Bradley Cooper could be Oscar loser for 10th time with ‘Maestro’

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When Bradley Cooper’s film “Maestro” premiered in Venice this fall, it seemed his moment of glory had finally arrived.

The “Hangover” star’s direction of the prestige drama and his performance as famed “West Side Story” composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein were greeted enthusiastically by critics.

The pretentious historical movie is, of course, the sort of thing the press tends to rubber-stamp automatically.

The picture is about a real person; a big chunk of it was shot in black and white; the main character leads a secret gay life in New York City and ages some 40 years over the course of the story. Cooper is slathered in a Freddy Kreuger mound of makeup and prosthetics.  

That’s a foolproof rubric straight out of “How To Succeed At The Oscars Without Really Trying.”

Boosting its awards season chances further, after “Maestro” landed at Netflix’s brick-and-mortar theaters, the Paris in New York and the Egyptian in LA (plus a few others), the culturati were predictably abuzz.

The Bernstein flick, they declared, would be Cooper’s first Oscar for Best Actor — or, well, for Best anything. 

The actor has lost nine times before in various categories, besting — worsting? — the eight winless nominations of both Glenn Close and Peter O’Toole. 

“Maestro” director and star Bradley Cooper could come home empty-handed from the Oscars for the 10th time. FilmMagic

And he is starving for an Academy Award like Oliver Twist begging for more gruel. 

Remember, even though the moody “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” won the Oscar for Best Song in 2019, Cooper didn’t co-write it — he only performed it. So, he sadly got ze-ee–ee-ro for shal-lal-lal-low.

But what about “Mae-ae-ae-stro”?

Good luck. Three months after its debut, word of mouth on Netflix’s movie, which also stars a very good Carey Mulligan, is beginning to sour and Cooper has won hardly any early prizes (no offense to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival). 

You see, dropping a movie on Netflix during a competitive awards campaign can be both a boon and a risk. It’s a boon because millions of people will watch it, and it’s a risk because … millions of people will watch it. 

Unlike the sort of Oscar-bait that comfortably lurks at arthouse theaters for a small but dedicated audience in big cities, films on Netflix are casually viewed by a much wider, less forgiving demographic all over the world. Instantly, the hubbub around your movie gets commandeered by common people.

The audience score for “Maestro” had dropped about 20 points since it landed on Netflix. AP

And so far, they’re not mad for “Maestro.”

Look at its RottenTomatoes audience score. Since the film dropped on the streaming service on Dec. 20, its user rating has fallen by about 20 points and now sits at a less-than-euphoric 70%. 

Reflecting the about-face, Cooper is being ripped by social-media users, including some at-home film buffs, for showboating to win an Oscar (they’re right, by the way). And the movie itself has been dinged for its slow pace and lack of focus. 

The shift in mood puts Cillian Murphy, the haunting star of “Oppenheimer,” back in the lead for Best Actor, with the awards prognosticator GoldDerby favoring the 47-year-old Irish actor by a hair. 

Will Cooper and “Maestro” still be nominated at the Oscars for Best Actor and Picture? Oh, sure. This was a weak year for stand-out male performances, and the film is about the genius who composed “Candide.” Brandy-swilling nominators can’t help themselves. 

Plus, both the pic and its lead got nods from the Golden Globes, which still do exist.

As Bernstein, Cooper is slathered in prosthetics. AP

If all goes well, those will mark Cooper’s 10th and 11th Oscar nominations on Jan. 23.

And, I suspect, they will also mark his 10th and 11th undelivered speeches on March 10.

All the red carpets and glossy interviews about how he studied conducting for a year can’t hide an obvious truth from voters: viewers just don’t like “Maestro” very much and Cooper is far from a once-in-a-lifetime turn.

His best shot — that Academy voters might pity him for a long career of losing — is undone by his relatively young age of 48. He hasn’t quite reached the “just give him the damn trophy” stage of desperation yet.

So, the Cooper Curse could very well continue.

If so, for his sake, here’s hoping the twelfth time’s the charm.



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