8 Sure Shot Best Picture Nominees That Were Not


Let’s be honest.

Predicting the Oscar nominees is not an exact science.  The fact of the matter is that a lot of it is guesswork, especially in the early months of the year.

“Oh, Scorsese has a movie coming out?  Well, Martin Scorsese’s movies are always nominated!”

“Last year’s best seller is being adapted into a movie?  The Academy loves best sellers!”

“David Fincher’s directing High School Musical 4?  I LOVE DAVID FINCHER!  Best Picture for sure!”

That’s why, every year, there are films that seem like they’re guaranteed to reap Oscar glory.  These are the films that, in July, are listed on all of the awards sites as probable best picture nominees.  And every year, several of those sure shots turn out to actually be long shots.

Since Arleigh founded Through the Shattered Lens back in 2009, there’s been many guaranteed Best Picture contenders that, when the nominations were announced, were nowhere to be found.  Here are just 8 examples:

1. J. Edgar (dir by Clint Eastwood)

Remember how Leonardo DiCaprio was going finally win his first Oscar for playing J. Edgar Hoover in the 2011 Oscar biopic?  There was also some speculation that Armie Hammer would pick a supporting nod and, of course, the film was going to be a best picture nominee.  Then the movie came out, fell flat, and received not a single Oscar nomination.

2. The Dark Knight Rises (dir by Christopher Nolan)

I was not as big of a fan of this movie as some people who write for this site.  In fact, I thought it was kind of a mess.  Still, back in 2012, a lot of people assumed the Academy would make up for not nominating The Dark Knight by nominating the sequel.  (In a particular noxious example of fanboy culture, Christy Lemire was attacked online when she gave The Dark Knight Rises its first negative review.)  For all of the hyper and controversy, The Dark Knight Rises was totally ignored when the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced.

3. The Monuments Men (dir by George Clooney)

As strange as it may seem today, this now-forgotten World War II film was originally considered to be a surefire Oscar contender.  Throughout most of 2013, the majority of the experts on Gold Derby listed The Monuments Men as their number one prediction for Best Picture.  The logic was that it was based on an interesting true story, it featured Bill Murray in a serious role, and it was directed by George Clooney.  Then, suddenly, the release date was pushed back to 2014.  That was the first sign of trouble.  Then the movie came out and it turned out to be a complete mess, one that underused Murray and which reminded us that, regardless of his skill as an actor, George Clooney is a remarkably dull director.

4. Lee Daniel’s The Butler (dir by Lee Daniels)

From 2013, this is a good example of a film that tried so hard to be an Oscar contender that it basically knocked itself right out of contention.  Between the blind and dated worship of JFK and John Cusack’s performance as Richard Nixon, this film almost seemed like a parody of a bad Oscar contender.

5. Interstellar (dir by Christopher Nolan)

Personally, I liked 2014’s Interstellar more than I liked The Dark Knight Rises but ultimately, this turned out to be just another Christopher Nolan film that didn’t get much of a reaction from the Academy.  (Despite the nominations given to both Dunkirk and Inception, it’s hard not to feel that the Academy will always resent Nolan for being both successful and ambitious.)

6. Joy (dir by David O. Russell)

Many of us thought it would be one of the films to be nominated for best picture of 2015.  That was until we actually saw the damn thing.  David O. Russell’s worst movie still managed to net Jennifer Lawrence a nomination but not much else.

7. Silence (dir by Martin Scrosese)

Martin Scrosese’s 2016 passion product was expected to be a major contender and, on many sites, it was listed as a probable winner all the way through December.  However, when the nominations were announced, Silence only received one nomination, for cinematography.

8. Logan (dir by James Mangold)

At the start of 2017, a lot of critics stated that Logan might be the first comic book movie ever nominated for Best Picture.  For a month or two, I certainly thought it would be.  Ultimately, though, it only picked up a nomination for adapted screenplay.

Which 2018 sure short will turn into a long shot?  We’ll find out next year!

Film Review: Joy (dir by David O. Russell)


Joyfilmposter

Hi there and welcome to 2016!

