Inevitably, as soon as the Golden Globe Award nominations are announced, people are angry and/or confused about category selections. In 2016: Remind us again why “The Martian” was considered a comedy? In 2015: If “True Detective” fits the definition of a limited series, why did it compete as a drama?
This year, there’s even more confusion — namely because the hit film “A Star Is Born” is competing as a drama and not in the comedy/musical race. Already a front-runner, the movie landed five nominations Thursday morning: best drama, actor (Bradley Cooper), actress (Lady Gaga), director (Cooper) and original song (“Shallow").
While the studio, Warner Bros., could have submitted the movie in the category of its choice, Golden Globes executives made the final decision. Clearly, they agreed.
On the surface, the drama category makes little sense. Isn’t the film, which starts and ends with a concert and features many songs in between, driven by music? The definition of a musical, according to the Golden Globes eligibility rules, is “a comedy or a drama in which songs are used in addition to spoken dialogue to further the plot.” That sounds a lot like “A Star Is Born.”
This is the movie’s fourth version; and while the first one in 1937 debuted before the Globes were invented, the second and third remakes competed in the comedy/musical category. In 1955, James Mason and Judy Garland won best actor and actress; in 1976, the movie won best comedy/musical, along with score, original song (“Evergreen”), actor (Kris Kristofferson) and actress (Barbra Streisand).
Plenty of prognosticators have already weighed in and wondered where the movie really belongs. Some pointed out that while the drama category is odd, it’s not that far of a stretch considering the film’s history. As Gold Derby’s Joyce Eng put it, “There is a solid case for ‘A Star Is Born’ to be considered a drama as well — because it is one. Lest we forget, the 1937 original was not a musical, but a romantic drama about a couple’s opposing career trajectories. All three subsequent versions are romantic dramas that feature people singing songs.”
“Musicals have a heightened sense of reality, but ‘A Star Is Born’ is steeped in realism — hell, Cooper made a point of filming the concert scenes live at real concerts (Coachella, Glastonbury and Stagecoach), learned to play guitar and dropped his voice a full octave to add to the movie’s authenticity,” Eng argued. “A film about musicians can be a musical, but it’s not the same as a musical.”
Refinery29′s Elena Nicolaou pointed out that the movie “isn’t even a conventional musical, in the sense that the movie’s characters don’t express their emotions in spontaneous songs which in turn further the narrative. Technically speaking, ‘A Star Is Born’ is a diegetic musical — all of the songs exist in the ‘real world.’”
At the end of the day, it’s really a strategic move by the studio, and where it thinks the movie has a better shot at winning — and wins in the drama category could lead to some much-needed momentum toward the Oscars. Lady Gaga, in a career-defining performance, is up against Glenn Close (“The Wife”), Nicole Kidman (“The Destroyer”), Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Rosamund Pike (“A Private War”). While Close is difficult to beat, it’s easy to imagine the Globes voters would favor the much splashier “A Star Is Born.”
Cooper will compete against Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”); he has received a ton of attention for learning to sing and his extensive work with a vocal coach, and could easily win this trophy. However, Cooper — making his directorial debut — faces tougher competition in the best director category, alongside Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”); Peter Farrelly (“Green Book”), Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Adam McKay (“Vice”).
Meanwhile, “A Star Is Born” is far from the only category choice that raised eyebrows: Music-centric “Bohemian Rhapsody” is also competing as a drama, while not-all-hilarious “Green Book” and “The Favourite” will compete as comedies.