Russell Hustles Energy in American Hustle

American Hustle

2013, Columbia

I was kicking myself for missing American Hustle (2013) when it was in theatres, so I rushed to buy my own copy the day of its release.  I’m still kicking myself but I finally watched it (twice), and through ten Academy Award nominations, hundreds of period costumes, and Bradley Cooper’s perm, writer-director David O. Russell managed to sneak two energy references into the movie.

[Spoiler Alert] If like Dr. Webber you have yet to see the picture, the entire plot is based on the real-life long-con codenamed ABSCAM.  Using a fictional Arab sheikh with millions of dollars of oil revenue to invest, the FBI investigated and convicted a handful of politicians through the 1970s and 1980s for bribery and corruption. In many ways, this movie illustrates fears that many people have about the influence of oil money in politics.  Unfortunately, it also portrays a dark moment in the history of racial tensions and xenophobia in the United States, the echoes of which are still with us today.  As the con is heating up, a shady mob boss played by Robert De Niro says frankly of the American people, “After the oil embargo, gasoline crisis, the hijackings, the Olympics, they don’t want to see Arabs make money, trust me, not on our soil.”  Energy is a flashpoint in more ways than one.

In addition to the oil references, a microwave oven makes a hilarious debut into the lives of the 1970s-era protagonists.  The so-called “science oven” is given with specific instructions to not put any metal in it, because doing so can generate dangerous sparks. Jennifer Lawrence’s character demonstrates this danger by using the oven to cook a foil-wrapped casserole in a foil baking pan.  The scene gives another meaning to her role in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

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