Today was the first day of a new year so, of course, I had to go down to the Alamo Drafthouse and see a movie.  What was the title of the first movie that I saw in a theater in 2016?

Joy.

Despite the fact that Joy has gotten some seriously mixed reviews, I had high hopes when I sat down in the Alamo.  After all, Joy represents the third collaboration between director David O. Russell and one of my favorite actresses, Jennifer Lawrence.  (Their previous collaborations — Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle — happen to be two of my favorite films of the past 5 years.)  Add to that, Joy has been advertised as being a tribute to a real-life, strong-willed woman and I figured that, at the very least, it would provide a nice alternative to the testosterone-crazed movies that I’ve recently sat through.  And finally, Joy had a great trailer!

Sure, there were a few less than positive signs about Joy.  As I mentioned before, the majority of the reviews had been mixed and the word of mouth was even worse.  (My friend, the sportswriter Jason Tarwater, used one word to describe the film to me: “Meh.”)  But what truly worried me was that Sasha Stone of AwardsDaily absolutely raved about the film on her site and that’s usually a bad sign.  Let’s not forget that this is the same Sasha Stone who claimed that Maps To The Stars was one of the best films ever made about Hollywood.

And, to be honest, I had much the same reaction to Joy that I had to Map To The Stars.  I really wanted to love Joy and, occasionally, there would be a clever bit of dialogue or an unexpected directorial choice and I would briefly perk up in my seat and think to myself, “Okay, this is the film that I wanted to see!”  But, for the most part, Joy is a disappointment.  It’s not so much that it’s bad as it’s just not particularly great.  For the most part, it’s just meh.

But let’s talk about what worked.  Overall, this may be one of Jennifer Lawrence’s lesser films but she gives a great performance, one that reminds us that she truly is one of the best actresses working today.  I’ve read some complaints that Lawrence was too young for the title role and, to be absolutely honest, she probably is.  She looks like she could easily go undercover at a high school and help Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum bust drug dealers.  But, at the same time, she projects the inner weariness of a survivor.  For lack of a better term, she has an old soul and it comes across in her films.

In Joy, she plays Joy Mangano, a divorced mother of two who lives in upstate New York.  Her mother (Virginia Madsen) lives with Joy and spends all of her time watching soap operas.  Joy ex-husband, a lounge singer named Tony (Edgar Ramirez), lives in the basement.  Meanwhile, her grandmother (Diane Ladd, who narrates the film) is always hovering in the background, offering Joy encouragement and optimism.  At the start of the film, Joy’s cantankerous father (Robert De Niro) has also moved into the house.  Joy, who was the valedictorian of her high school, has got a demeaning job working as a flight booker at the airport.

(“What’s your name?” one rude customer asks, “Joy?  You don’t seem very joyful to me…”)

How stressful is Joy’s life?  It’s so stressful that she has a reoccurring nightmare in which she’s trapped in her mother’s favorite soap opera and Susan Lucci (cleverly playing herself) tells her that she should just give up.

However, as difficult as life may get, Joy refuses to take Susan Lucci’s advise.  She invents a miraculous mop known as the miracle mop and eventually becomes a highly successful businesswoman.  Along the way, she makes her television debut on QVC and becomes a minor celebrity herself…

The film’s best scenes are the ones that deal with Joy and QVC.  These scenes, in which the inexperienced Joy proves herself to be a natural saleswoman, are the best in the film.  These scenes are filled with the spark that I was hoping would be present throughout the entire film.  Of course, it helps that these scenes also feature Bradley Cooper as a sympathetic television executive.  This is the third time that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have acted opposite each other and there’s an immediate chemistry between them.  In this case, it’s not a romantic chemistry (and one of the things that I did appreciate about Joy was that it didn’t try to force a predictable romance on the title character).  Instead, it’s the type of mutual respect that you rarely see between male and female characters in the movies.  It’s a lot of fun to watch, precisely because it is so real and unexpected.

