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 Predictions: Licorice Pizza

When Paul Thomas Anderson writes and directs, the Academy takes notice and that won’t change with Licorice Pizza. Out in limited release November 26th before a Christmas Day expansion, the social media embargo is lapsed. Early word indicates the coming-of-age dramedy set in the Valley circa 1973 is one of the filmmaker’s most accessible and lighter works. And there are certainly categories where Oscar voters may bite.

Six out of the last seven PTA pictures have nabbed nominations. Two (There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread) contended for Best Picture and its maker made it both times for his direction. He has been nominated five times for screenwriting with the aforementioned titles as well as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Inherent Vice. Despite the multiple ballot appearances, PTA has yet to get his hands on a gold statue.

That could change here, but it’s no guarantee. I do believe the initial buzz suggests a Best Picture nod is likely and he could certainly be recognized for directing. I don’t foresee wins in either race.

Original Screenplay is a different story. Belfast is the main competition at the moment and that’s significant considering it’s the frontrunner for Picture. However, I could see a narrative developing where Anderson could emerge victorious partly as a career achievement/overdue honor.

Down the line recognition for Editing might be its strongest opportunity in tech derbies. For the actors, PTA’s filmography has resulted in nine nominations for its performers. There’s just one win with Daniel Day-Lewis  in Blood. Interestingly, we’ve seen three nominees each in Actor, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. None for Best Actress, but that’s where Pizza has perhaps the most feasible chance.

Alana Haim’s performance is already getting raves. The downside is that Best Actress looks awfully competitive in 2021 and it could be an uphill battle. She’ll need some critics awards love and precursors. Same goes for Cooper Hoffman who makes his big screen debut. He’s the son of the late Philip, who PTA featured in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, and The Master. He too is being lauded though breaking into Actor could be an even taller order for him.

Finally, that brings us to Bradley Cooper. Playing film producer and Barbra Streisand’s former hairdresser Jon Peters, this looked like the kind of juicy role that might finally get the four-time acting contender some hardware. I’ve had Cooper listed at #1 in my Supporting Actor predictions since I began doing them over the summer (even in my updated estimates from earlier in the evening). It seems that Cooper’s screen time is quite limited in this… enough so that he might miss the dance altogether. One bright side is that Supporting Actor is so wide open that even his brief appearance could make enough of an impression on the Academy. I do suspect that Cooper will, at the least, not be in the top spot when I update next week.

Bottom line: the Pizza party at the Oscars could involve Picture, Director, and absolutely Original Screenplay. The cast faces some challenges. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 31st Edition

Today’s Streaming Guide bring us an absolute masterclass in filmmaking and acting that is currently available via Netflix:

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is an early 20th century tale of oil mining and greed with a towering and Oscar winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. As Daniel Plainview, a ruthless prospector turned tycoon – Day-Lewis pretty much won the Academy Award as soon as the picture screened for critics. Blood was also victorious in the Cinematography category and deservedly so. The pic also features dynamite supporting work from Paul Dano as a scheming preacher. And there’s a line regarding milkshakes that stands along the hit Kelis track as the best 21st century milkshake references.

Blood continued Anderson’s ascent into greatness after such features as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love. It has since continued with The Master, Inherent Vice, and Phantom Thread (which is headlined by another terrific Day-Lewis role). I have a special place for Boogie Nights, which I considered to be the best movie of the 1990s not named Pulp Fiction. As far as PTA’s output, this ranks second.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…