The (Slap-Free) Oscars: Breaking Down Why “Everything” Won Everywhere

A24’s multiverse movie from the dynamic duo of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert proved to be an unlikely awards juggernaut

It wasn’t so much a changing of the guard as it was a taking of the guard when Everything Everywhere All at Once won seven Oscars on Sunday night, including all of the major awards it was up for—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. That’s more above-the-line wins than any movie in Oscar history.

These historic wins arrived nearly a year to the day that A24 brought the multiverse movie to SXSW, where it began its 365-day march to the Dolby stage.

While many certainly didn’t see Everything Everywhere All at Once as a major awards contender, let alone an Oscar juggernaut, after its March 2022 debut, it instantly struck a chord with audiences around the world. Like most of the other perceived contenders, it would either fall by the wayside or struggle to find traction with voters. But this EEAAO did something else: It managed to redefine what the industry thinks of as a prestige film.

Call it a generational shift, but with Everything Everywhere‘s big win, everything is now on the table. It may very well lead to studios taking bigger risks on material that’s deemed to be a bit “out there,” and even if its win doesn’t lead to more innovative scripts getting the green light, the ones that do sneak their way into the system could be embraced by industry audiences, many of whom may have turned up their noses at them once upon a time.

Throughout the season, the EEAAO crew charmed the pants off voters, with Michelle Yeoh overtaking Cate Blanchett, who had a career-best performance in Tar, late in the season, and Jamie Lee Curtis surging ahead of a very competitive Supporting Actress field. Both of these actors, who have been starring in films for decades, really wanted it, and they made no bones about that. Sometimes, you have to show the Academy that you want to win and these two were both down to play the game, as there was no margin for error this season. Neither one of them could afford to stay home and let the work speak for itself, as Mo’Nique did before going on to win an Oscar anyway for Precious.

Likewise, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka the Daniels, boasted an infectious energy that cast a spell on voters—certainly much more so than the stoic Steven Spielberg and Todd Field, who approached the season with the air of two industry vets who didn’t really need the Academy’s recognition. Don’t get me wrong, Spielberg did some tap dancing this year, but I think it was more about the fact that The Fabelmans was his adolescent story rather than a movie he felt stood a genuine chance, as I do believe it struggled to connect with audiences.

EEAAO, however, steamrolled the competition, and while there was still a hint of suspense heading into Oscar night as All Quiet on the Western Front picked up some momentum in the middle of the show, when it won four Oscars, including Best International Feature, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. That last award was a major upset, as pundits had pegged Babylon or Elvis as the likely winner in the category.

Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser and Jamie Lee Curtis pose in the press room at the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 12, 2023 (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

When All Quiet won Best Production Design, there was a buzz backstage in the press room at the Dolby. You could see it on social media as well. Folks began wondering, “are we about to see a shocking ending here?” Alas, after Women Talking took Best Adapted Screenplay over the WWI drama and EEAAO won Best Editing over Top Gun: Maverick, it felt like it was not to be, but kudos to the All Quiet team for going much further than anyone thought possible this season. If Netflix hadn’t changed its awards strategy and pivoted from Glass Onion to All Quiet so late in the game, perhaps the streamer could’ve stolen this one from EEAAO. However, something tells me that was always going to be a pipe dream and there was just nothing Netflix could’ve done at any point in this race.

Though Angela Bassett ended up not doing the thing, it was still a good night for diversity and representation, as not only did Michelle Yeoh become the first Asian woman to win Best Actress, but Black Panther: Wakanda Forever costume designer Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman to win two Oscars. Meanwhile, the original song “Naatu Naatu” from the Indian epic RRR toppled heavyweight pop stars Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Diane Warren. Elsewhere, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, adding to Netflix’s haul, and Kwan’s wins throughout the evening were notable for representation.

Meanwhile, Navalny took home Best Documentary Feature. After this moment in the wide open field of nominees, Aleksei Navalny’s wife detailed how the opposition leader has been faring in a Russian prison. And a pair of blockbusters won the awards they were expected to take home, as Top Gun: Maverick flew off with the Oscar for Best Sound and Avatar: The Way of Water triumphed in the visual effects category.

Host Jimmy Kimmel delivered a very funny monologue in which he took shots at Steven Spielberg and James Cameron—two of the world’s most famous directors who were both ripe for ribbing. He also noted the absence of both Cameron and Tom Cruise, joking about how the two guys who insisted we return to theaters couldn’t be bothered to show up on Sunday night.

Kimmel also joked that it must’ve been a difficult night for Pauly Shore, whose two Encino Man co-stars, Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan, eventually left the Dolby with Oscars in tow. He called Spielberg and Seth Rogen the “Joe and Hunter Biden of Hollywood,” though that wasn’t necessarily one of his better jokes, and an attempted bit with Malala Yousafzai fizzled. But for the most part, Kimmel was on point. He also deserves kudos for going out of his way to mention Till and The Woman King at the top of the show, and it was nice to see the Academy return to giving out all 23 awards during the broadcast following last year’s uproar over the taking those out of the broadcast.

As far as the speeches went, the Everything Everywhere team brought their A-game on Sunday night, as Quan moved audiences to tears, especially when he thanked his family, while Curtis’ excitement was palpable, and Yeoh delivered under major pressure. The only one who came up a little short was Fraser, who seemed overwhelmed by the moment and stammered his way through a bunch of whale-related puns, though he made up for it backstage with a heartfelt address to the press.

With the exception of an in-show ad for Disney’s live-action Little Mermaid movie (Disney owns ABC), it was a strong broadcast of the ceremony deemed to be waning in popularity and relevance. Kimmel kept the show moving, there were some great musical performances, and the speeches were, for the most part, pretty emotional.  And no one was slapped in the face.

In that sense, it was a little staid, a little safe, but ABC can safely expect the ratings to rise thanks to all of the above and the fact that people actually saw the nominees this year, from EEAAO to Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Elvis, though the latter was surprisingly blanked and left empty-handed, along with The Banshees of Inisherin and Tár.

Join us again next year, when Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon will likely square off against Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein movie Maestro, and Blitz Bazawule’s new take on The Color Purple. Until then, find someone to do laundry and taxes with, in this life or the next.

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