Entertainment & Arts

Oscars 2014: Why did American Hustle come away empty-handed?

Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Best supporting actress hopeful Jennifer Lawrence failed to get her hands on a real Oscar

This year's Academy Awards passed off with few, if any surprises.

Weighty historical epic 12 Years a Slave won best picture, while sci-fi blockbuster Gravity walked away with a slew of technical awards for its ingenuity.

Cate Blanchett's best actress award was practically guaranteed, while Matthew McConaughey's method triumph in Dallas Buyers Club sealed his transformation from rom-com actor to Academy great.

But American Hustle, whose 10 nominations included one in each of the four acting categories, left the night with nothing.

The movie was rewarded at the Baftas. But why was it left out in the cold on home turf, along with the other all-American contenders, The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis?

Here a selection of film experts offer their insights.

Dave Calhoun, Film Editor, Time Out

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Leonardo DiCaprio lost out to Matthew McConaughey

It's rare for a comedy to win big at the Oscars, and when it comes down to it both American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street rely on laughs and broad comic episodes for a great deal of their success.

When comedies are pitted against films which are widely perceived as breaking new political or historical ground - such as 12 Years a Slave - or pushing the boundaries of what cinema can do technically and creatively like Gravity, it's not so surprising that they fall short.

I don't think the fact that these are purely American films would have made much difference to their support. Think of The King's Speech, The Artist and Slumdog Millionaire. Oscar voters have shown little taste for unquestioning patriotism in recent years.

But Oscar voters do need to feel that their industry - and their vote - has a significance in the wider world. The number of Oscar nominations for American Hustle, more than for any other film this year, suggests that Oscar voters had a great time watching it.

But the absence of any wins for the same film suggests that it swiftly faded from memory.

The Wolf of Wall Street was clearly more divisive from the off. It had five nominations, compared to 10 for American Hustle, and its subject matter is vaguely controversial.

I also suspect that many voters felt they had seen Scorsese do similar work in films such as Goodfellas and Casino, and that his new film didn't quite scale those heights.

Twitter: @davecalhoun

Jamie Graham, Editor-at-Large, Total Film

American Hustle shared the most nominations, 10, with Gravity, but was always second or third favourite in the majority of its categories.

It was to Amy Adams' great misfortune that she faced a career-best Cate Blanchett in the battle for best actress, meaning she now finds herself with the unenviable record of no wins from five nominations.

Jennifer Lawrence's chances of a best supporting actress gong were dented by her winning best actress just last year for Silver Linings Playbook.

It was always going to be a close race between Lawrence and 12 Years a Slave's Lupita Nyong'o for the award, and last year's victory for Lawrence perhaps tipped it. To have two Oscars at the age of 23 would be greedy!

The other two categories American Hustle had a real chance of winning were costume design and original screenplay. It lost out, respectively, to The Great Gatsby and Her, but both races were expected to be close and we have no way of knowing the margins.

Was it a snub by the Academy? Or, more likely, did it miss out by a handful of votes?

Twitter: @jamie_graham9

Antonia Quirke, Film 2014

Image copyright film company
Image caption Oscar Isaac played the lead role in the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis

Comedy drama very rarely wins. I think the last time something like that won was 1978 with Annie Hall.

They like a serious film to win, and biopics of historical figures, like Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote. That's the kind of part, the kind of movie that wins.

What's really fantastic is just how well the top 10 nominated best film movies have done financially in the UK this year.

I would have loved to have seen more nominations for Inside Llewyn Davis, which is just a wonderful film. It was made for the equivalent of £6 million. That's nothing. And it looks spectacular.

That to my mind was scandalous that it didn't get more.

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