As the City Paper‘s resident Little Monster and A Star Is Born soundtrack authority, I was positively seething when I read a damning parenthetical in Kevin Young’s letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences published on Jan. 30.
While tearing into the stuffy institution for excluding Toni Collette from the Best Actress category, Kevin inadvertently revealed that he had only seen two of the movies nominated in that category, and neither of them were the third remake of the age-old celebrity love story.
In other words, I had to do something about it. It was time for me to take Kevin, the man who gave us a retrospective on The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (which I refused to read after dismissing the accompanying image as “disgusting”), to the deep end.
My invite was met with a warm response. Kevin shared with me that he’d been trying to get out of his comfort zone anyway. With only a hint of personal shame, I told him that I’d been trying to watch the $36 million movie musical for a fourth time, so this would work out great for everyone.
I met Kevin and his girlfriend, Maureen, at the Charles Towne Square Regal on a chilly Friday evening. After leaving a seat of space between me and both of them — because I have respect — we sat through 2 hours and 16 minutes of a movie that I momentarily swore had been interspersed with extra footage since the last time I saw it. I was probably just transfixed by the details that brimmed with life at fourth sight: Sam Elliot’s meticulously-trimmed mustache bristles, Lady Gaga’s tight Restylane regimen, and the sepia filter the movie seems to have been shot in.
As a maintenance worker went in and out of theaters with a broom and dustpan, the three of us stood in the hallway for a debrief.
Kevin, ever-so-cynical about blockbuster cinema, was actually pretty impressed. He was turned off by the tear-jerking quality of some of ASIB, up to and including the Whitney Houston-esque final scene of Ally, Gaga’s character, belting through a ballad in an evening gown in front of a theater audience. But Kevin was smitten with the interpolation of an earlier scene of Jackson, Bradley Cooper’s character, writing the song at a piano.
One thing that kept coming up in our conversation was Brady Corbet’s 2018 arthouse film Vox Lux. The movie stars Raffey Cassidy, and, later, Natalie Portman, as Celeste, a pop star in her 30s who shot to fame in her teens after she was injured during a school shooting in a harrowing opening scene that was oddly prescient of the mass media attention given to the teenage victims of the Parkland shooting. (In another real-life connection, Celeste’s style and music, which was written by songwriting extraordinaire Sia, has been compared to Gaga’s.)
A few other thoughts upon my fourth viewing:
• Wow, this movie is basically all close-ups of people’s faces.
• The pacing of Ally’s quick rise to stardom is still off, but it gets easier to follow the more you watch it.
• It still doesn’t make any sense that a newbie like Ally would book the season finale of Saturday Night Live, especially with songs like “Why Did You Do That?”
• Overall, “Why Did You Do That?” actually slaps, and Maureen astutely pointed out that it has the same catchiness of an early Gaga song.
• Fun reference to Interscope Records, Gaga’s actual label. If you know, you know.
• I’m not deaf. It’s actually hard to make out what Bradley Cooper tearfully admitted to Sam Elliot as he hopped out of his truck on his way home from rehab. I guess male emotions really are difficult to express clearly.
• “Hair Body Face” did not get the screen time it deserves.
• Bradley Cooper deserves far more credit for successfully directing a story that’s already been told a thousand times.
• This movie completely ignores rap music, the pop music of today, and black people, except for the magical best friend character of Dave Chappelle, who I’m surprised accepted a role like this.