One of this year’s Oscar frontrunners is “American Hustle;” a film set in the Seventies about an American con. It can’t help but evoke memories of “The Sting,” a film made in 1973 but set in the Thirties about an American con. For “The Sting” — which has one of the most satisfying endings in cinema — the biggest hustle was winning Best Picture. Can its modern-day equivalent pull off the same feat this year?
Let’s compare them.
Headlining “The Sting” were the two biggest movie stars of the time — Robert Redford and Paul Newman. While it could be hard to argue anyone in Hollywood today is of their stature, “American Hustle” is packed full of A-listers: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Amy Adams.
“The Sting” was directed by George Roy Hill who had been nominated four years early for the first film to co-star Redford and Newman, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” “American Hustle” was directed by David O. Russell who was nominated last year for “Silver Linings Playbook,” which paired Lawrence and Cooper together for the first time and in 2010 for “The Fighter,” which featured Bale and Adams.
“The Sting” won Best Picture at the National Board of Review while “American Hustle” won the top prize from the New York Film Critics. “The Sting” was snubbed at the Globes, earning only a screenplay nomination while American Hustle” pulled off a last minute switcheroo to the comedy/musical field and picked up seven nominations.
“The Sting” was a feel good, fun film that stood in stark contrast to the dark horror of rival nominee “The Exorcist.” It had an ending that got people talking. While the final scene in “American Hustle” may not be as iconic, it has the same hook — a satisfying film that’s fun to watch up against darker fare about slavery and space exploration.
“The Sting” was the number one film of 1973, earning a whopping $156 million. “American Hustle” has taken in $60 million and is on track to break the $100 million barrier. As that falls well short of the $250 million made by “Gravity,” “Hustle” will need to find momentum elsewhere, by winning precursor prizes.
The best forecast for the Oscar hopes of “American Hustle” will be when nominations are announced on Jan. 16. “The Sting” tied “The Exorcist” for most nominations with 10 apiece. “American Hustle” will be battling “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” for that record.
“The Sting” went on to win seven Oscars including Best Picture and Director. No one felt more stung than William Peter Blatty who won an Oscar for adapting his bestseller and produced the picture as well. He griped that “everything was ‘down with ‘The Exorcist!’ … ‘The Exorcist’ is head and shoulders the finest film made this year or in several years.”
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