Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A STAR IS BORN -- my review

It seems like every twenty years or so someone remakes A STAR IS BORN. There was the original with Janet Gaynor in 1937, Judy Garland took the stage in 1954, and then Barbra Streisand in 1976 starred in the horrible reboot that should have been called A STAR IS (still)BORN. Now comes the version for the Millennials starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (who also directed).

Lady Gaga was a revelation. Her musical talent was well known, but her acting ability is surprisingly off-the-charts. This is not a woman who needs to dress in meat. This is a super talented lady (Gaga) who can sing, compose, play piano, dance, and now act. Don’t be surprised if she wins an Oscar. Hey, they gave one to Cher.  (Actually, two Oscars because she's a lock for "Best Song.")

Lady Gaga steals the movie, although, in fairness, how much credit should go to Bradley Cooper for coaxing that performance? Cooper, in his first “megging” stint, also proved to have a strong visual eye. Talent-wise, he's in the wunderkind category too. 

My only quibble is that it’s 2 hours and 16 minutes long. I could take a half hour out of that film in well…. a half hour. You could too. It’s easy. As you’re watching the movie, whenever you yell out “WE GET IT!” you could lose the rest of that scene and the five-minute montage that follows.

SPOILER ALERT

I’ve heard people complain that the ending was “sad.” Well, of course it’s sad. Every version of A STAR IS BORN is sad. Streisand’s was the saddest because I was with people and couldn’t just leave in the middle.

Like BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, the music is the real attraction, and A STAR IS BORN more than delivers. If there are still any doubters that Lady Gaga is a superstar this movie should put those doubts to rest. She’s not just a meat model. But truthfully, I thought she looked the best when she wasn’t all glammed up. It was a joy in the early part of the film to watch her act and sing as “Stefani Germanotta” not “Lady Gaga.”

Oh, and if you need another reason to love her, when there were those horrific brush fires in California, my high school, Taft in Woodland Hills was an evacuation center. Lady Gaga showed up one night with pizzas for everyone. There was no publicity attached, no photo ops. I learned about it from someone who was there. (Barbra Streisand, on the other hand, dealt with the fire by hiring her own fire department to protect HER home.)

I expect A STAR IS BORN to receive a lot of Academy Award nominations, primarily because it’s one of the few contending films that people are actually going to see.

I look forward to the 2038 version starring Princess Charlotte.

34 comments :

Kosmo13 said...

I'm sure numerous blog readers will point out the first film version was WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? in 1932 with Constance Bennett as the waitress turned star.

Many people still refer to the Streisand version as A BORE IS STARRED.

Roseann said...

Ken, what is a 'megging stint'?

Mr. Hollywood said...

I usually agree with you Ken, but not here. I thought this was one of the most overrated films of the year. Enough already. Can we move on to something original or, at least, different? Stefani has a beautiful voice but I thought her acting was ... ok. Bradley Cooper ... over-rated as an actor and a director.
The movie that knocked me out is ... MARY POPPINS! Completely re-envisioned from the original. New songs too. Emily Blunt ... Lin Miranda ... exceptionally good. In fact all the casting was exceptional. And how about that Meryl Street yet again? Is there ANYTHING she can't do? Musical numbers and staging reminded me a lot of the work of Gene Kelly (the ballet in American in Paris for instance). Mixture of live action and animation ... seamless. And also a story that touched me and made me feel happy when I left the theater.
That, to me, is THE move to see.

VP81955 said...

And the initial version of the story is 1932's "What Price Hollywood?" with Constance Bennett in her best non-"Topper" role.

Mike Barer said...

There musical styles were so different that I couldn't see them as a couple, much less, performing together.

Mike Barer said...

I saw the Kristopherson-Streisand one also, Cooper was more Kristopherson than Kristopherson.

Craig said...

Spot on review. My only add-on is that I want to see more of "Stefani Germanotta", and less of the Lady Gaga persona in the future.

Curt Alliaume said...

1) What happened to the 1990s version? (Does From Justin to Kelly count?)

2) This version is actually the shortest of the three musical versions (the 1937 original clocked in at one hour 51 minutes). The premiere of the Judy Garland version ran over three hours.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Let me guess. "Megging" because old-time directors used a megaphone to shout instructions on the set? While wearing riding breeches and those swell caps, like Douglas Fowley in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN?

The Garland-Mason version was cut down after the three-hour premiere, but TCM shows a "restored" version with stills in place of the lost footage (the soundtrack has survived). I'm not a fan of epics, either -- like Orson Welles, I can't sit for more than two hours -- but it would be great if somebody stumbled over the missing film in a vault somewhere.

Andrew said...

I didn't have much of an opinion about Lady Gaga until her Superbowl halftime performance. She completely blew me away.

Dhruv said...

Talking about Oscar nominations:

Ken, the other day I recommended a great movie "Wind River". It was written by Taylor Sheridan.

He also wrote "Hell or High Water" for which he was nominated.

Subsequently I saw his other movie "Sicario". It blew my mind away. Superbly written and great picturisation by the master Roger Deakins. And boy was the part of the 'Sicario' written for Benicio del Toro.

This year "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" was released. That movie is good on its own, but pales in comparison to the first part. And Benicio del Toro nails it again. Hoping he gets awards recognition for his role.

As for the best actress, I am hoping Glenn Close finally wins it. It's been a long wait and she deserves for 'The Wife' too.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've never seen any version of A STAR IS BORN and I have no intention of seeing this one either. Mostly because I'm not really a Lady Gaga fan. As for Gaga and the fires, I saw that on the news or TMZ or some other show. She may not have done it for publicity, but she didn't go out of her way to avoid it either.
M.B.

