Will Donahue ‘24
I am surprised to report that the 95th Academy Awards went quite smoothly, with no slapping incidents or Best Picture fakeouts to stir up drama on the internet. And I am even more surprised to report that I am (mostly) satisfied with the night’s winners. There were still some snubs here and there; “The Banshees of Inisherin” sadly went unrecognized, and if you ask me, Jamie Lee Curtis did not deserve to win Best Supporting Actress over Stephanie Hsu and Angela Bassett. But snubs aside, I was relieved to see lots of love given to one of my favorite movies of the past few years: “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (together known as “Daniels”), “Everything Everywhere All at Once” tells the story of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese-American immigrant and burnt-out laundromat owner who must embrace the power of her infinite parallel selves to protect the multiverse from destruction. If that premise sounds crazy, I promise the actual plot is even crazier. To give a brief overview, this film is about bloodthirsty IRS auditors, world-ending bagels, and people with hot dogs for fingers. It’s one of the most utterly bizarre things I’ve ever seen, and I adored every minute of it.
And what’s more, “EEAAO” (for lack of a better acronym) could have just as easily been an incoherent piece of garbage. Even without the absurdist humor and erratic editing style, stories about the multiverse often feel emotionally empty. After all, it’s difficult to establish stakes when every character can be replaced and every action is meaningless. But in the case of “EEAAO”, the vast emptiness of the multiverse serves a purpose; the characters question why they should care about their lives when nothing ultimately matters. Daniels undeniably took a big risk with such a large-scope premise – and I think it paid off as much as it could.
And as it turns out, the Academy agrees with me. “EEAAO” went home with a whopping seven Oscars: Supporting Actor and Actress, Original Screenplay, Editing, Director, Leading Actress (Michelle Yeoh is now the first Asian woman to win this one!), and Best Picture. While I’ve been rooting for this film all year, I wasn’t anticipating such a massive sweep. “EEAAO” is far from your standard Oscar winner, especially compared to the rest of the night’s nominees (which included a period war drama, a biopic, and a movie about Hollywood – the holy trinity of the Academy). It’s rare to see genre films get awards buzz, but for one as absurd as “EEAAO” to win the most prestigious awards in show business? I didn’t think I would live to see the day.
I can understand why some may be turned off by something so nonsensical, but “EEAAO” is not just weird for the sake of it. It never comes across as cynical, satirical, or ashamed of its own crazy premise. It is deeply sincere in its weirdness, with its intimate and emotional story made even more precious by the pure chaos surrounding it. Sure, it’s a story about nonsense – but it’s about how we come to terms with nonsense, and how we manage to find meaning in our meaningless little lives. And in an age where 8 billion of us are scrambling to survive on a tiny rock in the face of an infinite universe, I can’t imagine a more impactful message.
Cover photo courtesy of NPR.
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