But sadly, the QVC scenes only make up a relatively small part of Joy.  The rest of the film is something of a mess, with David O. Russell never settling on a consistent tone.  At times, Joy feels like a disorganized collection of themes from his previous films.  Just as in The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, we get the quirky and dysfunctional family.  Just as in American Hustle, we get the period detail, the Scorsese-lite soundtrack, and the moments of cynical humor.  There’s a lot going on in Joy and, at time, it doesn’t seem that Russell really knows what to do with all the theme and characters that he’s mixed into the movie.  I found myself wondering if he truly understood the story that he was trying to tell.

Finally, at the end of the film, Joy visits a business rival in Dallas, Texas.  Let’s just say that the film’s version of Dallas looks nothing like the city that I know.  (The minute that the scene cut from her ex-husband discovering that Joy had left to a close-up of a Bar-B-Q sign, I let out an exasperated, “Oh, come on!”)  I suppose I should be happy that Russell didn’t have huge mountains in the background of the Dallas scenes but seriously, would it have killed anyone to do a little research or maybe hop on a plane and spend a day or two filming on location?

(After all, if Richard Linklater or Wes Anderson decided to set a movie in David O. Russell’s home state of Massachusetts, I doubt that they would film the Boston scenes in El Paso….)

Joy features great work from Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and it tells a story that has the potential to be very empowering.  But, when it comes to the overall film … meh.

Sorry Jen

Here Are The Winners of The 2015 Hollywood Film Awards, Whatever The Hell Those Are.


The_Martian_film_poster

Oh my God, y’all — the Hollywood Film Awards were held on Sunday and a bunch of potential Oscar contenders were honored!  Which all leads to one very important question:

What the Hell are the Hollywood Film Awards?

As I pondered that question, I realized that I had vague memories of sitting through the Hollywood Film Awards last year.  The ceremony was broadcast on CBS and it was distinguished from other awards shows in that there were no nominees.  Instead, only the winners were announced.  It was so amazingly dull and I can remember watching it and thinking, “Awards season has finally jumped the shark.”

(And this was even before Sasha Stone and Jeff Wells had their annual breakdowns…)

Anyway, the Hollywood Film Awards for 2015 were given out on Sunday and I’m assuming they weren’t televised.  (I was busy watching A Student’s Obsession anyway…)  You can find the winners below.  For the most part, it’s a pretty boring list (and why give out awards in November?) but it does allow us an early glimpse into some of the films and performers that are contending for Oscar gold.

Here’s the list.  Along with a gif of a kitty showing just how excited he is over Awards Season…

YAY! AWARDS! I'M SO EXCITED..I'M SO EXCITING...I'M SO ... SCARED!"

“YAY! AWARDS! I’M SO EXCITED..I’M SO EXCITED… I’M SO … SCARED!”

Career Achievement Award presented to Robert De Niro by David O. Russell.

Producer Award presented to Ridley Scott (“The Martian) by Russell Crowe.

Director Award presented to Tom Hooper (“The Danish Girl”) by Amber Heard.

Actor Award presented to Will Smith (“Concussion”) by Jamie Foxx.

Actress Award presented to Carey Mulligan (“Suffragette”) by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Supporting Actor Award presented to Benicio Del Toro (“Sicario”) by Reese Witherspoon.

Supporting Actress Award presented to Jane Fonda (“Youth”) by Laura Dern.

Breakout Actor Award presented to Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”) by Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson.

Breakout Actress Award presented to Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) by Armie Hammer.

New Hollywood Award presented to Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) by Ryan Gosling.

Ensemble Award presented to “The Hateful Eight” by Quentin Tarantino.

Breakout Ensemble Award presented to “Straight Outta Compton” by Ice Cube.

Comedy Award presented to Amy Schumer (“Trainwreck”) by Selena Gomez.

Breakthrough Director Award presented to Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) by Steve Carell.

Screenwriter Award presented to Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer (“Spotlight”) by Mark Ruffalo.

Blockbuster Award presented to “Furious 7” by Kurt Russell.

Song Award presented to “Furious 7” (“See You Again”) by Vin Diesel.

Animation Award presented to Pete Docter (“Inside Out”) by Amy Poehler.

Cinematography Award presented to Janusz Kaminski (“Bridge of Spies”).

Composer Award presented to Alexandre Desplat (“The Danish Girl,” “Suffragette”).

Documentary Award presented to Asif Kapadia (“Amy”).

