2014 Oscars Challenge: [20] American Hustle – Ten Nominations

2014_BestPicture

Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon

There are three big contenders in the Best Picture category this year: “Gravity”, “12 Years A Slave”, and “American Hustle”. Now, “Gravity” and “12 Years A Slave” are the odds-on favorites to win, both vying for the Best Directing category and leaving David O. Russell out of the mix, but the steam that is building behind “American Hustle” cannot be denied and an upset could be brewing. Will I be leaning that way? Likely not, as “Gravity” and “12 Years A Slave” are the stand out hits of the year, but with 10 nominations, you cannot deny that the Academy loved “American Hustle”. With four acting awards, it is being said that for none of the actors or actresses to win, would be a history making occurrence as whenever a film garners four acting nominations, there has always been at least one winner. With Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper facing impossible odds to win, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence must beat out the favorites in their categories to get the win, with Adams facing Blanchett and Lawrence facing Nyong’o. I’m personally torn, as I feel neither of the females really deserve a win in their categories. So, I might be predicting the record breaking night. With no wins in sight for Acting, Directing, or Best Picture, that leave four other categories that “American Hustle” could pull off a win. With “Gravity” looking strong in the Film Editing category and “The Great Gatsby” among others being the favorite in Production Design, “American Hustle” turns its ten nominations into two (possibly three if you’re still holding onto one of the actresses winning). Costume Design is a clear seller for this film with some of the most amazing outfits for both the men and women throughout the film, with the costumes taking on lives of their own. Also, Best Original Screenplay could also be a great way to honor this film without giving it Best Picture. I’m predicting “American Hustle” may get two wins out of the ten nominations, and will be on the fence until the end about whether Jennifer Lawrence can pull of the victory for her team.

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2014_BestActor
Christian Bale

Nominated Role: As Irving Rosenfeld, Christian Bale plays a con man who assists an FBI agent in his attempt to entrap government officials.

AmericanHustle-ChristianBaleChristian Bale was the surprise nomination in the Best Actor In A Leading Role category, beating out Tom Hanks and Robert Redford, who were thought to be shoe-ins for the category. Instead, David O. Russell made it two years in a row where his actors and actresses filled all four of the categories, with “Silver Linings Playbook” receiving four acting nominations as well. Seeing “American Hustle” again, I was able to fully grasp the brilliance that is Bale’s character Irving. Putting on weight for the role and having the funniest comb-over of the year, Bale disappears in the role as he does with all his roles and creates a truly comical, yet grounded character. The viewer grasps hold of him and even though he’s a con man and technically the bad guy, you identify with him and even when the other characters hate him, he finds a way back into their hearts. He’s smart as a whip but with his heart pills, he’s given a softer side. He cons people out of their money but he won’t leave his adopted son behind with his manipulative mother. As deep as the character is, there’s absolutely no way Bale can win, with both Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofo gunning for the win. But seeing as Bale has an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor from his previous work with David O. Russell on “The Fighter”, I’d say Bale can wait until his next amazing role.

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2014_BestActress
Amy Adams

Nominated Role: Amy Adams plays Sydney Prosser, a con artist who persuades a small-time operator to expand the scope of his scams.

AmericanHustle-AmyAdamsThe Academy loves Amy Adams, from one of her first major roles in the independent film “Junebug” (2005) to her last venture with David O. Russell in “The Fighter” (2010) to both of her roles alongside the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt” (2008) and “The Master” (2012). But all of these were supporting roles. Now Adams finds herself in the Best Leading Actress category. Now, let it be known that the pundits are stating that an actor or actress from “American Hustle” WILL win an Oscar, seeing as you have to go back 63 years to the last time one film dominated all four acting categories with nominations yet did not win a single one. And this would be the third time ever in history that it would happen. Not to say history cannot be made, but chances are high that someone from “American Hustle” will win. With that said, Christian Bale is clearly out, and with Supporting Actor basically a lock for Jared Leto, that leaves the females. Amy Adams faces Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine” which she carries and has won every award to get to this point. That being said, this is not even Amy Adams’ best role. Yes, she dominates as one of the strong females on screen and wins for sex appeal, and yes, Adam is due for an award, but this does not feel like the role she should be awarded for. Blanchett is still the odds on favorite, but do not be surprised if the supposed fan favorite of “American Hustle” brings a few awards to people you may not be expecting.

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2014_BestSupportingActor
Bradley Cooper

Nominated Role: Bradley Cooper portrays Richie DiMaso, an FBI agent who forces a con man to participate in a sting operation.

AmericanHustle-BradleyCooperBradley Cooper was nominated last year for his work in another David O. Russell film, “Silver Linings Playbook”, but grabbing the unsuspected Best Leading Actor nomination. Now he’s in the supporting position and sorry to say, this is not his best role either. His agent character is hot headed and ego induced but none of this quite rings true except for a few moments including his big speech to his mother that was included in most of the marketing. With rollers in his hair and a grimace on his face, Cooper is just not the favorite in the category at all. Jared Leto is basically a lock for this award and it would be a shame if he wasn’t. If Leto were to somehow lose, which he likely won’t, Michael Fassbender seems like the next best option, placing Cooper in the third place position at best. Once again, I predict that none of the men from Russell’s film will win the acting award.

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2014_BestSupportingActress
Jennifer Lawrence

Nominated Role: As Rosalyn Rosenfeld, Jennifer Lawrence portrays the jealous wife of a con man engaged in a sting operation.

