Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 7 – American Hustle

American Hustle - BP

American Hustle is a film directed by David O. Russell, with a screenplay co-written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer.  The film tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a brilliant con man and his seductively intelligent mistress.  The two are forced to work for Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent, as the Feds attempt to bring down a group of corrupt politicians, including Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a local mayor from New Jersey.  The piece of the puzzle that threatens the entire operation, however, is Irving’s wildly unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

In American Hustle, David O. Russell has created another blockbuster hit, just one year after his critically acclaimed Silver Linings Playbook received eight Academy Award nominations.  As many of you that followed my blog last year know, Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite film from 2012, so naturally, I was expecting big things from American Hustle; needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed.  The screenplay was wonderfully written, and it had me laughing throughout the entire film.  David O. Russell’s trademark filmmaking style was ever-present in this movie, and he is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writer/directors in the business.  If it were not for an amazingly strong year in film, American Hustle would probably be right at the top of my list.

American Hustle 1As expected from a David O. Russell film, the ensemble cast was as top-notch as you could have in a single movie, and these dazzling performances truly morphed an incredible story into an amazing film.  The casting assemblage was intriguing, as it reunited four actors and actresses that have previously worked with David O. Russell in recent history: Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter (2010) and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook (2012).  Last year, SLP became the first film since 1981’s Reds to receive Oscar nominations in each of the four acting categories; just one year later, Russell’s American Hustle attained the same distinguished recognition.

American Hustle 3Christian Bale gained 50 pounds for his role, and this stellar transformation further proves why Bale is one of the most talented artists in the business.  The performance was well worth the critical praise that has come Bale’s way, and it is arguably his best work ever.  Amy Adams, one of my top five favorite actresses in the film industry, turned in another striking performance as Sydney Prosser.  Switching between both an American and British accent throughout the film, the character is a mystifying woman, never fully committing to one way of life, and Adams’s instinctive acting abilities allow this character to shine bright on the silver screen.

In recent memory, Bradley Cooper seems to continue giving outstanding performances, but somehow, he always does so in a year that is packed with Oscar-worthy competition; therefore, he probably will not come close to winning for Best Supporting Actor, but that does not determinative of his performance because it was incredible.  American Hustle 2The best part of the film, just like in SLP, is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence.  It goes without saying, but J-Law is one of the most talented actresses in the business, and her performance in this film is thoroughly gripping and pleasantly hilarious—I anticipate that Lawrence will duke it out until the death (okay, maybe not that far) with Lupita Nyong’o for the Oscar, and it will surely be an epic battle of acting greatness.  American Hustle is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, and brief violence.

American Hustle trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7a1aK_lG0

Academy Award nominations for American Hustle:

Best Picture (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, Producers)

Best Actor (Christian Bale)

Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper)

Best Actress (Amy Adams)

Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)

Best Costume Design (Michael Wilkinson)

Best Director (David O. Russell)

Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten)

Best Production Design (Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler)

Best Original Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

8. The Spectacular Now

9. Nebraska

10. Captain Phillips

11. Her

12. Philomena

13. Fruitvale Station

14. The Place Beyond the Pines

15. Dallas Buyers Club

Best Original Screenplay

Her 2

This year, like in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, nearly every single writer nominated will be attending the Academy Awards for the first time.  Only two writers out of the seven nominated have received Oscar nominations previously: David O. Russell and Woody Allen.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Screenplay:

WINNER: Spike Jonze (Her)

Spike Jonze ScreenplaySpike Jonze has created in Her one of the most interesting and mischievously comedic films in his well-established career, and here, the movie truly comes alive because of his inimitable script.  It is a science-fiction tale, set in the not-so-distant future, about a man who falls in love with his operating system.  The loving relationship between Theodore and Samantha in the film is so incredibly vivid, jumping off the page and into our hearts, despite the fact that we never see Samantha, since she is not a real person.  A main character that operates from a purely oral standpoint, lacking any visual component, must be presented with incredibly substantive dialogue in order to work, and Jonze gives Samantha more of a voice than anyone else could ever dream up in his or her mind.  This screenplay is the epitome of the term “original” in “original screenplay,” and Jonze is more than deserving of this award this year.  Spike Jonze has never previously been nominated in any screenwriting categories at the Academy Awards.

2. Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Singer and RussellA year after penning an Oscar-nominated screenplay in Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell has again received an Oscar nod for his script in American Hustle, co-written by Eric Warren Singer.  Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite film of 2012, and last year I personally named the script from SLP as the Best Adapted Screenplay.  Again, David O. Russell has penned an incredible screenplay, and clearly the collaboration with Singer has proven worthwhile.  American Hustle was a thoroughly entertaining movie with more wit than I knew what to do with, but it was this distinct characteristic from most of David O. Russell scripts that shined bright again here.  Eric Warren Singer has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award; David O. Russell was previously nominated as a writer for Silver Linings Playbook (2012) in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

3. Bob Nelson (Nebraska)Bob Nelson

The black-and-white Nebraska was pure Alexander Payne at his best, but one of the immaculate moments from the movie was Bob Nelson’s script.  Nelson created some memorable characters, some unforgettable scenes, and one incredibly exceptional journey between a father and his son.  The dialogue was on point, and it gave each actor plenty of chances to make an impact on the film.  I hope to see more from Nelson in the near future because this film proves he is a remarkable talent.  Bob Nelson has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

4. Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)

Woody AllenWoody Allen is one of the greatest and most critically recognized screenwriters in the history of motion pictures, and once again a script of his has made its way to cinema’s greatest night—the Oscars.  Even though the bulk of Allen’s writing nominations came pre-2005, he still proves that he will always be a force to be reckoned with in the screenwriting world.  In Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen created a wide range of wild and wacky characters, but his finest accomplishment in this film is the title character of Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett.  Over the course of nearly forty years, Woody Allen has become synonymous with obsession, and in Jasmine, Allen has created one of the most absolutely neurotic characters modern cinema has ever known.  For this alone, Woody Allen is deserving of being back at the Oscars.  Woody Allen is the most nominated screenwriter in Academy Awards history; this nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category marks his sixteenth (an Oscars record), and he has previously won on three occasions for Annie Hall (1977), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Midnight in Paris (2011).

5. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)

Borten and WallackEven though the plot in Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack have written an original piece about the previously unexplored subject matter of Ron Woodruff and his HIV-positive diagnosis in the mid-1980s.  All of the hype surrounding this film has been focused on both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s marvelously inspirational acting performances, but without an effective script, these portrayals would carry little weight, no pun intended.  This wonderfully written script gave both McConaughey and Leto’s characters an encouraging voice, and it is because of this that both Borten and Wallack have been nominated.  Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.