Editor Award presented to David Rosenbloom (“Black Mass”).

Visual Effects Award presented to Tim Alexander (“Jurassic World”).

Sound Award presented to Gary Rydstrom (“Bridge of Spies”).

Costume Design Award presented to Sandy Powell (“Cinderella”).

Make-Up and Hair Styling Award presented to Lesley Vanderwalt (“Mad Max: Fury Road”).

Production Design Award presented to Colin Gibson (“Mad Max: Fury Road“).

"Yawn. These awards are boring..."

“Yawn. These awards are predictable and boring.  You disappoint me…”

Here’s the Latest Trailer for Joy!


Here’s the latest trailer for David O. Russell’s upcoming Oscar contender, Joy!  The first trailer was pretty much all Jennifer Lawrence.  This trailer gives a few members of the supporting cast a chance to shine.

(That said, we all know that the main selling point of this film will always be Jennifer Lawrence and that shotgun…)

(According to some early rumors that I’ve heard, the film’s best performance might not come from Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, or even Bradley Cooper.  I’m hearing that Isabella Rossellini steals every scene in which she appears.)

Horror Trailer: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


PrideAndPrejudiceAndZombies

It looks like they’ve actually gone ahead and made the damn thing. I remember writing about news of the Seth Grahame-Smith horror mash-up novel being green-lit for the big-screen all the way back in 2010. Yet, nothing much ever came of it. Directors were hired and the cast was set, but each passing year something would derail the project and things would go back to square one.

Now, over five years since that initial announcement back in 2011 we finally have proof that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has actually completed filming and will soon be up on the big-screen this February 16, 2016.

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for October!


It’s that time of the month again!

No, not that time!  I mean that it’s time for me to, once again, attempt to guess which films and performers will receive Oscar nominations next January!

This year’s Oscar race is shaping up to be an interesting one.  Even though some favorites have finally started to emerge, there doesn’t yet seem to be any true consensus choices.  For instance, last year, from the moment the film premiered at Sundance, we all knew that J.K. Simmons was going to win an Oscar for Whiplash.  There was never any doubt.  This year, however, has yet to see any such certainty.

Up until a few days ago, I thought a best picture nomination for Carol was about as close to a sure thing as we could hope for.  But now, word is coming in that American audiences are not reacting quite as enthusiastically to the film as the audiences at Cannes.  Much like last year’s Foxcatcher, it’s starting to sound as if Carol might be a film that people respect more than they like.

Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies has been getting positive but not exactly rapturous reviews, which is pretty much what I was expecting.  Spotlight seems to be becoming more and more of a certainty.  A lot of self-appointed award divas are going crazy over Cate Blanchett in Truth, a film that looks incredibly tedious.  Myself, I’m hoping that Suffragette turns out to be great and gets all sorts of nominations.  Unfortunately, this means that I’m now in the rare position of actually agreeing with Sasha “I am the game” Stone of AwardsDaily.

And who would have thought that The Room would suddenly emerge as an Oscar front runner!? Way to go, Tommy Wiseau!  Oh, wait.  It’s a different Room?

Well, never mind then.

Anyway, below you can find my predictions for October and no, I’m still not hopping on the Revenant bangwagon, I don’t care how great the damn trailer is!  (Actually, the trailer is really good…but I made my choices for this month and I’ll live with them.)

Be sure to check out my previous predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September.  (Daaaaaaaaaaamn…that’s a lot of predictions!)

Room_Poster

Best Picture

Brooklyn

The Danish Girl

Joy

Room

Sicario

Son of Saul

Spotlight

Steve Jobs

Straight Outta Compton

Suffragette

Best Director

Danny Boyle for Steve Jobs

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Laszlo Nemes for Son of Saul

David O. Russell for Joy

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Bradley Cooper in Burnt

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol (and not Truth, so fug off with that commie crap!)

Brie Larson in Room

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Paul Dano in Love and Mercy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol (though I’m sure Noomi Rapace would have been even better in the role)

Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs

Sicario_poster

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for September!


Maybe next year kitties...

Maybe next year kitties…

No, the predictions below were not made by cats!

