Certainly Oscar results are subjective, but some outcomes seem utterly out of touch. Remember “Green Book” winning the same year “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman” also competed?
In a rare moment, however, 2023 stands tall, propped up by several deserving, towering winners that time might actually remember. They unite under a common theme: embrace the weird.
Let’s start with the greatest revelation of the night. Critically lambasted “Encino Man” features two Oscar winners: Brendan Fraser and Key Huy Quan. Fraser’s insane performance alone in “The Whale” earned him quite the awards season glow. A standing ovation at Cannes, some remarkable press moments and hopefully more roles to come.
And then there’s the makeup, deemed so good – so intense – it outdid “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Elvis” and “The Batman,” which made Colin Farrell unrecognizable as Penguin.
As for the other part of the “Encino” duo, Quan’s story is equal parts heartwarming and maddening. An industry failed him, yet he remains a beacon of hope and positivity. As for the matter of his performance, yeah, it’s incredible. And that moment when “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won, embracing best pic presenter Harrison Ford as the rest of the film crew flooded the stage, magic.
So “Everything” nabbed three acting awards, including for supporting and the mighty Michelle Yeoh for best actress. Add to that editing, original screenwriting and directing, along with the big one. That all combines to tell a compelling story about the film’s merit. Not only is it original. Not only is it well made. Not only is it brilliantly acted. It’s all that.
A film hitting so many marks across categories is a rare feat. It’s not science fiction for dummies. Unlike an episode of “Big Bang Theory” making sci-fi lovers seem abnormal for enjoying the most basic of futuristic things, “Everything” brazenly embraces all the weird.
That’s the power of a weird film – frankly, the most approachable weird film in Hollywood at this point.
“Everything” served as the primary bit of weird last Sunday, but the animated categories sported some of that strange too. Like many contributions from Guillermo del Toro, “Pinocchio” is a film without an audience. Too emotional for kids, unexpectedly traumatizing for adults. Like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a best foreign language nom (robbed on so many accounts that year), this one borrows from fairy tale stories to tell a very mature, near fatal story about life and death. Of course it deserved to win. It’s the kind of weird Oscar sometimes awards.
Look, sometimes weird doesn’t go all the way. Animated short winner “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” is a shoo-in, a sentimental tear pirate. To really go weird, Oscar had another option: “My Year of D—s.” That’s OK. No theme is perfect.
On the less weird side, “All Quiet on the Western Front” proved a sleeper hit, scoring international feature along with cinematography, production design and score. That last category is an iffy one. No doubt it works well, the central theme shining through during moments that set up something truly atrocious on the horizon, but other options perhaps made more sense. Besides “Everything,” however, those options didn’t actually reach the final five, so perhaps we should just move on.
Does “Women Talking” count as weird? Probably, according to general audiences. It’s a challenge to watch. But that’s what any screenplay category should consider, making Sarah Polley’s writing a worthy win for adapted screenplay.
The only thing truly not weird is that “Avatar” sequel, which spent a couple billion to snag that VXF honor. This one doesn’t even deserve reflection. The acting and story suck. But hey, “Top Gun: Maverick” snagged a sound editing award, so it’s an Oscar-winning flick. Nothing weird about that.
Oscar has moved this way for some time with “Birdman,” “The Shape of Water” and now “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – minus the previous two years that ventured into more problematic best pic winners. Hopefully this serves as a trajectory for future Oscar ceremonies.
Considering the oft-cited criticism that every other film is a reboot, remake or sequel, “Everything” shirks the norm. Then again, remakes of “Pinocchio” and “All Quiet” also prove that old stories still have some life left in them. That’s a pretty weird yet refreshing look into the future.
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