Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once won the 2023 Best Picture Oscar, and six others: Best Director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. It also won the Ray Bradbury Award and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

I was in the hall in Chengdu when the Hugo result was announced, and there was a collective gasp of delight at what was clearly felt to be a win for the home team. I heard or saw someone comment afterwards that this is remarkable because you can’t actually watch it in China. That comment is rather deluded – for all I know, it may not have been released in cinemas, but you can bet for sure that it has been watched by many many people in China. In any case, it got precisely half the first preference votes for the Hugo, and sailed across the line on the second stage.

The other Oscar nominees for Best Picture were All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness and Women Talking. I have seen none of them. The other Hugo finalists were Turning Red, Nope, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Avatar: The Way of Water again and a TV series. The only one of these that I have seen is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; and I’m afraid the only other films from last year that I can remember seeing are Glass Onion and Enola Holmes 2. IMDB users rank EEAaO 4th on one list and 7th on the other, with only The Batman ahead of it on both.

Here’s a trailer.

I spotted two actors who had been in previous Hugo/Bradbury winners, though none from previous Oscar winners. The first of these, obviously, is Michelle Yeoh, who is the protagonist Evelyn Wang here and was also Yu Shu Lien, one of the lead characters in Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon back in 2000.

You may be scratching your head about the other returnee from a Hugo / Nebula winning film. It is James Hong, who plays Gong Gong, Michelle Yeoh’s character’s father here, and was also Hannibal Chew, the maker of replicants’ eyes, in Blade Runner back in 1982. Given that he was born in 1929, and would therefore have been at least 91 when filming EEAaO, he must be the oldest actor that I have featured in these vignettes. Forty years is also one of the longest gaps between appearances. His cinema career started in 1956.

This is the last of these posts about Oscar-winning films, so I’m also going to salute the other two leads who won Oscars, both of whom I know from other films of long ago. Jamie Lee Curtis is the tax official Deirdre Beaubeirdre here, totally inhabiting the character, and of course was in A Fish Called Wanda back in 1988.

And Ke Huy Quan, playing Michelle Yeoh’s character’s husband Waymond Wang here, was Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom back in 1984, when he was twelve.

Young F, who is now a wage-earner, bought a Blu-Ray player for our household as a Christmas present, and I went out and bought EEAaO as the first thing to watch on it. (Nineteen years ago, we bought our first DVD player and watched Finding Nemo with F, then aged five, and Casablanca after he had gone to bed.) Of course, it was a Belgian DVD so we had the slight cognitive dissonance of the original soundtrack, in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, and our choice of Dutch or French subtitles, but no option for English subtitles. We opted for Dutch, which is the language of F’s education (and to be honest I’m also a bit more comfortable in it than in French). But we therefore didn’t see quite the same film that you may have done.

Opinnion is firmly mixed on EEAaO, but F and I loved it. It combines the domestic comedy of the central character getting to grips with her failing marriage, her overbearing elderly father, and her relationship with her lesbian daughter, with the revelation that she is one of a number of parallel Evelyns across the spectrum of multiverses, fighting the forces of evil incarnate in a being who looks just like her daughter. This Bilbo-like shift between the domestic and the fantastic is elegantly and eloquently done. Michelle Yeoh in particular conveys the many different aspects of Evelyn well, the action sequences are superb, the special effects are convincing and the music backs up the on-screen performances without intruding.

I think that part of what makes the film work is that it is perhaps a psychological parable too. Like all of us, Evelyn contains multitudes, of which she is not necessarily aware at the start of the story. By the end, she has integrated all of her selves and achieved wholeness, and learned also to accept difference in her family; as well as defeating the forces of cosmic evil. What more could you ask for at Chinese New Year?

I’m ranking it 18th out of 95 Oscar winners, just above 20% of the way down, after that somewhat different domestic drama Terms of Endearment and ahead of that other tale of psychological integration and disintegration, Midnight Cowboy. Stand by for a review of the whole concept of watching the Oscar winners in sequence.

I’m also ranking it 18th, this time out of 65, in my list of winners of the Hugo / Nebula / Bradbury awards, just below the vivid action-filled A Clockwork Orange and above the universe-crossing Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a stronger field. I may also do a post linking the Hugo / Nebula / Bradbury winners over the years.

But in the meantime, thank you for bearing with me through this series of posts, which I started in September 2017, when the world was a very different place.

Winners of the Oscar for Best Picture

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can’t Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King’s Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in 80 Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler’s List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996) | Titanic (1997) | Shakespeare in Love (1998) | American Beauty (1999)
21st century: Gladiator (2000) | A Beautiful Mind (2001) | Chicago (2002) | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | Million Dollar Baby (2004, and book) | Crash (2005) | The Departed (2006) | No Country for Old Men (2007) | Slumdog Millionaire (2008) | The Hurt Locker (2009)
2010s: The King’s Speech (2010) | The Artist (2011) | Argo (2012) | 12 Years a Slave (2013) | Birdman (2014) | Spotlight (2015) | Moonlight (2016) | The Shape of Water (2017) | Green Book (2018) | Parasite (2019)
2020s: Nomadland (2020) | CODA (2021) | Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

One thought on “Everything Everywhere All at Once

  1. Everything Everywhere All At Once might be the ultimate example of a film that I know is good, and made of love, and just doesn’t work for me because of me rather than anything wrong with it.

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