Hollywood, United States: In the end, its victory was utterly predictable and yet still totally implausible.
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" - a wacky sci-fi featuring hot dog fingers, sex toys, bagels and talking rocks - on Sunday became surely the most absurd film ever to win the Oscar for best picture.
With its unique blend of action, humor and existential angst, the adventure of a Chinese American laundromat owner battling a multiverse-hopping supervillain entered the Academy Awards as the clear favorite.
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It had dominated nearly every Hollywood awards ceremony in the buildup to the Oscars, and led the nominations for Sunday night's gala with 11.
It ultimately fended off rivals such as Steven Spielberg's intimate memoir "The Fabelmans," Tom Cruise's blockbuster "Top Gun: Maverick" and acclaimed tragicomedy "The Banshees of Inisherin" to claim Tinseltown's most coveted prize.
Actress in a Leading Role: Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once, A24
Actor in a Leading Role: Brendan Fraser, The Whale, A24
Directing: Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, A24
Film Editing: Everything Everywhere All at Once, Paul Rogers, A24
Original Song: Naatu Naatu, RRR, M.M. Keeravaani and Chandrabose, DVV Entertainment and Raftar Creations
Sound: Top Gun: Maverick, Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor, Paramount
Adapted Screenplay: Women Talking, Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews, United Artists Releasing
Original Screenplay: Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, A24
Visual Effects: Avatar: The Way of Water, Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett, Disney
Original Score: All Quiet on the Western Front, Volker Bertelmann, Netflix
Production Design: All Quiet on the Western Front, Christian M. Goldbeck and Ernestine Hipper, Netflix
Animated Short Film: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Peter Baynton and Charlie Mackesy, directors, Apple
Documentary Short Film: The Elephant Whisperers, Kartiki Gonsalves, director, Netflix
International Feature Film: All Quiet on the Western Front, Edward Berger, director, Netflix
Costume Design: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Ruth Carter, Disney
Makeup and Hairstyling: The Whale, Adrien Morot, Judy Chin and Annemarie Bradley, A24
Cinematography: All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend, Netflix
Live Action Short Film: An Irish Goodbye, Tom Berkeley and Ross White, directors, First Flights,
Documentary Feature Film: Navalny, Daniel Roher, director, CNN Films,
Actress in a Supporting Role: Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, A24
Actor in a Supporting Role: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once, A24
Animated Feature Film: Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson, directors, Netflix
"If our movie has greatness and genius, it's only because they have greatness and genius flowing through their hearts and souls and minds," co-director Daniel Kwan said of his cast and crew.
Overall the film won seven prizes: best picture, best director, best actress, best original screenplay, best editing, and both the best supporting actor and actress prizes.
The modestly budgeted independent film not only found success with Hollywood and film industry voters, but with mainstream audiences, earning a whopping $100 million at the global box office.
It chronicles the unlikely odyssey of Evelyn Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh), an immigrant businesswoman who is overwhelmed by strained family relations and financial woes.
During a tax audit, the existence of parallel universes is suddenly revealed to her by forces who insist she holds the key to saving the entire multiverse from an evil force.
This shadowy threat turns out to be none other than the alter ego of her depressed daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu).
She must harness the wide-ranging powers of other Evelyns living vastly different lives in their own distant but inter-connected universes, from martial arts to opera singing.
In witnessing the myriad paths she did not take, this ordinary mother questions whether her life could have been more meaningful - and whether she and her family would have been happier.
'Bulldozed by the emotion'
While it is packed with pop culture references and bizarre conceits - not least a universe in which human fingers have been replaced by hot dogs - "Everything Everywhere" has deeply emotional, heartfelt messages at its core.
Audiences and voters "gave our movie a chance" and "got past the kind of things that were going to be 'too edgy' for them," producer Jonathan Wang recently told AFP.
"And then they were bulldozed by the emotion of it."
Yeoh has said "the one thing that stays with you is the emotion of love."
With its focus on a mother-daughter relationship, its use of the multiverse concept popularized by superhero movies, and discussion of how modern life is oversaturated with information, "Everything Everywhere" has the clear feel of a movie made by and for a younger generation.
