This article contains minor spoilers for "Everything Everywhere All At Once."
The 2023 Academy Award nominations are here, which means it's time for everyone to celebrate and bemoan the choices based upon their own favorites. Picking out the best picture of the year is ultimately subjective, as one person's best picture is someone else's biggest disappointment, but the Academy has had a pretty rocky history of awarding movies that have some perceived moral component or appeal to nostalgic sentimentality. How else do you explain "Forrest Gump" winning over "Pulp Fiction," or "Green Book" winning at all? While there have been some steps forward in the past decade or so, like "Parasite" winning a surprise Best Picture award in 2020, there have also been some less-than-great wins.
Now, with the nomination of the Daniels' "Everything Everywhere All At Once," it looks like the Academy might actually reward the best movie of the year. "Everything Everywhere All At Once" is a triumph of filmmaking that tackles tough topics like generational trauma, homophobia, neurodiversity, and more, while still being an exciting, funny, sweet story that's entertaining from start to finish. The movie was nominated in a number of categories, but a Best Picture win would be truly deserved.
The Sublime Absurdity Of Everything Everywhere All At Once
There isn't another movie on this planet quite like "Everything Everywhere All At Once," and that's pretty darn impressive given just how many movies are out there. It's a truly unique and surreal vision from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka Daniels. Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Quan, a middle-aged Asian-American woman who runs a laundromat with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Things aren't great for the pair, as they struggle to get their taxes in order despite (or perhaps because of) the help of Deidre, an experienced tax professional played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and their relationship with their young adult daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), is growing increasingly strained. Just when things seem like they can't get much worse, Evelyn gets pulled into an inter-dimensional battle with a version of Joy from another timeline that calls herself Jobu Topaki. Jobu is nihilism incarnate, someone who has given up on life because it's just all too much, and she wants to destroy the entire universe so it can be as empty as she feels inside.
Evelyn must jump through worlds, seeing versions of herself and all of the various lives she could have lived, in order to save her Joy, Jobu, and all of existence. An unassuming middle-aged laundromat owner gets the chance to be an action hero, and Michelle Yeoh is absolutely perfect in a role tailor-made for her incredible skills. The multiverse has been having a moment in pop culture, but "Everything Everywhere" manages to turn the mind-bending concept into something deeper by tackling painful topics with tender absurdity.
Absurdity In The Face Of Pain
Life is hard. Being human is a confusing, often painful experience that's too complicated to ever fully explain, but "Everything Everywhere" comes pretty darn close. There's so much packed into the film that you could get a different lesson each time you watch it, but the most important lesson of all is that life is too important and too short to take too seriously. It's easy to get lost in the darkness of the world, but figuring out how to bring light back in is exceptionally tough. Joy became so lost in her own pain that she became Jobu Topaki, while Evelyn has grown so disillusioned that she is gradually giving up on her marriage, her daughter, and her life. It's only when she sees the infinite potential in the multiverses and has a heart-to-heart with Waymond that she realizes life is what you make of it.
Every version of Waymond loves Evelyn, and every version finds ways to make life less miserable. The Evelyn we start the movie with is fed up with Waymond's silliness, especially the googly eyes he's put all over various items in their home and business, but he explains that it's his way of battling the same darkness that is overwhelming his wife:
"You think because I'm kind that it means I'm naive, and maybe I am. It's strategic and necessary. This is how I fight."
Sometimes things get so difficult that all you can do is laugh at the absurdity of it all. Evelyn learns to use Waymond's way of fighting instead of just physically trying to destroy her problems, and it ends up changing their entire family for the better.
Emotionally Resonant And Technically Exceptional
Any film that wins Best Picture should not only have an emotional impact, but should be as well-made as possible. Daniels previously impressed audiences with their music videos — including the one for DJ Snake & Lil Jon's "Turn Down For What," which featured impressive visual effects, tight editing, and a unique visual language — and their feature directorial debut, "Swiss Army Man," in 2016. "Everything Everywhere All At Once" expands upon the kinetic, colorful visual language of their earlier work, making the multiverses into stunning wonderlands. Inventive storytelling like this pushes the medium of cinema forward, and it's so exciting to see an awards show as prestigious as the Oscars pay attention. I was concerned that it would be "too weird" to earn a nomination, especially for Best Picture, but this strange, surreal movie is just too good for even the snootiest, most old-fashioned of Oscar voters to ignore.
Every aspect of "Everything Everywhere All At Once" is excellent, from the chaotic cinematography to the pitch-perfect performances. Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ke Huy Quan have all been nominated for Oscars in the acting categories, and every nomination is deserved. The actors in this film had to not only portray their character, but multiple versions of that character, and they managed to imbue each of them with humanity — even when they have hot dogs instead of fingers.
Life Is Chaos, And That's Okay
"Everything Everywhere All At Once" is a perfect example of optimistic nihilism, which is the idea that nothing matters but that's okay, because it means that we get to create meaning in our experiences. That's a pretty heady concept, and isn't as easy to sell to awards voters as the tried-and-true "awards bait" topics like race relations or actors making themselves uncomfortable, so it's surprising and wonderful to see the Academy pay attention. "Everything Everywhere All At Once" was a huge hit for A24 and will stand the test of time regardless of whether it wins any Oscars, though it's probably pretty likely to win at least one. After all, the movie is leading in nominations for 2023, with 11 total, including costume design and music in addition to the acting categories.
The Oscars can be pretty hit-or-miss with their Best Picture winners, but "Everything Everywhere All At Once" deserves to run away with the award because it's such an inspirational, well-made, and impactful movie. We'll have to wait until March 12, 2023, when the Oscars air to see who wins, but "Everything Everywhere All At Once" has already won in my heart.
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The post With Everything Everywhere All At Once, the 2023 Oscars Could Actually Award the Best Movie of the Year appeared first on /Film.