Legendary steam-of-consciousness surfer and genius director David O. Russell, who is currently Oscar-nominated for American Hustle, was tributed last night at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Festival director Roger Durling tried to conduct a normal “interview” but Russell wasn’t going for it. In fact he advised the befuddled Durling to loosen up and just let it happen. Interviewers need to understand this. DOR doesn’t answer questions. Well, he does but if I’ve heard him say “I forgot the question” once I’ve heard it 15 or 20 times. All an interviewer needs to do is drop a thought or a memory byte or some fleeting observation into the vast lake of free-associating consciousness and tap-dancing, lightning-reflex improv that is Russell’s grab-bag mind and just….let him rip!

David O. Russell during last night’s tribute interview at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre.

Russell and SBIFF festival director Roger Durling.

And yet if you go on too long (as I feel Durling did last night — the interview lasted two hours or about 30 minutes more than ideal) Russell’s incandescence can burn out. SBIFF interviews are a dance but Russell’s rap is a world-class “act” and it all ended well. And yet there’s a lesson to be learned: Always leave them hungry for more.

Is Russell going to win Best Director for Hustle, having been denied a win for Silver Linings PLaybook and The Fighter? The betting seems to favor Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron but who knows? I love Russell. I could listen to his always perceptive but scattershot observations and recollections every day. It doesn’t matter if I don’t feel quite as enthusiastic about Hustle as I did about his previous two films. I’m in for the long haul, and so is DOR. Right now is the best time of his life (and mine). Russell is on a roll, nothing can stop him but eventually something will. It’s inevitable. But Russell has the spirit to keep punching and pitching so he’ll bounce back when that happens — no concerns on that score.