Oscar Predictions – Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to arrive a mere 34 years after its iconic predecessor. Due to numerous COVID delays, it now hits theaters on May 27th and some 36 years behind the original. By nearly all accounts, Tom Cruise and the filmmakers have landed the plane.

Ahead of its Cannes premiere, the review embargo has lapsed for Maverick and the Rotten Tomatoes score is a sizzling 96%. Nearly all critics are calling it an improvement over the ’86 blockbuster and it could be in line to give Cruise his largest opening and overall hit of his career (my box office prediction will arrive next week).

Three and a half decades back, part one caught the attention of Academy voters in four categories. The Berlin theme “Take My Breath Away” won Best Song and Gun nabbed nods for Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. All those races are in play again in one form or another.

Best Sound has been condensed to one category and it’s a near lock that the sequel will play there. Film Editing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects are also possibilities. Then there’s the sound of Lady Gaga’s voice. The superstar contributed the track “Hold My Hand” and it could be hard to beat. Ms. Gaga is poised for her third Song nomination behind 2015’s “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground and “Shallow” from A Star Is Born (which won). She also shares Score credit with Hans Zimmer (who just won a trophy for Dune) and Harold Faltermeyer (best known for his Beverly Hills Cop tune “Axel F”).

Let’s assume Sound and Song are gimmes. With the aforementioned others, we could be looking at a handful of mentions. Will the Academy go beyond the tech derbies? It looks like Maverick will be a gigantic earner and crowdpleaser. I have no doubt there will be a push from Paramount for Best Picture recognition and Cruise in Best Actor. If so, it would be his fourth acting nod. There were two in lead for 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July and 1996’s Jerry Maguire and a supporting mention for 1999’s Magnolia. He’s never made a victorious trip to the podium.

I’m skeptical about it playing in the major leagues, but wins in Sound and Song are doable. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Hillbilly Elegy

Junebug. Doubt. The Fighter. The Master. American Hustle. Vice. 

The World According to Garp. The Big Chill. The Natural. Fatal Attraction. Dangerous Liaisons. Albert Nobbs. The Wife. 

These 13 pictures represent, respectively, the number of Oscar nominations received by Amy Adams and Glenn Close. And there’s not a podium trip for either performer in the whole batch. It’s certainly fair to say that these actresses are both considered overdue for Academy gold. So it is no surprise that their headlining roles in Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy have been circled for consideration of Oscar prognosticators for many months.

Based on J.D. Vance’s hugely popular 2016 bestseller, the adaptation hits Netflix on November 24th. The review embargo ended today. The critics have spoken and done so rather sharply. At press time, the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a troubling 19%. However, before you write off the pic’s chances for any awards attention, you have to dig a bit deeper.

The trailer released weeks ago was met with some derision, but also some chatter that Close in particular has a very baity part for voters. The reviews today solidify that. I have had Close perched at #1 for some time in my weekly estimates in Supporting Actress. It is certainly possible that she stays right there when I update my projections on Friday. Ironically, her biggest competition may come from Olivia Colman in The Father. For those with short memories, it was Colman in The Favourite who scored an upset win over Close for The Wife in Best Actress just two years ago. There’s also Amanda Seyfried (Mank) generating solid buzz. That said, the 8th time may just finally be the charm for Close. Whether she can overcome the otherwise poor reaction from the critical community will be the question moving forward.

As for Adams, it’s more murky. Best Actress in 2020 is already shaping up as a crowded field. I’ve had Adams listed in third position for about a month, but now I’m questioning whether she even makes the final cut. Look for her to be in the 5-7 range when my Friday post is up and running.

Elegy could follow the example of 2013’s August: Osage County where its only nominations come for its two high-profile actresses (in that case it was Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts). The mostly weak reviews probably take it out of contention for Picture and Director. Same goes for the Adapted Screenplay by Vanessa Taylor (who was nominated in 2017 for her Original Screenplay in The Shape of Water). Lucky for Netflix, it has plenty of product that does appear headed for Best Picture inclusion (from The Trial of the Chicago 7 to Mank to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). There are two more nods that are feasible: Hans Zimmer’s score and its Makeup and Hairstyling.

Bottom line: Close is still a contender, but that’s the only category where I believe a victory is even imaginable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Tenet

If there’s something that could be called a breathlessly awaited review embargo, it lapsed today with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The filmmaker’s latest time bending thriller is out in various foreign territories over the next few days with a launch (in somewhat limited fashion) planned for the United States during Labor Day weekend.

Tenet was already one of the year’s most anticipated titles as Nolan is one of the few directors that can guarantee an audience and potential awards attention. It was originally planned for a mid July global launch before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the strategy. The pic is being rightfully looked at as the first major test for theaters post COVID.

So what’s the verdict? Tenet, with just over 30 reviews in, stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. While some critics are hailing it as another visionary work from Nolan, there are others more measured and middle of the road in their write-ups. There is some negativity peppered in.

When Dunkirk was released three years ago, the WWII epic was an immediate Oscar contender and it ended up with 8 nominations. Same goes for Nolan’s 2010 summer smash Inception as it also scored 8 nods. With Tenet, my gut feeling based on early reaction is that it’s far from a shoo-in for the biggest categories.

In that sense, this could more closely follow the trajectory of 2014’s Interstellar. That Matthew McConaughey space tearjerker wound up with 4 nominations: Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, the two Sound races, and Production Design. Tenet could certainly be a player in those categories (Zimmer is scoring here too). Additionally, Visual Effects and Cinematography are definite possibilities.

However, Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay appear far more questionable. As for the cast, it’s worth noting that only one performance in any Nolan feature has been nominated. That would, of course, be Heath Ledger’s Supporting Actor win for the The Dark Knight in 2008. Critical reaction doesn’t indicate that the cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh are likely to be in the mix.

Bottom line: Tenet did not establish itself as an immediate player in the top of the line races today, though technical nods seem assured. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…