8. Great Acting (In Pairs)
Often times in an ensemble piece, it’s hard to spread the wealth around. Leonardo DiCaprio dominates Wolf of Wall Street from minute 1 to minute 180. This movie features not one but 5 great performances.
The best part is that to maximize on the talents of these actors, director David O. Russell often splits them up into pairs providing great scenes and dialogue for all the actors. Bale’s Irving and Adams’ Sydney meet and fall in love. Cooper’s sleazy FBI guy Richie Dimaso & Sydney at the disco promising to make their first time special, and then again later on during a coke-fueled outburst where Cooper earns his Best Supporting Actor nom. Irving and Jennifer Lawrence (Rosalyn) arguing at home is worth the price of admission. And Adams and Lawrence steal the movie in their all-to brief bathroom encounter.
7. Four Acting Nominations
In the over 80 years of the Academy Awards only 14 times has a film received four(or more) acting nominations. Amongst these films, are Best Picture winners From Here to Eternity, and Mrs. Miniver; as well as all-time classics Network, Bonnie & Clyde, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Sunset Boulevard. In other words it takes a special film to earn this many acting nominees and awards.
6. David O. Russell Has Been Building Up To This
One of the 14 films to earn 4 acting nominations was last year’s Silver Linings Playbook which earned nominations for stars Bradley Cooper, Robert Deniro, and Jacki Weaver and an Oscar win for Jennifer Lawrence. If you think this all sounds familiar, it’s because the director of SLP is David O. Russell, the same man at the helm of American Hustle.
The academy has a tradition of rewarding sustained excellence. Sure, in the case of Marty Scorsese it may take over 30 years, but they usually get the job done. It’s hard to overlook the resume of Russell. 3 of the last 4 years he has had a Best Picture nominee going back to 2011’s The Fighter and his actors and all tolled he gotten his actors a combined 11 Oscar nominations and 3 wins.
This is Russell’s third Oscar nomination for director and first for screenplay. He has officially entered into the elite of Hollywood and has the best modern reputation of bringing tremendous actors together. He also (in Scorsese-like tradition) built a legion of loyal acting followers. Christian Bale and Amy Adams were both nominated (Bale won) for The Fighter. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro were all nominated (Lawrence won) for SLP. A director who can command the loyalty and respect out of this high quality of actors is bound to receive his due someday soon.
5. Amy Adams Is The Real Deal
Few times in recent memory has an actress achieved the combination of critical and blockbuster success that Amy Adams has, and yet no one seems to know who she is.
I remember watching Steven Spielberg’s underrated Catch Me If You Can back in 2002 thinking “that girl is gonna be a big deal”. A few years later, Adams earned her first Oscar nomination for playing a happy-go-lucky pregnant woman in the low budget drama Junebug. Since then her career reminds me of the Ben Affleck line from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, “You gotta do the safe picture. Then you can do the art picture.”
She’s been nominated for a total of 5 Oscars, 4 supporting and 1 for Best Actress. In between those Oscar nominated films have been Blockbusters like Man of Steel and The Muppets, bombs like Leap Year, and Trouble with the Curve. 5 nominations put her in the class with Olivia de Havilland, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Why does her performance stand out here? Adams does the impossible. She outshines not just current “IT-girl” Jennifer Lawrence, but the male leads as well. Adams literally glows on screen giving a performance remnant of Julianne Moore’s Amber Waves in Boogie Nights (appropriately set in the same late 70s era). She commands the instant respect and attention of everyone and completely dominates Bradley Cooper in their scenes together. She also aimlessly switches accents. This was the definition of tour-de-force performance.