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When Blatant Oscar Bait Gets Lazy

posted Jan 10, 2014, 8:00 AM by samantha@filmmusicmedia.com   [ updated Jan 10, 2014, 8:03 AM ]
                                                                                           I'm really glad I missed this era of fashion


Ah, January. The time of year where some people try to make a new start, others start planning their weddings because it's become a cliche to propose at Christmas/Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, try to catch up on the movies that are likely going to be nominated for an Oscar. Because somewhere along the line my life went off the rails and this is what I do for fun now.

Frozen? Good. Blue Jasmine? Great. Haven't ticked off August Osage County or 12 Years a Slave yet, but there will be time for that. However, I did watch American Hustle yesterday and I was completely taken aback by how mediocre it was. Look, I'm usually pretty easy going when it comes to films, I can forgive a lot of glaring flaws so long as it's entertaining, but I was not impressed with this movie. I found myself checking the time at multiple points during it trying to gauge when it'd all be over and I hardly ever do that.

Look, I'm not an idiot, I knew that the movie was made to ride on The Silver Lining's Playbook success and the all star cast + 70's period piece + dramadey tone was David O. Russell's attempt to get more award recognition. Fine. Great. Do what you gotta do. I'd be all ready to say "don't hate the player, hate the game" if the movie was actually good enough to earn Oscars, but it isn't. It just isn't.

It was like somebody was trying to re-do Goodfellas but took all the heart out of it and what we're left with is a predictable con artist movie that happened to throw the mob in randomly and holy crap I did not care what happened to these characters at all. Couldn't Russell have given Martin Scorsese a call so he could school him on how these movies should be done? Or maybe he did call but Marty purposely gave him the wrong information because he didn't want competition for The Wolf of Wall Street.

I really kind of feel like I'm taking crazy pills when it comes to the recognition this movie is getting. I mean, there were parts that I did like. The music was great, the costumes and hair were on point and all of the actors were bringing their A game. Jennifer Lawrence was definitely the highlight for me, though I do feel like the role should have gone to an older actress. I know she's the It Girl right now and Russell's muse, but it's hard enough for "older" actresses (i.e. actresses in their 30's and 40's) to get work these days and Lawrence didn't really pull off the look of a mother, even one who was supposed to not be great at the whole mothering thing. And great acting doesn't mean that I cared about the characters at all 'cause I didn't. They were all pretty one-dimensional-pretending-to-have-depth characters. The only one I felt anything for was Jeremy Renner's character. Of course I might have just been enthralled with his hair.

Still, that doesn't excuse a poor plot, especially when it's getting this kind of recognition. I feel like maybe people just assumed the movie would be good and now they're just going along with it because it's too late to take back the praise now. I feel like if everything could be tightened up a bit, the characters could have had more depth and the film be shortened by about 45 minutes then it would have been okay. As it was I just wanted to put in Casino or even Ocean's 11 just to remind myself how a good con/crime-drama movie should go.

All I know is I'm preparing myself to rage when it wins a boatload of awards this year. Just because you're playing the Hollywood game doesn't mean you have to get lazy with it. You're just going to make people laugh gleefully when it backfires on you and you don't win anything.