Jeff & Sara's Top Ten 2013: Number 5

American Hustle

We're at the midway point with Jeff and Sara's top ten movies of 2013. At number 5, Jeff has Deceptive Practice and Sara has American Hustle.

American Hustle is David O. Russell's latest star-studded crime drama about the FBI sting operation during the late '70s and early '80s that netted several government officials on corruption charges. The movie stars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro also drops by in a cameo.

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay is a documentary about Ricky Jay, a magician and historian who provides his services to entertainment industries like TV and film via his company Deceptive Practices.

American Hustle has a Tomatometer of 96%, so it's one of the critics' favorites. Since going wide mid-December, it's been doing quite well at the box office.

With a Tomatometer of 89%, Deceptive Practice holds its own with the critics. However, it's another one of those movies we have to hit up the VOD services to watch.

Here are the trailers:
American Hustle

Deceptive Practice

Binh: American Hustle is number 5 on your list, Sara. Give us the goods on why.

Sara: American Hustle constantly vacillates between cons and power plays and Amy Adams and Christian Bale seem to understand each other because they both know the first rule of winning is knowing it's a game. It's olympic level outsmarting and there isn't a scene in the movie that doesn't revel in the dynamic tension of high risk "play."

Binh: I'm shocked you didn't have another music documentary in this spot, Jeff. This one must be special.

Jeff: I loved a lot of things about Deceptive Practice, but I think the thing I loved most is the way it subtly drives home what I see as its central argument: In order to be truly great at anything, you've got to devote yourself. It seems like a simple enough message, but it's one that's been largely forgotten in an era of on-demand gratification and startup millionaires. More than ever, we favor dilettantism -- in terms of cultural consumption, where we're constantly skimming through an ever-broadening stream of options, and in our overall approach to life, where we focus on jobs over careers. Ricky Jay stands as an example of someone who found his love early on and gave his life to it, and I think there's a lot to be said for that. The fact that his love happens to be sleight of hand means he's also a really entertaining documentary subject.

Binh: With such an awesome cast, I imagine there are going to be a lot of great scenes in American Hustle. Which one stood out for you?

Sara: The scene I enjoyed the most isn't the one I keep thinking about. I love the bit in the museum so much I started my review with it: Bale is explaining to an eager Bradley Cooper that a famous painting is a fake and in one scene they pack so much double crossing it recalls Welles F for Fake (I might burn a little for making that comparison but so what? Bring it on!) However, the scene I ate with a spoon starts with Amy Adams in her Barbie-dreamhouse of an apartment, sitting on a counter, convincing Bale she's almost done seducing Cooper. The camera lingers on the men like the stars in the scene but they're being played and when it's good you forget it's a game. So hot!

Binh: For those who are still skeptical, Jeff, what is the scene that will pull them in?

Jeff: For a movie about a brilliantly talented magician, there isn't a lot of visual wow factor here, but the one scene that I think stuck with me more than any other concerns a trick Ricky did for his sensei -- it flummoxed the poor guy so much that he hunted Ricky down in the shower and demanded he do it again, stark naked.

Binh: James Wan, who directed Sara's number 9 The Conjuring, has been making his name in the horror genre for years, but he's branching out with Fast & Furious 7. Sara, if Wan had directed American Hustle, what would it be like?

Sara: If Wan had directed American Hustle everyone would have talked less and covered up more. Wan's idea of the 70's had way higher collars and a lot more "holy crap" expressions, which isn't a slight--just a matter of preference.

Binh: Jeff, how would Wan do Deceptive Practice to make it his own?

Jeff: You know, I think I might have liked The Conjuring more if Wan had hired Ricky Jay to give it a little more old-fashioned prestidigitation instead of blowing out the final act. Put a little makeup on Mr. Jay and he could be quite the scary spook.

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