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We asked a film critic: What are the odds Tom Cruise gets a statue at the Oscars this year?

Last May we commissioned our old friend Luke Y. Thompson (AV Club) to review Top Gun: Maverick for the Underground Bunker, and we still think it’s the best written about that movie. This time, we asked him what the odds are that Scientology watchers will have to witness Tom Cruise taking home an Oscar now that the nominations for the 2023 awards broadcast have been announced. Here’s what he sent us.

If you told any film critic in the ’80s that a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action sequel would one day be Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, they’d laugh you out of the room. It would feel like the gag in the movie In & Out, where Glenn Close announces that Steven Seagal has been Oscar-nominated for the movie Snowball in Hell. But times and generations change, and while so many literate Boomers despised the producer who brought us Top Gun, The Rock, and Pirates of the Caribbean, the Gen-Xers who grew up with those movies now run the industry. Today’s middle-aged Academy voters were yesterday’s teenagers who pinned Tom Cruise posters to their locker doors. And even as they’re likely to pillory new stars like Chris Pratt for standard-issue dudebro Christianity, Cruise’s weird beliefs get a legacy pass.

So how likely is Tom Cruise to win an Oscar this year, as producer of Top Gun: Maverick, which is nominated for Best Picture? In short: not very. But there are no guarantees – in 2019, many awards-viewers presumed Best Picture would go to either the war drama 1917, or Quentin Tarantino’s alt-history satire Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Parasite, a Korean black comedy of class struggle and squatting, blindsided both to become the first non-English language film ever to win the category. This year, the smart money suggests Best Picture will likely go to either Tar, a more traditional kind of Oscar-bait drama starring Cate Blanchett as a fictional classical music conductor whose hubris prefigures her professional downfall; or Everything Everywhere All at Once, an extremely non-traditional interdimensional martial-arts fantasy that would probably be rejected by Marvel for being too far-fetched.

Could Top Gun surprise, like Parasite, and break through a split vote? It’s possible, but unlikely. Top Gun: Maverick, like Avatar: The Way of Water, is mainly in the running because it was familiar comfort food after a year and change of quarantine; a big-budget action sequel that reminded people what they liked about moviegoing in general. And the entire reason Best Picture as a category was expanded from 5 to 10 nominees was to accommodate movies just like these; it was another acclaimed sequel, The Dark Knight, that helped prompt the change after a perceived snub in the category. (Of course, Heath Ledger would posthumously win Best Supporting Actor for his role in it.)


Cruise, who hasn’t been Oscar-nominated since he impressed critics in 1999 with Magnolia and a rare performance as an outright bad person, isn’t up for Best Actor, probably because audiences don’t even really look to him for acting any more. Gone are the days when he could open any movie just by being attached; the only way he’s guaranteed money nowadays is if he does a crazy stunt and makes clear he’s doing it for real. He used to confine that to Mission: Impossible sequels, and the brilliance of Top Gun: Maverick is that they essentially marketed it as an M:I spinoff, sold on the notion that Cruise and the cast really flew those jets. To that end, perhaps the biggest surprise is that its cameras-in-cockpits gimmick didn’t score a cinematography nomination. This suggests that directors of photography are less impressed by stunts than by skillful control of the image.

Top Gun‘s best shot is for Best Sound, where it’s up against Elvis, All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, and The Batman. Frankly, The Batman does the most with sound of all of those, but considering it’s not up for much else, it’s likely to lose the popularity contest. The sound category was condensed from two separate prior categories that awarded editing and mixing individually, and Elvis‘ placement here shows the limits of that – it has great mixing of music, dialogue, and overlapping scenes, but feels likely to fall to films that create their own sound effects like jet fighter takeoffs. As for Best Special Effects, it’s insane to think anything could beat Avatar – but Oscar voters can be insane. However, if people truly believe that most of Top Gun consisted of actors actually flying planes, they may not consider that to be special effects…though there is no separate category for stunts.

Top Gun is also up for Best Adapted Screenplay, which may sound strange until you realize that all sequels are considered “adapted” from the original film. This award is often given to a film that should have gotten more nominations and everyone knows it, but it will settle for this one. In this case, Women Talking is most likely to triumph. Cishet dude-repellent title aside, it’s a powerful and timely drama about a community of ultra-religious women who must decide whether to forgive their rapists, per church orders, or leave their town forever. Other contenders include All Quiet on the Western Front (a German language re-adaptation), Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and the Akira Kurosawa remake Living. Glass Onion could surprise, as my former USC classmate Rian Johnson is both extremely literary in his references and very good at networking and shaking hands (the movie also features a non-subtle visual to Cruise’s Magnolia character). But the Academy loves to show they care about important issues, and religious oppression of women – particularly as well-explored as the theme is here – ought to trump all the rest. If a Cruise vehicle’s script somehow beats out one about religious abuses, well, I don’t have to point out the irony.

