12 The Butler reminds us of how seamlessly our unique government – our republic – passes the torch from one administration to the next. American Hustle reminds us how important the script is to the film. Without a good one the actors may be left to creating their own dialogue – and actors, by and large, aren’t very good at that.
11 The Butler demonstrates substance over style. Lee Daniels made a very straight-forward, well-crafted film that ambitiously spans several decades with a well-realized beginning, middle and end. American Hustle demonstrates style over substance, hiding behind bad wigs, flashy (trashy) costumes, gratuitous camera moves, and way too much pop music in an attempt to trick us in to caring about an otherwise un-redeeming blip of a news story.
10 The sexual tension between Terence Howard and Oprah Winfrey, then Winfrey and Forest Whitaker in The Butler is authentic and it drives the narrative. The sexual tension between Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in American Hustle is gratuitous and bloated and informs almost nothing.
9 Clarence Williams III makes a surprise cameo in the first act of The Butler and his presence elevates the film, lending it an old school gravity and wisdom it needed at that moment in the story arc. Robert DeNiro makes a “surprise” cameo in the third act of American Hustle and is more of an unnecessary distraction than a contribution at a moment in the film when it could not afford to be cliché.
8 The conflicts in The Butler are profound. The conflicts in American Hustle are contrived.
7 The themes explored in The Butler are profound. The themes explored in American Hustle are cheap.
6 The performances in The Butler were measured and thoughtful, all telling the same story. From Whitaker and Winfrey to Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Alan Rickman as President Reagan – every actor contributed the right amount of intellect to their piece of the elaborate (ambitious!) puzzle. The performances in American Hustle range from self-indulgent to manic to comedic with no rudder guiding any of it.
5 The Butler is one of those rare films that not only elevates the viewer, but educates the viewer. The journey traveled by Cecil Gaines (aka “The Butler”/Whitaker) is a fascinating time capsule observation of the tail end of the Eisenhower administration, through Nixon’s humiliating Watergate turmoil, then focusing largely on JFK’s brief and turbulent tenure alongside the Civil Rights issues erupting in the mid 1960s (assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy), on in to Reagan’s complex South Africa apartheid dilemma, and finally witnessing the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. American Hustle boasts “Some of this actually happened,” before parading the buffoons who either scammed or got scammed in yet another film about sleazy cons and the relatively faceless and nameless collateral damage of their crimes.
4 The Butler is masterfully edited (Joe Klotz & Brian A. Kates) and directed (Lee Daniels). For as much as this film bites off, it chews efficiently and thoughtfully. American Hustle is an editing mess, and David O. Russell must have taken very long lunch breaks…cuz the lunatics definitely ran the asylum.
3 The Butler is an important film that reminds us that anything is possible in America and that hard work, integrity, and dignity win. American Hustle is not an important film. It only serves to remind us to watch our backs and not trust the guy offering the deal too good to be true. Oh, and that it’s better to go bald than sport an awful toupee.
2 The Butler will gain a larger and larger audience as years unfold. Time will treat it very well and the filmmakers, cast and crew, have much to be proud of. American Hustle will soon be forgotten. It will not hold up well over the years to come. The marketing budget alone could have solved some of our most pressing domestic budget concerns.
1 The Butler celebrates a true life “heroic” figure, Cecil Gaines, who accomplished something noble and distinctly American. American Hustle glorifies true life degenerates who accomplished absolutely nothing but ruining other people’s lives.