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How the Oscar wins for 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' could change Hollywood
Geoff Bennett: The 95th Academy Awards proved to be an evening of wins for many Asian and Asian American artists, with "Everything Everywhere All at Once" sweeping up many of the honors.
While blockbuster films mostly lost out, there were also wins for smaller productions, like the international film "All Quiet on the Western Front."
William Brangham has more on the annual celebration of film for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
Harrison Ford, Actor: "Everything Everywhere All at Once."
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
William Brangham: It was a historic evening for "Everything Everywhere All at Once."
The film took home seven Oscars, including three of the four acting Oscars and best picture. The film tells the story of a Chinese immigrant family and mother-daughter relationship via a martial arts extravaganza. It became a breakout for what has been called a multiverse dramedy.
The film was an indie hit Production company A24, taking the Oscar as well for best original screenplay and best director for the two men who've become known as the Daniels, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
Daniel Kwan, Director: Genius emerges from the collective. We are all products of our context. We are all descendants of something and someone.
Michelle Yeoh, Actress: For all the little girls and boys who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities.
William Brangham: Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win an Oscar for best actress for her role in "Everything Everywhere All at Once," and the first person of color to receive the award in 20 years, since presenter Halle Berry won it.
Ke Huy Quan, Actor: They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it is happening to me. This, this is the American dream.
William Brangham: And the same film relaunched the career of actor Ke Huy Quan after a decades-long hiatus off-screen. Quan won for best supporting actor.
In an emotional moment, he later reunited with Harrison Ford, whom he costarred with in the 1984 film "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
Only moments later, Jamie Lee Curtis won best supporting actress for the film.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Actress: I just won an Oscar.
William Brangham: Dedicating her award to her Hollywood royalty and Oscar-nominated parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
But her win came at the cost of Angela Bassett, who was a fan favorite for her performance in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
Ruth E. Carter, Costume Designer: Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman.
William Brangham: Ruth E. Carter did take home the award for costume design that Marvel film, making her the first Black woman to win two Oscars.
Brendan Fraser, Actor: I just want to say thank you for this acknowledgement.
William Brangham: Best actor went to Brendan Fraser, who also had a long period off screen. He tearfully accepted for his role in A24's drama "The Whale."
There were performances of nominated songs throughout the night by stars like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Diane Warren. But best original song went to Naatu Naatu from the film "RRR." It was the first song from an Indian film to win the category.
The documentary short Oscar went to "The Elephant Whisperers," also the first Indian film to win in its category.
Sarah Polley, Director: First of all, I just want to thank the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words of women and talking, but so close together like that.
William Brangham: While no women were nominated for director this year, Sarah Polley did take home the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for the film she directed, "Women Talking," based on the book of the same name.
The documentary "Navalny" about Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the plot to assassinate him won the Oscar for documentary feature.
From Germany, "All Quiet on the Western Front," based on the World War I novel by Erich Maria Remarque, took home four awards, for cinematography, production design, original score, and best international film.
It was a big night for indie films overall. But blockbuster hits like "Avatar: The Way of Water," and "Top Gun: Maverick" were the films that finally lured viewers back into movie theaters.
So does last night's Oscars change in any fundamental way how Hollywood goes about making movies? For some perspective on that, we're joined by Justin Chang. He's the film critic at The L.A. Times.
Justin, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Very, very big night for Asian and Asian American moviemakers last night. What do you make of "Everything Everywhere All at Once" sweeping so much gold last night?
Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times: Yes, William, thanks for having me.
I think "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is absolutely — it's a milestone. It can't be taken lightly or denied. I personally wish it were a better movie. It's funny. When writing about the film, I have described it as, I don't think it's remotely the best picture of the year, but, in some ways, it was the movie of my year and the movie of a lot of people's years, because I kept thinking about it, because this was a movie that people love, and people hate it.
It was extremely divisive. And I am very much of two minds about the film. But watching the movie win a kind of remarkable seven Oscars last night, I was thrilled by Michelle Yeoh's win, very moved, as everyone was, by Ke Huy Quan's speech, which was not a surprise, but which was a delight nonetheless.
And there is something very significant about a movie about this scrappy, dysfunctional Chinese American family winning seven Oscars. I mean, that is — there's something remarkable about that.
I was disappointed that some really excellent films like "Tar," "The Banshees of Inisherin," and "The Fabelmans" got zero between them. And we can talk about this as perhaps a reflection of the fact that they were not as big commercial successes as "Everything Everywhere," which was a big theatrical success. But I think that's a shame because that is very — seven Oscars for one movie, and for that movie, to be "Everything Everywhere," is disproportionate.
It doesn't reflect just the actual the actual diversity and quality of the year in cinema.
William Brangham: On that issue of diversity, I mean, Hollywood and the Oscars has been trying to make movies and to celebrate movies that better reflect the diversity that is this country.
Do you think — I mean, all your criticisms aside, the points that you're making aside, do you think that this night does change the way movies get made going forward? Because this is remarkable when you look at who is in front of the cameras in that film and what that film is all about.
Does that change things in a fundamental way?
Justin Chang: Yes, it absolutely does.
And quite apart from my feelings, anybody's feelings about the movie, love it or hate it, it absolutely changes it. Michelle Yeoh, in her speeches this season says, for every little boy and girl who looks like me — and it's not just the decision-makers. It is for the very talented people who will maybe pursue their career dreams and think that they have what it takes.
How exactly this will change anything, what decisions will get made going forward, that remains to be seen. And we have sometimes seen that people can be very tokenistic about this kind of thing. People can say, well, if we just have a very sort of perfunctory kind of representation, then we have done our due diligence. And that's not good. Nobody needs that kind of representation.
But you also do look at past best picture winners, like "Everything Everywhere," like "Parasite," like "Moonlight." The definition of what a best picture can be is changing. And I think that that is a very encouraging thing in terms of just what types of stories are being celebrated and who is fronting and telling those stories.
William Brangham: Indeed. It is a remarkable tableau we saw on stage last night.
As I mentioned, while they didn't get as much love from the Oscars, two very big blockbusters did seemingly break that frozen reluctance that all of us pandemic-weary moviegoers had and suffered through and got us back into the theaters.
Do you think that that is — have we — are we done with the pandemic as far as moviegoing?
Justin Chang: I certainly hope so, because I feel safer in a movie theater. Now, I still mask up in theaters, but I feel like it is an activity that — I feel like there is this hunger to get back to theaters.
And it's worth noting that, even though it wasn't technically a studio blockbuster, "Everything Everywhere," I think, developed its incredible cachet and devotion in the industry partly because it was a huge success, a very low-budget movie that made many times what its budget was. And so that is a success story very much in itself.
So, I — it remains to be seen. I think that, from what I understand this coming year — I mean, with the pandemic in 2022, you had "Top Gun," which was a holdover, and you had "Avatar," but they were still holding back some of their inventory. And I think, this year, they are — the studios are going to be back in what they hope to be close to full force, like pre-pandemic full force.
But I also hope that that doesn't slight the great films that I think are really worthy of Oscar recognition and that benefit from this kind of attention, which is movies that premiere at film festivals, movies from other countries, independent movies, documentaries.
I hope that there is a really healthy hunger and an appetite to see those movies in theaters on the big screen as well.
William Brangham: Me too.
Justin Chang of the L.A. Times, great to have you back on. Thank you so much.
Justin Chang: Thank you so much for having me.
Amna Nawaz: And as part of our ongoing arts coverage, we recently spoke with some of the now-Oscar winners, including actress Michelle Yeoh and Sarah Polley, the screenwriter and director of "Women Talking."
You can watch those conversations online at PBS.org/NewsHour.