It’s accepted wisdom that every time Sean Penn writes, a million brain cells somewhere on the planet are forced to off themselves in protest. Still, we all know that Sean only picks up his pen when it’s truly important—when he has a cause to talk about, or a novel to butcher, or a long, rambling trip to hang out with a drug kingpin to chronicle. Or, as today, when he feels like one of his fellow Auteur Dudes isn’t getting his proper, life-giving respect, driving him to write a stirring note for Deadline in defense of Bradley Cooper and A Star Is Born, which are in terrible danger of being neglected by an Academy that’s seen to grant them a pitiful, miserly eight Oscar nominations this year.
Pappy Pariah can’t let this injustice stand, especially in light of recent reports that first-time director Cooper—up for Best Actor, alongside the film’s well-deserved Best Picture nomination—was “embarrassed” that he didn’t also get a Best Director nomination. “Bradley Cooper has a problem,” Penn writes, in a tone usually reserved for the terminally ill,` or anyone forced into a cocktail party conversation with Sean Penn. “Sure, it all looks good on the outside. Family, fame, fortune, and with his first film as director, he’s made the most successful contemporary love story of all time. That’s exactly the problem Bradley Cooper has.”
See, Penn’s argument is that because Cooper—who we have to assume was unaware he was about to be the subject of this kind of wild-eyed idolatry, and who has our sympathies—is so successful, and so beloved, the Oscars aren’t going to give him a fair shake, on the grounds that he’ll have plenty of shots for the gold. Instead, Penn frets, the Academy might instead recognize one of the “many perishable trend-pieces” nominated this year, which is the sort of vagueness that can make think people think you’re trying to pull bullshit like lumping Black Panther in with Green Book or something, Sean.
Still, any connoisseurs of Penn’s writing will know that the true delight of basking in his craftsmanship is when he inevitably serves up a bowl of absolutely inscrutable word salad in pursuit of metaphor, and this latest missive is no exception. Sidle up to the buffet, friends:
In the end, the apples and oranges of film competition, and the inequity of advertising budgets has always left the Academy Awards with some inevitable aftertaste of the alcohol most of us have to drink to get through them. To spare myself potential disappointment, I’m raising a glass in advance to Bradley Cooper and A Star is Born. Surely a raised glass is as legitimate as a globe of gilded gold or a male statuette minus a penis (also gold gilded). God forbid it have balls this year!
God forbid indeed, bud.