

Becoming.  It would be easy to sum up Gilmore Girls as Rory’s coming of age story, but Bunheads dares to ask – how long can one still live in that story?  At what age are we really grown up?  And, most importantly, what happens when the stories we tell ourselves to survive differs from the narrative hand we are dealt?

As Carrie Bradshaw might put it – Bunheads can’t help but wonder – when can we say “get me rewrite?” And what happens when we do?  What does it look like to transverse the hundred decisions and revisions that we can’t quite reverse?

Kushner said the world moves in only one direction – forward. But that’s a lie.  Zacharek cautions us against the desire to rewind and rewatch a perfectly choreographed combo move – Bunheads shows us the steps behind it.  How we run to stand still.  How a double pirouette is, itself, a thing of beauty. Even if one only makes it to one and a half turns.  How sometimes, when one runs out of words or excuses, it’s time to dance.  Even if that dance, like Robyn's, that dance is entirely on one’s own.

All these grand pronouncements might make it seem important.

But Bunheads never pretends to be a great drama.  It has nothing but quips, nothing but low stakes, nothing but moments.  But those moments become…well, everything. 

If Mad Men is the one prestige drama I could live with for the rest of my life to endlessly rewatch as it illuminates how life actually is versus how life is on prestige shows, Bunheads is the only comedy/dramedy I’d put beside it. 

As James Poniewozak stated in Time Magazine:

"[Gory Prestige Dramas think] you need "stakes" to hook viewers.  You need, that is, a sense You need, that is, a sense that that the characters stand to gain or lose something important, and in the “important” sweepstakes “getting violently murdered” generally trumps everything.

That’s understandable, and it’s at least somewhat related to real life. You, I, and everyone will die someday–though probably not at the hands of a biker gang or zombies. But death is not the only thing that makes your life worthy of your attention. There’s growing up, finding your limitations, learning who you are. There’s being grown up, being forced to reassess your life, figuring out who you still can be. There’s wanting things and pursuing a calling–which does not always have to be building the largest meth operation in the Southwest."

Growing up, learning who you are, figuring out who you can still be.  Even in episodes where nothing, narratively, seemingly “happens,” what could be more valuable as a mirror to our lives?
[Look how it echoes Zacharek’s love letter to Holiday, the most under-rated of Grant and Hepburn’s films:
"With characteristic ease, director George Cukor poses some big questions — What do you want out of life, and whom do you want around you while you do it? — but he’s so nonchalant about it, they dissolve like cigarette smoke in the air."]
Also, more than any show in recent memory, Bunheads demonstrates the value of the pleasures of music and pop culture and dance and MAKING art and living through the crappy day to day minutia and trials of life being totally intertwined.  Which is to say, it shows that sometimes art for arts’ sake gives us enough to live.  There are no ‘Glee’-like narrative build-ups over a season to regionals, no reality show-borrowed episode long ‘challenges.’
The only challenge is living. And dancing.
And accepting that sometimes having the audition is enough.
Even if one never gets a callback.
That even if one leaps into one’s dream ballet to express oneself to “Istanbul,” one’s toe shoes always have to crash down on Constantinople’s earth.
This makes Bunheads seem WAY more depressing than it is. But it is precisely the opposite – it’s a filigreed and engraved gossamer-silked party invitation.  Yet paper cuts hurt deep.
More than any show in recent memory, Bunheads doesn’t switch between the two modes of comedy and drama – rather, like the ideal romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s, any sweetness is made more valuable by the underlying darkness and vice-versa.
I am trying my best to avoid spoilers, as I was, and this show is best experienced blind, so…
Let’s focus on the pilot, in parts, then:

Michelle gets quickly engaged. She is sent to ‘Sparkles’ by her mother-in-law and everything plays out as a comedic scene which it still is until… :


And it’s a laugh line because Truly is telegraphed as a kinda crazy person but…

It’s also not.  It’s also so real it hurts.

