Monday, May 27, 2024

Where “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Stands As Oscar Season Comes To A Close

The final days of the 2022 Oscar season are now one big coronation for “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” or so it would seem. Winning the most SAG and Spirit Awards ever, along with victories at the PGA, DGA, WGA, and ACE awards, now suggest that “Everything Everywhere All At Once’s” top competition is history – like the records for most Oscar above-the-line wins and most Oscars in the preferential ballot era – instead of the other nominees. Yet perhaps there is still one more intangible adversary left for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” to defeat – the label of being a perceived mortal lock. And as we’ve already seen this season, when enough voters are led to believe something or someone is such a lock that they don’t need their vote, chaos with terrible optics can still ensue.

When Oscar nominations came out, the big story was the tactics and perhaps oblivious assumptions that led to voters snubbing Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler for Best Actress nominations while “grassroots” candidate Andrea Riseborough got in for the under-seen “To Leslie.” In particular, leading Riseborough campaigner Frances Fisher raised eyebrows in hindsight, with social media claims to prospective voters that Davis and Deadwyler were already “locks” to get in.

But this story only proved to many skeptics and critics that no actor or actress of color – or film led by actors and/or actresses of color – can be deemed mortal locks for victories or even nominations from this Academy. As such, although every single precursor stat now tells us the Asian-led “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is a mortal lock to win it all and sweep the entire Oscar night, we can only be 99% sure, in all heartbreaking honesty.

This year’s Oscar voting period took place at a time when “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was hyped up by nearly every Oscar pundit and expert as a sure thing, especially after its Spirit Award and WGA wins. But this level of dominance has been unheard of in the preferential ballot era, where Best Pictures usually win one, two, or three Oscars at most before the final envelope, and sweepers like ‘Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Titanic” don’t emerge anymore. Yet now it’s not only considered possible that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” could win most of the significant Oscars but could even tie or break the all-time record for most above-the-line Oscar victories at five. Between those expectations and its clean sweep at the guild awards, it’s likely, not just to pundits who consider “Everything Everywhere All At Once” a safe bet (maybe not all pundits, but most of them). In fact, this is now the only possible factor with a barely better than zero percent chance of derailing the juggernaut in waiting.

If enough voters believe “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is guaranteed to win, no matter what they do, maybe that will give them the excuse to “vote their conscience” and pick something else. Or, as we’ve seen too many times with the Oscars, politics, and countless other arenas, the fear that enough less-than-progressive voters can steal a historic moment of progress away at the last second is one that can never be fully counted out – and enough “anonymous Oscar ballots” will likely be posted this week to fan those flames and keep us watching too.

At a bare minimum, the newfound notion that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” could have the most overwhelming win in years may motivate enough late voters to spread the wealth, as they have for much of this era. If such momentum builds to spare the likes of “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans,” and “TAR” from total Oscar shutouts, who knows if that can snowball from there – especially if we keep drilling in that they can’t possibly influence the final outcome.

On the surface, this is the exact same case that Fisher, and Riseborough’s other famous and mostly white campaigners, used to argue that voting for her wouldn’t damage “locks” like Davis and Deadwyler. Maybe if enough voters hadn’t ignored the vast arguments against “Blonde” and put Ana de Armas in as the other late-surging Actress nominee, either Davis or Deadwyler would have gotten in then and spared the Riseborough rise any further scrutiny. But since it didn’t turn out that way, it now serves as a lingering warning.

The stats seemed to favor Davis after she was a Golden Globe, SAG, Critics Choice, and BAFTA nominee, and Deadwyler made three of those four precursors while Riseborough made none of them. Likewise, every stat favors “Everything Everywhere All At Once” after all its guild wins, especially since no other contender has a precursor winning combination that led to Best Picture lately, if at all. If one of them were to win anyway, it would be a Riseborough-level shock and stat-breaker on a far more scandalous level.

Of course, several actors and actresses have missed Oscar nominations even with three or all four major precursor nominations before, usually when they win nothing or next to nothing in critic and industry awards – as Davis and Deadwyler didn’t. Since “Everything Everywhere All At Once” actually did win pretty much every guild possible, it does not have that problem and then some.

