It’s hard to write about the 95th Academy Awards the same way I’ve written about past ceremonies. I don’t just mean because it was one of the better ceremonies in a while, both in terms of performance and winners. I primarily mean because this was a historic night, mostly led by the seven Academy Awards won by Everything Everywhere All At Once, including Best Picture.
Yes, the Daniels’ sci-fi epic won the most awards of the night, taking home Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay for the directing duo, Best Film Editing, and three of the four acting categories for Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis, in Best Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress, respectively. Yeoh was the first South Asian winner in history, and Quan gave the emotional speech of the night, making for some of the night’s most emotional moments.
But this was also historic in terms of stats. This is the most Oscars won in the preferential ballot era, beating The Hurt Locker’s six Oscars. And with three out of four acting categories, Everything Everywhere has tied the record for most acting categories, alongside A Streetcar Named Desire and Network. Truly, this is a film taking its place in the history books.
While Everything Everywhere swept the above-the-board categories, it was far from the only winner. Best Actor went, in one of the night’s closest races (at least before we saw how much the Academy hated Elvis), went to Brendan Fraser for The Whale. Now, I am a known Whale hater. I think it is the worst film to win a major Oscar…maybe ever?
But my God, seeing Fraser win an Oscar, after everything he’s been through…it was such a beautiful moment. And his speech was short, sweet, and exactly what we wanted from the beloved 90s icon. Meanwhile, Sarah Polley’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay (for the terrific Women Talking) felt a decade in the making, since her debut film Away From Her. Best Animated Feature and Best Documentary Feature both went as expected, with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and Navalny winning the respective awards.
Best International Feature went to All Quiet on the Western Front, which brings us to the night’s other big winner. The German-language war epic swept the technical awards, topping its International prize with Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and a surprise win for Best Production Design. Each win came as a complete surprise for the technical team, resulting in earnest and sweet speeches all around. The rest of the tech categories went to winners both obvious (Top Gun in Sound, Avatar in Visual Effects) and surprising (The Whale in Makeup, a complete surprise Black Panther win in Costumes for Ruth E. Carter).
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the night came when M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose won Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu” (more on this in a minute), and the duo spontaneously sang The Carpenters’ “Top of the World” to celebrate. Speaking of spontaneous singing, one sweet moment came when An Irish Goodbye won Best Live Action Short, and sang “Happy Birthday” to star James Martin. And closing out the shorts categories, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse unsurprisingly won Best Animated Short, while The Elephant Whisperers delightfully won Best Documentary Short.
So with the winners out of the way, let’s talk about the show itself. Honestly, this was a solid show. It wasn’t flashy, but it also wasn’t a nightmarish letdown. Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue was pretty straightforward, with his jokes mostly hit and miss, but in a traditional, enjoyable way (no real laugh lines, but also no horrific duds, outside of a terrible bit with Malala). At the very least, the Top Gun flyover set a high note to provide cover for duds.
As for the performances, what a year. After an incredibly boring performance of “Applause” and a shockingly bad performance of Everything Everywhere’s original song (David Byrne and Stephanie Hsu are both great singers, why were they both so flat?), we were gifted not one, not two, but three of the best Oscar performances…maybe of all time? Lady Gaga showed up without rehearsal and sang completely live, completely raw, and f*cking incredibly. Rihanna brought the g*ddamn house down with her performance of “Lift Me Up.” And then there’s “Naatu Naatu,” which is truly the greatest Oscar performance in my lifetime. Seriously, no one’s put a show on like that since the 90s, and it was miraculous to witness.
The only sore spot in the entire show were two bits that fell completely flat. One involved a clearly-sick Elizabeth Banks presenting Visual Effects with the titular character of her new film, Cocaine Bear. The bear was a ridiculously dumb idea, and no solid jokes came from the bit, although my dog was clearly enamored. The other horrible decision involved Disney integrating a trailer for The Little Mermaid physically into the show. It was a shameless advertisement, especially with the only other big trailer (Oppenheimer) coming during a commercial break later in the show. I want more trailers in the Oscars, but my God, this was tasteless.
Well, that concludes the end of a long, surprising, and occasionally tiring Oscar season. Overall, I managed to predict 15/23 winners, and so many deserving performers and artists now have Oscars. It’s hard to be mad at a historic, delightful season – especially one where so many deserving films were nominated, from the arthouse to blockbusters. If you haven’t seen these films yet, use this year’s nominees as a checklist – you won’t be sorry.
As for me, I’m about to take a week off to detox with cheesy television before returning to some classic cinema. Maybe I’ll throw in some Cocaine Bear or Scream VI – wouldn’t that be lovely? I’ll be back sometime next week with my predictions for the 2023 Academy Awards. You can see the full results from last night’s show below, and until next year, thanks for joining me during this wild, wild race.
Best Picture: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Actor: Brendan Fraser – The Whale
Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Supporting Actress: Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Director: Daniels – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Original Screenplay: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Adapted Screenplay: Women Talking
Best Animated Feature: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
Best International Feature: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Documentary Feature: Navalny
Best Documentary Short: The Elephant Whisperers
Best Live Action Short: An Irish Goodbye
Best Animated Short: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse
Best Original Score: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Original Song: “Naatu Naatu” – RRR
Best Sound: Top Gun: Maverick
Best Production Design: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Cinematography: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Costume Design: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Whale
Best Film Editing: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Visual Effects: Avatar: The Way of Water