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Welcome to the Oscars, Jerry Bruckheimer

Tom Cruise dodges missiles in a fighter jet in "Top Gun: Maverick."
Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
(Paramount Pictures)
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If I could visit a spot in L.A. that would transport me to a different decade, I’d have a hard time choosing from among those on Marsha Takeda-Morrison’s terrific list. But I think I’d go back to ... I don’t know ... Monday and visit Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, where I’d fill up my tank, buy an ice cream sandwich and maybe a lottery ticket.

I’m Glenn Whipp, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of the Envelope’s Friday newsletter and the guy who’s having a hard time accepting the term “artistic swimming” when this video plays in his head 24/7.

The Oscars are primed to go Mach 10 with ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer has a long résumé — box office billions from such franchises as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Bad Boys” movies, several hundred (and counting) “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” episodes and enough cinematic explosions to have inflicted hearing damage on generations of audiences.

The one item missing from the 79-year-old Bruckheimer’s CV: an Oscar nomination.

Now, maybe you feel that omission is not glaring but earned. Like, what, Bruckheimer should have been nominated for “Pearl Harbor”? Or “National Treasure”? He has always been a populist, concerned with putting people in the seats, not the whims of Oscar voters. The motion picture academy can have its “prestige.” He’ll take the Happy Meal tie-ins.

But ... Bruckheimer has also made scores of movies that people still watch today (unlike, oh, a good third of the films nominated for best picture) and, on occasion, he has produced pictures that could well have been nominated for the Oscars’ highest honor. I’ll never watch the bloated best picture winner “Braveheart” again, but if I stumble across Tony Scott’s daring submarine thriller “Crimson Tide,” also released in 1995, I’ll gladly settle in and watch Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman go at it for two hours.

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“Black Hawk Down” could have been a contender too, earning director Ridley Scott an Oscar nomination ... but without the corresponding best picture nod.

So yes, the man and his movies have been good and bad and (Coyote) ugly. And he’s still out there swinging.

And, sure, it’s early, but let’s just get this out of the way right now: Jerry Bruckheimer is going to collect his Oscar nomination at the 95th Academy Awards.

Maybe you remember a little movie titled “Top Gun: Maverick.” Came out in May, made around $1.5 billion at the box office, worked the tear ducts of men — and women — when it opened. Sequel to a swaggering action flick made 36 years ago (!), the second chapter is so obsessed with its namesake predecessor that it might as well be that film and, in many ways, it is that film, just better — better stunts, better visuals, better craftsmanship. Not a better song. Let’s not get carried away. Due respect to Gaga, but those opening bass synth notes in “Take My Breath Away” will still have listeners turning and returning to some secret place inside for years to come.

I took a look at why “Top Gun: Maverick” figures as a surefire best picture nominee next year and why other populist movies might make the cut too. And I still haven’t seen “Avatar: The Way of Water” and its glorious space whales yet. More maximalist movies — in theaters and at the Oscars — please!

Jennifer Connelly and Tom Cruise stand close, touching slightly in “Top Gun: Maverick”
Jennifer Connelly and Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
(Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures)
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Jimmy Kimmel to return as Oscars host

At least they got that out of the way quickly, making a choice that will excite no one, but could actually work, as Kimmel has logged thousands of hours in live television, knows what he’s doing and can improvise when things go ... awry. (“Let’s remember, it’s just an awards show” should be put on a banner like “Believe” in “Ted Lasso” and hung everywhere in Hollywood for the next several months.)

Even though when Kimmel signed off after that “La La Land”-”Moonlight” debacle five years ago, he did say: “I promise I’ll never come back.” I won’t hold that against him, though. I say the exact same words after the Oscars every year.

Jimmy Kimmel and Warren Beatty stand onstage at the 2017 Oscars amid confusion.
Jimmy Kimmel, left, to Warren Beatty at the 2017 Oscars: “What did you do?”
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Ke Huy Quan’s epic ‘Everything Everywhere’ comeback

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better story this awards season than Ke Huy Quan’s return to acting in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” decades after he quit the profession because he couldn’t land a job after starring in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies” as a kid.

Envelope contributor Randee Dawn spoke with Quan not long ago, and the actor, now 51(!), regaled her with stories about Spielberg still sending Christmas presents every year, a recent reunion with Harrison Ford and how fortunate he feels at the present moment.

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“I was so grateful to [Steven] Spielberg and [George] Lucas, because they were really the first filmmakers to put an Asian face in a big movie [like ‘Temple’]. But the reason I got so discouraged was every time there was an opportunity to audition — not an offer, but an opportunity — it was always for minor roles. Very stereotypical, marginalized,” Quan says. “Now, we have shows on prime-time television with an entire Asian cast, and there’s ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’

“For many years, I just had to be realistic. Now, I don’t have to be only realistic. I can also be optimistic.”

Ke Huy Quan poses for a portrait under stark lighting.
Ke Huy Quan returned to acting with “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.”
(Philip Cheung / For The Times)

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.

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