The 95th Academy Awards Was a Stunning Return to Form
Tonight, the 95th Academy Awards ceremony was held live from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. The delightfully weird Everything Everywhere All at Once swept the major categories and the show was an elegantly produced telecast that featured solid comedy, memorable musical performances, a sea of A-listers, and historic wins. It felt like a return to form after two consecutive Oscars ceremonies that were near-disasters.
Reflections on the Winners
Before I delve into the utterly wild telecast, let me first discuss the winners.
The big story of the night was undoubtedly that Everything Everywhere All at Once won 7 Oscars from its field-leading 11 nominations. The absurdist science fiction film was released to rapturous critical acclaim last spring and has never flagged in its support since. It won Best Picture, Best Director (the directing duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as the Daniels), Best Original Screenplay (also for the Daniels), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Best Film Editing.
The milestones and records set by Everything Everywhere All at Once were extraordinary. It is the third time in history that a movie won three of the four acting categories after 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire and 1976’s Network. It is the most Oscars won by any film since Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity in 2014. It was the second film with a predominantly Asian cast to win Best Picture after 2019’s Parasite. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win Best Actress and the second non-white woman ever after Halle Berry’s historic win for 2001’s Monster’s Ball. Ke Huy Quan became the second Asian actor to win Best Supporting Actor after Haing S. Ngor triumphed for 1984’s The Killing Fields. And it is arguably the first science fiction film to win the Best Picture Oscar. (I would argue that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Shape of Water are fantasy, not sci-fi.)
There was a while, however, when it looked like Everything Everywhere was going to lose the top award to All Quiet on the Western Front. Edward Berger’s German-language adaptation of the 1929 anti-war novel (which was previously adapted into a Best Picture-winning film in 1930) had a very strong showing early on winning 4 Oscars for Best International Feature Film, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. Once it lost a couple of key categories (Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay), I was convinced once again that it would be Everything Everywhere All at Once domination.
Best Actor went to Brendan Fraser for Darren Arronofsky’s utterly grotesque film The Whale. Fraser is an immensely talented and likable actor with a wonderful comeback narrative, but the film was so shamefully fatphobic and homophobic that it was hard for me to root for him. The film also picked up a win for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, continuing the interesting trend of a lead acting win and the makeup award going hand-in-hand for prosthetics heavy performances (e.g., Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Gary Oldman in The Darkest Hour, Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose). Interestingly, his win marked the first time since Jeff Bridges triumphed in 2009 for Crazy Heart that an actor won Best Actor for a movie not nominated for Best Picture.
Best Adapted Screenplay went to Sarah Polley for her searing and skillful adaptation of Mariam Toews’s harrowing novel Women Talking. Best Original Song went to the show-stopping “Naatu Naatu” from the wildly entertaining Indian export RRR. Ruth E. Carter won her second Oscar for designing the costumes for a Black Panther film and in the process became the first black woman in history to win multiple Oscars (a shameful statistic). A pair of other blockbuster sequels also took him home trophies, with Avatar: The Way of Water winning Best Visual Effects and Top Gun: Maverick winning Best Sound.
Best Documentary Feature went to Navalny, about the Russian opposition leader who Vladimir Putin had poisoned and then subjected to imprisonment (where he remains). Best Animated Feature went to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, giving the filmmaker his third win across three categories (he previously won Best Pictures and Best Director for 2017’s The Shape of Water). And the Oscars for the shorts went to The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse (Animated Short), The Elephant Whisperers (Documentary Short), and An Irish Goodbye (Live Action Short).
With such impressive hauls for Everything Everywhere and All Quiet, there was decidedly less “spreading of the wealth” this year. Of the other eight nominees for Best Picture, only Women Talking, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Top Gun: Maverick took home a trophy. That means that The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, The Fabelmans, Tár, and Triangle of Sadness all went home empty-handed despite having a combined 33 nominations.
I previously ranked the nominees in the four acting categories and the contenders in the screenplay, directing, and Best Picture categories. I was thrilled that in six of those eight top categories (i.e., Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay) my personal preference coincided with the winner. Unfortunately, in the other two (i.e. Actor, Supporting Actress) the actor I ranked dead last won. Although it’s a bit disappointing, Brendan Fraser and Jamie Lee Curtis are such talented and likable stars with wonderful narratives that I can’t be too mad. Although, I have to say, that if the Academy was going to use the Best supporting Actress category to give a career achievement award, Angela Bassett would have been a worthier choice as her filmography is significantly stronger than Curtis’s.
