Best Picture Countdown: A Star Is Born

In today’s cinematic era riddled with countless mediocre remakes and sequels, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star is Born has refreshed Hollywood’s current creative dry spell by subverting the standard remake. Cooper knows how to properly recreate a timely classic, adding even more purpose and heart to a screenplay that was already laden with emotion — A Star is Born is a necessary deviation from our tragic status quo.

Cooper presents familiar material with a new twist, allowing the film to stand alone from its predecessors. It still tells the story of an impulsive rockstar, whose fame declines while his formerly working-class girlfriend ascends to stardom. However, 2018’s A Star is Born is more interested in the male side of the equation than some of the film’s previous iterations. 

The movie closely follows singer-songwriter Jackson Maine, played by Cooper, as the country star struggles with substance abuse and self-punishment. He suffers from impaired hearing and tinnitus which emphasize his vulnerability and lack of control in the public eye. He has been placed in a position of both power and fragility, and his attempts to contend with this reality are poignant and intriguing. Though at times Cooper’s directing can teeter on the edge of self-adulation, we are ultimately introduced to a complicated, three-dimensional character who is carefully imbued with nuance and, of course, sex appeal.

A Star is Born has impeccable casting. Lady Gaga shines like never before as Ally, a waitress-turned-pop-singer-sensation who falls in love with Maine when he discovers her at an underground drag show. Her powerful voice is a character all its own.

“I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in / I’ll never meet the ground / Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us / We’re far from the shallow now,” Ally belts onstage in a riveting and now iconic scene with Maine. The shot incorporates extreme close-ups of characters who are consumed by their love for music and each other. These crooning lyrics, which you probably recognize from listening to the radio or your Top 100 Spotify playlist, belong to Lady Gaga’s original song “Shallow,” a country and folk-pop power ballad she wrote for the film.

Unlike Hollywood’s usual quickie music-fad cash-ins, the soundtrack from A Star is Born accentuates the film’s artistic significance. It doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of appealing to music consumers. “Shallow” and the larger songwriting relationship of the protagonists center the film in a fundamental confrontation about what it means to be one’s true, authentic self. 

Do not mistake the film’s blockbuster appeal for poor filmmaking. Although you may prefer to watch a more niche film produced by an independent production company, give A Star is Born a chance. For Oberlin students, it could be a fun watch with friends and at the very least, a touching sing-along. While I don’t expect it to win Best Picture, as the Academy typically favors more intellectual films, there’s a reason it has Oscar nominations in four other categories.