Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's Oscar Season!

Okay, so Matt and I and friends are into Oscars. We watch all the nominated movies we can squeeze in between the announcement and the show, we plan a big dinner with one dish inspired by each of the Best Picture nominations -- it's a thing.

As a means of writing something on a semi-constant basis, I'm gonna review the Oscar nominated movies I see. The first one, for today, is American Hustle.

Film: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Director (David O. Russell), Film Editing, Production Design, and Original Screenplay. 9 nominations total.




American Hustle is an amazing ensemble film, as evidenced by the list above. It's a hell of a costume piece, with the music, production, editing, and acting really coming together to tell a love story of broken people who somehow make each other a little better finding their way together among people who somehow seem to make each other worse. It's funny, yes, and there's some drama, and the hair alone is a period train wreck of epic and fantastic proportions. That love story is essentially over top of a caper film, though, and the audience does well to remember that everyone in this is, essentially, running a con.

David O. Russell is, of course, the director of Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and now this. It's fair, I think, to say he's an Academy darling. More than that, though... I think he's just really good at what he does. He's also got a hell of an editing sense and although the movie jumps around in time and moves back and forth and around... it does a darn good job of keeping it all flowing. Also of note, it passes the Bechdel effortlessly, which is saying a lot for a movie with really only two female roles to speak of -- Bradley Cooper's movie mom gets a few lines, and his movie fiance gets nothing. For being a caper flick, the movie's really grounded in the domestic lives of its characters, which is a refreshing change that goes a long way toward closing the distance between the audience and the world of the film, making us care what happens to the characters in ways that caper films typically never touch.

Christian Bale was amazing, but then he usually is. How did I not know this man could do puppy dog eyes with the best of them? Bradley Cooper was good, but I feel like both I've seen aspects of this performance before from him and like his work wasn't all that memorable. I'd far rather have seen the nomination go to Jeremy Renner, who was phenomenal in his role as the mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Amy Adams was really good. I don't think she'll get it, but I wouldn't be sad if she did. And Jennifer Lawrence... so here's the thing. We saw this as a double feature with Catching Fire, because I'm a fan and I hadn't seen it yet, so it was double the Jennifer Lawrence day. It never once, not ONCE, occurred to me that I was watching the same actress while I watched her. Nothing I see her in reminds me of anything else she's done. I'm not going to say she's going to get it. There are reasons, and I haven't seen the other films yet. But every time she's on the screen, she impresses the hell out of me, and I respect her immensely for that.

So, yeah. Loved the movie. Probably won't purchase it later, unless I want to use it to teach, as it's more an experience than entertainment, and our personal collection leans more toward the latter. That said, you never know. I felt the same way about Silver Linings Playbook, and yet the more time passes, the more I think I'd like to see it again. So we'll see. But yes, go see it. You'll thank me.