The Everything Oscars

Michelle Yeoh in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Oscar watchers love their stats, so let’s start with a few. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once is the first film to win as many as seven Academy Awards since Alonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013). Having premiered almost exactly one year ago at SXSW, Everything is, as David Sims points out in the Atlantic, “the earliest-in-the-year release to win Best Picture since The Silence of the Lambs in 1992.”

If anyone in Austin was “irked,” as Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro puts it, that Oscar Night was stealing the spotlight from SXSW’s ongoing 2023 edition, they can count as compensation a fresh dollop of clout for the festival. Everything is the first film to debut at SXSW and then go on to win the industry’s most coveted award. As Claudette Godfrey, the festival’s new director, tells D’Alessandro, “All of SXSW will be celebrating tonight!”

The Academy turned Sunday night’s ceremony into an evening of comebacks and wrongs righted. Michelle Yeoh, whose army of Evelyns must yank the parallel universes of Everything from the brink of oblivion, became only the second woman of color to win Best Actress. Like Jamie Lee Curtis, who won Best Supporting Actress, Yeoh has been a global star for decades but was never even nominated until this year. Ke Huy Quan, whose family arrived in the U.S. as refugees, became a child star when he appeared in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and then faded from view until he took the role of Waymond, Evelyn’s husband. Accepting his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Quan exclaimed that his win—only the second for an Asian in the category—was “the American Dream!”

The Daniels won Best Director and Original Screenplay, and Paul Rogers won Best Editing, and while Sunday wasn’t quite all Everything all the time, only two other films won more than a single award. Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front won four (Best International Feature, Original Score, Production Design, and Cinematography), and Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale won two, Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Actor for Brendan Fraser, who has another moving comeback story to tell.

The most rattling complete shutouts have to be Todd Field’s Tár, with six nominations and no wins; Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which was nominated for seven awards is and going home empty-handed; and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherinnine nominations, no Oscars. “Against the unceasing din of the multiverse,” writes Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times, “what chance was there for the subtler glories of the best picture race—the haunting ambiguities of Tár, the lyrical epiphanies of The Fabelmans, the intensely pointed debates of Women Talking, or, hell, even the exploding mortar shells of All Quiet on the Western Front, which are indeed quiet by comparison? The more I’ve thought about Everything Everywhere, for all its undeniable representational significance, the more traditional a best picture winner it seems. Beneath its veneer of impish, form-busting radicalism, it’s as epically self-important, broadly sentimental, and thematically unambiguous a movie as any the academy has so honored.”

Like Chang, the New Yorker’s Michael Schulman is reminded of last year’s Best Picture winner, Sian Heder’s CODA, “another sentimental family story that beat a colder, more ambiguous movie, The Power of the Dog.” Schulman’s piece is a sharp analysis of distributor A24’s strategy for keeping Everything in the conversation for a solid year, and it could well serve as an addendum to his new book, Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears.

Schulman tells Maris Kreizman at Literary Hub that “probably the most fun chapter to work on” is the one about the 1989 ceremony, “which is notorious, usually referred to as the worst Oscars ever, mostly because it opened with this gigantic, eleven-minute, splashy production number that notoriously included Rob Lowe singing ‘Proud Mary’ with a woman dressed as Snow White in a replica of the Coconut Grove with dancing cocktail tables. It’s just completely campy and over the top and insane, and I think it’s really fun.”

The most crucial chapter in Oscar Wars, though, and the one that’s excerpted at Vulture, has to be the chapter on how Harvey Weinstein turned Oscar campaigning into a blood sport—first with his maneuvering for Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), and then most famously, with his handling of John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love (1998). Shakespeare scored seven Oscars, and the story Edward Zwick tells at Air Mail about its making and its triumphant march through that year’s awards season is not to be missed.

Reviewing Oscar Wars for the Atlantic, Dana Stevens suggests that, when it comes to the Oscars, resistance is futile. After all, “to say the prize has little to do with the recognition of artistic merit is to join a weary chorus. And yet the whole cinematic world dances to the rhythm of the Oscars’ baton, and I refer not merely to the film industry itself but to a sprawling satellite economy of run-up awards, Oscar-branded media coverage, fashion marketing, and social-media conversation. To scoff at or criticize or even ignore the annual ritual that is the Academy Awards is not to escape its hold on our culture. Indeed, the doubters and haters make up a crucial part of the system.”

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