Top Gun: Maverick scored six Oscar nominations this morning including best picture, along with adapted screenplay by Ehren Kruger & Eric Warren Singer, sound, film editing, visual effects and original song for the Lady Gaga tune “Hold My Hand”. The film’s emergence as a best picture threat might have seemed an impossible mission, in that a summer movie that grosses nearly $1.5 billion worldwide moves popcorn, not Oscar voters. This Paramount Pictures film has proven to be the exception and one big reason is this: if Tom Cruise didn’t rescue the theatrical box office business following the Covid pandemic, he certainly pulled it out of a nosedive. While Cruise did not get nominated for best actor, he is squarely in the mix as producer, alongside first time Oscar nominee and hitmaking stalwart Jerry Bruckheimer, Christopher McQuarrie (a double nominee counting the adapted screenplay category) and Skydance principal David Ellison.
Arriving 36 years after the Tony Scott-directed original, the film was delayed by the tragic suicide of that filmmaker, and then sat on the shelf in the pandemic. Cruise, along with fellow producers Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison and Christopher McQuarrie, stood tall when many other languishing films were moved to streaming bows by studios which did not want to wait for moviegoers to feel safe enough to return to theaters. Cruise has said that no way was he going to watch that happen to a film that was directed by Joseph Kosinski to be seen in theaters. Not when he’d put in so much time implementing lessons learned from the first film, when he was the only castmember who didn’t vomit during scenes shot in the jet fighter planes. Cruise set up a boot camp for the Top Gun: Maverick ensemble, to get them better acclimated for the dialogue scenes that were shot in unprecedented fashion in the aircrafts.
The good will toward Cruise and his cohorts was palpable when they received a thunderous standing ovation at the Cannes Festival premiere, with Cruise being surprised by Thierry Fremaux and an honorary Palme d’Or. This became the rare film to lead the box office both on Memorial Day and Labor Day, an anomaly explained by the fact that studios were still reticent to bring back their films not knowing if the public was ready to resume its summer moviegoing habit.
The film became the top grossing film of Cruise’s career, despite no revenue from China or Russia.
Cruise has been thrice-nominated for Oscar performances — Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire & Magnolia — and he was part of the Best Picture-winning Rain Man. Top Gun: Maverick might seem a dark horse, but the sequel is at a robust 96% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a solid storyline that featured a touching end for Val Kilmer’s Iceman nemesis from the original film, and Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of Goose (Anthony Edwards), Maverick’s flying partner in the original film.
It marks the first Oscar nomination for Jerry Bruckheimer, who has a shelf full of Emmys for The Amazing Race, but hasn’t taken home movie gold despite his long list of blockbusters. This one has a real shot to win, because of all of the variables in raising the movie business out of its pandemic crisis moment.
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