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Why Top Gun: Maverick should win the Best Picture Oscar

When choosing the winner for Best Picture, many factors can influence Oscar voters. Great performances, great cinematography, cultural significance – all without a doubt important. But if I could vote, I would pick the movie that Steven Spielberg says saved the industry: Top Gun: Maverick. Spielberg gasped alongside Tom Cruise at the Oscar nominees’ luncheon in February — “You saved Hollywood’s ass and could have saved theatrical distribution” — he was famous for who said that, but it wasn’t an original observation. After all, people have been calling the movie Top Gun Maverick the savior since it hit multiplexes last summer and quickly grossed $1.5 billion. Besides, they’re right. According to Forbes, Maverick’s success in 2022 “made the difference between a decent summer season and a product-hungry disaster” as the releases sold out in theaters. That was around the time Cineworld filed for bankruptcy, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched to point out that many cinema chains, let alone independent cinemas, would have been staring into the abyss were it not for the ever-popular A-listers and the His would have been a battered F-14.

But Top Gun: Maverick’s status as “movie savior” isn’t just because of its finances.If that were the case, then Avatar: The Way of the Water, which grossed even more, would probably have an even stronger claim to the title. No, Maverick created more than just an airplane hangar: he reminded viewers of the purpose of movie theaters — because even in an era of near-contemporaneous home-streaming releases and squash-court-sized TVs, nothing compares to that explosion of color and sound that meets you in the dark room with so many other people.

Top Gun: Maverick revels in the cinematic frenzy of the first set opening scene, in which speed-hungry aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell attempts to reach a previously unattainable (and indeed almost certainly unattainable) speed of Mach 10. A big clue as to why the film was so popular with moviegoers can be found in Cruise’s face, sweating and grimacing from the overwork. What we see on screen is as real as possible: the actors actually flew fighter jets (albeit as passengers, not pilots), and Cruise enrolled the actors in a brutal three-month training program to prepare them for the intensity of flight.
at such speeds.The results are on screen in these thrilling time trials and dogfights – action scenes that really impress, a rarity in a sea of ​​muddy CGI superheroes. Of course, Tom Cruise is essentially CGI at this point, not just in terms of his oddly unchanging face, but also in terms of his willingness to try things with his body that other actors can’t — or rather, can’t. Seeks. Cruise isn’t about size anymore – as many have pointed out, there’s only a slight difference between his films Maverick and Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt. But his place is being taken by the feeling of taking the only role he currently plays to the extreme, appearing on the same show but bigger, faster, better. Watching him furiously fight against time is a cinematic thrill in itself.”The future is coming – and you’re not there,” warns Ed Harris’ scathing Rear Admiral Maverick at the beginning of the film. Good luck saying Cruise.

Cruise is supported by a carefully selected team of up-and-coming players (Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman) and gray and not-so-grey veterans (Harris, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly). Miles Teller, an actor who for so long seemed unable to escape his real-world reputation because he’s, as the infamous Esquire profile puts it, “a bit of a jerk,” brings that obnoxious snarl in his role as Rooster, l’ irritating son of a recently deceased radio interceptor Maverick, Goose.

And then there’s Val Kilmer, reprising his role as Maverick’s old frenemy Iceman, who, like the actor playing him, has throat cancer and struggles to speak. Kilmer’s single scene with Cruise is, in contrast to the daredevil aeronautics elsewhere, fairly minimalist: just two men communicating through a desktop computer and a series of knowing looks. But the body language between them is so freighted with meaning, decades on from their first meeting, that it’s impossible not to get swept up in the gravity of the moment.

Top Gun: Maverick is a heady brew of nostalgia. But it is nostalgia – as one of Jon Hamm’s other characters once so memorably explained – in the original Greek sense of the term. It gives us the dopamine hit of familiarity, sure – but occasionally elicits a more complicated, painful feeling, too: the sense of chasing something lost. Yes, it’s a sequel. Yes, it does basically follow the same flight path as the original. Yes, you know exactly where it is going to land. But it is skilfully made blockbuster cinema that connects with something deeper, too. It’s why so many people have gone back to cinema again and again to experience that rush of wheels leaving asphalt. And when it comes to best picture, that should count for something.

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