In the week before the 91st Academy Awards are handed out, Tom Beasley takes a look at each Best Picture nominee and its chances of Oscars victory. Next, we’re off the deep end with musical remake A Star is Born…
What happened to A Star is Born? Back when the festival red carpets were first unfurled and we got early looks at the Oscars contenders we’d be talking about for the next six months, it seemed like the perfect early pick. Indeed, it has consistently been a major part of the awards season, but it has been an also-ran at just about every ceremony. It has star wattage in its favour, a glossy story about the entertainment world to play through and a great deal of love from just about everybody – both inside and outside of the industry. Somehow, though, it has been left behind.
Let’s have a little look at this one…
What’s this all about? And is it any good?
This is the fourth take on the story of A Star is Born, in which a hidden gem of talent – in this case Lady Gaga’s waitress Ally – is plucked from obscurity by an established star – in this case Bradley Cooper’s country rocker Jackson Maine. Their trajectories meet in the middle as Ally’s star rises and Jackson’s falls, putting a strain on their professional bond as well as their romantic love for each other.
It’s a pretty simple story told with efficiency and flair by Cooper, who’s directing for the first time as well as his crucial role in front of the camera. Both of the central performances are terrific, with Gaga especially an absolute revelation in a dramatic role that sees her looking arguably more comfortable in her scenes as a fameless hospitality worker than she does in fancy costumes on stage. The apex of the movie’s power is, of course, the performance of ‘Shallow’ – nailed-on winner for Best Original Song. It’s a moment that ranks as one of the best of any film in years, and is enough to push the story through its slightly less polished second half.
The most impressive thing about this film, for me, is that it’s a first feature. Cooper appears completely comfortable behind the camera, even while delivering a performance of real nuance and physicality on the other side of it. If this is him doing this for the first time, he has a wonderful career ahead of him outside of his role as one of the world’s most recognisable movie stars.
Has it had a good season?
It’s very much a game of two halves here. In terms of nominations, it couldn’t have gone any better. Along with the similarly trophyless BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born has managed to be nominated for all four of the main guild prizes, as well as for Best Film at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Critics Choice Awards. Unfortunately, it has been even less successful than Spike Lee’s film across the season.
The only award the film has consistently won is Best Original Song, which is a feat that will be repeated at the Oscars unless there’s a major surprise surge from every voter who saw Mary Poppins Returns. It seems unlikely.
Indeed, the sadness of Bradley Cooper in the wake of repeated losses has become something of a meme, especially after he sparked controversy by daring to express a little bit of human disappointment in an interview. Movie folk like to pretend that they don’t care about awards, but they have to be at least a little bit bothered, otherwise why are the rest of us devoting so many column inches to these prizes?
Can it win Best Picture?
The evidence of the season points a long way in the opposite direction, but it’s still not out of the question. The lack of any major guild win is a big black mark, as is Cooper’s absence from the directing shortlist. However, it has the edge over many of the other contenders in terms of its status as a consistent guild nominee, including in the crucial SAG Best Ensemble category.
Also in its favour is the preferential ballot used to decide the Best Picture winner. It might not be the favourite movie of a huge number of voters, but A Star is Born is widely liked enough that it could push itself to the top on the basis of second and third place finishes. Fans of the movie shouldn’t get too excited, though, and at this point, victory for Cooper and Gaga would go down as a major upset. The mighty have very much fallen.
Tomorrow: Alfonso Cuaron’s personal epic Roma is considered by many to be the frontrunner for Best Picture. But is the hype justified?
To read the previous articles in this series, click here.
The 91st Academy Awards will air live from the Dolby Theater on Sunday, 24th February.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.