What Oscar winners (and losers) are saying about movies today


When it became clear Sunday night that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — a scattershot, multiverse-hopping romp about a Chinese immigrant trying to reconnect with his daughter — would sweep the Oscars, it felt like a seismic generational shift was transforming. American cinema forever, in real time.

Several observers (including this one) had already compared this year’s Academy Awards race to the 1960s, when films like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Graduate” changed Hollywood’s traditional notions of reason, substance and good taste. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, both in their 30s and collectively known as Daniels, possessed the similar contours of a cultural disrupter: bold, unashamedly self-indulgent, a pastiche of formal influences and callbacks. that managed to feel sophomorically shallow and philosophically deep at the same time. It ended up winning seven of the 11 Oscars it was nominated for, including best picture, best director, original screenplay, editing and three acting awards.

The sci-fi spectacular “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won seven trophies at the 95th Academy Awards – including best picture and best film editing. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Filmed and edited in 2020 — amid the turmoil of the covid pandemic, the Trump administration and outrage over the murder of George Floyd — “Everything Everywhere All at Once” captured and eerily expressed the chaos of its era, and its embrace of dislocation and contingency particularly resonated in young viewers whose lives now resemble a confusing A/B test that will result in either promising or disastrous futures. Its pop culture grammar also meshed: While Steven Spielberg referenced “The Greatest Show on Earth” and John Ford in “The Fabelmans,” against which “Everything Everywhere All at Once” competed for best picture, Daniels referenced anime movies, Marvel comics , martial arts movies, video games and Spielberg himself. (Ke Huy Quan, who won an Oscar for his supporting role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” made his film debut at age 12 in Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”)

In murkier territory, some skeptics actually compared “Everything Everywhere All at Once” to “The Greatest Show on Earth,” albeit as one of the worst best picture winners in Oscar history. And it’s true that the film’s anarchic, endlessly iterative style and shaggy structure (editor Paul Rogers admitted in his acceptance speech that this was only his second film) put off many people who went to see it out of curiosity. But for those who latched onto “Everything Everywhere at Once” — often returning more than once to tease out its Easter eggs and hidden meanings — it fit the zeitgeist. After making a rhapsodic debut at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, the film played and played, eventually grossing more than $100 million worldwide and staying in some art house theaters for nearly a year.

The fact that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” swept the Oscars on Sunday night has already animated a dedicated group of critics who see its success as the End of Cinema as We Know It. But they can take solace in the night’s other big winner: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Edward Berger’s harrowing, exquisite German-language remake of the 1930s best picture, won four Oscars: for best international feature, cinematography, production design and original score . If “Everything Everywhere” represented an obliteration of once-sacred norms and traditions, “All Quiet” represented enduring fidelity to formal elegance and narrative fundamentals, which Berger performed with crisp precision and breathtaking expressiveness.

Along with several of their fellow winners, “Everything Everywhere” and “All Quiet” also exemplified the growing internationalization of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has only recently recognized the reality that film is a global medium, both inside and outside Hollywood. Indian film “RRR” won best song for “Naatu Naatu”, whose live performance added a jolt of elation to an otherwise safe and steady show. It was the second India-based production to win an Oscar: Earlier in the show, the documentary “The Elephant Whisperers” became the first. Like such recent predecessors as “Roma” (from Mexico), “Parasite” (South Korea) and “Drive My Car” (Japan), “All Quiet” competed in both the International Feature Film and Best Picture categories. This year, Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund made the leap from the international feature category (where his previous films “Force Majeure” and “The Square” were nominated) to best picture for his cosmopolitan social satire “Triangle of Sadness.” Becoming the first lead actress of Asian descent to win an Oscar, veteran Michelle Yeoh joined such recent winners as Bong Joon-ho, Chloé Zhao and Yuh-jung Youn to embody an Academy whose membership now numbers more than 20 percent international and growing.

The success of “Everything Everywhere” and “All Quiet” also proved the value of a rock-solid Oscar campaign. Independent studio A24 broke its own record Sunday night, becoming the first company to sweep the top six Oscars (Brendan Fraser won for his lead performance in “The Whale,” an A24 production). This came as no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention to A24’s rise since its founding in 2012, when it embarked on a trajectory of making smart, envelope-pushing films by edgy auteurs and brilliantly cultivating their devoted audiences. The company has also become a prizefighter, creating quietly effective campaigns for challengers like “Lady Bird,” “Room” and “Minari” and winners like “Moonlight” and now “Everything Everywhere.”

Netflix, which distributed “All Quiet,” has become its own awards-season behemoth, aggressively vying to become the first streamer to win a Best Picture Oscar (that honor went to Apple TV Plus last year with “CODA”). While the cast and directors of “Everything Everywhere” charmed their way through the parties, luncheons, guild awards and in-person screenings that precede the Oscars, the team behind “All Quiet” subtly emphasized the film’s dedication to pure craft, as well as its anti-war message — timely in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a stark contrast to warring competitors like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

In their own ways, both “Everything Everywhere” and “All Quiet” managed to generate the kind of goodwill that is crucial when it comes time for Academy members to vote. Paraphrasing Maya Angelou: You may forget what someone said, but you’ll never forget how they made you feel. On the surface, the night’s two big winners couldn’t be more different. But “Everything Everywhere” and “All Quiet” both had passionate constituencies that their teams identified, activated and grew with superb skill. In the case of “Everything Everywhere,” a core audience of cults grew into a critical mass of voters who might have been privately confused or even alienated by the film’s self-indulgent excesses, but who couldn’t resist the stars’ Quan. Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis and Daniels’ goofy humanism.

Whether “Everything Everywhere” ends up reviving American cinema or heralds its death, there’s no doubt that it’s a film that met its moment. For better or worse.

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