Who wore it better: 1976 or 2018? I faced the films off in seven categories: Song, Soundtrack, Hair, Sob Story, Leading Lady, Leading Man, and Chemistry.
SONG: “Shallow” vs. “Evergreen”
“Evergreen” nabbed two Grammys in 1978; Oscar did not have a Best Original Song category at the time. Streisand and Kristofferson recorded a darling duet for the movie, but deleted his backing vocals for the final recording. Shouldn’t a love song feature both singers? “Shallow” beats “Evergreen”. Plus, “Shallow” is way more fun to sing in the car.
WINNER: “Shallow”, 2018
1976’s version knew what it was here to do: sell records. It’s dated as hell now, but the soundtrack was explosive. That’s why you find these damn records in every used record bin on the planet. “Evergreen” wasn’t an evergreen, but the soundtrack also includes the powerhouse “Woman in the Moon”, and John Norman Howard’s prophetic “Are You Watching Me Now” served as the film’s recurring motif. Some of the music in the 2018 version is straight up bad. It’s supposed to be, and it is. Lady Gaga’s gorgeous voice (and performance) make “I’ll Never Love Again” and “Shallow” standouts, and the soundtrack is pretty good on its own… but Bradley Cooper is not here to sell records (and seems like Lady Gaga is here for an Oscar). 1977 wins because of sheer effort.
Both female leads made quite the statement with their hair. Barbs opted for a Jew ‘fro throughout. Gaga, whose stage stylist did her hair for the film, “dyed [her] hair back to [her] natural color”. Yea, we could tell. Ali’s hair was supposed to tell a story. It did. But it also looked fucking terrible. It’s precious hard to find pictures of her orange hair . Streisand wins the flower crown here.
WINNER: Barbara Streisand, 1976
Bradley Cooper’s Jack had an absent, alcoholic father, a conniving brother, and a slew of stints in rehab. His tragic backstory felt familiar for those in touch with the plight of poor whites. Kristofferson’s John Norman Howard was just depressed and angry. He threw way better temper tantrums, though.
WINNER: Bradley Cooper, 2018
Jack might have the better sob story, but IMAO, John Norman Howard was straight- up better. He had a better name, better antics, better music (Kristofferson is actually a musician), better clothes, better romantic gestures, a better voice, and better lost- puppy eyes. We really wanted Esther to love him back to life; in the end, he stole the show right out from under her. No contest: Kris Kristofferson made a better leading man.
WINNER: Kris Kristofferson, 1976
When “A Star Is Born” came out, critics quickly pointed out Streisand’s star power. Esther Hoffman found herself in the right place at the right time and spent the rest of the film as brassy, ballsy Barbara; Aly has a much more nuanced transformation. “She doesn’t fully become a star until the film is over,” Gaga told Vogue. Gaga gets this one for making us truly believe she’s an underdog.
WINNER: Lady Gaga, 2018
Feel free to disagree with me, but Kris and Barbara’s chemistry is so much better than Bradley and Gaga’s it’s almost offensive. The age differences in Cooper’s version got really bizarre. Did anyone else think Bradley Cooper looked too old for Aly? What was up with Cooper’s dadbrother? Sometimes Ally looked like his nurse. Streisand and Kristofferson are 6 years apart, but both are older; in the movie, Esther already had one divorce under her belt. There’s just something about the way Kris strokes Barbara’s fluffy poodle hair. Plus, the 70’s felt way sexier than 2018. Barbs & ‘Stoff get this one.
Cooper performs suicide the same way his dad tried; he hangs himself with his own belt in the garage. Since Bradley Cooper’s suicide plays into his Sob Story win, Kristofferson gets the best suicide here. Kristofferson drunkenly drives his hot rod into the desert and goes out in a blaze of glory. Something about the uncertainty of a car crash makes it seem like a part of John Norman Howard wanted to live, which made his death even more tragic; Jack took no chances. That said… it would be really cool if they made a version of this movie where nobody died.
WINNER: It’s not the original, but it’s still the best. 1977 takes my cake.