Saturday, December 2, 2023

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” Is Undoubtedly The Best Picture Frontrunner

The Oscar race hasn’t had a movie like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” in a while. Most awards pundits have selected it as their predicted Best Picture winner, and little seems to stand in the way of its victory. And yet, some contingents are still spreading doubt about its chances, often through bad faith arguments centered around voters feeling obligated to choose it because of identity politics, “wokeism,” or any other number of overused dismissive arguments. So, is “Everything Everywhere All At Once” really that far ahead in the Best Picture race? Simply, yes. There’s been a lot of discussion about the reasons why that’s the case, so let’s gather them all in one place and look at just how impressive the film’s run has been.

Before delving into the reasons for its front-runner status, I want to immediately establish that I’m far from one of the occasionally-overzealous online fans that spring up to defend the film whenever any aspect of its existence is questioned. I liked the movie well enough, and if I had an Oscar ballot, it would sit squarely in the middle of my ranking of Best Picture nominees. All my reasonings for its current status as a Best Picture favorite come from a place of either inarguable facts or trends that I’ve tracked in my decades of Oscar watching.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s look at some cold hard statistics. First, and perhaps most importantly, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has had an exceptional run with the guild awards. It won the top feature film prizes at the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, and the Original Screenplay prize at the Writers Guild Awards, where its biggest Oscar competition – “The Banshees Of Inisherin” – wasn’t even nominated due to eligibility rules. The last film to win all four of these guild awards was the Best Picture champion “Argo.” And “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is arguably an even stronger film going into the Oscars because it isn’t missing nominations in key categories, unlike “Argo,” which was famously snubbed in Best Director. In addition, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was shockingly victorious in its categories at the Art Directors Guild and Costume Designers Guild, where it bested the widely predicted winners “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” respectively. These industry awards are extremely helpful in determining how these guild members will vote when filling out their Oscar ballots. The fact that a massive handful of voters from a wide range of filmmaking branches all favor the movie and seem excited to vote for it bodes well for its chances at the Academy Awards.

Plus, its win at the Producers Guild Awards is extra telling as that’s the only major precursor award that selects its winners via a preferential ballot, just like Oscar does for Best Picture. For the film’s naysayers, the preferential ballot is where “Everything Everywhere All At Once” would likely stumble, as its weirder elements and wild tones may, arguably, not have the wide-ranging appeal necessary to win through this voting method. The preferential ballot, after all, rewards broad, consensus taste rather than smaller pockets of vivid voter affection, but the Producers Guild victory has essentially rendered that argument moot.

Conversely, the few places where the film was not victorious were, frankly, unsurprising. It lost the Best Picture – Musical or Comedy award at the Golden Globes to “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” an outcome that many awards experts were predicting. And winning or losing the top prize from that organization is far from indicative of future awards success. Recently, eventual Best Picture winners “CODA,” “The Shape Of Water,” “Spotlight,” and “Birdman” were all bested at the Globes. And at the BAFTAs, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” lost every award it was up for except Best Editing. But knowing the taste of the British Academy, few were expecting it to make much of an impact there anyway. And like the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs aren’t a reliable indicator of later Oscar success. In the era of the expanded Best Picture lineup, BAFTA and Oscars’ picks for Best Film have only aligned six times (“The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist,” “Argo,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “Nomadland“).

This leads to the next point favoring “Everything Everywhere All At Once” – it’s difficult even to guess what its closest competition might be. As mentioned above, “The Banshees Of Inisherin” won at the Globes, along with “The Fabelmans” in the Drama category, and “All Quiet On The Western Front” was the BAFTA voters’ pick. No one film is gathering attention as an alternative for those who’d rather not vote for “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” This isn’t dissimilar from other years where the eventual Best Picture winner was widely predicted. “Lincoln” was the film that many thought would stand the best chance at upsetting “Argo,” but based on the winners, it appears that the Best Director winner “Life of Pi” was perhaps closer in the end. And in the year of the steamrolling winner that was “Nomadland,” it was even more difficult to predict second place. Before the ceremony, it seemed like it would perhaps have been “The Trial Of The Chicago 7,” but that film went on to be the only Best Picture nominee not to take home a single Oscar. Even more shockingly, based on its Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay wins, it appears as if the runner-up may have been, of all films, “The Father.”

Everything Everywhere All At Once” has the advantage of being ahead of a very wide-open pack. Those who wish to sow doubt about its chances are having trouble coalescing around one singular competitor. With its strong potential to win Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress, some say “The Banshees Of Inisherin” is most closely nipping at its heels. Thanks to its BAFTA win and the almighty power of Netflix, others are instead rallying behind the traditionalist pick of “All Quiet On The Western Front.” Some say Spielberg will eventually come out on top for “The Fabelmans” and, most mystifyingly, there are those who still cling to the potential of “Top Gun: Maverick” to soar to victory as a thanks for it bringing audiences back to cinemas (it should be noted that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was also, in its own way, a huge box office success). But none of these more-than-worthy nominees have proven themselves in the precursor race to be an obvious choice for those who don’t favor “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

In years where Best Picture has gone to a surprise winner, the ultimate victor has almost always been a well-liked film with significant word-of-mouth buzz going into the Oscars. Shocking winners like “Moonlight, “Green Book,” and “Parasite” had legions of fans, and most Oscar watchers named them as strong alternatives to the front-runner – and some wise prognosticators even correctly predicted their unexpected victories. And something that the more passion-backed winners – like “Moonlight,” “Parasite,” and “CODA” – share is that they’re underdog films about groups that have been historically undervalued, not just societally but by the Academy itself. This year’s film that most closely fits that description is “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” It feels like the kind of film that, in recent years, sweeps in at the last minute and wins at the end of the ceremony. It’s exactly the kind of movie that the average Academy member will feel good voting for.

And speaking of Academy voters – one of the more consistent arguments against the film’s Best Picture chances is that its more unconventional aspects (it would inarguably be the first Best Picture winner to feature butt plugs as a crucial plot element) would dissuade some of the more traditional voters from getting behind it. However, the makeup of the Academy has severely changed in the better part of the last decade. A huge wave of new voters, representing a wider range of age and ethnic diversity, have recently been added to the member roster. Now, that’s not to say that being younger or not hailing from America means a voter is necessarily going to be more likely to select an unconventional film like “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” Still, it does mean that we need to rethink what the average voter’s taste is like. The current voting branches are a far cry from the organization that awarded “Crash.” It’s hard to imagine the Academy of even just a decade ago selecting winners like “Moonlight” or “Parasite” – Clearly, the current Academy is much more open-minded in terms of the types of films it favors, which can only benefit “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

Looking past the zanier parts of the film, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is ultimately centered around themes that the Academy has appreciated for decades. It’s the story of a family coming together despite hardships and overcoming strife as a unified, loving unit. In fact, the film’s core message and overriding thematic energy are not dissimilar from past Best Picture winners like “Mrs. Miniver” or “Terms of Endearment.” Despite all its flashy distractions, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” represents both the values of the Academy’s past and an optimistic vision of its future.

What do you think of “Everything Everywhere All At Once’s” current frontrunner status as Oscar voting comes to a close? Which categories do you think it will win on Oscar night? Please let us know in the comments below or on our Twitter account, and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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