I resisted the urge to call A Star Is Born the frontrunner. I guess I did this because I’ve been trained not to, after years of watching how the game goes. Frontrunners, in the new expanded ballot era, always die because another movie flies under the radar and wins in the final analysis. Knowing this, one hedges their bets so as to be yet another fool who got it wrong. I try really hard to be yet another fool, and yet somehow… I fail in this regard. I’m not one of those who is ready to say A Star is Born will win Best Picture. There are just too many weird variables to factor in, but you have to assume it’s the frontrunner right now. You’d be a lordly fool not to.
At the same time, it’s hard for me to dig down deep to write about A Star Is Born. It is what it is. A love story, a film experience, something to be moved by. If it has any weakness it’s that it doesn’t have deeper themes than that, unless you want to talk about addiction and suicide. But even those aren’t really themes, or deeper meaning or broader context in our culture. It isn’t about women surging where men fail. It’s A Star Is Born, a beloved Hollywood fable whose fate is determined at the outset. All the same, most people seem to agree that finally someone got it exactly right.
But really, the success of the film rides almost entirely on the desire to see Bradley Cooper come out of this thing a winner, and to a degree, Lady Gaga.
Its two main challengers appear to be Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which is flying under the radar and is a genuine threat in terms of warming the cockles of the heart, which appears to be priority numero uno where Oscars, punditry and, even now, film criticism are concerned. We don’t yet know Green Book’s fate. We only seen two films run the gauntlet so far: A Star Is Born and First Man. One did really well, while the other, as good as it is (the best of the year so far for me), doesn’t appear to warm the cockles of the heart. It is, mostly to men, something they can’t connect with in any regard. They all wanted to see a different movie. Despite an enthusiastic screening at the Academy, their awards pundit Scott Feinberg finished up his piece with “some pundits are worried about its Best Picture chances,” the idea being that passion decides the nominees (though it always has) and if there is no passion for this — one of the greatest films ever made about space flight — it won’t get nominated at all.
[sarcasm]Okay. This is going to be a really fun year.[/sarcasm]
A Star Is Born is the movie of the moment, topping the box office to an impressive degree. Even internationally it’s doing well (lest we forget Peter Bradshaw’s five star review). What A Star Is Born seems to have walking in the door is, in order of how we’ll watch them go down:
New York Film Critics — while I think they’re going to pick Roma, there is no way they’re letting Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga go without awarding them in one of their major categories.
National Board of Review — betting another sweep for A Star is Born
Broadcast Film Critics — I promise you, no other film but A Star is Born can win here.
A Golden Globes sweep — bet it wins Picture, Director, Actor, Actress. Has any film ever done that? With the director being the same winner as the actor?
SAG ensemble win — there are other ensembles that could get in, like Black Panther, Beale Street, Widows, even Roma. Green Book seems like a two-hander but it’s such a glorious crowdpleaser I’d be shocked if it didn’t get in. I can’t think of any movie that can beat A Star is Born for ensemble. What am I missing?
PGA win — again, another no-brainer. What can beat it?
DGA win — the only potential stumbling block for old Bradley. Can it be he wins both the First Time director and the main director award? It’s not outside the realm of possibility. His main competition for Best Director appears to be Alfonso Cuaron for Roma to win his second, or Spike Lee to win his first, and the first for any black film director in DGA or Academy history. Peter Farrelly might sneak in but it’s looking like it’s Bradley Cooper’s to lose. I never thought I would say that but here it is.
BAFTA — pretty sure this is either A Star is Born’s or Roma’s to lose.
WGA — it goes into adapted, which means it goes up against Beale Street, primarily. Does it win there? Sure, it could. I’m not sure I’d be 100% on board with this prediction but you never know.
A Star Is Born could win all of that and still lose Best Picture because of the preferential ballot.
In the era of the preferential ballot, Best Picture winners do not win a lot of Oscars. To wit:
The Shape of Water: 4 — Picture, Director, Score, Production Design
Moonlight: 3 — Picture, Supporting Actor, Screenplay
Spotlight: 2 — Picture, Screenplay
Birdman: 4 — Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography
12 Years a Slave: 3 — Picture, Supporting Actress, Screenplay
Argo: 3 — Picture, Screenplay, Editing
The Artist: 5 — Picture, Director, Actor, Score, Costume Design
The King’s Speech: 4 — Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay
The Hurt Locker: 6 — Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, Sound, Sound Mixing
How many can A Star Is Born win?
Then it might win:
But winning nine Oscars, plus Best Picture, is a near-impossibility in the era of preferential ballot. We’re more likely looking at four or five wins, maybe six tops.
If it splits, it could go like:
A Star is Born — Director, Actress, Song, Sound mixing, sound editing
Green Book — Picture, Actor, Screenplay
Roma — Foreign language, cinematography
Or it could go:
A Star is Born — Picture, Actress, Song, Sound, Sound Editing
BlackKklansman — Director, Screenplay
My current predictions for Best Picture:
A Star Is Born
Can You Ever Forgive Me
If Beale Street Could Talk
And Best Director:
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
Damien Chazelle, First Man
But also right up there: Barry Jenkins, Beale Street, Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me; Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite