The entire awards season has looked like a 12 Years a Slave v Gravity battle. 12 Years a Slave has won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and BAFTA. Gravity has swept the Best Director awards at all the major awards shows. Alfonso Cuaron is considered safe to win the directing prize at the Oscars tomorrow, which correlates to the Best Picture award most of the time. Gravity also won Best Picture at the PGA’s, tying with 12 Years a Slave, and Best British Film at the BAFTAs. But is it still possible for the David O. Russell crime comedy to pull out a surprise win tomorrow? The film did pick up the SAG for Best Cast and the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical/Comedy. This looks a lot similar to the Best Picture Oscar winning routes that films like Crash and Shakespeare in Love took heading into Oscar Sunday. Crash won not a single major award win before the Oscars except for the SAG Award for Best Cast. By winning the SAG, Crash showed it had huge support among actors, which is the largest branch of the Academy. This helped the film cross the finish line and manage to pull off a surprise win over the heavy favorite Brokeback Mountain. Shakespeare in Love looks even more similar to American Hustle’s award wins. The 1998 British dramedy won SAG’s top prize along with the Globe for Best Picture – Musical/Comedy. With these wins, Shakespeare in Love was able to win the top Oscar over the Steven Spielberg-directed Saving Private Ryan, which had won the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes for Picture and Director along with raking up at the PGA and DGA Awards. Those wins look pretty similar to what Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are winning. So if the two frontrunners are raking up those big wins, could a split give American Hustle the top prize? American Hustle certainly has a great base of support. It won the SAG so its support among actors is solid. Members may want to finally award David O. Russell after being the loser in directing and screenwriting categories for The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Could we envision the film to go the Crash/Shakespeare in Love route on Sunday?
Well to analyze this, let’s look at American Hustle’s other nominations and the chances it has in other categories. Russell is nominated for director, but Cuaron is the favorite for Gravity. Christian Bale is nominated for leading actor, but that nomination alone was seen as a surprise. Amy Adams is nominated for leading actress. She looks like the 2nd place candidate to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, but I highly doubt that Adams can gauge enough support to takeover Blanchett’s frontrunner status. Bradley Cooper, nominated for supporting actor, has no chance in his bid against Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club, who has been racking up all the supporting actor prizes at the major awards shows. Perhaps the best chance American Hustle has in the acting categories is Jennifer Lawrence’s nomination for supporting actress. She won the Golden Globe and BAFTA, but does have serious competition with Lupita Nyong’o of 12 Years a Slave, who won the SAG and Critics’ Choice. Its best chance for a win is most likely screenplay where Russell can finally get the Oscar win he deserves. Its film editing and production design nominations doesn’t look likely to be victorious because of its competition with Gravity and The Great Gatsby, respectively. American Hustle has a slightly better chance with its last nomination, Costume Design, with its main competition being The Great Gatsby. It stands a good chance though, based on the film’s glitzy 70’s outfits.
In conclusion, based on its strength in the other categories, American Hustle doesn’t seem likely to pull off a win. It would need strong support in its below-the-line nominations, which it just doesn’t have. American Hustle just has too much strong competition with Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, which are far ahead of the rest of the pack. If, during the ceremony, we see it winning Supporting Actress, Costume Design, and one more surprise win, such as Amy Adams’ nod, then I’d have reason to change my mind. But I just don’t see the likelihood of the film gauging enough support to overcome Gravity AND 12 Years a Slave.