Maverick’ can’t win Best Picture

Like a jet during take off, “Top Gun: Maverick” has been gaining momentum all awards season long, with some pundits saying the popular sequel has a decent shot at winning Best Picture.

I’m afraid its Goose is cooked. The 2023 Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning and, although “Maverick” managed a Best Picture nod, it appears that the beloved movie will stay safely on the loser tarmac. 

Its leading actor, Tom Cruise, was snubbed again (he already lost out on Golden Globe and SAG nominations) and director Joseph Kosinski didn’t make the cut either. True, last year’s winner “CODA” lacked those nods, too. But despite being called “Maverick,” “Top Gun” isn’t a heartwarming indie underdog — it’s an action-packed juggernaut. It required more nominations than it got.

Also, although the Academy expanded Best Picture to make room for blockbusters in 2009 (after “Dark Knight” was snubbed), the last time a movie that made more than $500 million at the worldwide box office actually won the big kahuna was “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” 20 years ago.

Audiences love “Maverick,” and it raked in a cargo-hold of cash ($1.4 billion), but it’ll be too hard a sell for the Academy — just like fellow big-budget nominees “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Toy Story 3” and the first “Avatar” were.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads the pack with 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh.
Courtesy Everett Collection

Everything Everywhere All At Once,” a genre-bending science-fiction-action-comedy with a heavy dose of spirituality, is the frontrunner now with 11 nods, including Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan and Best Director for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

Though the hip “Everything Everywhere” could prove a hard sell for older voters for the top prize, its closest competition, Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed “The Fabelmans,” got dinged with the lack of an always-telling editing nomination. And Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”) was a surprise fifth slot for Best Supporting Actor over “Fabelmans”’ Paul Dano.

Cruise wasn’t the only big name offed by the Oscars Tuesday. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie were left off the roster for “Babylon,” Hugh Jackman didn’t make the cut for “The Son,” Viola Davis won’t rule for “The Woman King” and for his turn in “A Man Called Otto,” Tom Hanks is a man called nada.

Avatar The Way of Water
“Avatar: The Way of Water” received a Best Picture nod, but nothing for director James Cameron.

And, while “Avatar: The Way of Water” snagged nods for Best Picture and some technical categories, the Academy did not say “I see you” to director James Cameron. He’s fine, though. His movie passed the $2 billion box office mark last weekend.

Actually, compared to recent years, money-makers were out in droves on this list. Joining “Avatar” in Best Picture are “Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.4 billion), “Elvis” ($287 million) and “Everything Everywhere” ($104 million). The others — “Tár,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans,” “Women Talking,” “Triangle of Sadness” — were seen and adored by about five paying customers. And Netflix’s popular World War I film “All Quiet on the Western Front,” well, streamed on Netflix.

Cate Blanchett stars in "Tar."
Cate Blanchett is the Best Actress frontrunner for “Tár.”
Focus Features

The Whale | Official Trailer
Brendan Fraser is nominated for Best Actor for playing a 600 pound man in “The Whale.”

On the acting side, the assumed winners were all present and accounted for: Brendan Fraser for “The Whale” (Colin Farrell in “Banshees” could upset him), Cate Blanchett in “Tár” (Yeoh should finesse that speech anyway), Kerry Condon in “Banshees” (Supporting Actress could go a lot of ways) and Ke Huy Quan for “Everything Everywhere” (it’s 100% his.)

Will big titles and a few names make anybody watch the Oscars? Probably not. The Golden Globes got its worst ratings ever earlier this month with just 5.9 million people tuning in. Yes, they aired on a Tuesday and were making an awkward comeback after having no telecast at all in 2022. But interest in these shindigs has undeniably plummeted across the board.

Still, in the broadcast’s defense, every Oscars has at least one must-watch moment everybody talks about the next day.

Trouble is, the Academy can’t very well announce ahead of time that Will Smith is going to smack Chris Rock in the face and yell “Get my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth!” 

If that were possible, everyone everywhere would watch all at once. 

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