I’ve recently watched American Hustle and couldn’t help myself from shaking my head. It was a very good film and arguably the most enjoyable film of the year. It was funny, well-paced, and packed with an incredible cast. So why was I shaking my head? Because it seems that it’s gaining the much needed momentum to take this year’s Best Picture award come March, and that’s just unfortunate.
To me, films like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity are much better films. They’re daring, innovative, and tell engrossing stories about survival. But they lack the pure enjoyment that Academy voters seem to need and want to award during awards season. Last year, Argo won the big prize. It was a very good movie, but does anyone really argue that Lincoln was more important and factually correct? Does anyone argue that Life of Pi was the most powerful film of the year, or that Zero Dark Thirty was the most controversial?
Look back even further. The Artist, an extremely entertaining, colorless romantic comedy, beat out films like The Help (powerful), Hugo (innovative), and The Descendants. The year prior, The King’s Speech won Best Picture and it’s definitely a film you simply cannot dislike. But it beat out The Social Network (brilliant), Black Swan (daring), and Inception (innovative). Ever since the quantity of Best Picture nominations have increased from five, The Academy has been voting for the feel-good films and have been leaving behind the ones that really should be winning.
As of right now, this year’s Best Picture race is a three-way between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle. They’re all critically acclaimed, have good or great performances by big actors, and have directors who are overdue for some recognition. In my opinion, that leaves the voters to lean towards the more enjoyable option, which is American Hustle. I could be wrong and as the guild awards keep rolling out, we’ll get a clearer picture as to which film will take the lead, but I can’t see American Hustle loosening its reigns on the Best Picture race from now until the ceremony.