In reporting about a special David O. Russell tribute at AFI Fest on Friday, 11.8, L.A. Times reporter Mark Olsen has reminded that Russell’s The Fighter had a surprise screening at the 2010 AFI Fest, and that Hustle could “possibly be in line for the same unveiling.” A Russell rep has told me, naturally, that there will be “no surprise AFI Fest screening” of American Hustle, and that’s fine. (If they were to confirm it now it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, would it?) I know that if Hustle doesn’t screen at AFI Fest it’s going to look like Russell and Sony are a bit uncertain about things. Russell has been fine-tuning and test-screening this puppy for a while now, and I know it’s going to start to be press-screened in late November so why the hell not screen it as a surprise? Why go half-assed with a q & a and a tribute reel (including a few Hustle clips) during the 11.8 tribute? Does American Hustle kick the competition to the curb or doesn’t it?

AFI Fest runs from Thursday, 11.7 to Thursday, 11.14. I have to fly off to Vietnam at midnight on Wednesday, 11.13. If Hustle is sneak-screened the following night, I’m going to be…uhm, disappointed?