“Top Gun: Maverick” earned just one Oscar Sunday night, but the blockbuster still ruled the evening.
The apolitical 2022 sequel, and gracious star Tom Cruise, set the tone for a shocking Academy Awards reversal. The 95th annual gala focused on charm, glamour and gratitude, mostly eschewing the hard-Left politics that made the ceremony unwatchable in recent years.
That doesn’t mean the 3.5-hour gala entertained us. The event remains a bloated, dull affair that can’t let go of its ceremonial excess.
The tonal change can’t be denied. Why, it’s as if someone in Hollywood realized the industry’s biggest night shouldn’t try to push viewers far, far away.
“If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point in the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech.” jokes host Jimmy Kimmel at the #Oscars. https://t.co/ndiKiHeOT5 pic.twitter.com/qofvMJ8ZD9
— Variety (@Variety) March 13, 2023
Jimmy Kimmel, yes that Jimmy Kimmel, set the tone from the jump. His monologue lacked political bite – one joke referenced Hunter Biden in toothless fashion – and he delivered a few well-deserved upper cuts to last year’s Oscar fracas.
Yes, he addressed “the Slap” because he had no choice.
Otherwise, his jokes were clever if not hilarious, endearing but not heart-breaking. In short, he summoned Billy Crystal to the best of his limited abilities.
That’s good enough in our scorebook.
The ceremony mostly took it from there. The night featured a few, unnecessary woke asides but the presenters mostly stayed on script. They praised family, friends and fellow artists and spoke of gratitude, not their pet causes.
No Trump jokes. Really.
Ke Huy Quan’s speech for Best Supporting Actor happened early and proved typical of the night’s atmosphere. The man once known as Short Round even called his win a sign of the American Dream, a pro-USA sentiment that seemed surreal given how modern Hollywood thinks.
“Mom, I just won an Oscar!” Ke Huy Quan sobs as he accepts the #Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. https://t.co/ndiKiHfmID pic.twitter.com/92QIp3PRmS
— Variety (@Variety) March 13, 2023
Elizabeth Banks, a prime-time virtue signaler, kept her podium time light by yukking it up with a man in a bear suit. Yes, her “Cocaine Bear” film made us smile once more.
As for the trophy winners, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” ruled the night, with “All Quiet on the Western Front” coming in at a distant second.
That gave “EEAAO” directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert too much podium time. The duo started strong but began to meander with their subsequent appearances.
Scheinert tried to give a shout out to drag queens, bringing the Culture Wars to the stage. Except he ignored the reason behind conservative rage at the art form. Drag queens now routinely perform their sexually-charged shtick for children, defanging his defense.
Kimmel couldn’t hold back on his partisan impulses, uncorking two anti-GOP jokes near the end of the insanely long telecast. Neither proved sharp, but the fact that he waited so long to say them spoke to something profound.
Ironically, Tom Cruise didn’t show up for the ceremony. In a way, his presence was felt more than any other star.
On some level Hollywood may understand the damage it’s done to its brand. Perhaps the success of “Maverick,” and Cruise’s charm offensive, opened up enough eyes. There’s little doubt someone at the top of the Oscars food chain instructed the production team to keep the focus on the movies, not the virtue signaling.
And it (mostly) worked.
An apolitical Oscars gala is the industry’s most subversive act in ages.