Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ranking The A Star Is Born Remakes

Ranking The A Star Is Born Remakes
The love between two artists surrounded by fame and loss of it is a quintessential theme in cinema. But there might be no other longstanding story in Tinseltown than that of A Star Is Born: the tragic romance of a young starlet who is discovered by a legendary veteran; as the newbie's star ascends to the top, the other one falls. With the massive attention and love director Bradley Cooper's version is bringing to the older renditions, I thought it's the perfect time to revisit the series and rank them - this list is ordered from least favorite to favorite. Which A Star Is Born film is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

A Star Is Born Kris Kristofferson Barbra Streisand

A Star Is Born (1976)

When considering the A Star Is Born recycle machine, Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand  starring in at least one version sounds like a no-brainer. You have a country icon and legendary songstress playing out a tale as old as time: John Norman Howard is an alcoholic rock star who discovers a struggling singer Esther Huffman in a small-town bar, and literally gives her his spotlight during his wild ride through self-destruction. And yet the promise of two colossal stars misses so many beats.

For a script to break the mold of what's been told before, it relies heavily on the story and direction to be similar to the originals but different enough to stand on its own. To drift the focus away from the film industry to the music business is a perfect move considering the film's stars, but everything else that matters like the acting, soundtrack, and direction sticks out like a sore thumb: Kristofferson and Streisand's chemistry lingers between wooden and barely-getting-along-enough to be believable; Kristofferson plays sober and drunk almost exactly the same; Streisand's Broadway vibes don't fit the seventies groovy funk Huffman is supposed to skyrocket to success with; the direction is almost non-existent. Unfortunately, the behind-the-scenes disagreements between director Frank Piersen and Streisand palpably leaks into almost every second of the movie, it becomes a remake that wasn't a good idea nor entirely necessary.

A Star Is Born Janet Gaynor Frederic March

A Star Is Born (1937)

From its performances to its direction, every A Star Is Born is fit for its own decade. This serves the most true for the original version from 1937. Primarily it stands out with its cast as Janet Gaynor kicks off the initial role of Esther Blodgett, an aspiring actress from North Dakota who moves to Hollywood despite her family's discouragement. She catches the attention of Norman Maine (Frederic March), and in turn, becomes a star in her own right while alcoholism spirals his out of control. From love birds to conflicted starlets, Gaynor and March are charming, playing off of each other with humor and tragedy.

As much inspiration the original has offered for the three films to follow in its footsteps, this version lacks that little something extra to take it over the finishing line. Because this is the only story based purely on acting without using music or musical sequences to break or carry the tension, the film relies on its leading stars to carry the story and they do it well. However, the direction and script is a little too stagnant as a strict drama and almost feels like it's going through the motions of the radio play to present the story to a wider cinematic audience. The direction style is just a product of its time - charming and simplistic, but not entirely memorable on its own.

A Star Is Born Bradley Cooper Lady Gaga

A Star Is Born (2018)

After eighty years of reinventing the same story, and the past decade of the latest remake floating around between directors and potential stars, a lot of us probably asked if there needed to be another version. Even more heads turned at the official production line-up: Bradley Cooper as director starring alongside Lady Gaga. And then the movie was released, and it by far lives up to the hype it has earned across the board.

Movies released to film festivals are often perfect bait for award show season, but then the official release into cinemas will divide audiences into love-it-or-hate-it. Cooper's A Star Is Born hits pretty much all the right notes from audiences and critics by reinventing the 1976 version into an electric, refined adaptation. Part concert, part romance, part musical, part drama, his version has everything from his own excellent performance as Jackson Maine to an electrifying chemistry with Lady Gaga's Ally. The soundtrack nestles perfectly inside the character's relationship and doesn't feel too meta or over-the-top. It's difficult to not fall in love with this movie or find too many faults with Cooper's rendition and the efforts he and Gaga put into their version. Similar to my final pick, this movie is such an juggernaut of heart, talent, and story, they're practically tied. (Read my full review here)

A Star Is Born Judy Garland James Mason

A Star Is Born (1954)

The 1937 original offered a wealth of material for its remakes, but it's here with director George Cukor's version seventeen years later that makes the story sing. The premise is still the same - Norman Maine's career is on its way out as he struggles with his alcoholic abuse. During one of his cold-stone sober evenings he walks in on songstress Esther Blodgett bellowing an unforgettable performance for just her and the boys, and he'll stop at nothing to help make her a star. But any chance of their relationship surviving is no good from the start.

Unlike some Classic Hollywood films that can feel too stuck in their time capsule, this Classic Hollywood film feels more contemporary than one might expect. Cukor frames both the drama and the music to make it a showstopper but also heart-breakingly intimate. At the center of the film is its stars, with every aspect of the film-making, trying to make this a successful comeback for Judy Garland. With both the drama and music, the triple-threat gives it her all unlike anything she'd done before. So much so, it's still impossible to believe that she lost the Best Actress race sixty-four years later. Of all the actors considered to play opposite her, James Mason offers the perfect weight and levity with his addiction and his love for Blodgett. Between them, there is a tender and electric chemistry that works, and the story features enough of their characters struggling with his downfall that it doesn't feel like it's focusing too much on Garland's musicality or Mason's dramatic chops.

More than that, what's unique about this rendition, like the 2018 version, is that it doesn't center solely on one element to captivate our attention: it has drama, romance, music, humor, beautiful production design, a good script, and unbelievable talent to tie everything together. The only shame is how careless the industry was with this film. When theaters refused to run the three hour version upon its initial release, the original cut was sliced to pieces like a Thanksgiving turkey. The restored version glues the film back together as best as possible with set photos and surviving dialogue, and the end results still manages to make it an absolute showstopper.

No comments:

Post a Comment