A Star is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle

Screenplay: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

136 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.

 

A Star is Born has been made several times over, but what makes each incarnation so special is how they capture the time period they are set in. With a constantly evolving music landscape, A Star is Born is more of a time capsule film, so does it matter that there’s a new one? With first-time director Bradley Cooper at the helm, yes, a resounding yes.

Cooper stars as Jackson Mayne, an alcoholic rockstar who discovers Ally (Lady Gaga, Machete Kills, TV’s American Horror Story), a waitress/singer/songwriter who he helps get into the public eye. As their attraction blossoms into full-blown love affair, Ally finds herself propelled to stardom as Jackson discovers his star slowly fading.

The plot of A Star is Born is nothing new, and there’s the tendency with this film to find itself hitting all the bullet points of the narrative, but it boils down to strong character development in the writing, some truly unforgettable performances and incredible chemistry, and some memorable music. Cooper’s direction is strong for a first outing (though I wouldn’t put him in the conversation of best of the year), but it is his role as Jackson that is worthy of awards consideration. He continues to slip into a role and disappear behind a character, something he’s done several times in recent years.

Lady Gaga’s performance as Ally is very well done too. There’s some criticism about her essentially playing herself, but I don’t buy it. I find that she is accessing parts of herself but the chemistry cannot be understated and the way she folds her own background into the role is wonderful.

Cooper’s primary strengths as a director are where his passion lies, usually with character and story and less so with the technical side of things. He is particularly adept at using the music in the film to influence character and story, and there’s some nice foreshadowing in the film’s many musical numbers.

Overall, A Star is Born isn’t revelatory in its story, but the romance between the leads is so beautiful and heartbreaking that it stands as one of the best films of the year. Bradley Cooper has proven himself yet again with the added directing and co-writing, and Gaga adds another strength to her skill set. This is a terrific piece of cinema.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium (2017)

Director: Stan Lathan

Cast: Dave Chappelle, Morgan Freeman

Screenplay: Dave Chappelle

67 mins. Rated TV-MA.

 

Dave Chappelle (Half Baked, Chi-Raq) made his triumphant return to the stand-up special this year with two shows, the first of which we will talk about today. The Age of Spin is Dave Chappelle’s show at the Hollywood Palladium and it is a doozy. Chappelle warns his audience early by telling them to “man the fuck up” because this is Chappelle at his most unrestrained. During his time on stage, Chappelle chronicles his thoughts on LA Cops, his current standing in the black community, his feud/not feud with Kevin Hart, and his examination on Bill Cosby.

The strongest part of the show is Chappelle promising to tell his audience about all four times he met O.J. Simpson. And he delivers on that promise well. The four meetings each set up another piece of the layered puzzle of Chappelle’s life. This is a comedian who is offensive, unforgiving, and most of all, absolutely hilarious.

And yet, the entire show feels like a conversation with an old friend you haven’t seen in some time. You invite him into your home (thanks to Netflix) and he catches you up on what he’s been doing as of late. It’s like grabbing a cup of coffee with a pal. Okay, maybe a smoke and a drink.

The Age of Spin is an incredible return for Dave Chappelle. He is unapologetic and his audience is all the more thankful for it. But he is respectful in his craft, pausing at the end of his show to ask for a moment of silence for the loss of Garry Shandling which occurred the same week as the taping of the special.  This is one stand-up special that stays with you.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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