As is tradition here at AwardsDaily, the first day of Oscar voting is your chance to beg and plead for your favorites. The chance of voters reading this is probably on the slim side but you never know. Why not take a shot. I’ll start.
Dear Oscar, hear my plea. Both Top Gun Maverick and Everything, Everywhere All At Once were organic Oscar contenders, meaning, they weren’t made for the race but somehow landed in the race because they resonated with audiences. But both should be rewarded for that. To deny the movie that everyone saw and everyone loved is a slap in the face to the people who do most of the living, working and dying in this country. They are the ones the movies are made for. Does it always have to be about New York, LA and Film Twitter? No, it doesn’t. Top Gun Maverick proved it.
There is just no comparison in terms of reviews, box office and audience ratings. It is off the charts by all of these measures.
Readers of this site say, “stop shoving Top Gun Maverick” down our throats. And “Paramount must be paying you a lot of money.” But neither of these things are true. I’m not trying to change the minds of readers, or Film Twitter. I already know what most of them think. I have been doing this a very long time. I was the person who would say how terrible it was that How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane. Or that it was embarrassing that in 1968, one of our most politically disruptive years, they gave their Best Picture to Oliver! which made them seem out of touch.
But Oliver! was a great movie, then and now. I have long made the case that Academy voters being out of touch was a problem. The difference between then and now is that they were only out of touch with film critics and hipsters, not with audiences. Audiences matter. Otherwise, what are we doing? Sitting in a First Class section of an airplane, with recycled oxygen, eating our custom meals, ignoring everything else happening in Coach, where all of the real problems of daily life are being worked out.
Funny Girl, Romeo and Juliet, Rachel, Rachel, the Lion in Winter – none of these films reflect what was happening in 1968 but that was the WHOLE POINT. They weren’t meant to. The previous year was the subject of Mark Harris’ book, Pictures at a Revolution, with films like Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night, The Graduate — but by the next year, it felt like a whole different shift had taken place.
You look at this and you think, how depressing. Look at what makes money now:
Most if it is branded, some sort of massive franchise, like the five fast food joints off the interstate. How to make money in a country with 300 million people? Less choices, satisfaction guaranteed. But it isn’t satisfaction. It’s conditioning. We’ve lowered our standards so we convince ourselves that fast food tastes good. But we know, deep down we know, that if you put that much fat and sugar into food it will trick our brains into thinking it’s good.
But Top Gun Maverick did something different. It told a good story, a story that reaches back to our past, to something we didn’t even realize we were missing. That’s why everyone loves this movie because there are certain elements to storytelling we’re never going to lose.
Both of these films can win on Oscar night. Gladiator won Best Picture without Screenplay or Director. Best Picture should be for the bigger film, not the smaller film. It isn’t even about the Oscars saving themselves anymore. I know they don’t care about that as much as they care about not being the kind of people who would vote for Green Book. But what’s the point of any of it if all it does is reflect what an insulated, isolate group of people think is best. We don’t need the Oscars for that. We have critics awards.
Clarence Moye said recently that he thought the Green Book win was like the Oliver win, a moment that made the Academy seem out of touch such that they’ll never vote like that again. They’ll never vote for the best movie, they’ll only vote for movies that are Film Twitter or New York Film Critics approved. Not to mention everything that came after that to change film awards. That’s probably true. But the little girl in me who lived in movies, whose entire life was spent staring up at the big screen to feel exactly what you feel watching Top Gun Maverick can’t quite give up the fight.
Both Everything Everywhere All At Once and Top Gun Maverick represented magic at the movies for different reasons. Both deserve to be recognized. One should win Director, Screenplay, Actress and Supporting Actor. The other should win Picture, Screenplay, Editing, Sound.
I know this is not likely to happen for the same reason movies like Gravity, La La Land, Mad Max Fury Road didn’t win. They went to smaller movies that satisfied a need to lean into activism. That’s fine but can there be room for both?
In 2009, when Avatar lost to The Hurt Locker to make amends for the past, that seemed to be the beginning of the movie that should win losing to the movie that shouldn’t for political reasons. I argued hard for The Hurt Locker winning that year and I don’t regret it. I think it’s a great movie. But Avatar should have won Best Picture. And so too should Top Gun Maverick.
I am no fool (well maybe I am), and I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around the block and then some. I’ve been doing this job way too long and it’s time for me, like it was time for Maverick, to step aside and make way for whatever is coming next. But that day is not today. I would hate to think that much of the time I’ve spent on this job has led to the demise of the Oscars themselves. I hope I can help undo some of the damage…probably not, but you never know. One last ride.
That’s my plea — now, your turn, Oscarwatchers.