One loser in 'Everything Everywhere' romp: Oscar bait

Streaming HUBMarch 13, 2023

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Daniel Kwan was accepting one of many awards for “Everything at Once” at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, he took a moment to reassure his young son that Joe Happening, that sure was weird.

“It’s not normal,” said Kwan, who directed the film with his creative partner, Daniel Scheinert. “It’s kind of insane.”

“Not normal” and “kind of crazy” are increasingly appropriate ways to describe Oscar best picture winners. Three years ago, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite”, a classic Korean genre film and class satire, became the first non-English language film to win Hollywood’s top award. Last year, “CODA,” a modest and heartwarming indie drama released in August, took best picture, making history for the deaf community.

If those films began with little hope of Oscar glory, the googly-eyed paved road for “Everything Everywhere At Once” was even more unlikely. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but, historically, movies with butt plug fights and hot dog fingers don’t win Oscars. They certainly don’t win seven of them.

As a tale about family and immigrant life, “Everything Everywhere at Once” may be just as sentimental and old-fashioned at heart as the Oscar winner before it. But it may be — and proudly is — the strangest best-picture winner in the 95-year history of the Academy Awards. It’s far from “Patton”, at least.

During that ceremony, there was much to consider about what has and hasn’t changed in films since the 1971 Best Picture winner, which debuted with Navy fighter jets and went on to become the Best Supporting Actor winner. Quan, whose family had fled Vietnam as war refugees. Speak emotionally about the surrealism of the American dream.

“Everything Everywhere at Once”, for which Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian Best Actress winner, is definitely an Asian American milestone. But it’s a distinctly non-Oscar film for a number of reasons that, like “CODA” and “Parasite”, are never expected to be – in any multiverse – any of these.

“It feels like we’re in our own movie sometimes,” said Scheinert in an interview before the Oscars. “At some point we’re going to grow out of this joke and go back to our lives and be like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be cool? Too bad.'”

Yet it was striking how brilliantly “everything everywhere at once” blissfully bonkers trumped the competition. With acting wins for Yeoh, Kwan and Jamie Lee Curtis, it is only the third film to win three acting Oscars, joining “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Network”. No film has ever won an Academy Award for being “above the line”.

At the same time, most of the old guard were either absent or went home empty-handed. Tom Cruise, whose “Top Gun: Maverick” was nominated for best picture, was a no show. So was James Cameron, whose “Avatar: The Way of Water” was not considered a real challenger. Twenty-five years ago, it was Cameron who was the “king of the world” at the Oscars with “Titanic”.

“Maverick” won only for the sound, “Avatar” for the effects. The modest results of the two films, which combined for a combined box office total of nearly $4 billion, may have driven some viewers out of the broadcast. After Academy voters indicated at the start of the ceremony that blockbusters weren’t on the menu, Curtis was chosen over supporting actress for Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), the first Marvel performer to win an Oscar.

Steven Spielberg and “The Fablemans” were also completely off. Although nominated for seven awards, his most autobiographical film and the one for which he campaigned hardest won nothing. Best Director went to Daniels, who at age 35 is the second youngest winner ever.

The Oscars, more than ever, belong to the underdog. And The Biggest Loser could be Oscar fodder.

Sure, many of the winners were traditional Academy selections. Best Actor winner Brendan Fraser’s prosthetic-aided comeback performance in “The Whale” ticks a number of standard boxes. And it would be unfair to label Spielberg’s thoughtful memory piece — which somehow lost the “mom” narrative to Daniels’ film — as awards-driven.

But Sunday’s Oscars suggest Hollywood is — at least for the time being — on the lookout for Oscar movies that don’t sound like Oscar movies. Some of that can be attributed to the changed nature of the academy, which has diversified and now numbers over 10,000. It includes far more international voters, a subtle sea change that may have helped push German-language WWI ballad “All Quiet on the Western Front” to four Oscars and Indian sensation “RRR”‘s “Naatu Naatu” to Best Song.

But even the acting winners, while Hollywood heavyweights, were all first timers. Yeoh, Kwan and Fraser’s victories can partly be attributed to the past mistakes the industry has made with them. Fraser was largely forgotten, and was the victim of alleged abuse by a prominent member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Yeoh, a huge star in Hong Kong, had found himself pigeonholed in Hollywood. Kwan, an indelible face of the 1980s, had quit acting after years of struggling to find work.

The Oscars telecast, officiated by Jimmy Kimmel, was fairly traditional, as the Academy looked to play down the drama of last year’s show. So it’ll be easy to remember that the ground beneath the Academy Awards is moving — and not just the carpet that was previously red.

But it’s more than a bizarre blip when some cynical, sensitive people with an absurd sense of humor win best picture for their only feature film next to a farting corpse. “Everything Everyone At Once,” Daniels’ second film after 2016’s “Swiss Army Man,” may have struck a chord because of how it channels our dizzying digital overload into multiple dimensions.

“The world is changing rapidly and I fear our stories are not keeping up with that pace,” Kwan said on the Dolby Theater stage, referring to the slow motion mechanism of cinema versus the speed of the internet.

Let’s see-saw between Oscar trends. The much-hyped 2018 winner ‘Green Book’ pulled off a historic win for ‘Moonlight’ a year ago. Barry Jenkins’ film was the first A24 best-picture winner, and is now the label’s second featuring “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — A24’s biggest box-office hit with $107.4 million at the box office. A24 swept all of the top awards on Sunday, a first for any studio in Oscar history.

Backstage at the Oscars, Kwan told reporters that his “shotgun blast of joy and absurdity and creativity” ultimately comes out of his own navigation through dark times and depression.

“And I really hope that the next generation can see a movie like ours and be okay, like, Oh, there’s another way to look at the darkness and there’s another way to deal with it,” Kwan said.

The triumph of “everything everywhere at once” came as Hollywood and the Oscars continue to find their footing after years of pandemic and last year’s broadcast scandal. While the industry has tried to revive film production, there has been a lack of originality in theatres. On Oscar weekend, “VI” beat out “III” at the box office.

But “Everything Everywhere at Once”, a mad rush of originality with “Rackakoni” strapped to its head, is certainly endearing for daring to be different. And at the Oscars, its win might not be “normal,” as Kwan said, after all. This may be the new normal.


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