American Hustle reviews

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Feb 02, 2014 5:20 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I’m not saying I think American Hustle is necessarily the year’s best film – I’d probably rate Nebraska, her and Inside Llewyn Davis higher. But Hustle might be, by a hair, my favorite of the three seen-to-be-contenders. I’m baffled by the hostility it’s generated in some quarters.


For me, I just found it surprisingly flat. I don't think it's bad by any means, but I found it overlong and sorta gormless - some minor high points, but overall it was largely uninteresting. And while I don't have any real hostility towards it, I do think that the AMPAS embrace of Russell happened right when he became a lot less interesting to me (Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees are collectively a lot more interesting than The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) - a fact that I find depressing.

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Eric » Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:14 am

flipp525 wrote:Even my parents after they saw the film (who were regular denizens of 54 back during this time period, mind you)

I would've known you were conceived in a Studio 54 bathroom.

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:54 am

Mister Tee, I second everything you have said.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby flipp525 » Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:27 am

Mister Tee wrote: - the soundtrack by itself brought back the entire time – but I thought the movie captured a lot of the ambience of the period in a more than surface way. Adams’ disco date with Cooper --

But what disco would've played Donna Summers' "I Feel Love" back-to-back with a version of "Don't Leave Me This Way"? Even my parents after they saw the film (who were regular denizens of 54 back during this time period, mind you) mentioned to me that that would never have happened.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:51 pm

I think the popular take, that American Hustle isn’t “about anything,” is very mistaken. This may come from the fact that I was around and cognizant when the AbScam scandal broke. My take on it then, after a day or two of following the news, was “What kind of bogus scandal is this? There aren’t enough actual crimes to pursue, the Feds need to tempt people into imaginary crimes?” (I remember asking, if the Feds enticed someone to do a hit, and the person fired at what turned out to be a dummy, was he guilty of murder?) I didn’t know then that the scheme involved using actual con artists (whatever other details were invented for the film, that basic fact is true), but it doesn’t contradict in any way how I felt about the scandal.

So, to my mind, Russell and company have taken the exact right approach with this material: told it as comic operetta, where everyone involved is some kind of self-promoter; where the clearest lawbreakers (DeNiro’s crowd) skate free; where the main casualties are tangential political figures who were totally entrapped (and, incidentally, probably sincere about promoting economic development -- in addition to of course their own personal enrichment); where people who barely lifted a finger (Louis CK & Alessandro Nivola) take the media credit; where those involved (as well as the audience) aren’t sure what side they’re on from moment to moment. This is a story where who the good guys and bad guys are very much depends on perspective, and is subject to change right up to the finish. How is this not a real subject for a movie? Does the fact that the film is played with such a jokey tone make people file it away as unserious, not look below that surface? I think that’s one of the film’s great virtues: that it takes the tropes of the con-man movie – the last-minute switcheroo-that-shifts-the-outcome, among others – and uses them to comment on societal absurdities. Putting this into a box with The Sting to me totally misses the point. The Sting was about clever twists, conning the audience, and nothing else (for those of us who figured out the main twist early on, it meant the film was essentially nothing). The twist at the end of American Hustle is a minor point in a story that’s about how people are conning one another and themselves.

I also don’t see why everyone’s so quick to label the film Scorsese-ian…unless one thinks Scorsese owns the 70s. I can’t think of any shots or series of shots that suggest Scorsese to me (a film like Boogie Nights seemed infinitely more Scorsese-influenced). The movie is, though, clearly steeped in the 70s, specifically late-70s, the disco period, where so many wore clothes that put their desires for sex and money right on the line (and were oblivious to how grotesque it made so many of them look). It may be that my having been around in that era makes me an easier mark for the movie – the soundtrack by itself brought back the entire time – but I thought the movie captured a lot of the ambience of the period in a more than surface way. The mid-film juxtaposition -- Bale’s dinner with Renner, and Adams’ disco date with Cooper -- for me captured the high-pitched, high-rolling delirium that was New York in that period, and in a way that I thought was Russell’s own. For me, this is his most assured work as a director.

And his actors all do him proud. Because Christian Bale was seemingly an add-on in the nomination discussion, I wasn’t expecting much from him, but I thought he anchored the film wonderfully. Bradley Cooper, I’ve stopped even thinking of him as “that Hangover guy” – he’s an actor now, far as I’m concerned, and a good one. His Sammy Glick-ish FBI agent is funny and pathetic simultaneously. And then there are the ladies: Amy Adams, whose eyes and manner convey her ravenousness for the finer things, and also her fear of losing what she has; and Jennifer Lawrence, who’s capable of wanting something different from moment to moment, and convincing the audience each one right then means the world to her. I think SAG got it exactly right this year: even if no individual actor rates a trophy, as an ensemble no other group comes close.

