September 29, 2016

Oscars: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “American Hustle”

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“American Hustle”
Directed by: David O. Russell

Written by: David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer

Main cast members: Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Robert De Niro, Michael Pena, Jack Huston, Elisabeth Röhm, and Alessandro Nivola

Number of Oscar nominations in total: 10

Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (Russell), Best Actor (Bale), Best Actress (Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay (Russell and Singer), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing

Notable precursor wins: Won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Comedy/Best Actress in a Comedy/Supporting Actress at the Golden Globe Awards, and Best Film/Supporting Actress/Best Screenplay at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Chances at winning Best Picture: One of the top three contenders for the award and a definite co-frontrunner

Chances at other Academy Award wins: Locked in close races for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay, with Best Actress, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing still in play

ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and HER.

American Hustle is the second film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s another one of the main contenders in the category. Though no film among the nominees has seen the sort of backlash that American Hustle has, the numbers simply don’t lie. It’s a blockbuster hit financially, has some major precursor wins under its belt, is one of the rare films to be able to score a nomination in each acting category, and tied for the most nominations overall this year. That didn’t happen out of thin air. This is a much loved movie, even if the supporters aren’t as vocal about it. A silent majority could still turn out to be a majority though, so this is a top tier Best Picture player for sure.

Working in American Hustle’s favor is just how much it was embraced by the Academy. Last year David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook got all four acting nominations as well (plus a Lawrence win in Best Actress), making him the first director ever to achieve this in consecutive years. It’s obvious that Oscar voters like what he’s doing, considering the ten nominations they gave him. It’d be one of the biggest losses in history if the film went home empty handed, so I just don’t see that. With a strong chance at widespread support among members of the Academy, I could definitely see this movie coming out on top, even if it’d be seen as a bit of an upset now.

If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s the fact that you can look simply to the backlash I mentioned above. When some people hold this flick up to the other main contenders in 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, they don’t find anything “important” or “revolutionary” here. That’s never stopped a winner before, but with these more exciting choices being considered more this year than ever, enough voters may leave their comfort zones, which hurts American Hustle. Not having another surefire win isn’t helping it either. Had Jennifer Lawrence or the screenplay or even Russell himself in Best Director been seen as most likely being a winner, that would help the narrative. As of now, the lack of this just contributes even more to the split race that we have on our hands. Anything is possible, so American Hustle could find out next month that it peaked too soon to win.

So will this movie win Best Picture? A few weeks ago, I’d have said yes, but now I’m not so sure. To be fair, I definitely think it’s in play and wouldn’t be surprised at all if it wound up winning, but the buzz isn’t backing it in the same way that it did last month, for example. If the upcoming BAFTA awards give it their top prize, then I’d say that it’s back in the frontrunner spot. Until then though, it’s probably fallen to the number three spot. Far from out of the race, but needing a boost in these final weeks to not fall too far behind 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. It certainly can do it, but the question is if it will or not.

ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and HER.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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