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Despite being the jointly-most nominated film at this year’s Academy Awards with 10 nominations, and the second film in the last thirty years to be nominated for all four acting categories, the smart money says that David O. Russell’s American Hustle is destined for disappointment in Los Angeles. Russell is good at letting his actors shine – his last three films have now garnered 11 acting nominations between them. His Silver Linings Playbook in 2012 also achieved the rare accolade of having an actor nominated in every category, and two of those actors, Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence and Best Actor nominee Bradley Cooper return here in supporting roles. The two other American Hustle nominees, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, were nominated for their supporting roles in 2011’s The Fighter, with Bale winning the gong. So, Russell clearly has form, but I’m skeptical about American Hustle. Despite strong critical reception, it doesn’t seem quite serious enough for Academy voters, particularly in such a competitive year.
Bale and Cooper’s chances of a win have been torpedoed by the lauded performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in The Dallas Buyers Club, whilst Amy Adams again looks to be a bridesmaid rather than the bride (this is her 5th nomination since 2005 and she hasn’t won any) with Cate Blanchett an obvious winner in the Best Actress category for Woody Allen’s drama Blue Jasmine. If there is to be an acting gong for Hustle, it’ll go to Jennifer Lawrence, although she too is a rank outsider to 12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyongo. If American Hustle is to take home a statuette, it’s going to come for Best Original Screenplay, where it’s currently the comfortable favourite. The other film with 10 nominations, Gravity, is likely to fare a little better. Alfonso Cuaron is a certainty to win Best Director, with other wins very possible in the Production Design and Visual Effects categories.
The big winner of the 86th Academy Awards, however, is likely to be Steve McQueen’s gritty 12 Years a Slave. In addition to the aforementioned Lupita Nyongo, McQueen’s drama is also likely to take home Best Adapted Screenplay and the Academy’s holy grail, Best Picture, where it is a clear favourite ahead of American Hustle. Michael Fassbender is also an outside shot to pip Jared Leto to Best Supporting Actor.
So, if they are to be the winners of this year’s Academy Awards, who will be the losers? Despite decent success at the Golden Globes, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has paid the price for not taking itself too seriously (a serious crime to many voters which could see Leonardo DiCaprio missing another chance at an Oscar). The Coen Brothers’ highly-rated Inside Llewyn Davis has not impressed enough for serious consideration and despite six nominations apiece, neither Captain Phillips or Nebraska look likely to take anything home with them.
But we all know the Academy Awards have a tendency to throw up surprises, particularly in key categories. The winner of Best Picture is notoriously difficult to predict, with the hot favourite often failing to take home the prize. Crash beat odds-on favourite Brokeback Mountain in 2004, whilst Shakespeare in Love was a surprise winner over Saving Private Ryan in 1998. It’s impossible to truly guess what’ll happen in L.A on March 2nd, but likely there’ll be a surprise somewhere along the line.