I haven't really wanted to go to the movies lately, and I blame The Hobbit. No, I didn't go see Smaug's desolation, but just the thought of sitting through another long movie about gritty dwarves and every nuance of the Silmarillion put me off popcorn for weeks.
However, Jennifer Lawrence is irresistible to me at this time. When I heard that she had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscar Awards, I just had to forget Middle Earth and go have a look at American Hustle.
And am I glad I did! Not only was the film well-directed, it was a banquet of funny, nasty, outrageous, irritating, suspenseful, and charming scenes. The acting was just so top-notch that I was blown away. Not only did Jennifer Lawrence bring craziness and sensuality to the role of Irving's troubled wife Rosalyn, but Amy Adams was brilliant as Irving's mistress and partner in crime, her depiction ranging from devious to destroyed, coquettish to calculating. Christian Bale, as always, was a rock as Irving the con artist, in over his head due to the interference of FBI agent Richie DiMaso, played to the max by Bradley Cooper. And while he didn't get an Oscar nomination, Jeremy Renner was wonderful as New Jersey politician Carmine Polito. I wanted to vote for him, and go to his parties, too.
The story: Irving and his partner, ex-pole dancer Sydney, conduct a regular crime business, charging desperate spenders thousands of dollars for imaginary banking connections. Stung by DiMaso and the FBI, Irving and Sydney are forced to work with them or go to jail. But DiMaso is nuts, and gets them in ever deeper trouble with politics and the Mob. Rosalyn, fed up with Irving's lack of enthusiasm at home, and furious over finding out about his mistress, flings herself into Carmine Polito's social scene with disastrous abandon. Will everybody end up with cement overshoes?
I don't usually buy R-rated films on DVD, but I might have to invest in this one later this year, simply to indulge my desire to see how the best actors manage to bring a story to radiant life.
When the Oscar nom's (that's the movie business insider lingo) came out this past week, I realized that we've only seen two of the nine nom'd Best Picture films. I told Sand that we had to quickly rectify that, so that night we watched Argo, last year's Best Picture winner, which we hadn't gotten around to seeing yet.
It wasn't too bad a film. I enjoyed it and was perfectly happy until I looked back at the other nom's that year. What was the Academy thinking, I wondered. Argo was better than Life of Pi? I don't think so. Or better than Zero Dark Thirty? Not really, although I don't think ZD30 was Best Film either, but the acting was far better. Argo wasn't as good as Lincoln, and it couldn't hold a candle to Silver Linings Playbook, which incidentally, I thought should have been the Best Picture.
Fearing that the Academy was poised to make a similarly inexplicable decision this year, I told Sand that we needed to take a look at what this year's nom's looked like. So Sand requisitioned some popcorn from the Piker Press prop room and off we went to see American Hustle.
This is an absolutely delicious movie. It is a good story told very well, with fascinating and well-developed characters, and with a cast ... well, the cast was stunning. Christian Bale and Amy Adams were nominated for Best Actor/Actress, and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress, and Jeremy Renner didn't get a nomination probably only because they ran out categories.
There were times in this movie that I felt totally immersed in the story as it unfolded. It wasn't as if I was watching a movie, I was there, watching something real happen in front of me. There is a particularly powerful sequence in which Bradley Cooper's character and Amy Adam's character are in a disco and they realize their relationship is spinning wildly into something altogether different than they anticipated, and this scene is interspersed with the scene of a party in which Jeremy Renner's and Christian Bale's characters drunkenly bond while singing along to Tom Jones' "Delilah." The music, the noise, the locations, the passions swirling about in this sequence are breathtaking and sensuous. Yet this scene is not just a cheap thrill, not just a bit of period specific fluff. These few minutes of film drive the story forward rapidly, sharply, and viscerally -- visual art at its best.
This film, incidentally, is from the same director that gave us Silver Linings Playbook.
So, we've seen three of this year's nine nom'd pictures, but I've got to say that American Hustle looks like a shoo-in, unless of course 2014 is going to be deja vu all over again at the Academy.
Go see this movie even if you have to borrow the money.