This weekend, we will get two more pieces to the puzzle as to what will be our big winner at the Oscars.The key thing to note about where we are in film history right now, how it’s all evolved, is simply that THE PRODUCER used to be the star of the Best Picture race, way way way way back when. And they still kinda remained the star as we moved through the Miramax/Weinstein/Scott Rudin-era in the 90s and 2000s, where the name of the producer on the movie was enough to get that movie taken very seriously, from conception on through to release.
Now, if you look at the Best Picture race not just this year but for the past several years, the hyphenate, or “auteur” — the person who writes, directs, produces and sometimes stars in their own movie — means that figuring out the winner often entails figuring out whether people want to award one person for everything, or if they figure because a person’s name is on any of the major categories, why bother throwing a whole bunch of awards at them? They get their Oscar, let’s spread the wealth.
With the fall of both Weinstein and Rudin, we saw a vanishing of the prominent producer in Hollywood, all save one. There is still one big name out there: a producer from the old days when producers ruled. And that person has been a titan in Hollywood for decades now: Jerry Bruckheimer. Top Gun: Maverick is his first and only Oscar nomination. He shares producing credit with Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, and David Ellison.
But still, he was the producer on the first Top Gun, and on a ridiculous number of film and television projects over the years. The question is whether the producers are going to be able to unplug themselves from the elitist bubble of what Hollywood and the Oscars have become, or whether they will give credit where credit is due.
And just for the hell of it, because after this season I won’t be able to write about Top Gun: Maverick anymore, I’ll just say this: it’s a perfect film. It proved that MOVIES STILL WORK. That only Hollywood can make MOVIES LIKE THAT. Quoting the BBC’s Nicholas Barber:
The key to its wide appeal
And it didn’t matter if you hadn’t memorised the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It didn’t matter if you weren’t a fan of horror movies, cartoons, or blockbusters about theme-park dinosaurs. Here was a romantic-comedy-drama-action-thriller – which is another way of saying that it was simply a Hollywood movie that everyone could enjoy. To people who had stayed away from cinemas since before the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick felt like a warm welcome home.
Still, it was a bittersweet feeling – as if we were being welcomed home, but we had to leave again soon. Even while we were cheering, laughing and crying at the film, we were aware, on some level, that it was a one-off. Not only was Top Gun: Maverick terrifically well made, it was based on an intellectual property that was recognisable but not over-familiar, it boasted the movies’ brightest superstar, alongside another actor poignantly returning to the screen in the wake of cancer treatment, and it came out just after the peak of a pandemic. How could any studio recreate a phenomenon like that? There have been articles asking what Hollywood could learn from the film’s staggering success, but the answer is: nothing. Top Gun: Maverick won’t set any trends because it isn’t part of a trend. It’s unique.
Unique, why? Because Bruckheimer is a producer who knows how to give the people what they actually WANT, not what Hollywood thinks they should want. This film was like crawling across a city in ruins and happening upon an ice cream truck where people are giving you the most delicious ice cream you’ve ever had in your life, and GODDAMN it tastes good. No one is lecturing you about anything, or trying to push you toward a point of view or tying to FIX YOU. They’re simply reaching out their hand and saying, here you go.
The bittersweet feeling stirred up by Top Gun: Maverick came from knowing that it was a supersonic blast from the past. It was the last of its kind – just as its hero was the last of his. It marked the end of an era. But as long as the film was on the screen, we could tell ourselves that it hadn’t ended yet.
The screenwriters put it best. “The future is coming – and you’re not in it,” says Ed Harris’s Rear Admiral Cain. “Your kind is heading for extinction.”
“Maybe so, sir,” says Pete. “But not today.”
What I want, what most of us want, is THAT BACK. How do we get that back? It starts with appreciating what it is we have right now. We have great directors, great producers, movie theaters that need filling — and we have movie stars. So what’s it gonna take, people? How bad is it going to have to get?
I know all of this is pointless because I know what’s coming next. CUT TO: And the Producers Guild Award goes to Everything Everywhere All At Once. And you know, that’s fine. It is. It’s a movie that bedazzled people and ignited the industry in wonder. It’s not exactly an ice cream truck, though, is it. It’s more like, oh I don’t know, a gourmet espresso booth? Great in its own way, for sure, but…
I am mostly kidding (Hannibal does it to amuse himself).
The bottom line is this: It will likely come down to how much they LIKE Top Gun: Maverick and how much they like Everything Everywhere All At Once, or whether some other movie might bubble up to the surface in a shocker, like… The Fabelmans? TAR?
Just as I thought Steven Spielberg should have won the DGA but my head told me Everything Everywhere was going to win, Top Gun: Maverick deserves to win the PGA but my head tells me the unstoppable frontrunner will devour that award too. Either way, a few of us are going down with the ship simply because there just some years where reality is hard to face and this is one of those years. If the producers aren’t going award the one movie that has revived the dying corpse of Big Hollywood, then what are we doing here, people? What is the point? If even the people who MAKE MOVIES can’t be bothered to award that level of success then the’ve chosen their fate.
So which writer-directors are also co-producers this year?
James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Todd Field, TAR
Which films aren’t produced by their writer-director:
All Quiet on the Western Front
Triangle of Sadness
Looking back through Oscar and PGA history, for their first few years of this century they seemed to kind of care about success, with wins like Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Return of the King. But over time, up to and including last year, they just followed their heart-light, like every other group in town. That is likely to be what happens this year as well.
That said, here are our PGA predictions:
Everything Everywhere All at Once — Mark Johnson
Top Gun: Maverick – Sasha Stone, Marshall Flores, Clarence Moye
The Fabelmans — Ryan Adams
Fire of Love — Johnson, Flores, Moye
Navalny — Adams, Stone
GDT’s Pinocchio — Stone, Johnson, Flores, Moye
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On — Adams
And here are the charts, with thanks to Marshall:
You can enter our PGA predictions contest here.