×

Oscar Voters Are Sure to Go Gaga for Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star Is Born’

It might seem like an impossible feat, but with his version of “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper both puts a fresh spin on a decades-old movie staple and transcends its very place in cinema history by fixing the story, turning a classic role, finally, into a tragic figure you actually care about.

For that and many more reasons (like a field that isn’t as competitive as usual), the lead actor Oscar race might be over and done with. Cooper is that good as the kind-hearted but haunted Jackson Maine, and the screenplay — from Cooper, Will Fetters, and Oscar winner Eric Roth — finely tunes his story, serving the character far better than any previous version of the tale has for Fredric March and James Mason’s Norman Maine, or Kris Kristofferson’s John Norman Howard.

That you can get two paragraphs into spelling out the virtues of this film before even mentioning Lady Gaga is a testament to its density. She is, of course, sensational in her first starring role — an absolute natural. And when her version of the discovered talent, here called Ally, first steps onto a stage early in the film to perform one of her own songs for the first time — already a highlight from its positioning in the trailer alone — I’ve rarely seen so arresting a moment in cinema.

Cooper’s crew, across the board, nailed this project. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique’s work, particularly in capturing the intimacy of performance numbers, is such a remove from the kind of high-gloss work you might expect from a studio production such as this. Jay Cassidy’s editing moves the story more swiftly even than William A. Wellman’s 111-minute original while giving it a singular identity in how certain sections are constructed. High marks, too, go to the teams behind the sound mix and editing of the aural elements, featuring Oscar-winning talents like Michael Minkler and Alan Robert Murray (Cooper tapping pal Clint Eastwood’s regular).

Including best picture and director, where are we now? Nine nominations? Let’s push a little more…

The costume design deserves a mention for Ally’s metamorphosis in the film to a full-blown pop sensation. Sam Elliott’s supporting performance as Jackson’s much older brother (it’s explained), meanwhile, was a big source of the emotion for me, particularly in one moment that so tenderly captured the stifled affection between the two men. Those are on the table as well. And we haven’t even talked about the songs.

Expect the enforced maximum of two nominations, assuming Warner Bros. decides to promote as many; often studios will opt to consolidate their campaign power behind just one track for films like this that have an array of possibilities.

“Shallow” is the one that represents everything this category ought to be about. You witness its birth as whispered lyrics that come to Ally in a parking lot one night, as well as its explosion onto the world stage accompanied by an arrangement by Jackson and Ally’s big trailer moment. But “I’ll Never Love Again” is the closing performance track before the credits that will send you out of the theater wiping your eyes. A few others include Cooper as a songwriter, so it’s possible he could receive upwards of five nominations for this film if one of those make it in instead.

So. Yes. “A Star Is Born” (2018) is an across-the-board Oscar contender. More than that, and assuming this is even still possible in the modern era, it has the muscle to achieve what only three films in movie history ever have: Win all five major Academy Awards (picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay). It’s that kind of accomplishment, and even more, it makes you realize what this well-worn, Oscar-winning material was capable of all along.

That’s a special magic trick.

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content