Monday, January 30, 2023

How “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Is Pulling Ahead In The Oscar Race For Best Picture

Everything Everywhere All At Once,” the smash A24 sensation that took the film business by storm when it premiered at South By Southwest in March 2022, is off to a great start this awards season. The film, which features an ambitious and refreshing premise that expertly blends weighty sci-fi concepts with delightful absurdism, is poised to be one of the season’s significant players after scoring 14 Critics Choice Awards and 6 Golden Globe nominations. It currently leads in the precursors for Best Picture, Best Director(s), Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Film Editing. Indeed, you’d be lucky to find a pundit who doesn’t consider this film to be the frontrunner for Best Picture currently.

The overdue and never-better Michelle Yeoh, supporting players Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, and the film’s writer/director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert all seem safe for nominations come the morning of January 24th, as does editor Paul Rogers. And despite its out-of-the-box premise, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is a sure-fire Best Picture nominee. Overall, it seems on track to have a great run, with at least six nominations and one almost guaranteed win for Ke Huy Quan. But how far can it go?

We usually treat films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” with overwhelming caveats and skepticism, especially when they first come out. The love for the film was initially there. Still, nobody wanted to jump the gun about its Oscar prospects, especially considering last year’s race hadn’t finished yet when “Everything Everywhere All At Once” premiered. We use words like “smaller,” “niche,” or “genre” to describe movies such as this and celebrate them when they get the bare minimum come Oscar nomination morning. In any other year, the potential Oscar nominations for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” would be an overwhelming victory for such an audacious picture, one that features dildos and rocks with googly eyes. But something is different this time, and an overwhelming wave of support is congregating around the film as it connects with a generation that feels so disconnected.

Audiences were kind and surprisingly receptive to “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” especially in a year where most other awards contenders have struggled at the box office. With a worldwide box office of $103 million, it is one of the most successful films in contention this year, dwarfing the grosses of fellow competitors “The Fabelmans” and “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” arguably its two greatest threats for the top prize. Then there’s the Academy’s desire to recognize more mainstream and “accessible” films. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” isn’t exactly a populist choice, but it’s not “Tár.” It sits comfortably between the prestige and the mainstream, a palatable choice that offers poignant emotions and thought-provoking themes as much as exciting fight scenes and wacky dialogue that goes from utterly bonkers to heartbreakingly sincere.

And then there are the faces that brought it to life and made it a hit in the first place. Few actors in the business generate as much respect and sympathy as Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. It would be disingenuous to deny the importance of personal image and reputation in the Oscar conversation, and these two actors have never faltered. Coupled with their career-best performances, the perfect storm of goodwill has formed to recognize them after decades of stellar and consistent work from Yeoh and a career comeback for Ke Huy Quan after a forty-year gap between his previous projects in “Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom” and “The Goonies.”

Even someone like Jamie Lee Curtis has a place in this argument. Sure, some of her recent statements have been problematic, and the worthiness of her performance is being put into question left and right, especially if it’s coming at the expense of her deserving co-star, Stephanie Hsu. However, the perfect combination of circumstances is forming for her to finally find herself in contention for the industry’s top prize. The fact she so desperately wants it might turn some people off, but I find it refreshing, and most precursors are turning around and recognizing her after all the years of goodwill she’s built up without a single Oscar nomination to her name. More actors should embrace their hunger for the recognition an Oscar nomination brings, especially one with as many years in the industry under their belt as Curtis has.

In many ways, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is perfectly positioned to sweep the Oscars, and it rightfully should. The benefits of the often-criticized Academy are clear for everyone to see. They can boast about recognizing a genre film, especially in a category that will surely include a healthy balance of populist choices such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Elvis,” “Avatar: The Way Of Water,” hopefully, “Glass Onion” – and the usual Oscar fare – “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans,” “Women Talking,” etc. Yearly attacked on all fronts for being “out of touch,” the Academy can pat themselves on the back for thinking outside the box. At the same time, we can celebrate a worthy and audacious win that would be unlike anything else that has come before it while recognizing a generation of moviegoers who feel disconnected from the Oscars and a cast of actors who have not yet received their proper due.