However, it might be nice if they had been.  It would certainly put a lot less pressure on me.  Here we are — it’s September and the Oscar race is still largely up in the air.  Hopefully, the picture will start to become a bit more clear over the next few weeks.  For instance, Beasts of No Nation was just acclaimed at the Venice Film Festival and, as I write this, we are just a few days into the Toronto Film Festival.

But for now, it still looks like it is anyone’s race to win!

Below are my predictions for September!  If you want to see just how confused I’ve been (and how random my predictions have occasionally been) for the majority of the year, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August!

Best Picture

Beasts of No Nation

Black Mass

Brookyln

Carol

The Danish Girl

Joy

Sicario

Spotlight

Steve Jobs

Straight Outta Compton

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Bryan Cranston in Trumbo

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Julianne Moore in Freeheld

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Robert De Niro in Joy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Paul Giamatti in Straight Outta Compton

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Diane Ladd in Joy

Rooney Mara in Carol

Ellen Page in Freeheld

Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs

Best Director

Danny Boyle for Steve Jobs

John Cowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

David O. Russell for Joy

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for August!


everest-jake-gyllenhaal

Well, here we are.  The year is more than halfway over.  The fall movie season is approaching.  And yet, not a single true Oscar front-runner has yet to emerge.  Could this be the year that a true populist hit, like Mad Max: Fury Road, or an unexpected art house wonder, like Ex Machina, manages to secure a spot?

Well, probably not.  But still, it’s fun to speculate!

(Are Oscar pundits being too quick to dismiss Straight Outta Compton?  I have not seen it yet but look at those reviews and look at that box office.  It’s an interesting question.)

Anyway, here are my prediction for August!  To see how my thinking has evolved over the year, check out my predictions of January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brookyln

Carol

The Danish Girl

Everest

Inside Out

Joy

Sicario

Suffragette

Youth

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Julianne Moore in Freeheld

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Robert De Niro in Joy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Tom Hardy in The Revenant

Harvey Keitel in Youth

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Ellen Page in Freeheld

Julie Walters in Brooklyn

Best Director

John Cowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

David O. Russell for Joy

Paolo Sorrentino for Youth

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

sicario-emily-blunt-trailer

Here’s the Trailer For Joy


Here’s the trailer for the latest David O. Russell/Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper/Robert De Niro film, Joy!

Joy is scheduled to be released in December, just in time for Oscar consideration and, judging from this trailer, it looks like it may just get it.  After watching this, Joy has gone from being a film that I was barely aware of to being one of my most anticipated films of the year.

(That said, I still think the first trailer for American Hustle is the best trailer of Russell/Lawrence/Cooper/De Niro trilogy…)

Shattered Politics #93: American Hustle (dir by David O. Russell)


American_Hustle_2013_poster

“Some of this actually happened.”

— Opening Title of American Hustle (2013)

I have always been surprised by how much some people hate the 2013 best picture nominee, American Hustle.  Even two years after the film was first released, you’ll still find people whining that the film felt like David O. Russell’s attempt to remake Goodfellas (yes, I have actually seen more than a few people online making this idiotic claim) or claiming that the movie was overrated or that there wasn’t anyone in the film that they could root for.  While every film has its detractors, I’m always a little bit taken aback by just how passionately some people dislike this film.

Some of it, of course, is because the film that beat American Hustle for best picture was the universally acclaimed 12 Years A Slave.  As hard as it may seem to believe now, there were a lot of people who thought that American Hustle might actually beat 12 Years A Slave.  Strangely enough, a lot of online film bloggers tend to take a Manichaen approach to the Oscars, viewing each year’s race in terms of good and evil. The film that they want to win represents good and, therefore, every competing film must represent evil.  It’s a pretty stupid and immature way of looking at things but, then again, the stupid and immature approach has worked pretty well for Sasha Stone and Ryan Adams over at AwardsDaily.com so who am I to criticize?

