Getting Hustled – Why American Hustle Won’t Win Best Picture.

Posted: February 1, 2014 in Films, Uncategorized
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Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale in American Hustle

Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale in American Hustle

This Award Season has been crazy. Surprises abound, including disqualification of an Oscar nominee (“Alone Yet Not Alone” for Best Original Song), some Golden Globe upsets, and what many are calling a wide open field for the coveted Best Picture Oscar. Well…except…it isn’t. Ever since American Hustle was released in December, a vocal throng of analysts, critics, and movie lovers have been stamping it as a Best Picture favorite, going against the conventional favorite: 12 Years a Slave, and the masterpiece that is Gravity. Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s all a big baloney sandwich. American Hustle, rightfully so, has been hustling ya’ll all long.

This is in lieu of this week’s This Weekend in Cinema column. Read on.

Exhibit A: Pre-Release Hype

With an all-star cast and director, along with what looked like a pretty compelling plot, American Hustle had been getting the most Oscar buzz of any December release. Actually, people had been naming it as a Best Picture favorite for months previous as well. After it’s release however, the positive buzz was mostly about the acting ensemble. Simply put, the movie itself didn’t blow people away the way “12 Years” or Gravity did. If we compare the three films on IMDB, we see Hustle with a 7.7 score, 12 Years with an 8.5, and Gravity with an 8.3. Both 12 Years (at #89) and Gravity (at #126) jumped into IMDB’s Top 250 Movies of All Time, while American Hustle isn’t on the list at all. Heck, even Her got into the Top 250, where it currently stands at #115.

This isn’t to say at all that American Hustle wasn’t a good film. It well deserved an Oscar nomination, just not a Best Picture win. The awards are for the best of the best, the excellent, not just the very good. On the awards circuit, Hustle has done well, well enough to keep the hype from slowing, while in reality it has not garnered a single award to indicate a victory for Best Picture. In short, it’s won enough awards to mask the reality that it isn’t a strong contender for Best Picture. I present the following for your consideration.

Exhibit B: The Golden Globes

The Golden Globes are the Academy’s younger, more reckless little brother. While they usually reward sure frontrunners, bring a close race between a famous A-lister and an underdog to them, and they will side with the A-lister almost all the time. It gets them more glamour.

This is where American Hustle won three awards, the most of any films, but let’s look closer. The only award that American Hustle won where it faced competition from Gravity or 12 Years was Best Supporting Actress, where Jennifer Lawrence won over Lupita Nyong’o. It also won Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical (Amy Adams), and Best Picture – Comedy/Musical. Amy Adams has little chance of competing with Cate Blanchett at the Oscars, and while Hustle deserved its Best Picture win, it wasn’t competing against 12 Years or Gravity, both drama films.

In fact, Hustle fell flat in other big nominations. Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) took home Best Director, and Hustle lost out to Her for Best Screenplay. Meanwhile, 12 Years a Slave took home Best Drama Picture in a harder field.

Exhibit C: The Critics Choice Awards

For doubters, a big day for American Hustle at the Critics Choice Awards could have put them in their place, but it didn’t happen. Once again, the acting ensemble took home the gold (as it should, the acting in Hustle was amazing), but nothing when competing against the big guns. 12 Years won Best Picture, Cuaron won Best Director, and Her won Best Original Screenplay.

Exhibit D: Guild Awards

We’ve had three out of four major guild awards so far (Screen Actors, Producers, and Directors). SAG gave their biggest award to Hustle (Best Cast), while Cuaron and 12 Years a Slave took home best awards from the Directors Guild and Producers Guild respectively. And while the SAG Cast Award is a big deal, it is still an acting award, not a whole film award. Sure, there are many years where a great cast leads to a Best Picture win for a film, but its not that cut and dry. Argo won Best Picture last year without a single acting (or directing) win at the Oscars. 

Looking Forward

As other award winners are announced, look for American Hustle to get a slew of acting awards, but its chances of getting a Best Picture award at the Oscars are very slim. It has won a grand total of ZERO best film-type awards going up against 12 Years a Slave, which still stands as favorite. I’d say that Her will win tonight’s Writer’s Guild Awards as well.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.


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