As for the accuracy of my predictions, this year was just as rough as I expected. I correctly guessed only 15 of the 23 categories (65%). My high-profile misses were Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. This is a considerable step down from last year, when I correctly predicted 20 out of the 23 categories (87%), and a bit worse than the preceding year when I correctly predicted 16 out of 23 (70%).
Click here to read my preview of the ceremony and my predictions in all 23 categories.
Interesting Facts and Figures about the Winners (and non-winners)
- Everything Everywhere All at Once became the first film to win seven or more Oscars since 2017’s Gravity.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once became the first film to win three of the four acting categories after 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire and 1976’s Network.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once became the first science fiction film ever to win Best Picture.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once became the second film with a predominantly Asian cast to win Best Picture, after 2019’s Parasite.
- Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert became the third time in history that Best Director went to a directing duo and not an individual after Joel and Ethan Coen for 2007’s No Country for Old Men and Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for 1961’s West Side Story.
- Daniel Kwan became the third Asian person to win Best Director after Ang Lee (2005’s Brokeback Mountain and 2012’s Life of Pi) and Bong Joon-ho (2019’s Parasite).
- Brendan Fraser became the first actor to win Best Actor without his film being nominated for Best Picture since Jeff Bridges won for Crazy Heart in 2009.
- Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win Best Actress and only the second non-white woman to win in the category, following Halle Berry’s historic win in 2001 for Monster’s Ball.
- Ke Huy Quan became the second Asian person to win in this category following Haing S. Ngor in 1984’s The Killing Fields.
- Self-proclaimed “Nepo Baby” Jamie Lee Curtis pulled offsomething neither of her legendary parents did by winning an Oscar. Her mother Janet Leigh was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho and her father Tony Curtis was nominated for Best Actor for Stanley Kramer’s classic The Defiant Ones, but neither of them won.
- This marked the first time since 1997 where there was no overlap between the winners of the Academy Awards and their British counterpart the BAFTAs. This year, BAFTA honored Austin Butler (Elvis), Cate Blanchett (Tár), Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin), and Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin). This divergence is wild when you consider that in the last eight years, the Oscars and BAFTA have converged on three or all four of the acting winners. (In fact, expecting there to be at least some convergence with BAFTA is why I missed Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress).
- This marked the first time in history that the top six awards (Picture, Director, and the four acting categories) were all won by the same studio. A24 distributed both Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Whale.
- All Quiet on the Western Front became the third German film to win Best International Feature Film. The only countries with more wins in the category are Italy (14 wins), France (12 wins), Japan (5 wins), Denmark (4 wins), and Spain (4 wins).
- Ruth E. Carter became the first black woman to win Best Costume Design in 2019 for Black Panther and became the first black woman to win it twice when she repeated tonight for the sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. More monumentally, she became the first black woman to win two Oscars in history.
- Composer John Williams’s 53rd nomination this year for The Fabelmans gave him the second most Oscar nominations in history behind Walt Disney and made him the oldest Oscar nominee in history. He added another record with his loss. He has now lost 22 nominations in a row, the longest losing streak by any individual in history.
- Songwriter Diane Warren extended her losing streak this year. She is now 0-for-14. Thankfully, she was one of the recipients of the Honorary Oscars this year.
Reviewing the Telecast
For the last two years, the oscars telecast has been utter chaos. In 2021, the telecast eschewed having a host or musical numbers, featured interminable speeches, disastrously switched up the order that awards were presented in, and was held in multiple locations for the first time (the latter a necessity due to COVID). It was dry and boring and unsurprisingly became the least-viewed ceremony in Oscar history. (Click here for my recap of the 93rd Academy Awards.)
In 2022, the Academy and ABC were determined to get ratings up at all costs. It worked (ratings were up nearly 60%), but at a disastrous cost. In addition to the “slap heard around the world” when Will Smith took to the stage and slapped Chris Rock after he cruelly mocked Smith’s wife, there were the cringe-inducing Twitter-voted fan awards, the offensive and choppily edited effort to present eight of the 23 awards off the main telecast, and the rocky material delivered by hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall. (Click here to read my recap of the 94th Academy Awards.)
This year felt like a stunning return to form in a number of ways. For starters, they went back to having a single host for the first time in six years. Jimmy Kimmel returned as host after hosting the last two ceremonies prior to the decision to go host-less. Normally I find him smug and overly confident, but I thought his opening monologue was an exceedingly skillful balance of reverence and irreverence. He honored history-makers like James Hong and John Williams and encouraged viewers to seek out un-nominated films The Woman King and Till, but also made jokes about Scientology, weight-loss drugs, box office flops, the Academy’s historic exclusion of women directors, the notorious length of the Oscar telecast, and the shameful Will Smith-Chris Rock debacle from last year. He was sharp, witty, and concise and thankfully he only really had one “bit” during the show, a brief and mildly amusing Q&A segment with the audience.
