Best Picture Countdown #4: A Star is Born

“Music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over. All the artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.”Sam Elliott as Bobby Maine in A Star is Born (2018)

Early into awards-speculation season, Bradley Cooper’s highly-anticipated directorial debut A Star is Born seemed a clear front-runner for some big trophies, but as awards season reaches its peak, the film has become more of an underdog. The latest in a string of four remakes, A Star is Born chronicles the turbulent love story of rock star Jackson Maine and aspiring songstress Ally – played by vocal powerhouse Lady Gaga – as they struggle to balance the pressures of fame and their personal demons while preserving their relationship and passion for music.

220px-A_Star_is_BornThis film manages a monumental achievement in telling a story that has been told before, yet still making it emotionally engrossing for the viewer. I personally had some issues with the ideas presented in the film – such as the message the last song (as beautiful as Gaga sings it) seems to be giving – which spurred some disappointment. But disregarding my little quibbles, the narrative strikes familiar beats and treads well-known ground, and yet, feels fresh and new, in large part thanks to sizzling chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. Their mesmerizing performances make this film.

Despite what might be a career-best performance by Cooper and a thrilling big-screen debut by Gaga, the competition in both Best Actor and Actress categories is fierce – probably a little too fierce. Jackson Maine has to battle both Dick Cheney and Freddie Mercury, and Ally must take down a wife and a queen. But even if there are 99 other nominees in the room that night, I’m sure B-Coop and Gaga would pick one another to win.

And as much as I would LOVE for Sam Elliott – who is egregiously underrated, despite having one of the best narrator-voices out there – to take home the gold for Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali’s performance in Green Book has been stomping over the competition all season, and that train doesn’t seem to be stopping. If Elliott had a bit more screen time it might be a different story, but despite it all, he gives an excellent performance as the growly-voiced brother of Cooper’s troubled crooner.

Obviously, at least one award is essentially guaranteed for this film, and that is Best Original Song for “Shallow.” I had chills the first time I heard a snippet of it in the trailer. It’s a great song and fully deserves the victory, end of. Cinematography also has a fair chance – it’s a gorgeous film, which makes it all the more shameful that Cooper is not nominated for his brilliant directing – but Adapted Screenplay has become a bit of a long-shot as the season rolls ahead. The other awards are all more or less toss-ups, too.

Even if it has become an underdog, and the blazing praise it received upon release has petered out to a respectable glimmer, A Star is Born cannot be fully counted out – not when it has resonated so deeply with audiences, through both the music and the story. It is a film born of passion, and that shines through onscreen – but I have my doubts it will take home the ultimate prize. Still, I am predicting that the film will go 2 for 8 on the night, though I’m hoping it will get 3.

 

Oscar Nominations: 8
Best Picture
Best Actor (Cooper)
Best Actress (Gaga)
Best Supporting Actor (Elliott)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Sound Mixing
Best Cinematography
Best Original Song

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Biggest Oscar Snubs

1.) Toni Collette / Ari Aster / Hereditary
This film got rave reviews, yet was forgotten when awards season finally rolled around. Toni Collette’s performance in this film is half the reason it’s so terrifying; she is able to encompass the mood of the film and project it in such an effective manner it resonates off the screen. Her not getting a nomination is an injustice to her work on this film. Ari Aster’s directing is nothing to scoff at, either – and though it might have been a long shot, I would have loved to see him get a directing nod. I also think it should have been nominated for Best Picture, FIGHT ME.

2.) Mission Impossible: Fallout
I’m not even a fan of the series (this is the only one I’ve seen) but even I know it should have gotten a nod for something. It was an all-around great, popular film that earned a positive critical reception, and yet, nada.

3.) Annihilation
This film was not only condemned to a depressing February release date last year, dooming it to be forgotten when awards season rolled around, but it had a lackluster release, was tragically overlooked for being too “intellectual” and, thus, led to many movie-goers missing out on what was the best sci-fi (and one of the best horror) films of 2018. Yes, it’s got one of those endings – where you’re initial reaction is “…huh?” and then, as it settles and you unpack it, you’re forced to think and interpret what the meaning could be – but that’s to the film’s credit, not a detriment. It deserved some kind of recognition, especially in the special effects, sound, or cinematography department.

4.) Eighth Grade / Bo Burnham
I adored this film, yet it somehow slipped past the Oscar noms this year. It captured the awkwardness of adolescence in such a poignant way, making audiences both cringe at the palpable awkwardness while also relating to the struggles of a teenage girl searching for acceptance. The writing was sharp and the directing was stellar for Bo Burnham’s debut, and I would have loved to see him get at least a writing nod. Fortunately, actress Elsie Fisher, though she didn’t get a nod, looks to have a long career ahead of her.

5.) Justin Hurwitz / Linus Sandgren / First Man
Justin Hurwitz won a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice award, among others, for his incredible score for First Man, but didn’t even get a nod from the Academy. I mean, come on… he used a THEREMIN. A THEREMIN, PEOPLE. And Linus Sandgren’s incredible cinematography should have gotten a nod too; the cinematography in this film was absolutely stunning, especially the scenes in space. Basically, this film somehow flew under the radar this awards season, and it’s a real shame it isn’t getting as much buzz as some other titles that shall not be named…

Also, arguably…

6.) Bradley Cooper
I mean, he got the acting nod, which is great…but I actually think he should have gotten a directing nod, too. In fact (CONTROVERSIAL OPINION INCOMING) I think his directorial prowess on this film surpassed his acting. And that’s saying a lot, because his acting was remarkable in the film. It takes a lot to make an overdone story feel new, and his directorial skills are a large part of why ASiB felt fresh and evocative, despite having been made thrice before. And it was his debut, to boot! Granted, everyone nominated for the category is entirely deserving, and I’m betting on my man Alfonso to take it home, but still… I was stunned Cooper’s name was not on the list.

7.) Timothée Chalamet
I’m putting him for two reasons, even though I have yet to see Beautiful Boy. The first is that I’ve heard his performance was stellar, and the second is that I still think he got robbed for last year’s Lead Actor award. Also, he’s great.

And, in an UNEXPECTED TWIST, here’s one film that SHOULD* have been snubbed!

*in my opinion

1.) Bohemian Rhapsody
Aside from Rami Malek’s brilliant turn as eccentric front man Freddie Mercury, which is 1000% worthy of a Best Actor nod, this film, though purported as “accurate” in it’s portrayal of true events, is little more than a formulaic presentation of a band’s rise to triumph. I was shocked that it won the Golden Globe, as I don’t even think it should have been nominated for that, either. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a bad movie. It’s entertaining, the performances are great, and the soundtrack is – of course – amazing. The director is shit, but that’s besides the point. I personally think there were more deserving films of the prestigious Best Picture nod, that’s all I’m saying.

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