All 206 minutes of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon have been breathlessly awaited by pundits ahead of its Cannes premiere. That occurred today some five months before its domestic release. The crime western reunites the legendary filmmaker with his two most famous and frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in this adaptation of David Grann’s 2017 non-fiction novel. Lily Gladstone (in what’s long been pegged as a role with awards potential) costars alongside Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser, and John Lithgow.
On paper, Killers has looked like a surefire contender for Oscar glory ever since it was announced. Scorsese has seen five of his past eight films nominated for Best Picture: The Aviator, The Departed (which won), Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Irishman. As mentioned, the 1920s set tale of murders among the Osage Nation comes with a runtime that just exceeds its reported $200 million budget. Apple TV footed the bill, but it will see a theatrical bow prior to any streaming release.
Some of the early critical reaction does gripe about the length (same went for Scorsese’s predecessor The Irishman). Yet most reviews indicate this will be the gold player that we assumed. That last Marty movie scored 10 nods. This could match it or even exceed it. Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay (by the director and Eric Roth), Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, and Sound are all feasible. The early Rotten Tomatoes meter sits at 100%.
As for the acting derbies, Leonardo DiCaprio is drawing raves and should be in line for his seventh acting nom (his sole win being 2015’s The Revenant). There was some question as to whether Gladstone would contend in lead or supporting. The buzz indicates the latter is more likely and it appears she’s a shoo-in for inclusion. I had her at #1 in my ranked predictions a few days ago and that may not change. A bigger question was Supporting Actor. It sounds like the role Jesse Plemons plays is relatively small (popping up in the third act). He could still sneak in (as he did in 2021 for The Power of the Dog). The studio’s campaigners could opt to throw their full attention to De Niro. The 79-year-old new dad looks to grab his eighth nod and first since 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. You can pencil him in with DiCaprio and Gladstone.
Can you find the nominees in this picture? There could be plenty for Killers of the Flower Moon. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Theatrically speaking, AStarIsBorn is a tale as old as time as this is the third remake of an original that hit screens over eight decades ago. The framework remains the same in the story of love, addiction, and celebrity. To his considerable credit, Bradley Cooper finds a way to inject some life into this melodramatic musical journey. He does so with his own work in front of the camera and his direction of his costar. It feels odd to claim this is a star making performance from Lady Gaga, who happens to be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. While we knew her amazing vocal abilities and showmanship, this picture proves she’s an equally impressive actor.
Cooper is Jackson Maine, a country rock star with a severe alcohol addiction. He’s already well-established in his field and selling out stadiums. One night his restless spirit after a gig leads him to a drag bar. Actually it’s more his desire to find a place that serves drinks. In that unlikely establishment is where he discovers Ally (Gaga). She waitresses there and she’s the only non queen allowed to belt out tunes like “La Vie en rose”. Jackson is smitten with her voice and with her.
Their chance encounter is where Ally’s star is born and what transpires in the first half is a thrilling whirlwind for her and the audience. This section provides the most satisfying moments. She’s whisked all over the country with her new mentor and love interest. Cooper’s direction and the screenplay from him, Eric Roth, and Will Fetters manages to match Jackson’s energy in the picture’s pacing. As Ally begins to branch out of his shadow to more pop friendly (and far less soulful tracks) with the help of a British manager (Rafi Gavron), Jackson’s deeply rooted issues become more pronounced. While the second half here provides more dramatic heft, it also does so with more familiar themes. Ally’s storyline curiously becomes less compelling as her beau spirals out of control.
Sam Elliot is Jackson’s much older brother and manager, who serves as a complicated father figure (and vocal inspiration). In Cooper’s performance, he drops his voice a couple octaves and his reported extensive vocal training pays off. This doesn’t feel like an actor trying to masquerade as a singer. His work here is remarkable in every facet. We know Gaga hardly needs that kind of training. It’s expected that she’ll nail her songs and she does. Yet she also proves herself to be a natural actress and her emotional range matches her more experienced counterpart. The supporting cast also includes two famed comedians with Dave Chappelle turning up briefly as an ex-musician who’s happily left the business and Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s chauffeur father.
The chemistry of the two leads is the reason the latest Star often shines, especially early on. To borrow the title from Gaga’s debut album, the film’s beats become more traditional when it moves to the dark side of the fame monster. So while we have a well-worn narrative before us, Cooper and his muse succeed in making this worth taking another look at.
One of the most eagerly awaited pictures has debuted at Venice today with A Star Is Born. The film is the third remake of a tale that began onscreen over 80 years ago. The 1937 version starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. The 1954 Star featured Judy Garland and James Mason. The 1976 version featured Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. All three of them received multiple Oscar nominations. None of them were featured in the Best Picture race.
That is probably about to change. The 2018 Star is directed, co-written, and starring Bradley Cooper in his debut behind the camera. His acting counterpart is Lady Gaga. Early reviews have praised both of their performances and it appears very likely both will be honored in their respective lead acting races. This would obviously be Gaga’s first nomination and Cooper’s fourth after Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper. Cooper may well find himself honored for his direction and Adapted Screenplay alongside Eric Roth and Will Fetters.
As for supporting players, the Academy may take notice of Sam Elliot’s work as Cooper’s older brother. Critics have also pointed out the performance of Rafi Gavron as the manager of Cooper’s troubled music superstar character.
Several down the line categories could in the mix including Cinematography, Editing, both Sound races, and Gaga’s original songs that are expected to be part of the soundtrack.
Bottom line: Another contender was born today in Venice – one with serious star power.
A Star Is Born opens domestically on October 5. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…