By the time Harrison Ford opened the envelope to announce the Oscar for Best Picture at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday night, there couldn’t have been anyone in the audience, or watching on television, who hadn’t anticipated what was to come. And indeed, with a deaf and inevitable thump, he arrived: ‘The Oscar is for Everything. . .’
Ford didn’t need to say anything more than that. Nominated for a whopping 11 Oscars, Everything Everywhere All At Once had already won six. So the seventh, the most coveted award of all, was really just a formality.
But that didn’t stop the audience from going wild, whooping in wild collective glee as only a Hollywood audience can, as EEAAO (as it’s now conveniently known) ended the night with the most Oscars of any film since. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire 14 years old. back.
He didn’t deserve to clean up (nor, for all his virtues, Slumdog Millionaire). Two or three Oscars would have been enough. But every once in a while Hollywood, faced with a movie about foreigners or impoverished immigrants, has an almost hysterical fit of virtue signaling.
EEAAO follows the life of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), the Chinese-American laundromat owner whose professional problems are compounded by personal challenges. Her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is about to divorce her and she can’t admit to her old and relentless father that her daughter is gay.
‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ centers on Evelyn Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh), who must connect with parallel universe versions of herself to stop a powerful being from destroying the multiverse, but shouldn’t have won Best Picture.
Evelyn is played by Michelle Yeoh (left), who won the Oscar for best actress, and Ke Huy Quan, who plays her husband, won the Oscar for best supporting actor.
But just when the story seems to be settling into some sort of mundane soap opera, it morphs into an absurdist sci-fi comedy and basically goes absolutely nuts. The mild-mannered Waymond introduces Evelyn to a series of alternate universes, beginning in a tax office where she is lectured by a misanthropic auditor played by Jamie Lee Curtis.
Suddenly, Waymond becomes a martial arts dynamo, followed by Evelyn, as they embark on a series of lawless adventures throughout the so-called multiverse. The film boldly jumps between various genres until the hapless migrant family conquers all.
This, then, is the outlandish extravaganza the Dolby Theater audience was faced with when Ford presented the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday night. In part it could be that they were letting off steam, with the endless ceremony finally drawing to a close and the lavish after-show parties about to begin. It could also be that some of them really thought this was the best movie of the last 12 months. But surely not everyone may have thought that. Frankly, I’m surprised anyone did.
Either way, let me be a killjoy after the event. I’d like to give Everything Everywhere All At Once an alternate title, one that suits it, and not just because it’s about a laundromat owner: The Emperor’s New Clothes.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s folk tale, it was necessary for a child to blurt out that the emperor was naked because no one else wanted to cross the line. Sunday’s glittering haul of seven Oscars, from where I’m sitting, owes something to the same phenomenon.
It is certainly significant that EEAAO is a story about Chinese-American immigrants. Anointing him with so many golden statuettes really buries the OscarsSoWhite social media hashtag that started trending in 2015 when none of the 20 actor nominees were ‘people of colour’. But now a new hashtag is suggested. Yeah, it looks like #OscarsSoWhite has been replaced by #OscarsSoWoke.
This isn’t the first time since 2015 that the venerable American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, stung by white criticism, has reminded us just how liberal and inclusive it really is.
In 2020, the South Korean black comedy Parasite became the first foreign-language film in Oscar history to win Best Picture. But the difference between then and now is that Parasite really felt like the best cinematic achievement of the year. Whereas EEAAO, again from where I’m sitting, was actually the least deserving of the ten Best Picture nominees.
He didn’t deserve to clean up (nor, for all his virtues, Slumdog Millionaire). Two or three Oscars would have been enough. But every once in a while Hollywood, faced with a movie about foreigners or impoverished immigrants, has an almost hysterical access to virtue signals.
Not 100%: Sure Yeoh, (pictured), she’s excellent, but Cate Blanchett in Tar delivers a performance for history and should have won Best Actress, hands down.
Success at Last: Jamie Lee Curtis has never been nominated for an Oscar before, despite her long career and her own background as the daughter of Hollywood royalty in Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
With a narrative that veers from mildly bewildering to downright baffling, and with moments of silliness that the Monty Python team at their silliest could have resisted (at one point, characters’ fingers turn into pork sausages), is too long.
For good measure, it seems that, with its video game aesthetic, it has been aimed squarely at the TikTok generation.
Not that there’s much overlap between aging Academy members and TikTok-savvy ones, but maybe this is where that emperor’s new clothes come in: no one over 50 wanted to declare themselves completely taken aback by this self-indulgent exercise in cinematic fantasy of the writer. -directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. . . so instead they all voted in favor. Of course, what these Hollywood people really understand is the business. They know how lucrative the Far Eastern market has become, hence the growing number of films with Chinese settings, characters, and narratives. Even animation studio Pixar jumped on that bandwagon with last year’s Turning Red, a movie that follows a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl who turns into a giant red panda.
And they understand box office numbers. Following a low-key launch last year at the South By Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas (a far cry from the mighty Cannes and Venice festivals), EEAAO had a limited theatrical release in the US in theaters at all.
But it quickly became a cult hit and then a real commercial hit as audiences seemed to warm to its craze. With an estimated budget of less than $25m (£21m), it has so far grossed over $100m (£82m) worldwide, and more box office and home streaming dollars are sure to flood in after its release. success at the Oscars.
To me, that raises the mystery of who these appreciative audiences are. Several of my more film-literate friends were left cold with the EEAAO. One fell into a deep sleep and woke up only when it was all over, as if firmly defying the sensory bombardment that begins after the first 20 minutes or so.
Another came out completely baffled after 45 minutes; only the third time in over 50 years that he has walked out of a theater before the end credits. Even my son, a large part of that TikTok demographic, found it “challenging” and “too much.”
But those who work in the film industry love her unconditionally, at least if the Oscars are to be believed. Although the thing is that I don’t.
No film in the 95 years of the Academy Awards has won all four major acting awards and only three have won three out of four: A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, Network 25 years later, and now, remarkably, EEAAO. But it’s only notable because, clearly, this film is not from such an illustrious company. Sure, Yeoh is terrific, but Cate Blanchett in Tar delivers a performance for history and should have won Best Actress, hands down.
Jamie Lee Curtis has never been nominated for an Oscar before, despite her long career and her own background as the daughter of Hollywood royalty in Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
That, in my opinion, is clearly why it got the nod for a somewhat cartoonish villain, when others were more deserving of Best Supporting Actress. As excellent as Quan is, I also thought there were better candidates for Best Supporting Actor.
Still, that’s how the Oscars work. They’re becoming more and more like The X Factor, with backstories that capture the imaginations of voters more than on-screen achievements.