OK, the above headline cannot fairly be attributed to NBA Hall-of-Famer / thespian powerhouse / jazzhound Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but having already taken a crack at analyzing Lena Dunham’s “Girls” in the pages of Esquire, Kareem now takes aim at the Academy Awards, declaring, “there’s a reason Oscar has a sword covering his crotch: It’s to hide the fact that he has no balls.” While reserving high praise for Steve Coogan’s “Philomena” (and who amongst us cannot wait for a Coogan/Abdul-Jabbar collaboration?), Kareem was particularly not-blown-away by David O. Russell’s “American Hustle”, calling the film, “a complete failure as history and as drama.”

Whenever “American” is used in a title, the filmmakers are announcing that the story is meant to convey some deeper insight into American culture and psyche (as in American Psycho, American Me, American Graffiti, American Beauty, American History X, and so forth). That doesn’t happen here. The story structure is the same as the much superior Goodfellas, multiple voiceovers by unreliable narrators justifying their actions as they build toward a major real-life heist. Two problems: First, the story is predictable and therefore boring. You know what the characters are going to do and say before they do it or say it. Second, the characters are so unlikable that you never really care what happens to them, so there’s no suspense. I’m fine with unsavory characters, but if they aren’t likable they must be compelling. These characters aren’t. There’s a lot of thematic posturing with characters discussing “survival,” as if that’s the big insight into American culture: Everyone’s on the take, justifying it as survival. That’s not particularly fresh, nor particularly American. Having a cool ’70s soundtrack, disco dancing, and elaborate hair does not a historical drama make. In the end, what do we learn about the time period or America or humanity? Not much. The main thing we learn is that Amy Adams has some awesome blouse tape.