Co-director Daniel Scheinert has discussed how he and Kwan, both 35, set out to make "an empathetic story about how hard it is for our parents' generation to understand our generation."
"This film is almost a way for us to say, 'We see you in this chaos. (...) Maybe we can find a way to exist in all this noise,'" Kwan told The Verge.
'Look at us now!'
The film was originally written for Jackie Chan, but its lead role was reworked for his fellow martial arts superstar Yeoh, giving the movie a feminist tone and allowing the Malaysian actress to showcase her formidable range of talents.
The movie is also multicultural. It transforms an ordinary family of Chinese immigrants into superheroes, with characters alternating mid-sentence between English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
It revitalized the career of Vietnam-born actor Ke Huy Quan, who plays Evelyn's gentle husband Waymond.
Quan was a major child star with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "The Goonies," but had disappeared from acting due to a lack of roles.
As co-star James Hong, 94, commented after the film's Screen Actors Guild win last month, Hollywood has long marginalized Asian actors.
"But look at us now!" he concluded.
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No slaps. No snafus. No snags.
If anything, Sunday's 95th Academy Awards was simply safe.
The Academy made a show of restoring dignity to the night after last year's infamous incident in which Will Smith walked up on the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock by banning Smith from the ceremony for 10 years - which itself came only five years after the infamous envelope mix-up. They employed a crisis team to deal with any on-air incidents and hired veteran awards show producers Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss to helm the night.
Well, they did their jobs. Everyone had their metaphorical seat belts on. The result was a frictionless if enjoyable evening that half the audience probably forgot the moment they queued the finale to HBO's ratings juggernaut "The Last of Us," which aired during the ceremony.
If you can believe it, the most notable thing about the night was the winners.
Coming into the night, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's "Everything Everywhere All At Once," with its fairly breathtaking 11 nominations, was a resounding favorite to win, well, everything - a general favorite, a Vegas odds favorite and, one can surmise from beige-carpet interviews, a celebrity favorite. Those odds were right on: It swept most of the major categories, including best original screenplay, editing, both supporting acting categories, actress, director and - perhaps most importantly - best picture.
This was already a landmark year for Asian representation, and Sunday night continued the streak - most notably when Michelle Yeoh triumphed over early favorite Cate Blanchett and became the first Asian performer to win best actress. "For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities," she said in her acceptance speech. "This is proof that dreams do come true."
"This is the American Dream!" shouted Ke Huy Quan after winning best supporting actor. Because, sorry F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Quan proved that some get that coveted second act. The 51-year-old actor, who appeared as a kid in the 1980s blockbusters "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "The Goonies," took about two decades off from acting before winning a role in EEAAO. With tears, Quan reflected in his speech how he fled Vietnam, spent a year in a refugee camp and "somehow I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage."
Best supporting actress went to Quan's co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. "I just won an Oscar," the first-time winner said through tears, eventually calling out her late parents (Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh), mirroring Quan moments before, who exclaimed "Mom, I won an Oscar!"
Keeravaani won best original song for his joyously energetic anthem “Naatu Naatu” from the film “RRR.” The music was written by Keeravaani and lyrics by Chandrabose.
“Naatu Naatu” is one of the most memorable sequences from the the Telegu-language action epic “RRR” with its catchy tune and accompanying dance by actors Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr.
“Naatu Naatu” has become a viral sensation outside of the film, racking up more than 122 million views on YouTube and inspiring a TikTok challenge where users attempt to recreate the acrobatic dance-off. South Korean Ambassador Chang Jae-bok’s rendition went viral.
In a recent interview, Keeravaani said he felt compelled to use the Oscars’ platform to highlight other artists from India.
“It’s important so that more and more music and talented artists from my country can have a chance to get this kind of recognition, so that the world embraces India music more than ever,” he said.
