Coming in for The Big Win: Michelle Yeoh in ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’.
The weird, the wide and the wonderful were celebrated at this year’s 95th Academy Awards, the superbly produced ceremony easily ranking as the slickest, most self-consciously multi-cultural and diverse yet.
The big winner was the bizarre multi-dimensional action-comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once, which converted seven awards from its 11 nominations: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and, not surprisingly, Best Film Editing.
The other big get was the sprawling German anti-war epic All Quiet on the Western Front winning Best International Feature, Cinematography, Original Score and Production Design from its nine nominations. It did the original film – which took Oscars for Best Production and Best Director (Lewis Milestone) back in 1930 – proud.
Sadly, none of the Australian talent nominated made it to the stage.
Elvis, nominated for eight awards, came up dry, as did Tár star Cate Blanchett, whose loss for Best Actress might be the result of a voter backlash over the silly, self-sabotaging denunciation of award shows she delivered while accepting a best actress award at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
Not even the animated short An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It scored a look in, though the fact that a home-made stop-motion film made it so far is still some reward.
History was made in a number of categories, with Michelle Yeoh being the first person of Asian heritage to pick up Best Actress. She was also the first woman of colour to win in that category since Halle Berry won for Monster’s Ball in 2002.
It was great seeing so many cultures and nationalities gracing the stage, and it’s important to note how the variety on show this year was more of an organic development rather a reaction to recent calls for more diversity.
While it is tempting to attribute the diversity to campaigns such as the #Oscarsowhite movement, these calls grind against reality, with the best film and best director winners over the past few years dominated by talent from other countries, especially Latin America.
Far from being a sudden gear shift, the broad range was consistent with Oscar’s long tradition of recognizing merit, regardless of anything else.
Host Jimmy Kimmel did a fairly good job holding the soiree together. though a few too many of his gags fell flat, most notably his banter with Jessica Chastain and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who appeared embarrassed by Kimmel’s “did Harry Styles spit” joke.
There was certainly no tip-toing around the Will Smith assault of host Chris Rock that tainted last year’s ceremony.
Kimmel was merciless, using the incident as a running joke, his opening monologue openly mocking Smith, skewering the Academy and castigating last year’s audience for doing nothing. It seemed to reflect the general feeling that Smith should have been immediately ejected and his Best Actor nomination for King Richard rescinded on the spot. It’s telling that the Academy let all that through.
The best gag about The Slap came at the very end when he walked off stage and went to a board titled “Number of Oscars Without Incident” to register “1”. Funny.
So soon after the slashing he got in Chris Rock’s comedy special Selective Outrage, one wonders whether Smith had the fortitude to watch the show. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that living room.
Adhering a little too obviously with the show’s all-inclusive diversity ambience, Kimmel couldn’t help but mention Till and The Woman King, two films with African-American lead actresses who didn’t rate a nomination. It was a petty quip that suggested a great injustice had been committed, and implied that two of the standing nominees shouldn’t have been there. Look, every year lauded performances don’t make the final short list. Deal.
A running theme through the acceptance speeches was the collaborative nature of making films and the acknowledgment of the armies of people involved in putting a film together. The sentiment was perfectly captured by Daniel Kwan who, accepting Best Director with Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere, said how “Genius emerges from the collective”. Well said.
Overall, the show ran smoothly, boasting an above-average production effort with swooping camerawork, delicate fades, lovely tracking shots, excellent cutting. It was a classy show.
Still, the damned thing ran just on three and a half hours.
Here are some selected highlights:
Great Quote #1 came as Guillermo Del Toro accepted the Best Animated Film award for his stop-motion neo-classic Pinocchio: “Animation is cinema. Animation is not a genre”. Well said. He also made the first of four major shout-outs to Netflix, the night’s other big winner.
Great Quote #2 was courtesy of Best Supporting Actor winner Ke Huy Quan for Everything Everywhere, whose shout out to his mum – the first of many sprinkled across the show – was topped by his exclamation that “This is the American Dream”. Also known for his role as Short Round in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, his embrace with Harrison Ford also gave us the show’s Best On-Stage Reunion.
Up for winning Best Supporting Actress for Everything Everywhere, Jamie Lee Curtis delivered the night’s Classiest Acceptance Speech saying: “I know it looks like I’m standing up here by myself but I’m hundreds of people…We just won an Oscar”, followed by a shout-out to her Halloween fanbase “We just won an Oscar together”, topping it all with a loving salute to her parents Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh: “I just won an Oscar!” Understandably, she teared up.
The glowing appearance of actress Cara Delevingne as a presenter provided the Most Pleasant Surprise of the Night as she introduced the song Applause from Tell It like a Woman. She’s clearly doing well after all that substance abuse. Godspeed.
The winners of Best Documentary Feature for Navalny, the remarkable film about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, delivered the Most Justified Political Statement of the Night, with director Daniel Roher calling for continued opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin and Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya stepping up to say: “My husband is in prison for defending democracy”.
