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Oscars 2023: Why we should celebrate Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a reminder of the power of wild swings, a celebration of new ideas and taking chances. Its seven Oscars are a cause for celebration

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24

You don’t get films like Everything Everywhere All At Once coming along very often. Or rather you do – weird movies get made all the time – but they don’t tend to get this type of attention, and they’re not often delivered with this much panache. That’s why it’s so exciting that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s ludicrous multiverse-spanning, hilarious, moving, profound and deeply silly masterpiece won big at this year’s Oscars.

The film took home seven of the ceremony’s biggest prizes: Best Picture, Best Director (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Best Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay.

The other Best Picture Oscar nominations are fine in their own way, but they’re also predictable. There’s the worthy, wordy, terribly serious pieces with scene-stealing stand-out performances (Women Talking, Triangle of Sadness, The Banshees of Inisherin, TÁR), the popcorn spectacles (Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water) the historicals and biopics (All Quiet on the Western Front, Elvis) and literally whatever film Steven Spielberg has made most recently. Fine films, all. None of them have a scene set in a world where everyone has long hot dog wieners for fingers. None of them have a dildo fight. And, alright, while those might feel a bit out of place in All Quiet on the Western Front, you have to admit they’d improve Top Gun.

In celebration of one of the most unique Oscar winners of all time, here’s some of the reasons why Everything Everywhere All At Once deserves every plaudit.

Stephanie Hsu as Joy in Oscar contender Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24
Stephanie Hsu as Joy in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24

Diversity

Diversity is at the heart of Everything Everywhere All At Once. Its central family are working class Asian Americans, a demographic we rarely get to see depicted properly on screen, which allows the Daniels to explore the clash of traditional and modern values, gender norms and the role shame plays in families. Making Stephanie Hsu’s Joy overtly queer and setting that against her well-meaning but traditional mother is the engine that powers the story, and the way the themes are woven around one another is immaculate. It’s wonderfully intersectional. No-one is one-dimensional, no-one is let off the hook. Everyone is ultimately celebrated for themselves.

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Performances There’s a reason why Everything Everywhere All At Once took three of the four acting Oscars. No-one drops the ball here. Stephanie Hsu is a revelation and Jamie Lee Curtis reminds us, again, that she is a better character actor than she is usually given credit for. It is truly mind-boggling that she had never previously been nominated for an Oscar. Her win is overdue recognition for an extraordinary four-decade career. But, my god, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. Yeoh has been consistently brilliant for decades. She was great in Tomorrow Never Dies. She was great in Star Trek. She was great in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, hell, she was great in the Supercop movies (honestly, she really was). It’s rare she gets to tackle characters with so many layers, though (and play multiple versions of them). We know she can do funny, we know she can kick ass, we know she can be withering and sadistic. This is arguably the first time she’s been able to be all of them, and with genuine dramatic depth. That’s a hell of a story before we even get to Ke Huy Quan, a guy who spent the 80s being the most recognisable Asian American kid in the world, and the 30 years following it trying to find himself again. Ke Huy Quan hadn’t taken a major movie role since 1992, and here he is just brimming with pathos and vulnerability. How were we cheated of this guy for so long? (The answer, by the way, is basically racism.)

Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24
Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24

Themes

A lot of the discussion around Everything Everywhere All At Once focuses on its meta-narrative, the loopy multiverse yarn where characters hop between worlds. That’s fun, sure, but it’s not the heart of the piece. It’s a loose metaphor for the way we all search for our place in a chaotic world; the way we can be so similar and so different even when we’re sharing the same space. Everything Everywhere is about the power of forgiveness, of letting go of our mistakes. It’s about ownership and standing up for who we are and what we believe in. It’s about learning that while boundaries can protect us they can also bind us; that it’s ok to let go of the old and embrace the new. Love, connection, belonging, being lost and searching for a moral compass, sometimes all at the same time.  It’s also a reminder that we can be multiple, contradictory versions of ourselves, and yet still remain true to who we are.

Visual Identity

It’s not a surprise that editor Paul Rogers Won both an Oscar and Everything Everywhere All At Once only BAFTA award)because he is doing god’s work here. Scenes change colour, texture and feel on a dime. We intercut, essentially, between a dozen different films, each with its own vibe. Every lift of the film’s mood, every break in its structure, every time the Daniels see the world in a different way – that’s Rogers’ and cinematographer Larkin Seiple’s work.

It’s a splurge of colour and montage that is constantly unexpected, constantly pushing the boundaries of what a movie should look like, or feel like. Something you see one minute might feel completely different the next, and that’s all deliberate. The ordinary becomes oddball, the weird becomes familiar. It’s thematic and narratively driven visual trickery that provides the film with power and a single-minded sense of identity.

Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24
Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Photo: A24

The final X factor

The 2023 Oscars revealed much about the Academy’s own evolution. Rather than stick to the safe option, the Terribly Important Serious Films and Steven Spielberg, they rewarded a unique, genre-less film that celebrates the parts of ourselves we may not be comfortable with.

Everything Everywhere All At Once has made history. It’s a reminder of the power of wild swings, a clear vision, trusting your gut and getting the casting right. It proves that it’s ok to be funny, to be silly, to embrace the parts of yourself that are unmanicured and unreliable. It’s a reminder to keep searching for what makes you happy. It’s a celebration of new ideas and taking chances. Ultimately, it’s pure cinema.

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