Then there's, well, the "fat" girl, going to her ballet mentor/teacher (KELLY BISHOP IS QUEEN YASSS) for advice:

- Madame Fanny?
 - Yes, boo? 
 -Um, about the Joffrey auditions next week, I was thinking I was going to try out, so I just wanted to ask you should I? 
- Well, it certainly can't hurt.
- I know but should I? I mean, am I wasting my time? I mean, I know that if I could dance like Sasha And I know that I can turn and I can jump, but I'm not a boy, so I just wanted to ask you should I try? 
-Ballet is very hard, boo.  And a lot of it does depend on how you're made.   You have to be realistic.  You're a big-boned girl.  You have a tummy.  Your waist is very short 
- Okay, thank you.
- But none of that means you shouldn't try.  Right?

I am not remotely joking when I say that this devastated me more in the pilot than 2.5 seasons of Emily and Lorelai fighting.  Because with Gilmore, Emily and Richard are OBVIOUSLY the most perfect actors but they are written as villains...

Actually, that's not the most amazing HOLY SHIT line in the pilot:  It's Fanny SNARLING



Bunheads is what happens if Lorelai gained self-awareness - genuine, actual, human self-awareness rather than "look at me, ain't I cute!?" self-deprecation.  And if all the Rories could actually act.

Minor dialogue spoiler for episode 2:
Truly: "I blame you"
Michelle: (genuinely, not quippy) "Me too."

Again, Zacharek: "It may be that “Holiday” scares me a little: I love it not just for its wit and its tenderness, but for its ruthlessness."

This perfect show,  The quips function as barbs, the barbs function as quips and everything is bittersweet.  Not too bitter nor too sweet.

Again, to paraphrase from Stephanie's Holiday essay - one day, I'll ask someone for another Bunheads and they'll say, "there isn't one, sweetie."

It isn't like another show that has ever been on TV.  It's a dramedy.  It's a musical.  It's serious and sweet.  Bittersweet.  It's a high school show, a gilmores spin, a soap, a melodrama.  It's sublime and it's ephermal and it's lasting.  It is about being a teacher and student and mentor of...well, as Chaz and Roger taught us.  Life itself.

I once pitched it to Zacharek via Twitter as "Pitch-Perfect's snark with a Jacques Demy heart."


Sep 23, 2015

Oh, God, I'm in a college town and everyone wants me to play beer pong

‘It’s not a game.  It’s not something you play.’ - George Clooney as Jack Foley in Out of Sight 

Beer pong.  Quarters.  Flip cup.

Amateur hour.  Totally gauche.  Dude, seriously?

Do you know what my favorite drinking game is, kids?


Of all the aphorisms we could apply - and we live in a world of easy slogans and ready aphorisms and jaunty rhymes - beer before liquor, liquor before beer.  One in the pink.  Two in the stink.  Cooking is an art, baking a science.  Spielberg’s WW2 film is prose, Malick’s poetry.  Truth is stranger than friction.  At night all cats are fifty shades of gray - and so forth and et cetera.

Of all of them, the answer to the riddle that is ‘what is drinking?’  - by which, it must be noted, we refer to proper cocktail culture.  Artisan alcoholism.  Learned lushness - the answer to that riddle. my friends, is simple.

Drinking is alchemy.  A cocktail worthy of being dubbed, as Don Draper once put it, simple but significant?  It’s fucking alchemy.  (And any worthy cocktail should first and foremost meet those two qualities before any others.)

The transformation of earth into gold.  Fire into air.  As the strict dictionary definition puts it, a psuedoscience.  But it still has the word ‘science’ in it and, despite what a large portion of the country would have you believe, the word ‘science’ means it FUCKING WORKS.  Even if some of the finer details remain a mystery, it’s still fucking science, Mr. White, and therefore can be intelligently designed.

Let’s go with one of the most classic of classic cocktails, the Little Black Dress of things served stiffly and up - a Manhattan.  

Now, every bartender, every bar, every region, every state will have its variations.  But there is still a fundamental original recipe we must refer to.  As Julie Andrews once put it, let’s start at the beginning, for it is, a very good place to start.

In the beginning, man created whiskey.  And it was good.  And from whiskey’s rib was borne forth bourbon.  And it was good.  Some would even say better.  

The bourbon is the base.  The pillar.  

And, lo, from a land shaped like a boot came to us vermouth.  Varied.  The variety in this case is sweet.