With the Live Action Short Film win for An Irish Goodbye we got the show’s Cutest Moment as directors Tom Berkeley & Ross White called for a round of “Happy Birthday” for their film’s diminutive star James Martin. Everybody obliged. A lovely scene.
Presenting Best Cinematography, Creed III’s Michael B Jordan and Jonathan Majors delivered the Best Historical Tribute #1 with their salute to Orson Welles and his Citizen Kane crew for getting low-angle shots with giant cameras by digging holes in the floor of the set.
Winning Best Cinematography for All Quiet James Friend offered the Best Historical Tribute #2 by crediting his career to the inspiration of Alien.
The ceremony’s Biggest Revelation was learning that Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner The Whale used pioneering digital technology to help design the ultra-realistic physical prosthetics Brendan Fraser wore, spending around six hours each day in a chair as it was applied. A thoroughly deserved win.
Most Moving Mother Tribute: Best Costume Design winner Ruth Carter for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, sending love to her 101-year old mother, who had just passed.
Most Rousing Musical Number: The performance of Naatu Naatu from RRR provided a big burst of mid-show energy. The song went on to win, with M. M. Keeravani, winning with Chandrabose, professing his deep love for The Carpenters. It was also part of the show’s history making theme, being the first song from an Indian movie to win the award. Respect.
Though Lady Gaga gave us the Most Mawkish Utterance as she introed her song Hold My Hand from Top Gun: Maverick with the cringeworthy line “You can be your own hero even if you feel broken inside”, it came good at the other end with a giant slide saying “In memory of Tony Scott”, director of the first Top Gun. Nice save.
There was some decent competition, but the Funniest Line of the Show came via Hugh Grant who emphasized the importance of using good face moisturizer each day, which co-presenter Andie McDowell did while he didn’t. Pointing to his Four Weddings and a Funeral co-star, he quipped “Still stunning” then, pointing to himself, quipped “Basically a scrotum”. He’s still got it.
Best Dress: A tie between Salma Hayek and Janelle Monáe. These women are so beautiful they could wear a hessian sack and make it look glamourous.
Worst Dress: Mindy Kaling. Did she not have time to finish before walking out on stage? Urgh.
Least Upsetting Upset: There was veteran John Williams, 91, hoping for his sixth bug crusher for The Fabelmans when All Quiet won for Best Score. Ah well, maybe next year.
The Only Musical Cut-off for the show came when the Best Visual Effects winners for Avatar: The Way of Water were interrupted half-way through. Perhaps croaky-voiced Elizabeth Banks and her Cocaine Bear shtick went too long. That’s what it felt like any way. Loved that bear, though.
Most Undeserved Standing Ovation was graced upon the intro to the Wakanda Forever song Lift Me Up by Rihanna. Come on, people. We all mourn the passing of Chadwick Boseman but please stop making out as if T’Challa was a real African superhero king and not a Marvel character. Or that Wakanda is a real place.
Sweetest Acknowledgement: Winning Best Original Screenplay for Everything with Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert paid heartfelt tribute to all the teachers who changed his life by inspiring him.
Best Camera Move was the perfectly timed pull back as Florence Pugh and Andrew Garfield read out the nominees for Best Original Screenplay, underscoring the great production work this year. Again next year, please.
Shock of the Night came with Best Adaptation going to Women Talking, an undeserving winner and probably the one award designed to appease the woke crowd.
The Nicest Gesture had to be the Best Sound award for Top Gun: Maverick. Having taken $1.5 billion at the box office and helping draw people back into cinemas post-pandemic, it was nice to see it get something.
Most Moving Moment: Introducing the In Memoriam segment John Travolta nearly lost it over the loss of Olivia Newton-John, whose visage headed a long, sad list that included Ray Liotta, Irene Cara, James Caan and Raquel Welch.
Most Predictable Win was Everything Everywhere All At Once for Best Editing. “This is my second film, y’all. This is crazy,” said Paul Rogers.
Best Hand Holding: Jessica Chastain & Halle Berry as they walked out to present Best Actress. Now where’s that movie?
Most Nervous Acceptance Speech: Though he had no reason to be, Best Actor winner Brendan Fraser seemed beside himself with nerves, not that he could be faulted for his killer opening line: “So this is what the multiverse looks like,” he said, looking genuinely shocked to be there.
Best Actress winner Michelle Yeoh for Everything owned the show’s Best Girl Power Moment, casting herself as a “beacon of hope” for all the kids who look like her, dedicating the award to all the mums of the world – “the real superheroes” – and telling the women of the world “Ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are past your prime”.
Slam Dunk, ma’am.
Footnote: The list of winners adhered very closely to the predictions, though Andrea Riseborough left empty-handed after Yeoh’s triumph. Came close, though.