Bradley Cooper has a problem. Sure, it all looks good on the outside. Family, fame, fortune, and with his first film as director, he’s made the most successful contemporary love story of all time. That’s exactly the problem Bradley Cooper has.
It has been so long since we have been able to equate a success or a love story with high art or artists that we may well have forgotten how. And now, with A Star is Born’s eight nominations for Academy Awards, the problem is likely to be exposed. “Bradley is a star.” “He’s young… he’ll have plenty of opportunities.” If this, as I suspect, explains outcomes in other awards voting, voters will have certainly missed the point. This isn’t Bradley Cooper’s opportunity, it’s theirs to appreciate the depth and value of this film before its legacy outlasts their chance to participate in it.
Cooper has made exceptions to the examples. He’s made a film about us as the flawed contemporary characters we are, and while his artfulness has brought it to moviedom’s Super Bowl, it has done so with none of the conceits voters are likely to lean on in the final tally. Its art neither panders to the politics of the day, nor dazzles with the deceptions so many delight in. It’s the hard-messy stuff of love and life, of dreams and addictions, and yet we, its audience, walk away feeling less alone. In these silly-ass soul damaging times, a film like A Star is Born brings people together without saccharine, sugar, or salesmanship. It is the achievement of one artist who had the courage to stand naked and jump from the edge of a vertical cliff, bringing his whole cast and crew with him, and simultaneously catch their fall. It’s a triumph.
This is what inspires and encourages actors to remember what it is to operate as a character in the real world. To characterize without smoke and mirrors. To deeply move an audience with a human experience, and all that while supporting excellence among an entire cast and crew. Cooper, Gaga and Elliott should own the acting category and the film would do the academy a service.
There are many really good films and performances nominated this year. There are also many perishable trend-pieces that, win or lose, will be lost to memory. In a fair world, A Star is Born sweeps the awards. It’s just such a gift. Clear minds and hearts cannot possibly deny it its due. It’s over and over again one of my favorite films of all time, harkening back to the essential filmmaking of Hal Ashby.
In the end, the apples and oranges of film competition, and the inequity of advertising budgets has always left the Academy Awards with some inevitable aftertaste of the alcohol most of us have to drink to get through them. To spare myself potential disappointment, I’m raising a glass in advance to Bradley Cooper and A Star is Born. Surely a raised glass is as legitimate as a globe of gilded gold or a male statuette minus a penis (also gold gilded). God forbid it have balls this year!
A Star is Born is simply everything that movies should be. If we honor anything, this should be it.