Those two basic ingredients.  Strong.  Sweet.  Less of the latter than the former.  Then a bit of bitters.  Ice.  Stir, strain.  A cherry.  That’s it.

So simple.  Becoming something so significant.  

I can explain it.  Give ounces.  Brands.  Numbers.  Labels.  Exact stirring times - a minute at minimum to maximize the magic - but because this is alchemy, a pseudoscience, there is still something mysterious and divine and unknown as to how those pithy parts creating something so much greater than their sum.

Go ahead.  Play your quarters.  I’ll be over here practicing alchemy.

And, kids, when you want to experience one of the true pleasures in life - and, like any true pleasure - eating, fucking, verbally jousting - the most important thing is to do it with passion and with abandon because it will all be over in an instant, not an Instagram - have a sip of her - of my Manhattan.  On me.

As someone smarter than me once put it, ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever.’

And as those shills at Stella put it to sell you, ‘she is a thing of beauty.’

Ain’t she?

May 14, 2015

it's a mad mad mad mad mad mod world...


Was in the midst of taking a friend's MM cherry by showing him the pilot...this post is going to be  even more impassioned due to anger caused by post-eating.


DID A FEMALE DOCTOR JUST APPEAR - one specifically who has a degree and specialty in psychiatry/psychology - show up to tell Pete and Don pre-the Lucky Pitch - that while SMOKING WILL KILL YOU, due to the writings of MOTHERFUCKING FREUD, we know that the psyche/id has a death wish.


Betty begins pursuing a degree/doctorate in psychology.

We see her reading Freud, specifically.

She gets FUCKING LUNG CANCER FROM SMOKING but the death wish is so strong that she FUCKING LIGHTS UP in the motherfucking car right after she gets her diagnosis.

She actually GETS HER DEATH *WISH* - emphasis on *WISH* - BY *CHOOSING* HOW TO DIE?!?

Didn't the black waiter in the show's very first scene of the show respond to Don's "Readers' Digest says [smoking] will kill you!" with a dismissive "[You know] *women* love their magazines," thus telling us slyly RIGHT FROM THE BAT that the character who would perish from lung cancer in the show would be female?

Is one of the FIRST bits of wisdom dispensed to Peggy, Don Draper's new secretary, from Joan, "they say they want a secretary but what they *really* want is something/somewhere between *a mother and a waitress*."

Secretary.  Mother.  Waitress.

Did that seriously just foreshadow Don's endless cycle of running toward/away from and mixing up himself with and mixing up the roles of secretaries, mothers (ummm...oh right, *what* was the moment when Don knew he wanted to marry Megan?) and WAITRESSES.



Isn't this episode set on the eve/day of the Campbell's wedding night and day...

Isn't the brochure Peggy is reading while at the ladyparts doctor to sort out contraception an informational pamphlet about sex entitled, "On Your Wedding Night?"

I mean, right there we're tipped off to Peggy and Pete banging and the conception that is about to take place on his Wedding Night.

Pete tells Trudy, "Of course I love you, I'm giving up my life for you."

Isn't this stripper/burlesque dancer at Pete's bachelor party performing in front of a curtain in front of a group of leering men seemingly *remarkably* similar to the gal at the vets' party?

An affair.  

A conception of a bastard/illegitimate child.

A wedding night.  A wedding day.  A marriage.  

The birth of the bastard child.

The abandonment.

A honeymoon.  A Campbell child.  A divorce.

A job.  A promotion.  A partnership.

The end of the affair.

After everything, seven seasons later and where are we?

Walking away from the other woman.  Women.

Away from the office.

Taking care and custody of the Campbell child.

Heading towards Wichita.

But heading towards Trudy.

All so he can say to her, after everything...

Only to have the meaning be reversed, to be true, to be new but the words are the same.

"Of course I love you.  I'm giving up my life for you."

Soon there will be another Pete and Trudy Campbell wedding day.

All the DB Cooper speculation, all the theories, all these seasons and years later, why did we ignore the only way it could end?

They told us right from the end how it would start.

They told us right from the start how it would end.

Spinning back to the beginning.  Traveling along Don's Carousel into the past.

What's the last scene in the pilot, again?

Oh, right, the reveal of Don's family.

