How much truth can be expected from a film that begins with: "Some of this actually happened"? (The Washington Post)

A quick look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture…

Synopsis: The 1970s-set escapade follows a pair of romantically-involved con artists who are strong-armed into helping an FBI agent with a risky sting operation. But one thing could complicate the group’s carefully-laid plans: the unhinged wife of one of the scammers.

Total nominations: 10 (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Costume Design, Production Design)

Directed by: David O. Russell (nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay; 5th nomination)

Starring: Christian Bale (nominated for Best Actor; second nomination, one win), Amy Adams (nominated for Best Actress; fifth nomination), Bradley Cooper (nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role; second nomination), Jennifer Lawrence (nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; third nomination, one win)

“American Hustle” (Francois Duhamel/ AP Photo/Sony – Columbia Pictures)

Why it should win: If you look at the Best Picture award as the sum of a movie’s parts, then “American Hustle” has what it takes. It’s tied with “Gravity” for most nominations with 10, including nods for all four of the movie’s lead actors, and it brought home the Golden Globe for Best Picture in the comedy/musical category. But from a moviegoer standpoint, it also has something that few of the other nominees have: For all its important themes about the American dream and our collective urge to reinvent ourselves, it’s just a really fun movie to watch. Who doesn’t love a heist?

Why it won’t win: One of the movie’s great strengths — entertainment value — could also work against it. Yes, Russell hits on some truths about the human condition, but the movie is delivered with an almost farcical touch, which makes it look like a lightweight next to some of the soul-crushing real-life dramas the movie is up against.

Ann Hornaday’s review: 3.5 stars

“A larky, anarchic life force runs through “American Hustle,” David O. Russell’s screwball homage to the strivers and connivers who wreak playful havoc with what could easily have been a straight-up, if antic, FBI procedural.”

Box office as of Feb. 24: $144 million domestic, $216 million worldwide

Related Reading:

To the players in Abscam, the real-life ‘American Hustle,’ the bribes now seem quaint

With ‘American Hustle,’ David O. Russell completes his trilogy of self-reinvention

Why ’12 Years a Slave’ should win the Best Picture Oscar