AmericanHustle-JenniferLawrenceIf we’re going under the assumption that one of the actors or actresses in “American Hustle” has to win one of the awards that they are nominated for, then Jennifer Lawrence would be the odds-on favorite, with a lighter category than the rest and only one true competitor in Lupita Nyong’o for her role in “12 Years A Slave”. Lawrence won last year in the Lead Actress category for her role in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook”. Nominated once before for her role in “Winter’s Bone” (2010), the Academy appears to have a soft spot for her. She also won the Golden Globe and is a fan favorite for being so down-to-earth and real. Add to that a hilarious performance as the manipulative and headstrong wife of Christian Bale’s character in “American Hustle” and you’ve got a lethal combination in taking down Lupita. However, if you’ve been following the Oscar race, you’ve seen Lupita accept a few awards now and you’ve seen her eloquence on the microphone during her acceptance speeches, which makes it hard for me to want to vote against her. With just as much of a grounded personality as Lawrence and with so much more to prove, she stands out both in real life and in her role in McQueen’s period piece. If Lawrence can’t beat Lupita and if Adams can’t beat out Blancett, that would leave no “American Hustle” acting wins and would leave this 86th annual Academy Awards in the history books.

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2014_BestDirecting
David O. Russell

AmericanHustle-DavidORussellWith his film in the top three, David O. Russell would normally have just as much a chance as everyone else, but this simply will not be his year and I agree with that. Alfonso Cuaron is pulling in as the favorite, having won most the awards leading up to the Oscars and now with a case that “Gravity” might win Best Picture, that places him over Russell. Not just that, but if Cuaron and “Gravity” do lose, McQueen and “12 Years A Slave” will likely be right there behind him to sweep both awards. David O. Russell continues to prove how brilliant he is as a director, with “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” raising his stock considerably and gaining him recognition by the Academy. Now with “American Hustle” he looks to just receive the nomination for a third time and rightfully so. This year’s film is highly entertaining and touts four acting nominations, proving once again how great Russell is with his actors, but the film is just not Best Picture material and with that Russell doesn’t stand a chance in the Best Directing category. Russell’s Oscar is still ahead of him, as we wait for that truly awe-inspiring feature that he will someday direct, because we all know he has it in him.

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2014_BestCostumeDesign
Michael Wilkinson

AmericanHustle-costumedesign2Looking at the costumes in “American Hustle”, I am taken aback every time. With the low cut dresses on the women and the stylish suits on the men, these costumes create the era that these characters walk around in. If you were to show me these costumes and not tell me what feature they were from, I guarantee I could point them out, as they are very distinguishable and help set this film apart, which is what a great costume designer should do. The biggest competition “American Hustle” faces is “The Great Gatsby”, which also delves into the period piece genre, bringing to life an even more stylish costume design and in much more abundance. The factor leaning in favor of “Hustle” is the Best Picture nomination and the fact that the film has ten nominations total, making it a favorite among the Academy and could easily result in more people voting for it. “The Great Gatsby” was not a beloved film yet “Hustle” appears to be loved by almost everyone. This category will be a tough egg to crack for sure.

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2014_BestFilmEditing

Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten

AmericanHustle-filmediting“American Hustle” works. The narrative of the film works and most of the camera work makes the film editing easier. What I mean by that is that nothing sticks out as wrong in “American Hustle”. There’s never a moment of editing that took me out of the film and for that it is successful. Is it anymore successful than any other film that achieves an exceptional level of editing? Not really. There’s no impressive edits that make your jaw drop, like say that of “Gravity” which has a much more deliberate pace of editing and for that I believe “American Hustle” will be beat out for this category. Because being adequate does not earn you Oscars. It’s not an action film, it doesn’t rely on editing, and it just simply won’t win the award. Cassidy and Struthers are previous nominees for “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) while Baumgarten grabs his first nomination.

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2014_BestProductionDesign
Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)

AmericanHustle-productiondesignGetting a film to look like its completely set in the ’70s and ’80s is no easy task. Dressing sets and blocking out the present is an admirable job. Period pieces are never easy because you’re shining a light on an era that is no longer around and anything that takes you out of that will scar the quality of your film. “American Hustle”, again, does an adequate job, but at this day and age, creating entertainment set in the ’80s is not the biggest accomplishment ever. And with several other period pieces nominated this year, it’s not even the best one in the category, with “12 Years A Slave” capturing an even earlier era and “The Great Gatsby” bringing volume of production design to the table, with glamorous and unforgettable set pieces throughout. So again, the film falters on the idea that it is the best of the year and will likely not be winning in this category either. This is everyone’s first nomination for Production Design.

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2014_BestOriginalScreenplay
Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

“American Hustle” is a well written film. The dialogue is smart, the situations grab your attention, and the film has a whole comes out splendidly. Although I’d personally gone around the voice over narration from the multiple characters, which feels uneven and breaking perspective slightly, there’s no way the actors and actresses could have produced such amazing performances if the material were not of a high standard. David O. Russell is the perfect person to be writing his features, as he brings his players to such heights, that connection to the material has to help. With this marking his second nomination for writing, from last year’s “Silver Linings Playbook” in the adapted screenplay section, Russell is proving to be a great writer as well as a great director. With no “Gravity” in the category and “American Hustle” being apart of the top three in the Best Picture category, it could mark a very solid win for Russell in this category. The biggest competition facing “Hustle” is Spike Jonze’s “Her” in a close second. Having won the Golden Globe, you can never be too sure which way the Academy will lean. Currently the odds-on favorite, however, “American Hustle” has a very good chance.

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// Produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon //
// Directed by David O. Russell //

// Dated Viewed: Friday, February 7th, 2014 // AMC Citywalk 19 //  22 films – 24 days //

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