Americannness is an elusive concept. Invoking the term in any situation is an easy, catch-all way of conjuring up images of excess or freedom run amok, perhaps of false confidence or unwavering optimism, or even, in some instances, an unironic appreciation for the promise that anything is possible. Using the word to lead off the title of your movie is a brave move, since it’s sure to conjure up a sense of self importance in itself, making people conscious of a nation’s history and identity in a way that may or may not be in the best interest of the movie’s aims.
Most filmmakers are smart enough to be fully aware of all the implications and connotations of titling their projects in this way. The latest to do this is David O. Russell, director of one of this award season’s emerging favorites, American Hustle, which is at long last receiving a wide release this week (interestingly, its original title was “American Bullshit”). The film is based on the ABSCAM saga of the late 1970s, and surely has plenty to say about the loaded concept of the American Dream, fleshed out with the help of a star-studded cast of players the Russell drew from his growing stable of regular actors.
Americanness is nothing if not reflexive, which is another way of saying self-obsessed, in a way that’s not always self-conscious. So, on that note, here are 6 great movies that use the world “American” in front of their title.
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