Sunday, February 9, 2014
3 Thoughts on American Hustle
1. The "hustle" - As much as I love writing about movies, I would never, ever want to be a professional film critic. One reason? Some (most?) film critics are condescending assholes. Just because you've studied film (I have, too) doesn't make your opinion any more "right" than someone else's. Sure, a film critic can probably reference editing and camera technique, and may even have a better understanding of story structure, but in the end, does it really matter? Film (and all art) is very personal, so instead of looking for "critical praise", I have a few people (both critics and non-critics) who I trust with film opinions, simply because they have the same taste as I do. With American Hustle, a film that is widely praised by the "critics", a huge backlash occurred against said critics, by other critics - pretty much calling them stupid for liking this movie. There is an article that was circling twitter about how the critics were "hustled" by this movie, I won't bother to link it because it's just plain rude. I also read a comment on twitter from a person who is passionate about film (not a critic, but someone who I trust firmly with movie opinions), claiming his love for this movie, and a "wannabe" film critic responded "oh no, you were tricked into liking it, too?" (ummmmm...ASSHOLE....cough...cough). Then, there were the pretentious critics dismissing American Hustle as "Scorsese light", as if a filmmaker getting inspiration from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, is somehow a crime. The funny thing is, Scorsese films (for the most part) are extremely violent, dense and dark, if you take those things out...it's not Scorsese anymore. American Hustle is actually very "light" and comedic, with a very simplistic plot, in comparison and therefore, nothing like a Scorsese movie. I think that many of these critics assumed O. Russell was copying Scorsese simply because of the style and the feeling that the trailer invoked, but the film is very much its own thing. I was fully invested in the heist, and while it may not add anything new to the canon of American crime films, I still had a great time watching it. That is all that matters.
2. The style - The best part of the movie is definitely "the look" of it. When the first pictures from the production were released, all anyone could talk about was Bradley Cooper and his perm, Christian Bale and his comb-over, or Amy Adams and her cleavage (it's not really cleavage though, is it? There has to be a different name for the naked chest area that flat-chested girls have when they wear low cut tops/dresses. Hmmmmm....I'll have to look into that.). Really, major kudos to the costume designers, stylists, makeup and hair department. They are crucial in creating these iconic characters. You know they've succeeded, when they can take a questionably iffy decade for fashion and make it extremely sexy. I want every single outfit that Amy Adams wears (and I'm pale and flat-chested too, so I can totally pull it off!!). Also, Bradley Cooper, even with that awful perm? Fucking sexy - especially that scene when him and Amy dance together. I thought I was going to melt in my theater seat. Aside from the fashion, the production design also felt very authentic. Even with the modern day technology, it felt like a film from the late 70's. I think the best way to describe the look of film is as pure "eye candy".
3. The Oscars - In another, less competitive year, I think this would be Oscar-worthy filmmaking. In 2013, however, it's hard to compare it with such masterpieces as 12 Years a Slave, Gravity or The Wolf of Wall Street and I think this is what's causing the backlash against it. Sure, I can think of plenty of movies that I would prefer in the Best Picture category (Stoker, Mud, Her, Short Term 12) but I just don't feel the need to bash a quality movie, just because there were better movies made in the same year. It's still a smart, witty script, with fully-developed characters made into a lively and fun movie. We should celebrate that! As a film lover, I am genuinely happy that there were so many great films and performances last year, even if that means that there was, inevitably, talent that was snubbed. Isn't that better than the other way around? However, I do have some problems with the amount of attention the acting is getting. This is the third David O. Russell movie in a row that attracted heavy Oscar attention for the cast, so it seems like a trend (where were the acting nominations for I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings?), but I don't think anyone did anything extraordinary aside from Christian Bale. I didn't really agree with Jennifer Lawrence's nomination last year (let alone the win), but a nomination for this film really baffles my mind. I've seen a lot of people defending her by saying that she was "too young" for the role, but that's no excuse. If she is that strong of an actress, she could overcome that obstacle. I don't think she was bad, or anything, I think she was sufficient for the role (i.e not Oscar-worthy), but I think her level of talent isn't on par with Christian Bale (or Amy Adams), so every time she is on-screen, she is the worst part of the scene (and that is problematic). I still like her, and oddly, I think her best performance is in The Hunger Games. As much as I adore Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper, I really didn't see anything special in their performances either. But, man, Christian fucking Bale is ridiculously good. He just knows how to truly embody a character; completely transforming not only physically, but mentally, by absorbing his surroundings. It's a masterpiece performance for him, and he's given us several.