For that matter, while Riseborough got in over Davis and Deadwyler on a conventional ballot, Best Picture is decided on a preferential one – the kind that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” already won at the PGA. As such, even if enough voters pick something else for No. 1 and put “Everything Everywhere All At Once” as their No. 10, there should still be enough who put it at No. 1 or at some other high ranking to cancel it out.

Even if there is a more substantial group of voters than we think – yet who still couldn’t influence any of the guilds – who have been radicalized out of fear of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” sweeping the Oscars, it’s not like they are all united behind something else. With the Riseborough campaign, her famous backers were united out of support of her and, at best, were ignorant to the optics and realities of pushing her at the expense of candidates of color. But since “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “All Quiet On The Western Front,” “Elvis,” and more all had brief shots at becoming Best Picture alternates and failed, any last-second voter movement against “Everything Everywhere All At Once” would be more against that movie and less in support for anything else – and the alternates are clearly all too splintered for one consensus No. 2 to emerge now.

By that logic and almost every other reasonable piece of evidence, nothing can stop what we all assume is coming now. And yet the sad truth is, if “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was a more conventional Oscar-baity film – and let’s face it, a more white film – we would not feel the need to clarify it is a mere assumption.

The Davis-Deadwyler-Riseborough mess already taught us once this season that no person of color, whether an EGOT winner or a rising star, can ever be a 100 percent assumed lock at Oscar time, no matter what campaigners and pundits who are either blissfully or purposefully ignorant say. Therefore, even when it is otherwise completely unnecessary, the same nagging fear that the other shoe will drop still has to apply to films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” as well, even now, as it steamrolls toward supposed history.

In truth, it wouldn’t take that much on Oscar night to fear for the favorite before the final envelope is read. Even though some may think it can break records by sweeping Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay – to say nothing of at least Best Editing below the line – it is only really a near-lock for Best Supporting Actor and maybe Best Director.

All it would take to cast some doubt is Cate Blanchett winning what is still a coin-flip Best Actress race over Michelle Yeoh, “The Banshees Of Inisherin” winning a still coin-flip race for Best Original Screenplay, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu failing to pull an upset in Best Supporting Actress. But even then, having just Best Director and Best Supporting Actor would probably still be enough, as a mere two above-the-line wins before Best Picture is usually enough every year. Still, if “The Banshees Of Inisherin” can manage both an acting win and Best Original Screenplay in this exact scenario, or if “All Quiet On The Western Front” can spring a Best Adapted Screenplay victory and some other wins, a Best Picture shocker would remain unlikely but not entirely impossible.

Yet no major precursors, save for a BAFTA award show with almost no diverse winners, have suggested such an outcome is possible. Of course, no precursors suggested Riseborough could get nominated, while both Davis and Deadwyler missed either. Best Picture is a far different and more complicated process, though every once in a while, it has big surprises too. However, comeback wins for the likes of “Shakespeare in Love,” “Crash,” “Moonlight,” “Green Book,” “Parasite” and “CODA” were backed by far more statistical evidence than all this year’s underdogs have on their resume.

Pundits who have already predicted parallels to how the likes of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Bonnie and Clyde” lost Best Picture, and others who have far uglier reasons to hope for an upset, are filling up air time because we have nothing else to fill it within these final few days, at least where Best Picture is concerned. By and large, we should all be able to laugh those off at this time next week once “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is crowned, whether with a historical sweep or not.

If it breaks such records, it will bring us closer to a time when we no longer need any lingering fear that non-white films, or performers, will be passed over no matter how formidable they appear – and no matter how out of nowhere a white challenger comes from. Still, this year has already taught us that such a time is still further away than we thought it was, which means we can’t 100 percent rule out an even harsher example on March 12th.

But on the nearly certain chance that it is just unwarranted last-second paranoia – at least in this case – it will make “Everything Everywhere All At Once” what we thankfully all remember the most from the 2022 Oscar season. Then maybe from the ripple effect to come in the years ahead, we will be a step closer to having stories and outcomes like this, instead of more backward-looking ones, as the new Oscar normal.

Which categories do you think “Everything Everywhere All At Once” will win on Oscar night? What is the no. 2 film for Best Picture at this point? Please let us know in the comments below or on our Twitter account, and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @robertdoc1984

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