Everyone has heard the old adage “Life gives, and life takes away.” The same could be said for the Academy Awards. For every heartfelt emotion and every well-deserved win it gives us, it’s usually followed up with an incredibly awkward moment or a deeply disrespectful snub. Perhaps no ceremony embodies that more than the 95th Academy Awards, which embodies the best and worst of both worlds.
On one hand, the ceremony itself was… pretty lackluster, to be quite honest. The pre-show on the Red Carpet was the same disaster as it’s always been (Hugh Grant was a BIG mood), the playing-off was especially obnoxious this time around, and Jimmy Kimmel was… fine. Just fine. He had a couple of good jabs about the infamous slap at last year’s Oscars (and one especially scathing one-liner about the now-deceased Robert Blake), but the rest of his time as host ranged from passable to downright cringeworthy. I never want to hear him ask Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai if she thought Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine, and I never, ever, EVER want to hear her be called “Malalaland” ever again.
On the other hand, outside of a handful of giant, gaping “WTF?” moments, the winners by and large this year were well-deserved. I mean sure, there were some glaring errors (*cough, cough* SUPPORTING ACTRESS *cough, cough). But by and large, this was one of the better years for the Academy Awards. I don’t get to say that often, so I’m very happy I get to say that this time around.
Best Picture: Of course Everything Everywhere All At Once won Best Picture, and it more than deserved it. Not only is it A24’s highest-grossing movie of all time, but it is simultaneously one of the most beloved pictures of the whole year, sweeping awards season like it’s the greediest kid on a Monopoly board.
But more than the awards hype, Everything Everywhere All At Once truly is just one of the most unique, creative, captivating, and mesmerizing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. It’s simultaneously a layered yet simple story about a family of broken souls trying to find their place in a vast multiverse and learning that their happiness doesn’t lie in status, success, or money, but in each other. It shows that love is the greatest superpower you can have in any multiverse, and that’s one of the most beautiful things about this unusual, strange, wacky little film.
It’s so wonderful to see something like Everything Everywhere All At Once win Best Picture not only because it’s outside of the Academy’s usual wheelhouse, but because it’s outside everybody’s usual wheelhouse. It genuinely is one of the most abstract and outrageous films ever made, but simultaneously, it hit the mark on every single emotional note that it needed to. It is a truly special, one-of-a-kind cinematic experience you owe to yourself to experience at least once, and the fact that it won Best Picture makes me happy beyond words. What else can I say? The Academy got it right this year, folks. The Academy got it right.
Best Director: In the same vein as Best Picture, directing duo Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan also won Best Director for Everything Everywhere All At Once. How could they not? With as bold, batty, and breathtaking as Everything Everywhere All At Once is, one would have to be insane to even think of such an outlandish premise in the first place. But the Daniels prove that they are of sound mind because they somehow made all of the insanity work. I still don’t know why Ruben Ostlund is nominated here for Triangle Of Sadness, but it’s all history now. Daniels won Best Director this year, and boy did they deserve it.
Best Actor: Brendan Fraser won it big for The Whale, and man did he deserve it. His performance as the 600-pound Charlie is strong enough to bring any man to tears, and he displayed a depth, complexion, and vulnerability that I didn’t even know he had. This was a well-earned comeback year for Brendan Fraser, and I hope his career only continues to climb from here.
A side-note to Warner Bros.: Release Batgirl, you cowards. This win only further proves that Brendan Fraser was ready for his villainous turn as the Firefly, and I still haven’t forgiven you for robbing me of that.
Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh was the heart and soul of Everything Everywhere All At Once, so it doesn’t surprise me that she also won the Oscar for Best Actress. But man, am I so, so happy for her. The fact that she is only the second woman of color to win this award and that Halle Berry was the one to present it to her just speaks to how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go from here. A well-deserved congratulations to Michelle on her win. At 60 years old, she proves that no woman is beyond her prime.
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor for playing multiple versions of Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Was there any doubt? Whether he was a feeble or meek husband or a larger-than-life action hero, Waymond’s many roles demanded range from Ke Huy Quan, and he played all of them beautifully. I especially love that when he went up to the stage, Harrison Ford was there to embrace him as Indy. You did it, Short Round. Congratulations.
Best Supporting Actress: This is the part of the ballot where I begin to have a meltdown, because what the actual HELL was the Academy thinking? Here is a category where there are several worthy nominees, and nearly all of them are deserving of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Hong Chau for portraying a grieving nurse in The Whale. Kerry Condon playing a sister torn between two sides of a feud in The Banshees Of Inisherin. Angela Basset playing a grieving mother to a fallen king in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And Stephanie Hsu for playing the conflicted and torn daughter split between all of her alternate selves in Everything Everywhere All At Once. All of these actresses were more than deserving of the Supporting Actress Oscar. Instead, the Academy decided to give it to… Jamie Lee Curtis for playing a lesbian with hot dog fingers.
