My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: A Star Is Born

Every year, the day before the Oscars, I present my favorite moments from the Best Picture nominees. I do this because things get so subjective and because lines get drawn during the Oscar race. People pick favorites, people start to have negative feelings toward certain films because they’d prefer something else have won or have been nominated. I do this to clear the air of all that. I try to remind us of what this is all about — a celebration of film and of the great films that have come out this year.

I take this day to look at all the nominees as great pieces of cinema. Forget what will win or won’t win — let’s celebrate the films themselves. The point is, when you take away the competition, the awards, the completely arbitrary nature of how no one can truly pick which film is better than another, what we’re left with are great movies. That’s what today is about.

Our next nominee is A Star Is Born. Why’d you come around me with an ass like that?

5. Sam Elliott

He’s so heartbreaking here. I love Sam Elliott. Everyone loves Sam Elliott. Here, he just gets the perfect role for him to knock out of the park. I’m someone who cries fairly easily at movies. But it’s rare for a movie to get tears and then have me also have the feeling to go along with it. Which is usually, “Oh fuck.” Like, this is really getting to me. And this one got to me. This scene. I just loved how they set these guys up and how perfectly delivered this scene is. I’m so glad Sam Elliott got nominated for this performance and I truly hope he wins. He gives the most well-rounded supporting performance of the year, in my mind.

4. The songs

I know that’s an easy thing to just say, but you have to realize — they’ve made this movie three times. The other two are musically oriented as well. If this was gonna have songs, they were gonna have to work. And they all work. Even the ass jeans song… it’s the right kind of bad that you want it to be. It takes a lot of skill to write a deliberately bad song. You know what I mean? It’s catchy, it’s everything annoying about pop music, and it’s the kind of song that some people love. Which is perfect for what it needs to be. And then, every single song they play in the movie, down to that guitar solo thing Cooper does (“Out of Time”) when she shows up at the concert before they do “Shallow” for the first time — it’s great. Also, how amazing is it that when “Shallow” is the biggest hit song of the year and just this amazingly successful song, that it might not even be the best song in the movie? “Always Remember Us This Way,” “Look What I Found,” “Maybe It’s Time,” “Too Far Gone,” “Black Eyes,” “Is That Alright?” “I Don’t Know What Love Is,” “I’ll Never Love Again” — they’re all bangers. At least four of these straight up win Best Original Song if they’re the one nominated by themselves. Every song in this movie is perfect. And that’s something even the two previous musical versions can’t really say.

3. Bradley Cooper

These next three entries are basically gonna be a love letter to Bradley Cooper, but holy shit, though. I heard he was doing this and I kept being like, “…but really though?” Because it was like, “How is that gonna turn out well? I mean, I guess it’s a starter project for a first-time director, because the material is gonna carry half of it and you get away okay even though you haven’t really done if before.” But no. But I’ll digress. This entry is about his performance specifically. Because he gives one of the most committed, vulnerable performances I saw this year. I know Bale and Malek are the toast of the season, and deservingly so. But Cooper… holy shit, guys. Go back and watch what he’s doing in this movie. It’s committed to the role. He’s not trying to make himself look good. He’s really out there, and I am so impressed by what he did both in front of the camera and behind it.

 

2. The direction

Speaking of behind the camera. Literally and figuratively. This is about how Cooper shot the film, because that is the thing that really elevated this. And I’ll straight up say — while I love the 1937 version… I think this has jumped up to second best. I think this is above the Judy Garland version. I think Cooper made a relative masterpiece his first time out. I told you I had my concerns going in, but he got rid of them within thirty seconds. That’s all it took. Thirty seconds. And it’s because he showed his dedication to the story first and totally. The opening of this movie is not giving him a showy “movie star” moment where he gets to be like, “Look at me, singing and playing guitar” in the big close up. Here, he starts with the camera behind him, and you don’t get a full look at his face for like, a full minute, if not more. And it’s because this guy fucking hates himself. He doesn’t want to be on camera, he doesn’t want to be seen by the people. And it’s a perfect directorial choice for this, and the minute I saw it, I just settled in and had complete and utter confidence in Cooper and his vision for this movie. And my god, did he exceed every possible expectation anyone could have had for this movie.

1. A worthy sequel

love A Star Is Born. The 1937 version, 1954… even the 1976 one to an extent. I love everything about this story and I will always watch when they make another one. And they should keep making other ones. (Though this one’s gonna require another 30-40 years before they try it again.) So the most important thing for me going into this was, “Is it gonna live up to the rest of them?” A good film is fine, but is it gonna let down the material? And this did not. For all the reasons I said above. I know this isn’t a moment from the film per se, but this film is a particular section of Hollywood royalty. This is one of the original Hollywood stories. Doing it is a big deal and doing it well is a big deal. And that, to me, is more important than anything else in this movie. There’s a line in the movie — all music is the same story, told over and over. It’s just twelve notes. The only difference is how each artist sees those twelve notes. This story is a version of those twelve notes. And I’m so happy to see the way Bradley Cooper saw them.

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