LOS ANGELES -- Members of the Motion Picture Academy will start their Oscar voting in two weeks and will have just a few days to decide who deserves awards in 23 different categories.
But before voting gets underway, many nominees gathered for the traditional Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton earlier this week.
It was a chance to break bread as equals a month before winners are announced. In the glamorous setting, even the famous become fans, and for us, it's a chance to try and determine who's ahead in this year's Oscar race.
If they gave an Oscar for the actor who could best work a crowd, Tom Cruise would surely win a trophy at the luncheon.
In Beverly Hills, Steven Spielberg told him his recent movie, "Top Gun: Maverick," saved the entire theatrical business.
He gave Cruise credit for drawing millions of movie fans back to the box office after the pandemic.
Cruise, whose last Oscar nomination came two decades ago, is in the running this year as a producer. His blockbuster has half a dozen ways to win.
"Avatar: The Way of Water" has four Oscar nominations.
"Of course it's great that 'Avatar' and 'Top Gun' are in the Best Picture category, that absolutely helps with ratings," CEO of the Motion Picture Academy Bill Kramer said.
As CEO, Kramer knows the show's ratings depend on the popularity of the movies in the running for Best Picture.
It was no accident that the highest rated Oscars telecast was the year "Titanic" took home the top prize.
"But, we love independent films, smaller films. 'Women Talking' is nominated for Best Picture so I love the diversity of nominations," Kramer said. "Do we want them to be more diverse? Absolutely. We're constantly trying to figure out how we as an Academy can encourage that."
The volume of applause at the nominees luncheon can oftentimes indicate who's ahead in the Oscars race.
Angela Bassett and Michelle Yeoh were both cheered, and if "Maverick" doesn't win, then surely you must give the guy who played him an A for effort.
The Oscars Nominees Luncheon is a great chance to reconnect with old pals, like Sandy Kenyon's colleague from KABC-TV, George Pennacchio.
He was busy talking to stars for his own "On the Red Carpet" special that always airs before the big show on Oscars Sunday.
WATCH: More analysis on Sandy's picks for Oscars frontrunners