I’m not saying I think American Hustle is necessarily the year’s best film – I’d probably rate Nebraska, her and Inside Llewyn Davis higher. But Hustle might be, by a hair, my favorite of the three seen-to-be-contenders. I’m baffled by the hostility it’s generated in some quarters.

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Jan 04, 2014 7:18 am

For once, I'm glad that I read reviews here before watching a movie - I didn't expect much, so I wasn't disappointed. It's a very watchable movie, and also an easily forgettable one. But at least it's not sold as a masterpiece - a la Gravity. And it's not boring.
It works hard to imitate Scorsese, but it's simplified Scorsese - Scorsese without the vibe, without the grittiness, too "clean", too clear. And while it's twisty, it's not ambiguous - as a character study, I mean. There's no moral depth, and when it tries to get it - for example in the relationship between the characters played by Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner - it's too obviously unsatisfactory, unrewarding, and the players suffer from it.
Which doesn't mean that it's not well-played. The director knows his actors, they in turn know him and feel obviously confortable. He gives them space, in some cases even too much space maybe, but they enjoy themselves and at times the viewer enjoys them enjoying themselves. Nobody deserves an Oscar for this, of course.
A nomination? Maybe. The women, especially. Amy Adams is bland again, but blandness isn't necessarily her problem here (and many women were bland - or let's say "vague" - like her in the 70s - in a way they were still looking for their new place in the world, in society). The problem is that her character almost disappears in the second half of the movie - or at least she stops having anything interesting to do. This may cost her a Best Actress nomination - and the famous "big five" that we all talk about wouldn't be so safe, so "big", if there were valid alternatives. This, and the fact that she's not a leading actress. Even in a leading role, I mean. She doesn't have the charisma - which doesn't mean that she isn't a good actress (Shelley Winters was a very good actress but she also was never really memorable in leading roles).
And she's often overshadowed by Jennifer Lawrence, who has a showier - though not necessarily better - role. It's too soon now to say if Lawrence is a really good actress or just a fashionable one - time will tell. And this isn't the kind of role which suggests range, but it's - undeniably - the kind of role viewers remember after watching a movie. And the director is evidently in love with her, which always helps (he was in love with her last year too, and it also helped). It's also the kind of role which usually wins a Best Supporting Actress Oscar these days - you know, lots of "big" scenes, dumb-blonde character, quite sexy, and most importantly the only place to give an Oscar to a movie which, while admired, might lose in all the other categories it's nominated for. If she doesn't win, it's only because she has won so recently (for a lesser performance, by the way).
The men are good, but I wouldn't say extremely impressive - though, unlike Bale, Cooper could be nominated because he's in the less competitive race.
The movie itself doesn't have the gravitas that one expects from a Best Picture winner. It's not a bad experience to sit through - and, God knows, it's a masterpiece compared to the same director's previous Oscar effort - but it doesn't stay with you (the fact that it ends weakly doesn't help). There's no "urge" about it - it's like a well-made exercise, and at least I'm not sad that I had to see it - but American cinema, I'm sure, even these days can give us much more than this.

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Bog » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:23 pm

flipp525 wrote:Jeremy Renner was in way over his head in this movie, very clearly the weak link of the ensemble.


This, absolutely this...

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby flipp525 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:15 pm

FilmFan720 wrote:Jeremy Renner is getting no attention for perhaps his best performance) and moves very well.

Really? I thought Jeremy Renner was in way over his head in this movie, very clearly the weak link of the ensemble. He does virtually nothing throughout the film and basically acts with his hairdo. In fact, he's completely out-acted by Elisabeth Rohm who plays his wife, in a much smaller role.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby FilmFan720 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:09 pm

OscarGuy wrote:I've seen American Hustle and I had a great time, but I don't feel I came out of it with a sense that this was a great film. It doesn't have any high-minded principle to make a statement about. I cannot think of a film since perhaps The Sting that actually won the Oscar without being about anything in particular.


Argo? The Artist?

I thought this film was a blast, and there was a lot of stuff I really loved about it. It is expertly acted (I don't usually like Christian Bale, but he is fantastic here...and Jeremy Renner is getting no attention for perhaps his best performance) and moves very well. I also find a lot of argument that the film isn't about anything; it is a character study, and I came out understanding these characters and their motivations a lot more than some other movies people keep praising this year.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby mlrg » Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:07 pm

OscarGuy wrote:I've seen American Hustle and I had a great time, but I don't feel I came out of it with a sense that this was a great film. It doesn't have any high-minded principle to make a statement about. I cannot think of a film since perhaps The Sting that actually won the Oscar without being about anything in particular.


