Monday, December 23, 2013

Mini-Reviews: American Hustle, Blue is the Warmest Color and Nebraska (2013)

American Hustle

Directed by David O. Russell
Produced by Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Charles Roven and Richard Suckle
Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence


Based on the Abscam scandal, this follows con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) and their forced partnership with an FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) in a no-holds-barred con job.

Russell's film is certainly a fun time, but it's too loud to make any noise. The cast, particularly Cooper, Adams and Bale, all perform well, and the film has great production values. The costumes and hair and makeup are exceptional. Still, I wanted more from a film with so much talent. It's too familiar (arguably forgettable), and it doesn't quite come together. While it has some wonderful sequences, the end result isn't fully satisfying.

Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Blue is the Warmest Color

Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Produced by Brahim Chioua, Abdellatif Kechiche and Vincent Maraval
Written by Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix (script); Julie Maroh (book)
Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux


Adèle (Exarchopoulos) discovers love at age 17 with Emma (Seydoux), an art student at college.

Kechiche did a fantastic job. Not only did he create a touching romance, but he also got phenomenal performances out of his actors. Adèle Exarchopoulos gives a magnificent performance, and Léa Seydoux is sublime. Both actresses are fully committed, which shows in their work. Much has been made of the explicit sex scenes, but they're just a small part of a great film. (Admittedly, I felt the seven-minute scene was a bit gratuitous.) The story is devastating and handled effectively by Kechiche, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux.

Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay


Directed by Alexander Payne
Produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa
Written by Bob Nelson
Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach and Bob Odenkirk


Woody Grant (Dern) thinks he's won a million dollar sweepstakes, so his son (Forte) reluctantly drives him to Nebraska to collect the winnings.

I was slightly disappointed with Payne's new film, though it is very likable. The black-and-white cinematography works like a charm, allowing the story and the actors to take over. Dern is as advertised, delivering a career-best performance that is parts sweet and grizzled. Forte and Squibb are good in their roles, but Forte does more with his difficult part. While I'm not totally in love with it, it's a nice little movie with humorous moments and a great performance from Bruce Dern.

Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Forte), Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Original Screenplay


  1. Happy you also dug Blue is the Warmest Color, that's currently in my top 10 of the year.
    J Lawrence, I feel maybe she is miscast in that role, were you bothered by the age difference?
    When I watched Silver Lining I couldn't shake the feeling she was too young for B Cooper, and it kind of took me out of the movie, so I didn't quite love SLP as much as I wanted to.

    1. I wasn't bothered by the age difference in either film, but I could see her acting in American Hustle, you know? It's like she was trying too hard. I had the same problem with Lawrence in the restaurant scene in Silver Linings, though I liked that performance overall.

  2. I cannot wait to see AH, especially the performances, glad you like Blue!

    1. The performances are one of the main reasons to see AH. Hope you like it!

  3. American Hustle failed to meet my expectations, but I'll be the first to admit that my expectations were abnormally high following SLP :\

    Adele Exarchopoulos was magnificant, but that 3-hour time frame dragged a lot. I hope the Academy recognizes her, because she deserves it!!

    1. Yeah, mine were high as well. Of course, it's hard to keep them down with a cast like that.

      I really hope she gets nominated as well.

  4. So glad you liked Blue. I'd love if Exarchopoulos got a nomination, but I highly doubt that'll happen. She's my favorite of the year, for sure.

    1. Exarchopoulos is easily my winner. All I want from the Oscars at this point: nominations for her and DiCaprio.