Other best original song nominees were Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up,” a song she collaborated on with Tems, director Ryan Coogler and composer Ludwig Goransson; Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” with BloodPop,” Diane Warren’s “Tell It Like a Woman” and “This is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The latter track was created by Mitski, David Byrne and Ryan Lott, who along with his band Son Lux was also nominated for best original score.
An emotional Brendan Fraser accepted his first best actor award for "The Whale," joking, "So this is what the multiverse looks like," before giving a more serious speech. "I started in the business 30 years ago and things - they didn't come easy to me - but there was a facility that I didn't appreciate at the time, until it stopped," he said while holding back tears.
Germany's Netflix-backed "All Quiet on the Western Front," the third adaptation of the 1929 novel, performed surprisingly well, sweeping many of the technical categories and winning best international feature film. Meanwhile, Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman with two statues after winning best costume design for her work on "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
The rest of the show ran like, well, clockwork. After a few years of strange emcee experiments - forgoing a host from 2019 to 2021 and employing Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall as a trio of co-hosts last year - Jimmy Kimmel returned for the third time as the single, solitary host.
He didn't shy away from last year's shadow, but he didn't linger in it either. During a fairly safe (that word again) but serviceable monologue filled with the usual jokes about the year's nominated movies, the ceremony's infamously overlong runtime and Tom Cruise's relationship with Scientology, he joked, "Five Irish actors are nominated tonight. Which means the odds of another fight onstage just went way up." A few minutes later, he said if anyone commits violence, "you will be given the Oscar for best actor" and suggested that should history repeat, the crowd should do what it did last year: "Nothing."
Of course, no one committed any acts of violence as the show dragged on to a finish - or did anything out of the ordinary, for that matter. The whole night, down to Rihanna's eloquent performance of "Lift Me Up" from "Wakanda Forever," felt well oiled but entirely preprogrammed because, of course, it was. In fact, if Kimmel hadn't made so many jokes about how long the telecast was, it would have ended on time.
That's the issue with live television. If nothing unexpected happens, it feels like an unfulfilled promise.
As the whoa, what?!moments have piled up in recent years, a smoothly run show can't help but produce shrugs. We can't take our eyes off a car crash, but no one watches cars zip down a well-maintained highway.
Tonight's biggest car crash came when the telecast, which is already basically a multihour advertisement for the movies, decided to include actual advertisements for the movies.
Melissa McCarthy and Halle Bailey took the stage moments after a truly touching moment - the filmmakers behind live-action short winner "An Irish Goodbye" singing "Happy Birthday" to the film's star - to busk for their upcoming live-action version of "The Little Mermaid," announcing (and showing!) a new trailer for it, as if the ceremony wasn't already long enough. Leave it to Disney, ABC's parent company, to push the outer limits of decent synergy.
Was all that enough to attract a new audience?
The built-in advertisement for Warner Bros.'s 100th anniversary, introduced by Morgan Freeman and Margot Robbie a bit later, felt like another fender bender.
Clocking in at just over 3 hours, the show included some standout moments: Jenny the Donkey from "The Banshees of Inisherin" (or a donkey playing Jenny) showed up onstage wearing an "emotional support animal" vest. Lady Gaga appeared to have left the audience to wipe the makeup off her face before giving an emotional performance of "Hold My Hand" from " Top Gun: Maverick," dressed in a black T-shirt and ripped black jeans. "Cocaine Bear" director Elizabeth Banks presented "best visual affects" accompanied by a person in a bear suit.
And you may ask yourself: Why does David Byrne always show up in everything? On Sunday, he performed "This Is a Life" from EEAAO with hot dog fingers. (If you don't understand what that means, we suggest watching EEAAO.)
Was all that enough to attract a new audience? The Academy likely hopes so. The Oscars have been in crisis mode for a long time, as its ratings continue to pale in comparison to those of yesteryear, and all the slaps, snafus, Twitter polls (remember last year's disastrous experiments?) and random hosting arrangements couldn't save it.
Maybe this back-the-the-basics, almost comedically overlong ceremony can. But in a world where everyone's attention is usually pulled by everything, everywhere, all at once, it seems unlikely.