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Oscars' pet pick 'A Star Is Born' has flamed out in awards season, and that's heartbreaking

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/20/2019 Bryan Alexander

a man and a woman standing in a room © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. A near-sobbing Lady Gaga paused while accepting her best song Grammy for "Shallow" and praised "A Star Is Born" for highlighting the important issue of mental illness.

"If I don't get another chance to say this," Gaga prefaced, before using the spotlight to say how proud she was to be in the film directed and written by her co-star Bradley Cooper.

It was a noble moment and practical. "A Star Is Born" has brought precious few trips to the winner's podium for speeches after all the giddy accolades, star power and awards nominations for Cooper's directorial debut. Heading into Sunday's Academy Awards (ABC, 8 ET/5 PT), the drama about a fading musician who discovers a young singer has maintained its front-runner status in just one (best original song) of its eight nominations.

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Cooper missed the Grammys to attend London's BAFTAs, where he made a high-profile acceptance speech after winning for best music. But Cooper and Gaga have spent much of award season applauding gamely in camera view as others have accepted film trophies.

"'A Star Is Born' swept the board in terms of nominations, hitting every guild award. But it just cannot win. And that’s sad," says Pete Hammond, awards columnist for the industry website Deadline.com. "It's hard to watch Bradley Cooper lose out at ceremony after ceremony, most recently Sunday's Writers Guild Awards."

After being shut out at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (despite four nominations), the season's nadir came when Cooper lost best feature director at the Directors Guild Awards to Alfonso Cuarón ("Roma"), as well as shockingly being denied best first-time feature director, losing to Bo Burnham for "Eighth Grade."

To be clear, "Shallow" is killing it, taking the Globe, two Grammys and probably the Oscar. Meanwhile, ABC is heavily hyping Gaga and Cooper's highly anticipated live performance of the nominated song to get die-hard fans to tune into the Oscars.

But Gaga has never recovered her footing in the best actress race after Glenn Close won the Golden Globes and nailed an impassioned speech. And performing "Shallow" isn't going to get Cooper – who's nominated for best actor, adapted screenplay and best picture (as a producer) – to the winner's circle.

It's a familiar tale for "A Star Is Born," previously made in 1937 (seven nominations including best picture, with one win for screenwriting), 1954 (six nominations, no wins) and 1976 (four nominations, and a lone win for best song).

"The good news is that this 'A Star Is Born' is going to win, at the very least, one Oscar for best song. It’s a lock," says Dave Karger, awards columnist for IMDb.com. "But the final result will likely be disappointing for those involved. This is looking to continue the 81-year tradition of this story: a bunch of nominations and not a lot of wins."

Even with Cooper's lauded fresh take on the fabled story, the explanation might be that Academy voters look down on remakes. Only "The Departed," Martin Scorsese's 2006 redo of 2002's "Infernal Affairs," has ever won best picture. 

Hammond believes the high nomination count gave "A Star Is Born" a dreaded "front-runner" status. So when it stumbled, it was glaring.

"The minute the awards start to be handed out and they don’t win, that so-called front-runner becomes damaged goods," says Hammond, who notes that anything can happen for a film which has clear industry support. In a topsy-turvy awards year like 2019, "A Star Is Born" could still pull out some unexpected wins.

"The studio still has endless optimism," says Hammond. "But this is not the position they wanted to be in."


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