The Oscars have always served as a celebration of movies, carving out time not devoted to the “And the Oscar goes to” part to cheerleading for Hollywood. Yet with movies in a state of flux amid the shift to streaming and a global pandemic that hobbled theaters, Academy voters appear to be trying to strike a balance between streaming and blockbusters, and whether they can be, if not everything everywhere all at once, all things to all people.
If the awards in the run-up to the Academy Awards hold true, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” will walk away with the most coveted hardware. Having amassed honors from the guilds representing directors, producers, writers, actors, and editors, its frontrunner status has been cemented in place.
Should that prediction hold, Oscar voters will anoint a movie that actually thrived box-office-wise – earning more than $100 million worldwide, a record for its independent distributor, A24 – while still feeling small-boned compared to the titans that have led a movie-going comeback.
Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in “Top Gun: Maverick.”Paramount Pictures
At one of those aforementioned award events, director Steven Spielberg thanked Tom Cruise for having “saved” Hollywood with “Top Gun: Maverick,” the long-delayed sequel that earned nearly $1.5 billion worldwide at the box office. The same could be said for James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which like its predecessor soared above the $2-billion global plateau to become the third-highest-grossing title of all time.
Despite its relative commercial success, “Everything Everywhere” – a mind-bending trip through a multiverse of possibilities – tilts toward a more intimate brand of filmmaking, joining movies like “Nomadland” and “Moonlight” in notching wins at the Independent Spirit Award on its march to the Oscars.
While major studio releases can earn an invitation to the Oscar party, despite the gratitude that Spielberg articulated, that probably won’t translate to the guest-of-honor seat. And the skepticism about honoring big movies reflects a lingering schism, if not quite disdain, in regard to the kind of fare that in recent years has dominated the box office, particularly when it comes to superheroes and science fiction – films perceived to put a premium on spectacle and experience at the expense of plot and story.