Brian said...

Streisand’s was the saddest because I was with people and couldn’t just leave in the middle 😂😂

(Barbra Streisand, on the other hand, dealt with the fire by hiring her own fire department to protect HER home.)

Are you just being mean about Streisand or is it something personal?


Bradley Cooper is not a wunderkind, he is the most overrated actor of this century. His acting and directing superpowers are just media hype.

No one says it better than Family Guy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY7wAVFs-Po

Lisa said...

I know you won't write about Golden Globes awards ceremony. But would you be writing a blog on Golden Globes nominations? It's an indicator of what is to come for the rest of the awards season?



Charles said...

I think your review was spot-on, and Shallow will probably win for Best Song, but I just have a problem with a song whose entire chorus is the word "shallow", sung with the "a" sound drawn out for varying lengths.

Graham F said...

Wait- you thought Gwen Stefani was in this film? :_)

Cowboy Surfer said...

Just for one day she should become the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls and cover Queens Radio Ga Ga...Too much??

YEKIMI said...

Two words: Chick Flick. Probably won't see it. The Streisand one scarred [and scared] me for life.

david kelly said...

Oscar for Glenn Close. She deserves it for "the wife" no question.

Jahn Ghalt said...

"Megging"??

This is new to me - and Merriam-Webster was no help.

I suppose this means (from Wikipedia entry for Bradley Cooper) it means:

"to direct, star in, co-write, co-produce, a film - and contribute to its soundtrack"

Jahn Ghalt said...


Streisand’s (A Star is Born) was the saddest because I was with people and couldn’t just leave in the middle"

I second Brian's smileys for this one - a fine subtle snark.

Like him I also wonder why you'd skewer Streisand for doing the grownup and responsible thing to protect her home? That's far more grownup than her whining over moving to Canada over an election.

(I sent her a "please don't go" telegram after Bush II was elected - it must have worked!)

Tony.T said...

I have been surprised by how many people have positively commented on the Streisand one. An extreme case of nostalgia through rose coloured glasses. More like nausea through rose coloured beer goggles. The film is most memorable of one particular reason: I was 14 when I saw it and it is the very first film in which I thought "this is shit".

sanford said...

How did Mr Hollywood see Mary Poppins as it is not out yet? Is he in the business? Have connections?

Tom Galloway said...

In fairness, I've read that for a lot of the cases where firefighters are hired to protect a rich person's home, it's actually their insurance company that did it. The company making the reasonable calculation that they can hire fightfighters for $X and not have to pay out $Y, where Y is much larger than X, due to the house and its contents burning down.

This also seems likely since I'd expect insurance companies to know how to go about doing this (I believe most such come from well out of state, since the in-state and nearby state ones are already fighting it). Whereas your random rich person and their staff would have no idea how to hire, work logistics to get them there, etc. And remember the situation is time critical, so no time to research it.

Frank Beans said...

Ken-

I've read your review twice and still can't ascertain whether it's a positive or negative review--so I'm going with neutral.

That's fine, music movies are always a mixed bag. I don't doubt that there is some great acting and stellar musical performances. That is usually what makes these types of movies interesting and memorable. Then there is probably a lot of melodrama and cliche romance/drug addiction arcs, which makes them skipable, frankly.

I don't know what to think. I like Bradley Cooper, but man, from the trailer he is trying way to hard to be Kris Kristofferson.

I think I have given up on trying to rate "biopics". They are brilliant scenes surrounded by forgettable scenes.


Anonymous said...

"Megging?"

I'll take a guess. Trade paper talk for directing, coming from the days when the director used a megaphone to talk to actors and crew?

I wear an XL if you're giving prizes for the first correct answer.

-30-

Kurtis Meyers said...

I loved this movie! I was primed to hate it because A) I was so sick of seeing the trailers, sometimes I'd see TWO before the same movie and B) I thought Bradley Cooper was super smug in his promotion of the movie and it irked me. Turns out, he had a reason to be smug because the movie absolutely floored me. He was great and Lady Gaga gave what I suspect will be an Oscar winning performance. I've never seen any of the other ones so each beat was a surprise to me and [spoiler alert] I wept hard both times I saw it. I also ran to Amoeba immediately after to buy the soundtrack, my face red with tears. The guy at the counter was smirking, but who cares! Loved this movie.

therealshell said...

Can I just chime in that initial version of the story is 1932's "What Price Hollywood?" Oh, it's already been posted, ad nauseam ? My bad.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Haven’t seen the movie, but she rocked my world during an appearance on the Howard Stern radio show. It was just her and a piano. No backup singers, no nuthin, just her and her gift. Her voice told a story and took me on a journey I wanted to go on. She’s the real deal. Magnificent.

Anne said...

"This is not a woman who needs to dress in meat." Okay. Ken Levine is the obvious choice to host the Oscars. Come on, AMPAS! Let a smart, funny writer tell a few jokes for heaven's sake. We're dyin' out here. Thank you.

ODJennings said...

Regardless of what you think about his version, remember, it was originally supposed to be directed by Clint Eastwood and star Beyoncé, so it could have been worse, much worse.

slgc said...

I noticed that Jon Peters, the producer of the 1975 version of A Star Is Born, also produced the current version. This strikes me as unusual. Did he do anything proactive with the current version, or is it that he owned the rights to the story and thus demanded top billing for it?

Patrick said...

Lady Gaga is an emotional performer so the musical scenes were great - but dont confuse that with being an emotional/great actress. They had ZERO chemistry in the second half of the movie. When she went to see him in rehab it was almost laughably bad.

mike said...

Jahn--'After Bush II was 'elected.' Fixed!