Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The "American Hustle" Trailer is a Great Throwback Full of Wit and Snazzy Outfits

Left to right: Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale
All it took was a few hours for my recent post on upcoming Oscar contenders to look a little... lacking. While the films I selected for the piece were perfectly acceptable and still merit consideration, there is little doubt that today's release of the trailer for director David O. Russell's American Hustle could have easily replaced any of them. Of course, that would have made me writing an entire piece on the first trailer a tad redundant and based on my Fruitvale Station review, the praise that I'm about to heap on it to be a little hypocritical. Still, the trailer premiered on ABC's Good Morning America, it sent a frenzy into the air. At very least, it means that 2013's collection of nominees will have a retro, political vibe going on.

As most of the long term readers will be aware, I loathed writing about Silver Linings Playbook. I disapproved when Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress over superior names like Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). The hype around Lawrence and the film in general was so overblown that even small disinterest inflated to a full scale hatred. So what is it exactly about Ruseell's follow-up that makes most of this hostility disappear? While returning stars Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are present, the real treat is that it is teaming up with another Russell duo: The Fighter's Christian Bale and Amy Adams. Being a big fan of the family boxing drama, I can't wait to see what they do.

Of course, the trailer actually looks pretty impressive regardless on everyone's previous credits:

While there is some annoyance of recycling Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times" after using it in The Fighter, the nostalgia kick is amazing. Cooper looks a lot like Danny Masterson and the costumes look far more impressive than anything from Argo. But what is it about? According to IMDb, here is the plot description:
"The story of a con artist and his partner in crime, who were forced to work with a federal agent to turn the tables on other cons, mobsters, and politicians - namely, the volatile mayor of impoverished Camden, New Jersey."
Yes, there is the "p" word: politicians. It seems like it will be a running theme in this upcoming season. While it could be largely due to modern economic times, it seems interesting that all of these films are being released in the same year and with such high acclaim. Titles like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Fifth Estate are already looking like surefire hits. Can American Hustle steal that thunder?

Russell is not a newcomer to the Best Picture race. Along with Silver Lining's Playbook, he has had The Fighter up for top prizes. Almost everyone's pedigree in this film in terms of nominations and wins comes from these two titles. Bale won Best Supporting Actor and Adams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in The Fighter while Cooper was nominated for Best Actor and Lawrence won Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook. With those two films, Russell has set himself up for potentially leading any actor in his films to a nomination. 

Could the same be true with American Hustle? It already looks like a smooth trailer with plenty of wit and great scenery. Any of the four seem like reasonable nominees, though the trailer doesn't provide one specific standout. It could lead Christian Bale to another nomination, which makes sense since Robert De Niro's Best Supporting Actor nomination felt totally undeserved. I am sure that Bale's performance is already far superior and thus will be easier to win over voters. It even seems unfortunate, but it almost seems guaranteed to land Jennifer Lawrence another nomination because she is last year's winner and is now high profile.

Left to right: Bale, Amy Adams, and Cooper
My big hope for this film is that we can finally award Amy Adams more than a nomination. Upon her loss for Best Supporting Actress for The Master last year, I had to research just how many times she had been nominated. In the Best Supporting Actress category, she has been nominated four times. While people have had far worse track records of losing, it seems like her failure is almost understated. Despite being one of the modern greats, she doesn't come off as beloved as a Meryl Streep or even a Jennifer Lawrence type. She seems to just exist in the category with roles that almost seem understated, but benefit the story greatly. Just look at her nominations: Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master. Quite an impressive batch of nominations that is only tragic to know she has lost. I would love to apply the Russell magic here and see her take the next step. She is long overdue for a win.

I have little doubt that this film will get a heavy push largely thanks to Silver Linings Playbook's success. I may continue to decry that film of any merit, but that doesn't mean that this film can't be better. Along with the main cast, this is an impressive line-up, which also includes: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Renner, Michael Pena, and Louis C.K. (who along with Blue Jasmine is shaping up to have an impressive year cinematically). A cast with that many nominees and high profile names will not go unnoticed. 

It is tough to predict the year as of right now, but based on what American Hustle's trailer provides, we at least have some strong competition on the horizon. So far this year hasn't been on par in terms of quality to 2012, but at least from all of the trailers we have seen so far, the race is just heating up. The only problem now is having to wait to see if they live up to their potential.

Will American Hustle put David O. Russell once again at the top of the pile? Will Amy Adams ever win her acting award? Is this too much like The Wolf of Wall Street to standout?

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