I was fairly shocked when Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born lost the SAG ensemble award last night. I also heard a resounding THUD sound. Because this, to me, seemed like the final kiss of death — i.e., SAG being unable to give this popular musical drama a “poor baby, we still love you” award.

An obviously well made, convincingly performed and hugely successful romantic tragedy, ASIB had consistently failed to win anything big — no Best Picture or directing or acting awards — at the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards or the Producers Guild Awards. So before last night the thinking was “okay, no Best Picture Oscar and no acting Oscars for Cooper or Lady Gaga, but SAG members surely feel sorry for A Star Is Born, and so they’ll probably give it a Best Ensemble award as a kind of consolation prize.”


Obviously no one knows anything for sure about the final Oscar tallies, but the Academy Award ambitions of Cooper’s grand musical opus are almost surely dead, dead, deader than dead.

So what killed the award-season chances of what had seemed — on paper at least — like a film that might do exceptionally well with award-season voters and handicappers — a film that was obviously well crafted, expertly refined, beloved by audiences and extraordinarily successful all over ($206 million domestic, $413 million worldwide).

In a phrase, A Star Is Born was way overhyped in the early stages, and that avalanche of pre-release praise produced feelings of irritation (at least as far as Hollywood Elsewhere was concerned) and a kind of “oh, yeah? show us!” attitude among many others.

That plus the fact that it just seemed wrong, wrong, WRONG to give a Best Picture Oscar to a remake of a remake of a remake of a 1932 original.

Warner Bros. publicity, obviously, was the architect of the overhype. Their hubris bears the responsibility.

The first clue came when Warner Bros. decided not to show ASIB in Telluride — a decision that said “we know this is basically a hoi polloi popcorn movie, so we don’t want any critical slams coming out of an elite rarified setting.”

But if you want to focus on overhyping faces and personalities, A Star Is Born was primarily killed by the Murderer’s Row quartet of Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Variety‘s Kris Tapley and Barbra Streisand.

The barrage began over five months before the film opened on 10.5.18, and the first obsequious tongue-bath was offered by De Niro. During a 4.21.18 Tribeca Film Festival appearance with Cooper, De Niro was quoted as saying that A Star Is Born is “terrific and Bradley is excellent in it…the movie is wonderful…I hope it gets the attention I feel it should when it opens…Bradley learned to sing, he really worked hard and it paid off. You see all the hard work he did. It’s special.”

This was five and a half months before A Star Is Born would open commercially, but the neck rubs were only just starting.

About six weeks later, or on 6.2.18, Sean Penn was taped saying that A Star Is Born “is one of the best movies I’ve [ever] seen” and blah blah. He praised, he gushed, he opened his heart, etc.

The De Niro and Penn testimonies were irksome in themselves, but then, on 9.4.18, came Tapley’s coup de grace — a Variety column titled “Oscar Voters Are Sure to Go Gaga for Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born.”

The final paragraph: “A Star Is Born is an across-the-board Oscar contender. More than that, and assuming this is even still possible in the modern era, it has the muscle to achieve what only three films in movie history ever have: Win all five major Academy Awards (picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay). It’s that kind of accomplishment, and even more, it makes you realize what this well-worn, Oscar-winning material was capable of all along.”

Later that month Barbra Streisand weighed in with praise of her own for Cooper’s film. And then came Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s withering profile of Cooper in the N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine (“Bradley Cooper Is Not Really Into This Profile”), which started the “Cooper is actually kind of a self-involved dick” meme.

Very soon after that people were saying “enough, enough, ENOUGH ALREADY!”

My back had arched like a cat’s. I wouldn’t see A Star Is Born until the Toronto Film Festival, but inside I was bristling. As it turned out I liked the film for what it was — I came away from my TIFF screening thinking “yes, well made, tip-top quality…the best version of all.”

But that early hype continued to grate, and at some point I decided that if there was any way to take this movie down or at least diminish its stature to some extent, Hollywood Elsewhere was going to give it the old college try.

Now the battle is over, and victory tastes like honeysuckle. My so-called life has meaning.

For I am the Oscar whisperer — the Roma lover, the Green Book guy, the Cold War worshipper, the Glenn Close praiser from way back, the giver of respect to Bohemian Rhapsody and Rami Malek‘s performance, and the cowboy-hat-wearing guy with a slingshot who threw several stones at A Star Is Born and at least helped to send it crashing into the dust.