Or, in other words: "Surprise, it's Betty."

Where are we right now?



It was going to be Lucky and cancer and Don and dying and Betty all along.

She was there right from the start.

Every new beginning is some other beginning's end.

Apr 17, 2014

the tipsy televisualist: The (Hanni)Blooming Rose case you haven't heard me talk non-stop of late about how Hannibal is the best show on television, let me say it once again: Hannibal is the best show on television.  To the point where I attempted to throw a brunch/viewing/pool party - which, I know, you're thinking Hannibal + food = EW!, but trust me - that sadly had to be delayed.  However, my neighbors ended up coming over the next day for a GoT-viewing fest that got, well, a bit cray. So, in the spirit of #honoreverypart , I decided to make use of the leftover fruit and wine.  While dicing up strawberries and sloppily pouring wine, I found that my kitchen was beginning to resemble a crime scene.  Which led to one of those flashes of inspiration - hey, why not create a Hannibal-themed cocktail, esp. because 'The Bee's Knees' factored into Cleo's 'Takiawase' recap?

So. I give you, The Blooming Rose.  Or the (Hanni)Blooming Rose, if you prefer.  Which, while I don't necessarily approve of #hannibloom , I do certainly understand why it is happening. Alana has her reasons.  

[I can't quite figure out how to do accent marks on this new macbook yet, but one is supposed to be there. As in, rose, the wine between red and white.] 

You will need the following:

  • A large carafe, that holds between 2 and 3 liters of liquid.
  • 2 cartons - usually one pound per carton - of Strawberries.
  • 1.5 L of red wine. So, two normal bottles. Or a magnum/large bottle/box.
  • Sugar Cubes. 
  • Peychaud's Bitters.
  • Orange Bitters. [I used Fee's Bros., though there's a variety available.]
  • Ginger Ale.
  • Adorable Fox Basket from Target. [Optional.]
Let's take a look at our set-up, shall we?:

Some notes before we get to step one:

First, a note on the wine.  While Dr. Lecter would probably devour me for using BOXED wine, it makes absolutely NO SENSE to break one's budget for any wine that one is using for Sangria-ish purposes. Think about it - are you really going to make a Mimosa by cutting Dom with OJ?  Of course not.  I went with Target's Vitner's Red (a) there's a Target within stumbling distance of my house, so 'hey, let's go get wine!!!' after [SPOILER EVENT] on GoT seemed like a good idea at the time and (b) I think the Target-brand wine is pretty decent, for what it costs.  If you want to be apropos and break out a Chianti, do so. And you could make this incredible fava bean-containing braised chicken dish.

Next, sugar cubes are a MUST for cocktail crafting.  I always have some in the bar. Some recipes may call for a (tea)spoonful of sugar , but it's a HELL of a lot easier to just rely on cubes.  Plus, it's more fun to watch cubes dissolve. 

Finally, if you do not already have bitters on-hand, you might as well pick up Angostura bitters along with the Peychaud's and the orange.  Those three bitters are used in an infinite variety of cocktails, so they're handy.

Now, to the actual recipe part:
  • Dice and de-stem your strawberries and place them in the carafe.
  • Pour the wine in the carafe, completely covering the strawberries.  Not enough?  ADD MOAR WINE.
  • Soak a sugar cube in Peychaud's. Soak another in the orange bitters. Toss them both into the carafe and shake until they dissolve.
  • Place the carafe of the boozy strawberry mixture in the fridge and leave it there overnight, if possible.  At least let them soak for a good 6-8 hours.

[Since Fuller did 'Mockingbird Lane' and we're crafting a pop-culture-themed cocktail, I thought displaying @TimFederle 's awesome book would be apt.]

Grab a champagne flute and toss a Peychaud's-soaked sugar cube into it. Muddle it, pour a dash of Ginger Ale to dissolve it or simply leave as is. Fill the flute up halfway with the strawberry-infused wine. Top off with Ginger Ale. Garnish with boozy berries, as desired.

[Sidenote: I initially decided to go with Ginger Ale rather than topping with champagne or citrus-y sparkling water simply because it is the secret ingredient in one of my favorite sangria recipes. Since, I've tried it with Lemon Perrier instead, which makes a delicious yet significantly lighter variation.]