Of course, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the majority of American Hustle‘s most strident online critics have been male.  I imagine that they watched the film and, in Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, they saw every unresolved crush of their adolescence.  When Amy Adams successfully fooled Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, these critics saw themselves being fooled.  When Jennifer Lawrence called Bale a “sick son of a bitch,” these critics felt that they were being called a sick son of a bitch.  American Hustle is a film about men who don’t know how to talk to women and that probably struck a little too close to home for a lot of those online critics.

(I imagine that the majority of online American Hustle haters probably preferred Rooney Mara’s version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Noomi Rapace’s.)

Of course, the truth of the matter is that American Hustle was one of the best films of a very good year.  Of all the films nominated for best picture of 2013, American Hustle was my personal favorite.

Based, very loosely, on true story, American Hustle is a period piece.  It takes place in the late 70s, which of course means that we get a lot of great music, a scene in a disco, and clothes that are both somehow ludicrous and to die for at the same time.  It’s a glamorous film about glamorous people doing glamorous and not-so-glamorous things and how can you not love that?

Irving (Christian Bale, giving a brave performance) is a generally nice guy who also happens to be a con artist.  His unlikely partner is Sydney (Amy Adams), a former stripper turned Cosmo intern.  When Sydney is working with Irving, she takes on a totally different identity and tells people that she’s Lady Edith Greensly, a British aristocrat who has international banking connections.  When Sydney plays Edith, she speaks in a posh British accent and what’s interesting is that her accent is often (deliberately) inconsistent.  However, as Irving points out, it doesn’t matter whether her accent is a 100% convincing or not.  What’s important is that people want her to be Lady Edith Greensly and people will make excuses for almost anything as long as it confirms what they want to believe.

Eventually, Irving and Sydney are arrested by ambitious and highly strung FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).  Richie, who spends a good deal of the film with curlers in his hair, lives with his mother and has a boring fiancée who he doesn’t seem to like very much.  (Richie is also briefly seen sniffing coke, which might explain a lot of his more extreme behavior.)  Richie wants to make a name for himself and he views Irving and Sydney as his way to do so.  He blackmails them into helping him set up and arrest crooked politicians and businessmen.  Richie also finds himself growing obsessed with Sydney, who he believes to be English even after she tells him that she isn’t.

All of this eventually leads to Irving and Richie setting up the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).  Polito, who may be corrupt but who also seems to sincerely care about helping the citizens of his town, wants to revitalize gambling in Atlantic City.  Irving and Richie introduce him to FBI agent Paco Hernandez (Michael Pena), who is disguised as Sheik Abdullah and who they claim is interested in investing in Carmine’s plans.  This, of course, leads to a meeting both with a local Mafia don (Robert De Niro) and with several politicians who agree to help out the Sheik out in exchange for money.

(And no, the film did not lie.  This is based on a true story, believe it or not.)

Complicating things is the fact that Irving himself comes to truly like the generous and big-hearted Carmine and how can you not?  When the film was first released, Jeremy Renner was a bit overshadowed by Bale, Cooper, Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence.  However, Renner gives the best performance in the film, playing Carmine with a disarming mix of innocence and shrewdness.  He’s the type of guy who is smart enough to walk out on the first meeting with the fake sheik’s associates but who is still naive enough that he can be charmed by Irving.  When the fake sheik gives Carmine an equally fake knife as a gift, the look of genuine honor on Carmine’s face is heart-breaking.

The other big complication is Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).  Rosalyn is jealous, unstable, unpredictable, and, in her own way, one of the smarter people in the film.  She’s also a bit of pyromaniac and, when she accidentally blows up a new microwave, you’re really not surprised.  (And, when Rosalyn starts to obsessively clean the house while singing Live and Let Die at the top of her lungs, I felt like I was watching a blonde version of myself.)  When Rosalyn starts to have an affair of her own, it leads to American Hustle‘s satisfying and twisty conclusion.

(Again, a lot of the same online toadsuckers who irrationally hate American Hustle seem to hold a particular contempt to Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in this film, as if to acknowledge that Lawrence — as always — kicks ass would somehow be a betrayal of Lupita Nyong’o’s award-winning performance in 12 Years A Slave.)

Don’t listen to the haters.  American Hustle is a great film, a stylish and frequently funny look at politics, corruption, and the ways that people con themselves into believing what they want and need to be true.