Are. You. Kidding. Me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Jamie Lee Curtis is a fine actress, and she’s played several remarkable characters over the years, from Laurie Strode in Halloween to Linda Dryadale in Knives Out. But with all due respect to Jamie Lee Curtis, she isn’t the Best Supporting Actress of the year. She isn’t even the Best Supporting Actress in her own movie. Stephanie Hsu’s character demanded way, way, WAY more from her as an actress and as a performer. One could fairly say she’s just as essential to the film as Michele Yeoh and Key Huy Quan were. Instead, the Academy just skipped over her entirely and gave her Oscar to someone who did just a fifth of the work. That isn’t just disrespectful to Hsu as an actress: that’s disrespectful to all of the nominees in the category. What possible justification could there be for such snobbery?
Well that’s just it: snobbery. With her career spanning 45 years, it’s safe to assume that the Academy views this more as a legacy award rather than a legitimate acting Oscar. So what? That still doesn’t make it any better. You meant to tell me that this nepo baby deserved it more than Angela Basset, Kerry Condon, Hong Chau, and newcomer Stephanie Hsu, who gives a better performance than her anyway? Really? REALLY???
In terms of snubs, this is probably worse than Chadwick Boseman’s Best Actor snub in 2020, and I’m being dead serious when I say that. Because at least in that situation, Boseman lost to a worthy actor in Anthony Hopkins for The Father. Not only is Jamie Lee Curtis not comparable to her fellow nominees: she’s not comparable to them in any of the other multiverses. That’s how stupid this win is. It defies reality as we know it.
This may go down as one of the worst Oscar snubs in history, but there will be time to reflect on that later. Right now, I’m going to eat a hot dog and pretend it’s one of Jamie Lee Curtis’ fingers. Maybe that’ll make me feel better.
Update: It did not make me feel better.
Best Animated Feature: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio deservedly won Best Animated Feature, which helps make up for all of the other categories it was wrongfully overlooked in. Guillermo Del Toro’s speech saying animation was a medium and not a genre was long overdue and well-earned, and his tribute to his late mother was simply beautiful. We could all learn a thing or two about life and love from that wonderful little film. But whatever you do, don’t watch the live-action remake on Disney+. We have enough of those to worry about already.
Best Documentary Feature: As close as this category was, Navalny took home the Oscar for Best Documentary, and rightfully so given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The words of Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia sticks out to me the most: “My husband is in prison for telling the truth. My husband is in prison for defending democracy.” Those are two things that are very much under attack in America right now as well. Hopefully Alexei’s fight against tyranny will stir some hearts to do the same over here as well.
Best International Feature: All Quiet On The Western Front, of course. Can you imagine the outrage if anything else won? But as predictable as the International Feature category was, there was a lot more relating to All Quiet On The Western Front that was much more surprising. But we’ll circle back to that later.
Best Original Screenplay: If Everything Everywhere All At Once is anything, it’s wholly original, which made it a shoo-in for the Original Screenplay category. God dang, did the Daniels have a good night at the Oscars.
Best Adapted Screenplay: With only two nominations, Women Talking winning Best Adapted Screenplay was a big win for the small but mighty feature on Oscar night, especially since half of the Best Picture nominees went home with zero Oscars (including even The Banshees Of Inisherin despite garnering nine nominations). Though I will say my favorite part of this win was when my mother-in-law asked why they weren’t playing Sarah Polley off of the stage. “Ma!” my brother-in-law says. “It’s because women talking!” You couldn’t write better comedy than that.
Best Cinematography: We already knew James Friend was going to win Best Cinematography for All Quiet On The Western Front, but his win is more of an indictment on the category itself and how awful this year’s nominees were. Roger Deakins even publicly chided the Oscars for intentionally snubbing Greig Fraser for his incredible work on The Batman. Granted, he already won last year for his amazing work on Dune, but that doesn’t make his snub feel any better. In fact, it makes it worse, because you can clearly tell the craftsmanship behind it and yet still see it get skipped over because “it’s a superhero movie.” Pfft. Please.
Many more well-deserved cinematographers were snubbed here, including Larkin Seiple with Everything Everywhere All At Once, Ben Davis for The Banshees Of Inisherin, Jarin Blaschke for The Northman, Claudio Miranda for Top Gun: Maverick, and the truly idiotic one, Hoyte Van Hoytema for Nope. But whatever, it’s old news now. At least the Academy picked the best one out of a bad bunch.
Best Film Editing: It was down to Top Gun: Maverick and Everything Everywhere All At Once in the editing race, and Everything clinched it, if ever so barely. With Top Gun: Maverick being such a popular hit, I thought the Academy would take any chance it could get to recognize the acclaimed action sequel. The Academy ended up going with the jump cuts and genre-mashing that came with Everything Everywhere All At Once. An easy mistake to make, but it could have gone to either of those films on Oscar night. And in another multiverse, it did.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling: The Whale won for convincingly adding 600 pounds to Brendan Fraser’s battered body, and deservingly so. Was there ever any doubt? Of course, there are naysayers out there who say The Batman or Elvis should have won instead. To that I say, nothing is worst than when Norbit was nominated for Best Makeup in 2007. Absolute nothing. The Whale deserved to win, and Charlie deserves a hug.
