FEATURE: The Oscar Nominations 2019: The Songs and Musicians Grabbing Attention




The Oscar Nominations 2019


IN THIS PHOTO: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (who are nominated in the Actor in a Leading Role and Actress in a Leading Role categories at the Academy Awards 2019) in A Star Is Born (which has also been nominated in the Best Picture category)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The Songs and Musicians Grabbing Attention


RIGHT now...

 IN THIS IMAGE: Bohemian Rhapsody has been nominated for five Oscars, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) and Best Picture/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

the Oscar nominations are coming in and, actually, the full list has been announced. You can look at the list here and have a look at all the great actors, films and talents recognised. It is good to see a nod for Olivia Colman in the Actress in a Leading Role category but, alongside her, is Lady Gaga. It is not unusual to see musicians nominated for acting awards...or, thinking about it, it is! I cannot really remember the last year a musician was Oscar-nominated but it has been a while. It is rare to see but how many of us would have guessed, years ago, Lady Gaga would be among the Oscar chasers?! It is not completely imponderable – as she is an incredible live performer – but few knew she had acting aspirations. Her turn in A Star Is Born won rave reviews and the film itself has scooped a total of five nominations – including one for Bradley Cooper as Actor in a Leading Role. I have seen bits of the film but I know what a powerful and natural performance Lady Gaga turns in and why praise is warranted. I can see her going on to make a lot more films – like Madonna did through her career – and I wonder, when the Oscar winners are read out, she will scoop the Actress in a Leading Role?! It would not be against the odds and would add to her list of accomplishments.

Lady Gaga is taking part in her Las Vegas residency at the moment and gaining huge reviews. It is a busy time for her and I know things have not always been easy for her. We have seen, in the past year or two, reports of her suffering from illness, exhaustion and depression and there was a fear she would need to take time off or an extended break. The power and determination of Lady Gaga cannot be extinguished and she has managed to have one of the most successful years (2018) of her life. Although she has not released an album since 2016’s Joanne; I expect she will put out another album soon but she has definitely been keeping busy. The chemistry between her and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born is electric. Shallow is also nominated in the Original Song category and it will be interesting seeing if Lady Gaga walks away with two Oscars! Most Oscars won by musicians are for scores and songs and it is unusual to see them win for their acting. It is testament to Lady Gaga’s abilities and adaptability that she must be among the favourites to win. Some might say her role as an aspiring and talented artist is not a huge stretch but, actually, it is. She has had to embody the role of Ally and it is very complex performance. In the film, Jackson ‘Jack’ Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a famous Country singer and is privately battling alcoholism. He visits a drag bar where he sees waitress/songwriter Ally performing – from there they form this bond and embark on a wonderful relationship. The film does have a sad end, actually, but I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll have to watch it yourself!

 IN THIS PHOTO: Lady Gaga was nominated for two Golden Globes in regards A Star Is Born (Best Performance By an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama and Best Original Song - Motion Picture (for Shallow) and won for Shallow (alongside Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt)/PHOTO CREDIT: @ladygaga/Getty Images

Pitchfork had this to say regarding the nomination of Lady Gaga and whether the film’s narrative runs close to Gaga’s own life/music:

The biggest obstacle faced by Cooper, the star, director, and co-writer of the latest take on A Star Is Born, is making a knowing audience believe that Lady Gaga, international superstar, needs to be discovered by Jackson Maine. There is, perhaps inevitably, no separating Gaga’s own persona from the movie’s narrative. Even Cooper’s improvised insults in the film mirror those faced by Gaga herself (“ugly”). “The world had to match her, because if the world’s not authentic, and then you have this authentic person in it, it’s going to, like, destroy the whole film,” Cooper told New York Times writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

Until now, Gaga has only appeared in small but somewhat memorable acting roles, first in a pair of Robert Rodriguez films and then within Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” universe. In Rodriguez’s grimy action movies, she played alluring femme fatales—a shapeshifting assassin in 2013’s Machete Kills and a big-hearted waitress in 2014’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Neither role really gave her a chance to exercise any depth. Though Gaga’s performance on “American Horror Story: Hotel” won her a Golden Globe in 2016, the role of widowed fashionista The Countess played off her own image rather simplistically.

In A Star Is Born, this side of Gaga comes out after Ally’s rise but it takes a more vulnerable, nuanced performer to get her there. It would be easy for her story to feel stale given that A Star Is Born is on its fourth version, starting in 1937 with Janet Gaynor, continuing in 1954 with Judy Garland, and turning its eye toward rock‘n’roll in 1976 with Barbra Streisand...


It’s this level of meta storytelling and characterization that not only makes the new A Star Is Born more compelling than ever before, but also turns Gaga’s performance into a postmodern spectacle. It strikes me as analogous to the decade-long trend of “autofiction,” which describes a literary quasi-genre that blends fact and fiction and has been applied to the likes of Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti, and Karl Ove Knausgård. Fiction writers have always done this to some extent, but autofiction seems to revel in the unstable nature of this balance, using autobiographical details when it suits them but otherwise making things up as usual”.

