Earlier today, Sam Elliott was, somehow, not nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Yes, yes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is small group of, let’s say, “easily influenced” voters. This is pretty well-known at this point, but they put on a really fun show, backed by the powers at NBC, so people watch and people pay attention. And even though their results don’t really matter (as far as any of this stuff mattering), it does seep into people’s consciousness as far as who the perceived frontrunners are.
Look, who knows what happened here? It could be an easy enough answer as all the voters thought Elliott was a given, so he or she voted for a less likely choice to boost that actor’s chances. Or maybe Elliott didn’t show up to enough Hollywood Foreign Press Association parties. And it’s not always fun to vote for a frontrunner! It’s fun to think outside the box! When we hear for so often that someone is a shoo-in, that person starts to become boring, even though Sam Elliott has somehow never even been nominated for an Oscar.
So, having said all that, let’s reiterate a point: Sam Elliott is fucking awesome in A Star is Born and if you’re in the Academy, don’t let this travesty happen when the Oscar nominations happen. Sam Elliott is the heart and soul of A Star is Born and, as good as everyone else is in that film, it doesn’t work without him. (Sam Elliott has a tendency to do this in a lot of films, but it really stands out in A Star is Born.)
Let’s talk about one particular scene, which happens to be my favorite scene in any movie this year. (I guess if you haven’t seen A Star is Born, this gets into spoilers.) Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) and his older brother, Bobby (Elliott), have a fairly tumultuous relationship throughout the film. Near the end, they have a heart to heart about their relationship with each other and with their deceased father. Jackson finally admits to Bobby that it wasn’t their father he wanted to impress – as Bobby always accused Jackson of doing – but it was Bobby’s approval Jackson sought. Jackson says this to Bobby in the driveway as he’s getting out of Bobby’s truck.
Now, a lesser scene and a lesser actor would have milked this revelation. As a viewer, we don’t see much of a reaction at all. We are left with just Elliott, alone in his truck. He doesn’t say anything. The camera shoots him from behind so we can’t see his reaction at all. Then, Elliott jerks the truck into reverse (I’ll never forget this sound cutting through the silence), as then, as he then turns to look back as he backs up, he also turns his face to the viewer. This is the money shot. Everything on Elliott’s face, right here, says more than any amount of dialogue could ever do. We know the history of these two brothers and what these words meant to Bobby just by this look. It’s a masterful scene and a masterful performance.
(Back at the Toronto Film Festival, I met Elliott briefly at a social function. The first thing I asked him about was this scene. And, of course, Elliott immediately deflected the praise and gave it all to Cooper’s direction. Then I started babbling something about Road House and Elliott’s handler, understandably, said it was time to talk to someone else. Later, at the same event, I asked Cooper about it and he smiled and said, “First take!”)
Later in the film, after tragedy strikes, there’s a scene between Lady Gaga’s Ally and Elliott’s Bobby. This wasn’t in the original script, but Cooper was smart enough to realize we had to have one more scene with the heart and soul of the film. The audience needed to see him again. This scene is somehow, at the same time, both heartbreaking and comforting. That is not an easy thing to pull off, yet Elliott nails it.
About this Elliott told Indiewire:
“It kind of all led to the last scene with Gaga,” he said. “Initially, in the script that was to be her dad, that was to be [Andrew] Dice [Clay], and it seemed like the right thing, the dad would come to commiserate with the daughter. I’d wrapped on the film, and I got a I got a text from Bradley, ‘I got a great idea. What if…’ And I just texted him back, I said, ‘Fuck. Just let me know when you want me there.’”
It feels weird to say we’re overlooking one of the best performances of the year when Elliott has been mentioned so often as an Oscar frontrunner, but we can’t have this Golden Globes result be the start of some tragic trend. Elliott’s performance is almost being overshadowed by the buzz. Somewhere along the line it goes from, “Wow, he’s amazing,” to, “Well, he’s for sure going to get an Oscar nomination and probably win,” all but forgetting just how amazing he really is in A Star is Born.