Maverick is worthy of ‘Best Picture’, but earning a Top 10 spot is tough – Awardsdaily

The race for best picture is not difficult to understand. It’s a system that can be easily defeated if you know your constituents. It’s not exactly rocket science to figure out which movies they’ll choose in the end by looking at the range of options. As a result, it is often disappointing that it becomes such a limited selection, given the possibilities. This Academy, even after adding more young members and many of them international voters, is less concerned with movies that resonate with audiences than it seems to be with movies that resonate with more sophisticated moviegoers or the hive mind of critics.

Drive My Car vs Spider-Man: No Way Home is probably your best example, but there are plenty of others. It wouldn’t really matter if the situation wasn’t so dire. But the situation is indeed dire.

The Oscars have gone from being one of the most powerful publicity tools in the industry to something more like a seal of approval to represent Hollywood ideology. Think of it like McDonald’s selling salads to show they care about healthy options. Most people don’t go there to eat salad and everyone knows that, but just showing they care enough to offer those options keeps them making money selling hamburgers.

There is a growing chasm between the mainstream American public and the increasingly niche media, which includes film critics, outlets like The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and more. The class of people who still read these media are your target. demo for the Oscars. As long as the Academy has good press to choose films like Drive My Car, or Nomadland or any other critically acclaimed (and inclusive, above all) film, they won’t change and won’t feel the need to change.

If you remove the box office as a measure of success and don’t really care what the unseen majority thinks, you can essentially exist inside your own utopian bubble. And here we are now, in the summer of 2022, when a movie captivated audiences with an A+ CinemaScore and a mad Rotten Tomatoes rating from critics and audiences alike:

After hearing all the hype about Top Gun: Maverick, I finally went to see it in a real movie theater. I didn’t expect it to be good. I expected decent. I was not expecting a film that I never wanted to finish, it was so pleasant. There’s no scenario that this won’t become one of the most memorable and beloved movies of 2022. It’s not just the movie itself, which is as perfect and as satisfying as the movies with which I was lucky enough to grow up in the 80s and 90s before movies died (or mostly died). It is also about the moment.

We are all coming out of our peak of COVID trauma and trying to put our lives back together. This is not the right time in this country. We are probably heading into a recession, gas prices are high and inflation is becoming a worst nightmare, not to mention the daily horrors in the news. We are barely holding on as a country, we are barely holding on to ourselves.

What we need is what Hollywood always promised: a way to escape it all. When I think about what should define “Best Movie of the Year,” I have to consider what a movie means in any given year. There are still plenty of promising movies to come this year, many of which are worth looking forward to. We won’t know what those movies are or where Top Gun: Maverick will fit in the final rankings.

That’s not to say this movie looks like Drive My Car or anything. It won’t make you think about your own mortality, your relationships, or the meaning of life. It doesn’t really have any depth beyond what it is. But what it IS is nothing less than spectacular. This is one of the main reasons why films exist. That’s why people pay to see them. It’s why they have such a permanent place in our collective hearts and minds and it’s why the best crowd-pleasers don’t divide but rather unite.

Top Gun: Maverick lives up to the hype and surpasses it because it does what it was designed to do: it gives its viewers everything they expect and does it almost effortlessly. This is a movie that understands its formula and doesn’t mess with it. Those who say the movie isn’t “woke” are usually right. This doesn’t upset the traditional “hero’s journey”, which is a central male figure called into action who ends up saving the day. But it’s inclusive in its cast and gives a female pilot, the wonderful Monica Barbaro, a spot on a crucial mission. I myself did not find this particularly realistic. I think they would have gone with an all-male flight crew, but that doesn’t matter – most of what happens in the movie is fantastic anyway.

The success of this film is to stay close to what worked on the original Top Gun, being sure to put in the leather jackets, motorcycle rides without a helmet, landing on an aircraft carrier, etc. They are not reinventing the wheel. They give their audience exactly what they want and more. They’ve all got the same guys coming back: a girlfriend for Tom Cruise, a Val Kilmer-style cocksure pilot (Kilmer is also returning as an Iceman) – Anthony Edwards’ Goose is dead but his son is back and an accomplished pilot himself, played by Miles Teller. There’s a candy-man beach sequence and jaw-dropping flight sequences that actually surpass those of the original. Maverick is no less than 1000 times better than the original Top Gun, so good that it makes the original even better when reviewed.