The final category Top Gun: Maverick is up for is Best Original Song, which has an unusually strong crop of nominees this year. Under normal circumstances, Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” would be an odds-on favorite, even though in the movie itself, it’s still upstaged by Kenny Loggins’ O.G. “Danger Zone.” But she’s competing against a David Byrne cowritten song from Everything Everywhere All at Once, Rihanna’s mournful ballad “Lift Me Up” about the late Chadwick Boseman from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and perennial fave Diane Warren’s “Applause” from the feminist empowerment anthology feature Tell It Like a Woman. And all of those are likely to fall to “Naatu Naatu,” the standout musical number from RRR, the over-the-top Indian epic of fictionalized history that’s become a massive hit among critics and industry folks for merging insane action, song and dance, and heart-on-sleeve emotion. It embodies every stereotype you may think you have about Indian cinema, and then goes even bigger than that. India did not submit the Telugu-language film for Best International Feature, so Best Original Song is its only nomination, and its support is intense.

Had Cruise been nominated for Best Actor, he’d have found the competition quite stiff this year. Bill Nighy is one of those actors who’s fun to see in anything, from Love, Actually to the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels; in this year’s Living, he takes the lead as an uptight English bureaucrat who finds out he’s dying and decides to try being…moderately less uptight. He’s up against Austin Butler’s uncanny embodiment of Elvis, comeback kid Brendan Fraser in obese makeup as an overweight man trying to connect with his daughter before the inevitable heart attack in The Whale, Colin Farrell as an optimistic rural Irishman in The Banshees of Inisherin, and Paul Mescal in Aftersun, a movie I didn’t see. As a voter in the L.A. Film Critics Association, I’m not required to view everything, though I feel morally obliged to try. Yet Aftersun flew totally under my radar; my first indication that it was significant was when several colleagues voted for it, and by then it was too late. Cruise would at best have mustered a sentimental favorite nod; one which arguably went to Farrell here, who’s also not doing much outside his expected range, but comes across much more humbly likable. It’ll probably be Nighy or Fraser for the win as Best Non-Insufferable Dying Dude, and I’m good with either.

Everything Everywhere All At Once has the most nominations overall, and an all-but-guaranteed win for Best Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan, best known as Indiana Jones’ sidekick Short Round and The Goonies‘ Data. Semi-retired from acting for years because of the lack of decent roles for young Asian men, he’s back in a big way now that the kids who grew up idolizing him are in positions to cast him again. The movie overall is one of the most unlikely top contenders since Parasite – it stars Michelle Yeoh as a laundromat co-owner who, during a routine tax audit, finds herself phasing between different universes, some more absurd than others, in an attempt to stop a version of her invincible daughter from destroying reality. It’s not some huge-budget sci-fi epic – it’s a weird little indie that nonetheless successfully morphs into many different kinds of movie along the way. And I think it’s most likely to take the big prize, as it should (love Avatar, but at $2 billion and counting worldwide it doesn’t need any help).

Tom Cruise shouldn’t have much of a chance against EEAO. But since I still can’t figure out what people genuinely love about his narcissistic Navy Jesus movie, I may be missing something.

— Luke Y. Thompson


Technology Cocktail

“In ages past there has been considerable controversy concerning the human spirit or soul, and various attempts to control man have been effective in view of his almost complete ignorance of his own identity. Latterly, spiritualists isolated from the person what they called the astral body and with this they were able to work for various purposes of their own. In Scientology the spirit itself was separated from what the spiritualists called the astral body and there should be no confusion between these two things. As you know that you are where you are at this moment, so you would know if you, a spirit, were detached from your mind and body.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1956




We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.


THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

— The Underground Bunker Podcast

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— SPECIAL: Your Proprietor’s updates on the Danny Masterson trial

[1] Sep 21 [2] Sep 28 [3] Oct 4 [4] Oct 10 [5] Oct 11: Day One [6] Oct 12: Day Two [7] Oct 13: Day Three [8] Oct 17: Day Four [9] Oct 18: Day Five [10] Oct 19: Day Six [11] Special interview with Chris Shelton, Oct 19 [12] Oct 20: Day Seven [13] Oct 21: Day Eight [14] First week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [15] Oct 24: Day Nine [16] Oct 25: Day Ten [17] Oct 27: Day Eleven [18] Oct 28: Day Twelve [19] Second week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [20] Halloween special [21] Nov 2: Day Thirteen [22] Nov 3: Day Fourteen [23] Nov 4: Day Fifteen [24] Third week in review [25] Nov 5, Saturday special [26] Nov 6, Sunday special [27] Nov 7, Day Sixteen [28] Lisa Marie Presley breaking news [29] Nov 8, Day Seventeen [30] Nov 9, Day Eighteen [31] Nov 10, Day Nineteen