We have a beverage that, like Hannibloom itself, is complex.

A Peychaud's-soaked sugar cube may look pretty in pink or simple and sweet.

But, like Alana and Hannibal coming together, what happens when pink meets blood-red results in the sum of the parts being far more intriguing.

Dec 15, 2013


Finally, a chance for The Academy to placate those who continue to bemoan the 23-year-long injustice of Goodfellas not winning Best Picture.  David O Russell gets all up in classic Scorsese and may have found the chocolate to his peanut butter in the process, finally making a near-perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of a movie out of his “let’s toss everything together and see if it’s tasty” approach.  I’ve seen less delighted folks on Twitter dub this “Mediocre-Fellas” which may be amusing, but is totally unfair.

I like Scorsese as much as the next cinephile, but in a LOT of ways, I find Gangster Mode Marty to often be the least interesting Marty.  The Departed was in no way the Best Picture of that year, much less the best thing Scorsese has done in the last decade.  (That would be The Aviator, folks.)  Worst of all, even the worst attempt at the next “great” crime movie tends to have no trouble getting made and is over-praised by sheer virtue of its genre because it’s butch and is thus automatically awesome since "wouldn’t it just be SO COOL, dudes? To be Mickey or Nucky?"  Do we really NEED another “Magic City” or “Mob City” or American Gangster or Gangster Squad on our screens this year?  Much less this glut continuing for the next ten years?

Yes, as it turns out. What we needed is David O Russell.  His faster, funnier, looser touch cuts a swath through the solemn self-seriousness that plagues so many of these also-rans as they try desperately to convince us that they’re not making a shallow crime movie, they’re making a Scorsese-level smart one.  I don’t think Russell is trying to convince us of anything, much less the beaten-like-a-dead-horse trope that “crime doesn’t pay.”  Crime, as it seems here, seems to pay AWESOMELY.

It looks awesome, sounds awesome, and dresses awesomely while also being utterly ridiculous-slash-patently absurd, even when shit gets dangerous and real.  Like the con men and women of the film, David O Russell has confidence. Supreme confidence that crafting a sublimely entertaining movie IS art, in and of itself.  You know, like the ultimate master craftsman of artful entertainments Steven Soderbergh does.  Surfaces can be substantial and don't let anyone tell you any different.

This is one of the least Oscar Bait-y Oscar Bait movies in recent memory, in the best possible way. It glibly tosses aside the “oh, I’ll just make a boring prestige biopic that dully and dutifully recounts events because as long as I have great actors, I’ll win statues” formula (I’m side-eyeing you SO HARD still, The Queen) with its cheek-tonguing opening punchline that “some of this actually happened."

Like the hair, American Hustle is big, bold and brassy.  It’s funny in parts, it’s sad in parts, it drags in parts, but it never stops being eminently watchable and utterly original.  It’s got a song in its heart, a boogie in its shoes (and nights) and a throbbing rock-hard erection in its bell-bottoms.  That’s right, it’s not only straight-up hilarious, it’s also straight-up horny as hell.  You thought carnality and sexiness disappeared from American movies - movies made by and for grown-ups with grown-up desires - by the time the 70s ended.  You thought now such things could now only be the province of premium cable dramas.  You thought wrong.  David O Russell has come along to restore your faith and should be awarded handsomely for it.

Have pretensions of prestige all you want, but watching attractive people wear great outfits and say clever things as they try to talk each other into fucking * IS* one of the great sublime pleasures of movie-going.  And it’s art.  If you think otherwise, might I remind you of the first movie to pull off the total Oscar sweep a la Silence of the Lambs or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?  Yeah, that happened one night.  One Oscar night long ago, a funny-sexy-flirty flash of the gams was deemed as worthy of recognition as the BIG DRAMATIC ACTING of playing gay, crippled or fat.

Most importantly, for someone who gave up on one of those premium cable dramas early on as “Boardwalk Empire” made me feel like the new slogan should be “you’re not just an HBO subscriber, you’re also Paz de la Huerta’s gynecologist,” this movie does accomplishes a rare and refreshing thing by being a mob movie/con caper that’s ALL. ABOUT. THE. WOMEN.

