A Star Is Born, But It Ain't Bradley Cooper

With the Oscars fast approaching the blind desire to grouse over Bradley Cooper's lack of a Best Director Oscar ignores the truly egregious snub happening in the category itself.

Artwork by Rafael Hidalgo for Zimbio

The Oscars are on Sunday and, to quote Cynthia Erivo from Bad Times at the El Royale, "I'm just tired and bored." The year, the Oscars have been one series of snafus after another, and that's just regarding the ceremony itself. If you look at the actual nominees and couple that with the talk from pundits on social media, let's just say friendships have been lost over discussions of which movies or people truly "deserve" an award.

Case in point, Bradley Cooper. The first-time director of A Star Is Born was infamously not granted a Best Director nomination and you'd assume that Orson Welles himself had been snubbed. Numerous articles have come out looking at Cooper's supposed legendary failure, but I respond with: "We're talking about the same Bradley Cooper, right?" 

Let's start with some context. In 1932 the film What Price Hollywood? was released, showing the rise of a female starlet concurrently with the demise of the men around her. In 1937 the remake, now entitled A Star Is Born, laid the foundations for a feature that, including Cooper's recent iteration, has been remade a grand total of three times.

So if we're going off originality, Cooper picked the safest movie you could choose and received attention, critical acclaim, and a ton of appreciation for it. Having seen all five incarnations of this story, Bradley Cooper's Star Is Born is solid. It's not nearly as nuanced as the 1954 take with Judy Garland but at least it's better than the dreadful 1976 version with Barbra Streisand.

It's hard not to see Cooper's "embarrassment" about not getting a Best Director nod and the (predominately) male-driven criticisms about how he should have been nominated as indicative of white male privilege. This is also a year that saw female directors like Debra Granik and Marielle Heller equally snubbed for slots in that same category. In fact, Heller's film, the literary drama Can You Ever Forgive Me?, was nominated for both its performances and its screenplay. How is Heller less worthy for an Oscar nomination than Cooper? 

It's been bemoaned that the lack of nomination for Cooper stems from him being a first-time director, as if that prohibited him from winning the nomination. Yet acclaimed directors from Sidney Lumet, fellow actor-directors Warren Beatty and Robert Redford, and the aforementioned Orson Welles were all nominated their first-time as directors. So the belief that Cooper was snubbed for being inexperienced doesn't hold water. Maybe, just maybe, Cooper was snubbed because of the valid issues with the film's direction and its uneven second act. Why is it so hard to believe that, for his first time out, Cooper's feature was good, but not great? 

Lost in all the "is Cooper worthy" kerfuffle is the very real, and even more embarrassing, history that was made in the Best Director category. Spike Lee, a director who's boasted a 30+ year career of culturally affecting features, received his first ever nomination for helming BlackKklansmen. Lee should have several Oscar nominations under his belt and just as many wins, and yet people want to complain about Bradley Cooper being snubbed. Where's the outrage over Lee having to wait till 2019 for the recognition he deserves? Again, it's hard not to perceive all of this as coming from a place of white privilege, particularly because the landscape of Oscar prognosticators remains extremely white and male. It's easy to see why they'd gravitate towards someone they identify with, as opposed to the longterm omission that might finally be rectified with an award. 

Honestly, if Bradley Cooper makes a follow-up that isn't a remake, and it's remarkable I'll be the first one to say he should get a nomination. But he doesn't need one for this and we shouldn't be bemoaning his lack of an Oscar nomination when a man who is more than owed one, Spike Lee, is sitting right there. The next time you want to tweet about Bradley Cooper, just put Spike Lee's name in there instead. 

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