Source Code

“One time there was a fellow I knew. He was a mining engineer. A good friend of mine. He was an educated classmate at GW. And then went out west and took a post graduate course at Boseman. And this boy was kicking around the mining camps, and all due respect to womankind at large, the better women do not hang around mining camps. But he decided to get romantic and he got married. And he married a woman straight out of the cribs. That is to say, she was, for sale, and had been for years. But, what do you know? Fantastically enough, she made him a good wife and everybody was very fascinated with this. They went up in the mountains, he did a lot of prospecting for Anaconda Copper and they, looking over old properties and so on, and oh, it went along all right. He was living a rather rough life and a lot of privation in it and a lot of loneliness and so forth, so everything was OK. He finally quit Anaconda Copper on the thought that there were some lodes that went out from a very famous mine which had been closed down, which might still be active. Well that was a very lonely part of the country, too. And he went down there with this woman and he prospected around and by golly, he uncovered the most enormous quantity of five dollar rock. And away he goes. Well boy, he’d exceeded her rate of havingness. Bang! And you talk about a mess. He was in more trouble in less time than he’d been for years. Interesting, oh she went completely haywire. Just went off the deep end. Well what had happened there, he’d all of a sudden become well off. He had about a half a million dollars in the bank. He all of a sudden was driving Cadillacs and she was able to wear fur coats and that sort of thing. That was just the end. Just went completely to pot. Went out, slept with anything that came along. Just stole money, did anything.” — L. Ron Hubbard, January 26, 1954


Avast, Ye Mateys

“OVERBOARDS: BOB SEWELL is assigned overboard blindfolded for not returning to work until 1100 hrs, after he had gone Overboard at 07.55 hrs. He did not give me an explanation and was reported to me as eating cookies and drinking coffee while he was supposed to be working and still in a condition of Non Existence.” — W.O. Alex Sibirsky P.P.F. I/C, January 26, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Those first days were the best. I remember when I was doing my Comm Course. We had about 14 students on the coffee break. There was a hole in the floor and the place was pretty grotty. But we all had a cup of tea or coffee and we were laughing, celebrating what we were calling the ‘Year of Scientology.’ This was 1977.”


Past is Prologue

1998: Us magazine carried an article on Scientologist Jenna Elfman this week. “It’s another late afternoon on Fox Stage 21, home of the hit show Dharma and Greg. Elfman is remarkably unsurprised at her own success. She’s genuinely warm, but you know instantly not to mess with her. It’s the quiet confidence of someone who sits in a charmed circle, or in her case, a square – and at the four corners are her husband, her parents who come to every taping of the show, her acting teacher & mentor, Milton Katselas, and the Church of Scientology, of which Elfman has been a member since 1991. It’s clear that Scientology is important to Elfman, and she’s perhaps it’s best representative. While Tom Cruise, John Travolta and indeed, Kirstie Alley, field questions about their religion with weary defensiveness. Elfman chats away happily about it. ‘I think the people that misunderstand the church have a button on flowing support,’ says Elfman, puffing on a cigarette, her last vice. ‘I’m not hostile or critical of anything until I have picked it up myself. I don’t let people talk shit to me about other people. Read a book if you want to know what it is, and if you’re not going to read the book, keep your mouth shut.’ Elfman fields concerns about Scientology with the ease of a world-class goalie. Its cost? ‘You get counseling. You pay for it. If you want to see a therapist, you pay for it.’ It’s appearance as a cult? ‘Hubbard was just a man; he never claimed to be godlike.’ The perception that people can’t leave the church of their own free will? ‘I’ve never tried to leave the church, so I don’t know'”



Random Howdy

“Miscavige is downsizing the corporation, cutting his overhead to the barest minimum and consolidating his forces in his last two strongholds, L.A and Clearwater. It makes sense. In Pyongyang most of the office buildings and hotels are empty except for a skeleton staff to make it look good for the occasional tourist or journalist they let in. They’re also there to turn the faucets on occasionally and keep the boiler running. It makes the Generals and the Kims happy, and that’s all that really matters.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Mistrial declared November 30. Retrial scheduled, jury selection begins March 29.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Plea deadline scheduled for December 16.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff scheduled to time served with three years supervised release, restitution of $9.7 million.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial hearing December 9.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2. Hearing November 17 to argue the arbitration motions, awaiting ruling.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through February 7.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Case settled ahead of scheduled Dec 6 trial.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Scientology wants to know: Why haven’t you signed up to work for them yet?
[TWO years ago] Danny Masterson says he intends to take part in Scientology ‘arbitration’ with alleged victims
[THREE years ago] Scientology says it’s ‘partnering’ with Miami police for Super Bowl anti-drug quackery
[FOUR years ago] Lucas Catton: ‘Narconon and the Church of Scientology are committing fraud daily’
[ years ago] Clearwater city council candidate gets ringing endorsement from a Scientology front
[SIX years ago] The new ‘disconnection’ billboard on Sunset Blvd is going to be a Valentine to Scientology
[SEVEN years ago] Bryan Seymour challenges Scientology’s ‘Freedom’ magazine to show itself
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology hits back at Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear’ with predictable smears
[NINE years ago] Sunday Funnies: CCHR’s annual gala — time, place, form, and event!
[TEN years ago] Kima Douglas, 1942-2013
[ELEVEN years ago] The Decline and Fall of Scientology? Skeptic Magazine Makes the Case


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,921 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,426 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,976 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,966 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,857 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,161 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,032 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,137 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,610 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,926 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,492 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,411 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,579 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,160 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,421 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,458 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,173 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,737 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,052 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,227 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,778 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,909 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,247 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,102 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,221 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,577 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,880 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,986 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,384 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,260 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,843 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,338 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,592 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,701 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 26, 2023 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 15 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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