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Should Lady Gaga Really Win Best Actress?

Should Lady Gaga Really Win Best Actress?

Hair, body, face…but a Best Actress Win? Out staff writers Mathew Rodriguez and Rose Dommu debate whether Lady Gaga should take home the Oscar.

The Best Actress field at this year's Academy Awards is crowded beyond crowded, with five A-list ladies all vying to Fortnite the shit out of each other. But for many girls and gays, the real fight comes down to only two main contenders: Lady Gaga vs. everybody. Out staff writers Mathew Rodriguez and Rose Dommu argue both sides below. -- Harron Walker

MATHEW RODRIGUEZ: Lady Gaga has had a pretty rough Oscars season. She started it in the world's shakiest position -- frontrunner -- and has lost on-air to Glenn Close several times now, tying with her once at the Critics' Choice Awards. There are certainly performances I admired much more this year -- specifically KiKi Layne in If Beale Street Could Talk, who didn't get much awards attention -- but very few people whose awards-season narrative I admired more.

There's a huge aspect to Lady Gaga's portrayal of Ally Maine, nee Campana, that I think few people talk about and that makes her awards-worthy. The people behind the film chose to run it as a drama at the Golden Globes, probably in a bid to be taken "more seriously," just like Jackson Maine would've wanted. But the truth is, A Star Is Born is a musical and Gaga is its master interpreter. When she's singing, Gaga's performance is a tour de force. Her 20-foot journey from the side of stage left to the microphone is still one of the best cinematic moments of 2018 -- and it's all Gaga. You can read the fear and trepidation of the unknown, and the willingness to push through that fear, all on her face. For being the anchor in this scene alone, Gaga is Oscar-worthy.

ROSE DOMMU: As Out's resident Gaga historian, I'm sure everyone expects me to ride for her as best actress. But it's because I'm engaged in a Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with Stefani that I don't think she deserves to win.

As I wrote in my review of the film, I think Gaga does a very good job with the role she was given to play. That being said, we have to look at this contextually. A Star Is Born is a perfect movie, meaning it's great as popcorn entertainment, but it's kind of a lousy film -- and a lot of that has to do with the script, co-written by Bradley Cooper. Ally is a pretty one-dimensional character in that literally all she cares about is Jackson Maine, and I guess drag queens? She has little to no agency and spends the majority of the film reacting to Jackson rather than creating her own story. Even after Jackson dies, in the final scene where she allegedly finally becomes the titular star, she's still singing the words he wrote for her. I don't believe Ally is developed enough as character to merit a Best Actress win.

RODRIGUEZ: OMG Rose! I'm so glad you brought this up because this was going to be a part of my argument. I think the character of Ally is such underwritten trash. But I would also argue that many women have won Best Actress for underwritten roles. Emma Stone, Sandra Bullock, and Kate Winslet have all won for roles that weren't particularly "round" characters, and that's just in the last decade or so! As usual, this is a man's mess, and it's one that I think Gaga, through her own Herculean effort, mostly cleaned up.

I agree with you, that Ally is a thin character -- a skinny (on detail) legend. But I think that the magic of Gaga's performance is that she's able to introduce and unearth complexities around Ally that may not have been on the page. She was given a character riddled with blanks, and I do think that her acting choices filled them in for me, mostly. I do think that her being able to succeed at that is worthy of some gold.

DOMMU: I agree that Gaga does a good job with the limited material she was given, but that doesn't mean she deserves an Oscar. While she's excellent as the ingenue in the first half of the film -- I've said several times that A Star Is Born is almost flawless up until the end of "Shallow" and then falls the fuck apart -- she is borderline terrible in the second half, and, again, it's mostly because of Cooper's script. Every time she's forced to improv, I wish I was watching the intro to the "Marry the Night" video instead.

A Star Is Born is big-budget melodrama ((tm) Lorde), and Stefani spends the second half of the film chewing the scenery in an orange wig. The only times she truly shines are during the musical numbers, which is why I agree that this film should have been angled as a musical for awards shows. In that category, it holds up, but as a drama? No. Lady Gaga is essentially acting out a string of music videos, and every time there's no song playing I... have to laugh.

RODRIGUEZ: What's interesting about your point here, Rose, is that I feel like a lot of people nominated don't really fit into the Best Actress category all that well, for one reason or another. Glenn Close is an amazing actress who is pretty OK in a deeply meh film. Olivia Colman is great, but I still call category fraud as Queen Anne is a supporting character in The Favourite. I personally love Melissa McCarthy's Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but I doubt she has a chance of winning.

I guess what I'm saying is that the Best Actress win rarely comes down to the best performance of the year (*cough* Toni Collette in Hereditary *cough*). It's more so about the politics around it. I think that Gaga has a super compelling story, a great 40 minutes of a performance, and a stunning final song. I don't think I'd be upset to scroll through the Best Actress page on Wikipedia and see her name highlighted in that piss yellow they uses to denote category winners.

DOMMU: For me, it comes down to this: A Star Is Born is not Lady Gaga's Moonstruck. I do think it suggests that Gaga has that kind of performance in her, but this ain't it. To take home Best Actress, she'll need to step into a role further removed from her own life. I don't know who will win this Sunday (probably Glenn Close) but what I do know is that yes, Toni Collette was robbed.

RELATED | From ARTPOP to A Star is Born, A Timeline of Gaga's Reinvention

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