The reception to the film, like its previous versions, has so farfocused on the needs of an entertainment industry devoted to the young, hooked on the latest thing, inevitably replacing the old. This is true to some extent, but what makes A Star Is Born stand out this time around is the way Gaga’s own career adds context to age-old arguments about authenticity and commerce. Lady Gaga and Ally are separate entities, each in her own way a construction of reality and artifice, and each complicating the myth that art and fame can’t be reconciled”.

It is great to see a well-known musician nominated for an acting award and I think, in many ways, it will encourage other artists to act. It is always hard to naturally transition but Lady Gaga’s performance in A Star Is Born has gained some incredible feedback. It is not often we get to see musicians highlighted for acting reasons so I was pleased to see her nominated. She has already won awards for that role and I suspect it will be tough to fend off actors like Olivia Colman and Glenn Close on the night (who knows what will happen!). There are great nominations for songs and scores but there is a lot of talk about Bohemian Rhapsody. The film has scored multiple Oscar nominations and, aside from a nomination for Best Picture, Rami Malek also gets a nod for his role as Freddie Mercury. It is great to see both Bradley Cooper and Rami Malek nominated for their turns in musical films. There were some mixed reviews regarding the film and Malek’s performance in the lead role. Many disputed the accuracy of the film and whether it was fabricating and exaggerating. In the film, Freddie Mercury is seen telling his bandmates about his HIV diagnoses before they play Live Aid but, in reality, those events happened a long time apart. There are flaws with the film but it has been lauded and fared really well at the box office. Malek, especially, radiates as Mercury and seems to embody his physicality, mysteriousness and complexities.

Bohemian Rhapsody has experienced a rather rocky production and I did not think it would make it to the screen. Contrary to rumours Sasha Baron Cohen was signed to play Freddie Mercury, that has been refuted: Rami Malek was the only actor who signed for the role. It is unusual seeing a film nominated for an Oscar having received mixed reviews. I do not think it will win the Best Picture category – considering Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman are listed alongside The Favouirte and A Star Is Born – but you never know how it will do. Whatever you think of the film and its drawbacks – not a lot of time was spent covering Mercury’s sexuality and private life – it is a rare success and something that should be celebrated. Music biopics are notoriously hard to get right and resonate so it is humbling to see Bohemian Rhapsody up for Oscars. I think Malek stands a good chance of winning and, although he might seem like an outside choice, I would not write him off so easily! I think more and more filmmakers will come forward and do biopics given the success of Bohemian Rhapsody – in the same way more musicians will try and follow in Lady Gaga’s lead. It is an exciting time for music on the big screen and I always delighted when a music film/biopic does well. The more ‘traditional’ music categories, Original Score and Original Song, are interesting this year.

In the song category, Shallow has gained a nod. It is not just Lady Gaga that gets the credit. Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando; Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice helped put the song together so, if Shallow wins, they will all get credit. Black Panther’s All the Stars (Kendrick Lamar and SZA) sits alongside I’ll Fight (Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson) from RBG. It would be great to see Jennifer Hudson win the Oscar as she gives a superb performance on I’ll Fight! Mary Poppins ReturnsThe Place Where Lost Things Go (by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) is nominated and When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is included. It is a hard category to call but I think it will go to a musician. I feel either All the Stars or Shallow will win. The work of Kendrick Lamar/SZA is very different to that of Lady Gaga (and co.) but they are the two that stand out. Bradley Cooper also performs on Shallow but I would like to see Lady Gaga win at least one Oscar. The fact Black Panther has made history as the first black superhero film to receive Oscar attention makes me root for All the Stars. The category is at its most broad for 2019 and it will be interesting seeing who wins. I feel 2019, more than any other year in recent memory, has put music at the forefront. We can say more conventional films/actors dominate but we have a music biopic and a musician in a leading role making headlines. The Original Song category is always hotly-contested but I predict Black Panther’s All the Stars will win. Many were perturbed to see an absence of Thom Yorke on the list. The Radiohead frontman was expected to be nominated for his track, Suspirium (from Suspiria), but has missed out!

The Original Score category, like its Song counterpart, is all over the shop! Mary Poppins Returns is nominated and that sits with BlacKkKlansman (Terence Blanchard) and Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson). In the past, the Oscars (or Academy Awards, to give their proper name) has been accused or racial bias and ignoring black actors/films. Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat) and If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell) are nominated but I think it is a race between BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther and, oddly, Mary Poppins Returns. No offence to Mary Poppins and her magic but I think the winner will be Black Panther. It will make history – no black superhero film has won an Oscar – and something that we need to see. The score is incredible and perfectly soundtracks the film – that is what it is meant to do but it is incredibly fine. I have not watched Black Panther but I have heard the score and it is a wonderful collection of moments.

I cannot rule out BlacKkKlansman but I think Black Panther will win the Oscar. Even if Lady Gaga and Rami Malek do not win in their categories and the music-related films do not do well at the Oscars, it is important to see these films/actors nominated and in with a shout. I do feel Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper will have a good shout regarding the song category but it will be hard for her and Rami Malek to triumph in their respective categories – against really tough competition and award favourites. However they do, it is a great one for music and will lead to more music biopics and musicians-as-actors coming out – at least I hope so. I cannot wait to see the Oscars read out and, given the fact you can never predict who will win, we might see a win for Bohemian Rhapsody and...

A Star Is Born.