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Why Has “A Star Is Born” Underperformed During Awards Season?

With ballots in hand, something has been bugging me. Folks, it makes no sense that Bradley Cooper has been more successful at the Grammy Awards than at any film centric precursor this year. Just a few short months ago, A Star Is Born was poised to challenge for the most nominations ever by a movie at the Academy Awards. Beyond that, it was thought of as a frontrunner in Best Picture, Best Director (for Cooper), Best Actor (for Cooper as well), and Best Original Song, at the very least. Now, it enters the final days before the Oscar telecast only tapped to win Original Song. This begs the question: what in the world happened here?

A refresher, in case you need it. This is what I wrote when A Star Is Born was first released: “The movie is of course a remake. In fact, it’s the fourth version of the story. Warner Brothers describes this new take on it as such: “Seasoned musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) discovers-and falls in love with-struggling artist Ally (Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer – until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.” Jackson is slowly heading into the twilight of his career when he meets Ally, an immediate love fueling him even more than the alcohol and drugs. Ally loves Jackson, and vice versa, but she slowly comes to see his demons, something his brother/manager Bobby (Sam Elliott) has been trying to get him to acknowledge. In broad strokes, this follows the same path as previous versions of the film, but with a perfect sense of pacing. Cooper directs and co-writes with Will Fetters and Eric Roth, in addition to starring opposite Gaga. Besides Elliott, the supporting cast includes Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Michael Harney, D.J. ‘Shangela’ Pierce, Anthony Ramos, and more. Matthew Libatique provides the outstanding cinematography, while Cooper and Gaga also co-wrote some of the original songs.”

Cooper in particular has been suffering. Obviously, the big snub in Best Director with the Academy Award nominations is what looms large, but at every single awards show, he’s come up short. Best Actor prize after Best Director prize has gone to Christian Bale for Vice or Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody instead. Then, Director has followed along, as Alfonso Cuaron for Roma has pulled the sweep. Why? Well, one reason is that there’s some low-key resistance to the film being a remake. Then, the flick, and Cooper especially, actually suffered from being presumed a safe frontrunner. When that happens, it’s easily to check off a different box. This has happened a few times, really upending what we all expected to happen to Cooper and company.

In short, those above factors all mixed together in just the right (or in this case, the wrong) way to make for a bit of a disaster. Now, the picture is still amazing. A Star Is Born was my favorite film of 2018. It got Sam Elliott his first Academy Award nomination. Lady Gaga will have an Oscar for the Original Song Shallow when all is said and done. It just seemed for all the money like it was meant for bigger things. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, but still, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t look at why this has happened, after weeks of watching it go down. Now, we await the final judgment by the Academy voters…

Stay tuned to see what happens to A Star Is Born on Oscar night!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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