'The Issue Is': The 95th Academy Awards

Sunday, March 12th is the 95th Academy Awards.

Traditionally, Hollywood’s biggest night, this year’s Oscars ceremony comes at a perilous time for the industry - as streaming changes the theatrical exhibition market, as viewers tune out, and as Academy members look to move out of the shadow of last year’s infamous Will Smith’s slap.

To break it all down, Elex Michaelson is joined on "The Issue Is" by Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister and Steve Mason, host of the "Culture Pop" podcast.

Days ahead of the ceremony, the all-star panel also make their final predictions for some of the biggest, most competitive races. Will Cate Blanchett win her third Oscar? Will Austin Butler prevail for his portrayal of Elvis Presley? Will Brendan Fraser and Michelle Yeoh, costars in 2008’s "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" be awarded after years of underappreciated work? And can anything beat "Everything Everywhere All At Once" in Best Picture?

Beyond Hollywood, Michaelson is also joined by Karla Nemeth, Director of California’s Department of Water Resources. This, as Californians brace for another round of stormy weather. How is the state preparing for more potential flooding? How are we storing the deluge of storm water? And after all this rain and snow, has California finally escaped from the extreme drought?



WAGMEISTER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Chaotic is probably a good word to describe it. Of course, we have huge hits like 'Top Gun,' which you mentioned, but it seems like, unless you are this big tentpole blockbuster genre, like a Marvel movie, a comic book movie, a sequel, that isn't a sure thing, but seems to be a pretty good bet, but anything else, you don't know what's going to happen, so what we see happening is that the studios, when they're looking at their distribution model, they're always going to want at least a streaming component. The thing with 'Top Gun' is Tom Cruise is probably the only star, I would say, who can actually command a theatrical release…"

MASON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I think it's a really tough business. I mean, as you mentioned, lost 2000 screens during the pandemic. Realistically, though, that's only 5% of all the theaters in the country. I'm actually very bullish on the exhibition business. Even the streamers now are paying attention. Like, for example, Amazon is going to spend $1,000,000,000 on films just for theatrical release. They have quietly opened a theater in Culver City called The Culver, and they may even be dipping their toes into the exhibition business. We're talking about 'Top Gun,' it didn't just save movie theaters, it reminded people of what we love about movies, an experience you can't get when you're watching at home…."



MASON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ is my favorite movie of the year. I think it is just an extraordinary, audacious, crazy mother-daughter story that I've never seen before. It's really hard to come up with a movie where you walk out and say, 'I've never seen anything like that.' And that's the case with 'Everything everywhere’…"

WAGMEISTER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I do think it will win and I do think it should win. And I agree with Steve that it's very hard to get a new idea.... This is a fresh idea. It crossed $100 million. It was the first film to cross that number for A24, which is an indie studio. So it's really great to see not new directors, but first time directors being nominated, relatively fresh compared to a James Cameron or a Steven Spielberg. And then seeing these great performances and this wacky, crazy idea…"

MICHAELSON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "To me, the best movie of the year, the one that I enjoyed the most, the one that everybody enjoyed the most, was 'Top Gun: Maverick.' It's the movie that brought everybody back into theaters. That was the most fun that I've had in theaters in years. And I know I'm not alone. And why is that not recognized? I know it's a sequel and there's a lot of similarities to it, and maybe it's not the most creative thing, but it was the most fun, best movie-going experience…."



WAGMEISTER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I am putting my money on Brendan Fraser, but I have to tell you that every hour, my thought is changing because I think it's that neck-and-neck. I think either one of them absolutely deserves to win. Very different performances, but the similarity here is they're both transformations, and Oscar voters love a transformation... But here's the thing. Austin Butler, he has a whole career ahead of him. He can be nominated again. For Brendan Fraser, this really seems like a comeback that everybody is so excited about. He is the sweetest man. I have to tell you, I have interviewed him. I would be happy for all of them, but I would be so happy for him…"

MASON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Brendan Fraser. Slight favorite. I will go with Austin Butler for the win. I think there's somethin, they're introducing Elvis to a new generation. Baz Luhrmann has a vision that nobody else really has. His performance is amazing. He captures who Elvis was. I still think Brendan Fraser is the favorite to win…"



MASON'S CENTRAL TAKE: "It's a two horse race here. I think that Cate Blanchett is probably a slight favorite to win here. But again, I'm going to root for Michelle Yeoh. Cate Blanchett has won twice before. This would be her third Oscar. She's going to get many other opportunities, I think, at the Academy Awards. Michelle Yeoh This is her moment. I thought she played an unusual character put in in strange situations, and I thought she pulled it off. I'm rooting for Michelle Yeoh…"

WAGMEISTER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I am also rooting for Michelle Yeoh for all of the same reasons. I also think that sometimes you give an award for the performance that is nominated, but it's also a career award. And the fact that she has not been recognized at this caliber yet... She should have been nominated before…"



WAGMEISTER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I love 'The Menu.' This I can't say that it got no attention because it did get two Golden Globe nominations, but it didn't have a huge turn at the box office, around $70 million. Also streaming to go into our other conversation. I don't want to give anything away, but this has so many twists and turns. You don't know what you're going to watch when you turn it on. There's a crazy twist. I actually, when I say jumped out of my seat, jumped off my couch because I watched it at home. It's just, it's thrilling…"

MASON’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Weirdly, 'The Menu' was almost my choice for this segment. Instead, I went with 'Babylon,' which about half the world despised and half the world loved. Damien Chazelle, amazing vision for a movie. Production design, incredible. Diego Cava. Brad Pitt. Margot Robbie. I absolutely love the movie. It could win Best Production Design. It could win best score on Sunday night. So it's not completely overlooked. But I love the three hours of ‘Babylon.'..."


The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com