As we move into the middle of December, the awards races are heating up. We’ve talked some about the various acting categories, but let’s turn now to the big kahuna—Best Picture. Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is currently the frontrunner, but Top Gun: Maverick just got a HUGE boost, as Maverick was named Best Film by the National Board of Review. On the very same day, it was announced the Producers’ Guild will honor Tom Cruise with the David O. Selznick Award, which is a kind of lifetime achievement award. Past honorees include Spielberg, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, and Marvel’s Kevin Feige. They have a habit of recognizing producers who work on gargantuan productions, not because smaller films are easier to produce—they categorically are not—but because the Selznick Award is as much about effort as it is impact. And there is no doubting the impact of Cruise, in general, and Maverick, specifically, as the film that saved theaters (for now).
Cruise is not out of the running for a Best Actor nomination, though his best shot is being nominated as a producer for Best Picture. And frankly, I don’t know how you can argue against Maverick this year, on sheer technical scale alone. I’m in the middle of my nomination week for multiple awards groups that I belong to, including the Critics’ Choice Awards, and I just keep coming back to Maverick and its technical accomplishment. Toss all the box office and “return of the blockbusters” narratives aside, and you’re still left with an incredible technical piece of filmmaking that is without peer. Director Joseph Kosinski is an outside shot for a Best Director nomination, but damn, what he did, wrangling such a complex production, is impressive. (Better odds go to editor Eddie Hamilton and cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who already has an Oscar for Life of Pi.)
There is something poetic in the idea of Cruise winning an Oscar, finally, for a film like Maverick. It really feels like after he didn’t win Best Supporting Actor for Magnolia, he stopped chasing trophies and doubled down on action and stunts, so it would be fitting if he finally won for a “stunt” movie. But there is always a caveat when it comes to Tom Cruise and trophies, because at the end of the day, the Oscars are a popularity contest. And Tom Cruise, while no one argues his accomplishments, isn’t beloved among his peers. Xenu is embedded in Los Angeles, and there are a lot of people in the industry who have had negative interactions with Scientology, and as the face of Xenu, Cruise wears that with his peers. So the question facing Cruise is, does how grateful people feel for Maverick juicing the box office this year, and the legit admiration for the technical accomplishment of the film, outweigh people’s personal dislike for Cruise as the de facto spokesperson of a cult? Cruise and Maverick got a bump this week, but it still might not be enough.
Live long and gossip,