David O Russell gives them the best outfits, the best lines, and the biggest moments.

He lets them be funny and crazy and sad, fierce and vulnerable and fearless and scared, totally open and totally inscrutable.  He lets them be human and complex.  He lets them be everything, usually all at once.  (“Everything.  All At Once.” is totally the motto on the Russell family crest.)

His camera might as well be the hands of a moon-eyed, punch-drunk, horny teen who just landed a chance with the Prom Queen, because he can’t keep seem to keep it off them for more than a minute. But he not only passes the Bechdel Test, he can’t seem to pass up a single opportunity to interrupt the ostensible plot to give Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence another line to knock out of the park or scene to steal. He treats them lavishingly and lovingly, basking in their incredible beauty AND their formidable talents.  He never stops tossing them the keys so they can take over driving the plot.

There is no doubt that he’s just as intensely and insanely in lust and love with them as the dudes he’s written to be crazy about them are.  Amy Adams’s con persona consists of not changing her appearance whatsoever and adopting an ever-shifting English accent.  That’s all she needs to do to convince people she holds the title of Lady Edith.

The homage to the greatest romcom con woman of all time couldn’t be clearer and Russell creates a movie worthy to be called a delightfully duplicitous,  Dionsyian-driven, disco-dancing daughter of The Lady Eve - by way of classic Scorsese meeting a Soderbergh caper.

All while being undeniably a David O Russell movie.  Impressively, he pulls off the feat of not only working in an entirely new genre than his last two pictures, but manages to reunite all the main actors from those films - half of which he directed to Oscar wins - while avoiding the reunion trap of relying on the same tricks that won previous praise.  Instead, he is constantly remixing and refreshing his troupe in ceaselessly-shifting narrative and emotional combinations from scene to scene.  He can toss in new performers like Louis CK to great effect while driving his old reliables to different heights, exposing previously untapped qualities and new depths of talent.  I mean, who among us would have believed in Amy Adams's sex appeal enough to let her play the part of an absolute sex bomb goddess?

Is it perfect?  No.  Is it shaggy?  Yes.  Shaggy and messy and too much is this man's wheelhouse.

Jennifer Lawrence's long-suffering Rosslyn can’t seem to help herself from saying whatever she’s thinking or doing whatever she wants, like starting kitchen fires by putting metal in the microwave - or as it's dubbed here, “ the science oven.”   David O Russell works the same way – but his “everything AND the kitchen sink AND metal in the science oven” approach has never been more enjoyable or more expertly accomplished.  He’s gone from indie auteur to enfant terrible to persona non grata to Oscar comeback kid in the span of two decades.  Now he finally has the clout and freedom to make pretty much whatever kind of movie he wants and, my god, we should let him do it.

Because a slightly imperfect but totally refreshing take on a moribund genre is a dozen times more satisfying than a boring but perfectly plotted prestige picture.  Give me a romcom/dramedy about mental illness-slash-sports-movie-slash-ballroom-dancing-let’s-put-on-a-show movie rather than a solemn self-serious take on the struggles of bipolar disorder.  Give me a con caper with a screwball comedy love quadrangle interrupting a mob movie period piece. Give him an Oscar, give him these actors, give him all the money he needs, and give him a leash long enough to let him explore and explode whatever genre he wants to do next.

Given how the dancing sequences were among the best scenes of SLP and the bravura sing-along Jennifer Lawrence does here of “Live and Let Die,” I’m personally hoping he’ll tackle a musical.  How amazing could it potentially be?  This amazing: in American Hustle, he manages to take the song *most* overused by cinema to signify how wild-and-crazy the 60s/70s were - "White Rabbit" - and manages to do it in a way that's so fresh, funny and fantastic that I actually gasped.

Will his next movie be pitch-perfect?  Probably not.  Will it be shaggy?  Undoubtedly so.

Will it be as well made, acted the hell out of and superbly entertaining as American Hustle is?  Who knows?  If we've learned nothing else, we've learned that David O Russell will never stop surprising us.  But no awarding body should wait to reward his talent two-decades down the line with an unwarranted better-to-recognize-you-later-than-never Departed-style win when he's earned it now.