They flipped the romance a bit, with Jennifer Connelly playing Cruise’s reluctant girlfriend. It’s her who walks away from him, rather than Cruise walks away from Kelly McGillis in the original. Because the original was released in the 1980s during Reagan’s second term, there’s definitely a “pro-American” vibe to it. Top Gun topped the box office at the time, the same year David Lynch’s Blue Velvet was released.

Top Gun was nominated for four Oscars: both sound, editing and song categories – which it won. The Best Picture nominees that year were:

Children of a lesser God
The mission
A room with a view
Hannah and her sisters

That tells you a lot about who the Academy was at the time, what their sensibilities were, and why Top Gun could never have landed a Best Picture nomination. But here are the five box office champions the year Top Gun dominated it – you can see that the previous year’s best picture winner Out of Africa was doing pretty well at the box office because there was not the same disconnection as there is now:

Due to release dates, Platoon, Hannah and the others weren’t major box office performers that year, but the following year Platoon came in at number two for the whole year:

The thing is, the Oscars were relevant to the audience. People watched the films and the films that were nominated were watched. There wasn’t a disconnect so big that most people couldn’t even tell you what was nominated or what won in any given year. The last two years have almost completely killed the Oscars. They could do a lot worse than actively vote to make sure Top Gun: Maverick gets in.

These days, a movie ultimately needs (according to Marshall Flores) around 863 votes to secure a spot on the Top Movies list. First round, second round, it doesn’t matter. It surely helps to have many number one votes. If you don’t have a number one, you’re not even going to take a look. If you come up with a small number of number ones, you’ll probably be among the first to be eliminated.

Drive My Car probably got a good number of number ones and then made up the rest with better placed lower votes. Spider-Man, on the other hand, probably didn’t have enough number one votes to begin with, and certainly wasn’t going to be placed in the 1-5 position on the majority of ballots. It was maybe 9 or 10 for many of them, but that’s not enough. It has to be a movie that hits a lot higher on all the ballots.

Maverick will have to be considered, at least, for the direction (Joseph Kosinski) and the screenplay (Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie). It should have no problem picking up tech nods, like the original did. And it might win Best Song for Lady Gaga, who knows. Can Tom Cruise land in the Best Actor race? Well, probably not – but again, it depends on how the year goes. They just have to ignite, as did Brad Pitt with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Much has been said about this movie not being “woke” and that’s why it did well. In its own way, it’s “woke,” I thought, placing the wonderful Monica Barbaro in one of the prime pilot positions. In fact, I don’t think they would have sent a woman on this kind of crucial mission. I’m not saying women couldn’t do it, but I’m saying when it comes to a life or death situation, they probably won’t go that way. But the film isn’t a documentary either, so it doesn’t get in the way.

Where Hollywood goes wrong is in trying to replace the traditional male hero with a woman. If they do that with the Jack Sparrow character in Pirates of the Caribbean, if they do another Pirates movie, it’s probably going to bomb. People want to see Johnny Depp in this role and if they don’t choose him, they might as well not get there. Same as Top Gun. If they had done it again with a woman in the Tom Cruise spot, no one would have paid to see it. When people say it’s not “woke”, I guess that’s what they mean.

There are just a few tropes you shouldn’t play with if the intention is to draw in the audience. It’s exhausting trying to solve all the problems in the world when people just want to go see a movie and let off steam. The traditional male hero is something we all fundamentally need and can’t get rid of, no matter how much deconstructionist activism is at play. Most people don’t want to see it. Find a better way.

Nor does he give agonizing lectures on a social justice issue – thank goodness for that. The last thing people need right now is the richest of us telling them how to “do it better”. If Hollywood is learning a lesson from this moment in our collective history, it’s simply this: make better movies. It’s like that big scene at the end of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, “If you want to do humanity a real service, tell funnier jokes.”

Top Gun: Maverick knows exactly why people are paying their hard-earned cash to see this movie, and it doesn’t waste a second of their time. He simply delivers on all levels. I can’t wait to see him again.

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