Oscar Bait – A Star Is Born / Roma

Title: A Star Is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Year: 2018
Country: USA

One of the interesting things about keeping a watchful eye on awards season is seeing how films rise, fall, peak too soon or never quite gain momentum. Obviously, you have to take things like the Oscars with a substantial pinch of salt because if a film or any part of a film really is the best of the year, then there shouldn’t be this whole momentum thing to consider.

I mention this because A Star Is Born looks as if it could be the latest victim of losing momentum in the month before the Academy Awards ceremony. It picked up a bunch of early awards, but despite being nominated nearly everywhere it’s starting to lose out. Means that whilst there is a consensus that it is one of the best of the year for a number of fields – it’s not quite the best. Having seen it (finally), I would have to agree with that sentiment.

Coming into this version of A Star Is Born having already seen the original 1937 version and the 1954 Judy Garland version, it feels like I am at a bit of a disadvantage. After all, this is a remake and it very much follows the same story, except that it is transplanted to the modern day with it being set in the music industry rather than in film-making. So, as someone who sees the finale coming, it’s interesting to see how they tease things as an act of foreshadowing.

Now, considering that this is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut – A Star is Born is actually quite impressive and I hope this means he does some more work behind the camera in the future. Similarly, Lady Gaga gives an exceptional performance in her first leading role and I hope she goes down the Cher route and continues along this cinema path whilst still releasing music. She may not get another role as meaty as Ally Maine, but I’m sure there will be scripts out there to help her shine.

Here’s the question though – is this the best of the nominated films? The answer is no. This is one of the three films I was looking forward most to seeing (the others being The Favourite and Roma) and it started off with a real bang, only to whimper a bit at the end once the power dynamic shifts in her direction. It’s definitely earned it’s nomination this year, as well as a bunch of the others it’s got. For now though, my fingers are crossed for The Favourite.

Title: Roma
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Year: 2018
Country: Mexico

Before getting into the film itself, I just have to say that I hope that as time goes on we see more and more of these releases being available streaming or on demand in and around Oscar season. I’m not being lazy or stingy here, but you need to be really on it if you want to catch things in the cinema that may just be nominated a few months later. So thank you Netflix and I hope you keep on distributing Oscar nominees.

Now back to the film, which made me realise something: I may have been sleeping on Alfonso Cuarón as a candidate for one of my favourite directors working today. If you look at his body of work there is an insane amount of variation in genre and it would be difficult to not consider Roma and three of the four more recent films of his as modern classics. Hell, he helped make the Harry Potter films grow up.

Then we get to Roma, which in any other Oscar year would have been my automatic front runner (as of now, that distinction still belongs to The Favourite). Not only is it a sensitive yet compelling slice-of-life film that manages to teach you a lot about a world and history that you may not be aware of, but it’s got two great roles for women and challenges your preconceptions about how a film like this will proceed.

Roma may also be one of the most beautifully shot films that I have seen for a long time, which means that if Cuarón doesn’t walk away from the ceremony with his second Best Director nod, he should at least be given the prize for Best Cinematography (hell, why not both). I’m also so heartened to see a nomination for Yalitza Aparicio whose naturalistic performance as Cleo the native Mexican maid makes you feel everything.

Given the climate at the moment it would be truly delicious if the Academy ended up giving this year’s Best Picture award to Roma. Not only would it be the first foreign language film to win the gong, but it’s a Mexican one that features dialogue in an indigenous language. It would thoroughly deserve the nod as well, it’s just that the politics would make for an interesting night – especially as it stands to possibly clean up 10 awards!

With half of the films now watched, this is where my rankings are:

1) The Favourite
2) Roma
3) A Star Is Born
4) Black Panther

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