Warner Bros.’ decision to submit “A Star Is Born” in drama instead of comedy/musical at the Golden Globes has many scratching their heads and asking — to borrow one of Ally’s (Lady Gaga) songs — “Why Did You Do That?” Well, we kind of know why they did it, but what is the “correct” placement for this film? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association can still overrule the submission, but if you were making the call, where would you put “A Star Is Born”? (“Bohemian Rhapsody” has also entered in drama, but since the film is not out yet, we’ll just focus on “A Star Is Born.”)
Even before we saw the first frame of the trailer for “A Star Is Born,” everyone assumed it would go into comedy/musical at the Globes, which is where the previous two versions competed and cashed in. The 1954 version won acting honors for Judy Garland and James Mason, while the 1976 rock remake won five Globes, including Best Comedy/Musical Picture and acting awards for Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Why wouldn’t this one go there, right?
Bradley Cooper‘s new version has more songs than “La La Land” (2016) did, so you can argue it’s more of a musical than that seven-time Globe winner is. But wait, “A Star Is Born” isn’t funny, you say. That’s true, it is not a straight-up, ha-ha-ha comedy, and it tackles some heavy topics, but the official name of the category is Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical. You can fit one or the other; it doesn’t have to be both. (This is where we pause to talk about how “The Martian” is neither a comedy nor a musical.)
Plus, dramatic musicals have been slotted in comedy/musical at the Globes before, such as biopics “What’s Love Go to Do with It” (1993), “Ray” (2004), “Walk the Line” (2005) and “La Vie en Rose” (2007), so there’s already precedent.
But 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.
More so, “A Star Is Born” is not a musical in the traditional sense, where the music is non-diegetic and characters break out into song to articulate their emotions and thoughts in surreal, flashy song-and-dance numbers. Most musical films these days contain a combo of diegetic and non-diegetic songs (see: “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman” ), but “A Star Is Born”‘s music is purely diegetic. The music exists in the world of the film, not just for moviegoers, and the characters are musicians who are consciously writing, recording and performing 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. A film about musicians can be a musical, but it’s not the same as a musical. No one considers “Crazy Heart” (2009) — about another alcoholic country star — a musical, and that competed as a drama at the Globes.
The deadline for Golden Globe submissions is Oct. 31, so we will find out about “A Star Is Born”‘s fate soon. But in the meantime, which tune are you singing for it?
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