Although Cate Blanchett seems to be the frontrunner for Best Actress for her monumental performance in Todd Field’s “Tár,” I feel Yeoh will gain momentum as the season continues. Blanchett might have the critics on her side, but Yeoh has a strong narrative in a film that’s competitive for a Best Picture win. She will almost surely win the Golden Globe for Best Actress Musical-Comedy, and I don’t see her winning SAG as an impossibility. Assuming Blanchett wins Critics Choice and BAFTA, we’ll be heading into yet another tight race with a photo finish. With “Everything Everywhere All At Once” picking up momentum and the fact “Tár” is a film that most people respect rather than love, I feel Yeoh will ultimately come out victorious. Her real competition is Michelle Williams in Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” another overdue actress with multiple nominations to her name but no Oscar win as of yet. Should she upset at one of the major televised awards and “The Fabelmans” starts picking up steam in Phase Two, we may be in for a more excitingly competitive Oscar race altogether as the generational divide between “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “The Fabelmans” goes up against each other.

Despite their current precursor lead, I don’t see the Daniels winning Best Director. Steven Spielberg has too flashy a narrative to be denied a win for such a personal story. It could be “The Fabelmans‘” only major victory, or it could be the base the film needs to pick up more wins, such as the before mentioned Best Actress award or Best Original Score for John Williams in what is his final collaboration with Steven Spielberg before he retires from film scoring.

Despite the struggles in Best Director, the duo is a much larger threat in Best Original Screenplay than some others may think. Pundits currently have “The Banshees Of Inisherin’s” Martin McDonagh as the frontrunner for his heartfelt and darkly comedic script after previously being nominated but not winning in this category for “In Bruges” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” While McDonagh seems poised for some richly deserved recognition, I firmly believe “The Banshees Of Inisherin” will be too bleak for voters, especially in a year that’s shaping up to be all about celebration.

The script for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is one of its strongest assets, and the Academy’s writing branch has proven to be less averse to genre films. McDonagh found himself in a similar position in 2017 with his Golden Globe and BAFTA-winning screenplay for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” However, the Academy still went with Critics Choice and WGA winner “Get Out,” a daring and topical piece that, like “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” captured the zeitgeist. “The Banshees Of Inisherin” might perform similarly to “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” securing nominations across the board but only proving competitive in one major category. And with Colin Farrell becoming a bonafide threat in Best Actor, the Academy might end up rewarding “The Banshees Of Inisherin” via. him or Kerry Condon in Best Supporting Actress.

If the “Everything Everywhere All At Once” wave comes to pass, what does this mean for its other contenders? Stephanie Hsu is wholly deserving of a Best Supporting Actress nomination; can both she and Curtis make it to the Top 5? I believe they can, especially if “Women Talking” and “The Whale” continue to underperform – and something tells me they will. And what about Larkin Seiple’s cinematography, Jason Kisvarday’s production design, or Shirley Kurata’s costumes? They’re quickly rising up the ranks, picking up nominations at Critics Choice and Hollywood Critics Association, especially as other contenders like “Empire Of Light” and “Babylon” lose momentum. 

Can we see a scenario where “Everything Everywhere All At Once” cracks double digits on Oscar morning? That might be overly optimistic, but it could happen. It should happen. The film is already a success story; the idea that our Best Picture came out in March might be too unserious for some, but it’s not unheard of. More importantly, it speaks to “Everything Everywhere All At Once’s” staying power. Maintaining momentum for nearly a year is challenging, but the film has done just that. It refused to back down and gained even more passion along the way, cementing itself as a leading contender in multiple categories.

So why keep denying it? Why do we insist that a film like “The Fabelmans,” which failed to capture audiences’ interest, can make a dent in a ceremony that will surely embrace populism? “Everything Everywhere All At Once” captured the zeitgeist and dominated social media with an intensity that rivaled the usual Marvel fare. It’s what the Best Picture winner used to be only a few years ago before the word “popular” got stained by the internet. It joins the likes of “Gladiator,” “Chicago,” and “The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King;” it’s prestigious and celebrated, yes, but also beloved and embraced, capturing our times through its story but also its filmmaking. It’s guaranteed to win the Film Independent Spirit Award and will likely win at the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and Hollywood Critics Association for Best Picture. It could also take the SAG Ensemble prize, PGA, WGA, and ACE Eddie. It’s not out of the question for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” to win Best Picture; in fact, it’s looking more and more possible with each passing day.

Do you think “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is the current frontrunner for Best Picture? How many Oscar nominations do you expect it will receive and which ones do you think it will win? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. You can see the Next Best Picture team’s latest Oscar predictions here.

You can follow David and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @DavidSCaballer2

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