Can American Hustle Sweep the Oscars?

Oscars 2014: American Hustle 10 nominations
From left: Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence star in American Hustle
Francois Duhamel

02/28/2014 08:50AM

Just as horse racing has its Triple Crown, red-carpet season has its own impressive awards haul that only the boldest of films aspire to win: the "Big Five" at the Oscars.

Taking home a trophy in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay categories is considered a "sweep" at the Academy Awards, and this year's contest has American Hustle vying for the honor.

In the 86-year history of the awards, 42 films have been nominated across the big five categories, with only three ever pulling off the sweep: 1934's It Happened One Night, 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and 1991's The Silence of the Lambs.

Up until this point, American Hustle has been nearly universally acclaimed, but its chances of leaving Hollywood's Dolby Theater as the winningest film of the night are still up for debate. Below, we break down the odds by category.



Best Picture

Coming off of a best film (comedy or musical) win at the Golden Globes and a best ensemble win at the SAG Awards, Hustle's chances for a Best Picture statue look solid, with its strongest competition likely to come from 12 Years a Slave. Of the 42 films nominated across the "Big Five" categories, 15 have gone on to win the evening's top prize, including Million Dollar Baby in 2005 and American Beauty in 2000.


Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey has racked up nearly every possible award for his turn as Ron Woodroff in Dallas Buyers Club and will likely do it again at Sunday's awards show, leaving Christian Bale out of luck and eliminating Hustle from sweep contention. The Best Actor award has proved to be the most difficult to collect for "Big Five"-nominated films, with only nine of the 42 contenders having taken it home. Woody Allen's loss in 1978 prevented Annie Hall from completing the sweep; Clark Gable's 1940 loss did the same for Gone with the Wind.

Best Actress

Though Amy Adams was an early favorite, bringing home the Golden Globe for best comedic actress, the Oscar seems destined for Blue Jasmine's Cate Blanchett, who has collected accolades from the SAG Awards, the BAFTAs, the New York Film Critics Circle and more. But Adams shouldn't feel too bad: In 2000, Annette Bening's Best Actress loss – to Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry – prevented American Beauty from going five-for-five. If Bening had won, Beauty would have been the first film to sweep since The Silence of the Lambs.

Best Director

This is the second year in a row American Hustle's David O. Russell will compete for top directing honors following his previous nomination for Silver Linings Playbook, which also received nods in the "Big Five" categories. However, the statue seems poised to land in the arms of Gravity's Alfonso Cuarón, who has cemented his status as the frontrunner with wins at the Golden Globe Awards and the Directors Guild Awards. With his latest film, Nailed, already wrapped, perhaps next year will prove the third time's a charm for Russell?


Best Screenplay

Nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category, Hustle's strongest competitor will be Spike Jonze's Her, which took home that title at the Writers Guild Awards. But given the overwhelming love Hustle has received throughout awards season, a win here can't be too quickly ruled out.

Final count? Hustle stands to bring home two Oscars out of the "Big Five," a fate far better than 1993's The Remains of the Day, which failed to bring home a single statuette.

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