Well, Goodfellas did not win but it's probably one of the best movies ever about nothing and from what I'm reading it looks that American Hustle is probably trying too hard to be DOR's Goodfellas.

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Reza » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:32 am

What a hollow film about nothing really. The plot doesn't go anywhere. It's well acted (Amy Adams in particular - hope she bumps Streep off the list) but it's more about the "look" of the 70s. For me the highlight was hearing Donna Summer sing "I Feel Love" on the soundtrack.

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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:25 am

I've seen American Hustle and I had a great time, but I don't feel I came out of it with a sense that this was a great film. It doesn't have any high-minded principle to make a statement about. I cannot think of a film since perhaps The Sting that actually won the Oscar without being about anything in particular.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:47 am

Sonic Youth wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:Actually, I'd say the answer to the question about 12 Years a Slave is still no -- unless you change it to "a" front-runner from "the". It's got everything it's needed, but so have American Hustle and Gravity, pretty much, and I think the three are in a fairly even race at the moment. Emphasize: I still think 12 Years will probably win in the end, but, unless it starts Slumdogging its way through the Globes and Guilds, I'm open to numerous scenarios.


Here's one, and it's the scenario I'm sticking with until circumstances prove me wrong. There may be no front-runner now, but American Hustle is going to change that all the way up to Oscar night.

I was looking at all the reviews for American Hustle published today, and it's one rave after another. And this movie - not Gravity, and not 12 Years a Slave - is going to be freshest on everyone's minds, and this movie - not Llewelyn and not Her - will be the 'prestige' film most people will choose to see this holiday season. It's going to be a hit, it's going to make more money than Wolf of Wall Street (and the entertainment media is sure to take note of that), and this ensemble will ensure the film has legs. Among all the enthusiastically received films this year, and there have been more than usual, American Hustle will be the one that pushes the pleasure button most. Whether it's the best film of the year or not is irrelevant. Entertainment of the highest quality, as opposed to art, will win out.

At least, that's the premonition I'm getting. I could be wrong, but go read those reviews, and see if you don't feel the same way.


Happy New Year to everybody.

I wrote the above three weeks ago in another thread. And everything seems to be going according to plan. The movie is a hit, people like it, some love it (not many here, though), and people are definitely talking about it, whether it's in the media or people I know personally. I was convinced this was going to be the compromise choice..... but I'm gonna hedge now. I still haven't seen the movie, but the more I hear about it, the less it feels like a viable Best Film-type winner. I listened to Michael Musto on Tom O'Neil's podcast at Goldderby, and he's convinced me. It's the perfect opportunity for the Academy to make a statement, make history, and give 12 Years and McQueen the most prestigious awards given out by the film industry. Fun and well-made American Hustle may be, it doesn't seem like the sort of movie that the Academy, in good conscience, would award over 12 Years a Slave. Argo or The King's Speech, yes. American Hustle, no.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:37 am

Advanced screenings are tricky things. It's easy to get swept up into them.

I watched American Hustle again and I still like it quite a bit but it confirms in my head further that Silver Linings Playbook stands out in David O. Russell's oeuvre (like Three Kings) because of its structure. He gets distracted very easily, and American Hustle always feels like its revving up, but to go where exactly? The crux of the film is Christian Bale's relationship with Amy Adams which doesn't feel challenged in the least throughout the entire second act. From the moment Bradley Cooper offers them their ultimatum and Amy Adams lays down the law to Christian Bale, they barely share a word together for the bulk of the film. Why is that? I'm going to lay the blame on Jennifer Lawrence's character. If American Hustle is going to win one Oscar, I think there's a good chance it's going to be her but why does this character need such a prominent role in the film? Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is a lot of fun but for American Hustle to be a more affecting piece of work more time needs to be spent with Bale and Adams whose story is a pretty irresistible romantic comedy that is under explored in this film.
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Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:16 am

Johnny Guitar wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:Of course it may still turn out that I love it, but I wonder - will I see a truly good American movie this year?!


I'd say Computer Chess, Upstream Color, At Berkeley, Sun Don't Shine, The Unspeakable Act, Before Midnight, and Museum Hours (this last one only kind of American) are all worth a look if you haven't seen them.



They all sound interesting - Museum Hours is set in one of my favorite European cities and museums - but with the obvious exception of Before Midnight, it won't be easy to see them in Italy.


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