Tom Cruise outshines Oscars rivals as Academy readies for award show

At the Academy’s buzzed-up annual luncheon on Monday, over 200 of this year’s Oscar candidates gathered to celebrate and assess their rivals, with Tom Cruise living up to his reputation as the “last true movie star.”

There was no denying that Cruise remained the biggest draw in a room full of A-listers like Steven Spielberg and Cate Blanchett, with a line of well-wishers that stretched the length of the event, from Hollywood heavyweights to Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.

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As a producer of “Top Gun: Maverick,” in which he also acted, Cruise is nominated this year. The movie is seen as a rising favorite for the best picture Oscar, which is considered Hollywood’s highest honor.

“It’s been incredible… I just want to get people into theaters,” Cruise told AFP.

“But this is lovely,” he admitted, motioning to the Beverly Hills ballroom, packed with Oscar nominees and Academy voters, and kitted out with giant golden statuettes and open champagne bars.

On March 12, the 95th Academy Awards will be presented.

This year’s Oscar nominations for box office successes like “Maverick,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” gave rise to optimism that Oscars TV viewership might rebound.

Glenn Weiss, who will be back to produce the Oscars broadcast ceremony next month, made fun of the fact that “the awards gods have smiled on us” and said there was nothing he could do to change it.

Janet Yang, the president of the Academy, expressed her desire to move past the “extraordinary” uproar that Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock on the Oscars stage last year caused during her statement at the luncheon.

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