Best Production Design: This is where the Oscars go in a sharply different direction than I was expecting. In a surprise upset, All Quiet On The Western Front bested Elvis, Babylon, The Fabelmans, and even Avatar for Best Production Design. This is deeply unusual because historically, war pictures never perform well in the production design category. The closest I’ve seen is when Lincoln won in 2013, and even then, I think you could argue that’s more of a historical film than a war film. It just doesn’t happen, so the fact that Christian Goldbeck and Ernestine Hipper beat all the odds makes their win even more impressive.
Now, do I think it deserved to win? Not really, no, especially when you compare it to the grandiose sets of Elvis and Babylon. But I can at least see the craftsmanship behind All Quiet On The Western Front. At the very least, it’s less embarrassing than when Mank won Best Production Design in 2021, so I’m going to take this as a win either way.
Best Costume Design: In another stunning upset, one king bested another when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won Best Costume Design over Elvis. Which isn’t really that surprising. After all, Ruth Carter previously won the Oscar for the first Black Panther movie in 2019. My reasoning for not picking her was more historical than anything else, because not only has a black woman never won two Oscars in the costume category: a black woman has never won two Oscars in any category. With this win, Ruth Carter has made history, and I couldn’t be happier for her blazing a trail for others to follow.
Best Musical Score: Of all of the musical scores that could have been awarded the Oscar, the Academy had several great options to choose from, from Justin Hurwitz’s snazzy and stylish score for Babylon to John Williams’ wonderful melodies in The Fabelmans to Son Lux’s ambitious and transcendental compositions in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Instead, the Academy chose All Quiet On The Western Front, a score so bloated and poorly mixed that it made me think my stereo speaker was broken.
The funny thing is when you look at the larger composition overall, Volker Bertelmann crafts a wonderfully tragic and heart-wrenching score that fits perfectly with the film’s anti-war themes and the loss of innocence. The problem is its main musical theme, the one it played during its presentation snippet no less, is just three blaring dubstep synths that make you want to gouge your eardrums out. It is the worst part of the score by far, and yet somehow, it beat out all of the other nominees.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy for Volker and I’m glad All Quiet On The Western Front has yet another win under its name. But in terms of this year’s nominees, this score was easily among my least favorites. I’ll be revisiting the tracks that filled me with an emotion other than mild annoyance and confusion.
Best Original Song: RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” won Best Original Song, and rightfully so. As much as I loved Lady Gaga’s stripped-down version of “Hold My Hand” and Rihanna’s powerful performance of “Lift Me Up,” there’s no question which song was the most fun, the most high-energy, and just the most memorable of the year, and it’s one where you don’t even understand the lyrics. I love the fact that “Naatu Naatu” won when RRR was effectively shut out from the rest of the ceremony, and I especially love that Telugu cinema finally got its moment at the Oscars. Congratulations to M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose for their much-deserved win, and I look forward to seeing what they produce next.
Best Sound: Unsurprisingly, Top Gun: Maverick won in the Best Sound category. And it’s deservedly so, with the sound design blasting you in the face like the engine of a Super Hornet. That said, what is a surprise is how much Top Gun: Maverick was overlooked in the rest of the ceremony. It didn’t win Best Film Editing. It didn’t win Best Original Song. And on a much larger scale, it was not nominated for a lot more, with its biggest snub being in the cinematography category.
It goes to show that just because you’re the most popular film of the year doesn’t mean you’ll be revered by the Academy as much. Oh well. At least it didn’t go home empty-handed, plus it has over $1 billion waiting at home to make it go down better.
Best Visual Effects: Avatar: The Way Of Water won, duh. If All Quiet On The Western Front won in this category too, I swear I would have lost my mind. Thank God that didn’t happen.
And finally, the short categories. It’s funny. Normally, I expect to do pretty poorly in the shorts since I never get to see them, but against all odds, I’ve done pretty decently at predicting them in recent years. The only one I got wrong this year was Best Animated Short, where The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse won. But considering the fact I predicted live-action and documentary shorts correctly, that’s a win in my book. Regardless, no title was better from any of the categories than An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake And I Think I Believe It. My Year Of Dicks is a close second.
Speaking of which, my favorite moment from the Oscars this year actually comes from the live-action short category, where An Irish Goodbye won. During their acceptance speech, director Tom Berkeley asked to use his time to wish his co-star James Martin, who has down syndrome, a happy birthday. Seeing the entire audience sing happy birthday to this wonderful young man as his face lights up with happiness is easily one of the greatest moments I’ve ever witnessed at the Academy Awards. It’ll be hard for anything to top that sweet and sincere moment in future Oscar ceremonies.
So yeah, the Oscars gives and takes. With my guessing 17 out of the 23 winners correctly, this was a pretty great year for the Academy Awards all around. Just don’t ask my opinion about Jamie Lee Curtis’ supporting actress win. The Academy will never live that one down.
– David Dunn