The presenters were generally well-selected. Although the night got off to a bit of a random start with a Jungle Cruise reunion of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt that no one asked for, there were some inspired pairings. Highlights included the hilarious duo of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Paul Dano, the lovely and funny reunion of Four Weddings and a Funeral co-stars Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, Creed III co-stars Michael B. Jordan and Johnathan Majors, Glass Onion co-stars Janelle Monae and Kate Hudson, the amusing pairing of John Cho and Mindy Kaling, Elizabeth Banks’s ridiculous shtick with the cocaine bear, and the exceedingly attractive twosome of Andrew Garfield and Florence Pugh. However, there were the usual share of head-scratchers, including Nicole Kidman and Idris Elba, Margot Robbie and Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Connelly and Samuel L. Jackson.
Although the night was mercifully short on bits, there was one truly cringe-inducing moment that I also fear was a profoundly bad precedent. Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy took the stage to introduce a clip from the upcoming live action remake of The Little Mermaid. Typically, Disney (the parent company of the network that airs the Oscars) is far subtler with its self-promotion, usually just selecting stars from their own projects to be majorly over-represented among hosts and presenters. But to actually use part of the telecast to show a preview for one of their upcoming high-profile summer releases was beyond tacky. (And this is coming from someone who is very excited about the film.)
The night also featured six strong musical performances. In one of the night’s biggest surprises, Lady Gaga took the stage to do a stripped-down version of “Hold My Hand,” her stirring anthem from Top Gun: Maverick. It was announced earlier in the week that she would not be attending or performing at the Oscars due to her shooting schedule for the Joker sequel she is currently filming with Joaquin Phoenix. However, she showed up after all and knocked it out of the park with a raw, minimalist performance. In contrast, Rihanna did a supremely elegant, skillful, and comparatively high-budget performance of “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But neither pop superstar could match the sheer joy of the performance of “Naatu Naatu” from RRR. The rendition of the song-and-dance number during the Oscars was just as jaw-droppingand show-stopping as it was in the film. As for the other three performances, David Byrne and Stephanie Hsu’s performance of “This is a Life” from Everything Everywhere was visually interesting but vocally unimpressive, Sofia Carson and Diane Warren’s performance of “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman was fine but unmemorable, and Lenny Kravitz did an elegant and soulful job of performing his song “Calling All Angels” during the “In Memoriam” section, which was thankfully much less chaotic than last year’s. The introduction of the In Memoriam by a tearful John Travolta, who lost iconic co-stars Olivia Newton-John and Kirstie Alley this year, was a thing of heartbreaking beauty.
As for the speeches, we got a number of memorable ones. Most of the great winner moments came from those involved with Everything Everywhere All at Once. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis’s raw, unbridled joy at winning were rousing and heartwarming. I leapt from my seat with each of their wins. Nearly matching them was the writer-director-producer duo the Daniels who clearly were gobsmacked over how their bizarre little film went all the way. Other great speeches came from an emotional Brendan Fraser, a witty Sarah Polley, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia Abrosimova, and the makers of An Irish Goodbye, who led the audience in a singalong of “Happy Birthday” for the short film’s star, a young boy with Down’s Syndrome.
Concluding Thoughts. Ultimately, this year’s Oscar ceremony had just about everything any movie fan could want. It was an elegant, entertaining ceremony that had solid comedy, great musical performances, and a remarkable lack of excessive, tacky, and overlong skits and clip packages. More importantly, it featured historic and joyful wins by a film that is undoubtedly among the most unexpected, bizarre, and utterly delightful Oscar sweepers in history.
The Winners of the 95th Academy Awards
The Specialty Film Categories:
- Best Animated Feature: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
- Best International Film: All Quiet on the Western Front
- Best Documentary Feature: Navalny
- Best Documentary Short Subject: The Elephant Whisperers
- Best Animated Short Film: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse
- Best Live Action Short Film: An Irish Goodbye
The Technical/Craft Categories:
- Best Film Editing: Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Best Cinematography: All Quiet on the Western Front
- Best Original Score: All Quiet on the Western Front
- Best Original Song: “Naatu Naatu,” RRR
- Best Production Design: All Quiet on the Western Front
- Best Costume Design: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Whale
- Best Sound: Top Gun: Maverick
- Best Visual Effects: Avatar: The Way of Water
The Top 8:
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Sarah Polley, Women Talking
- Best Original Screenplay: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, 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 Actor: Brendan Fraser, The Whale
- Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Best Director: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Best Picture: Everything Everywhere All at Once
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