And the winner is: Everything Everywhere All At Once
I found it truly hard to choose between contenders for the Oscars this year. I am angry and sad about films, filmmakers, and performances that were overlooked. But I am still deeply satisfied about the smash success of Everything Everywhere All At Once.
As a writer I admire EEAAO for using techniques of other media like gaming and TikTok to expand the boundaries of film, and for portraying the philosophical/ spiritual concept of the multiverse in an exhilarating genre mashup. It’s actually in the tradition of the alternate reality fantasy subgenre of classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Back to the Future and Groundhog Day (more on Groundhog Day here).
Plus, if the love story doesn’t get you—you’re not gettable! Actually I feel compelled to insert a mini-lecture about technique, here.
One of the most important elements of a romantic comedy or love story is the TAG LINE.
You all know them—that swooningly romantic line in Act III that clinches the deal for the reluctant lover.
Pop quiz! Name the movie:
“You complete me.”— “You had me at hello.”
I'm also just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.”
“We’re just two people who weren’t supposed to fall in love, but did.”
"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
“I was a better man with you, as a woman... than I ever was with a woman, as a man.
(That one goes on and it’s worth quoting the whole speech):
You know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress. At this point, there might be an advantage to my wearing pants. The hard part's over, you know? We were already... good friends.”
Well, this perfect tagline from Everything Everywhere All At Once has now joined that list of greatest hits:
“In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.”
If you’re writing romance, having a line like these that sums up the totality of love is a great way to win your own readers’/audience’s hearts.
(Find more on essential romantic comedy and romance elements in the romance-centered version of the workbook: Writing Love.)
But there’s a lot more to my love of this film.
As a US citizen who’s deeply disturbed by the modern rise of old racist factions and sentiments that in a moral universe should have died decades ago, I am thrilled at the enormous popular success of a movie by and about Chinese Americans. I’m doing a deep dive into California history in my other Substack, After the Gold Rush, and a movie like EEAAO is a small but important mitigation of the long history of horrifying discrimination against Chinese Americans.
A movie like this always makes it easier for the next such movie to get made, and the next, and the next.
There have been so many great articles on the groundbreaking nature of EEAAO that say a lot more, a lot more eloquently than I have time to do, so I’ll link a few.
Here’s one from one of my favorite Washington Post columnists, full article here:
Finally, representation is more than a hope in Hollywood
by Eugene Robinson.
A few excerpts:
“For an industry that once routinely cast White actors in “yellowface” to play Asian roles, Sunday night has to be seen as a genuine breakthrough.
What makes “Everything Everywhere All at Once” so revolutionary is that it takes what could have been a stereotype — the hard-working Chinese American immigrant family running a laundromat — and makes it universal. Actually, the screenplay by Kwan and Scheinert makes that setup multiversal, with Yeoh and her family zapping back and forth across so many parallel universes that I lost count. The film gave Yeoh the opportunity to be, well, everything — beleaguered, glamorous, fierce, defeated, indomitable. It was a chance for an actor to give us a tour de force, and Yeoh delivered.
Yeoh labored in the Hong Kong film industry and on the fringes of Hollywood for many years before truly breaking through. Her co-star Quan was a child star— he played Short Round in 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and Data in 1985’s “The Goonies” — but struggled to find adult roles and was cast in no movies at all between 2002 and 2021. “My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp,” he said during his acceptance speech. “Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine.”
And I love this article by Guardian writer Bertin Huynh:
“Beyond the kaleidoscope of multiverse madness, this film distils east Asian philosophies like no other before it. While it may seem that the great stories of Asian immigrant families build on the cornerstone of intergenerational trauma, its heart of Buddhist and Daoist thought is what makes Everything Everywhere truly great.”
The film is also a triumph for its art house studio, A 24, and its success means more thoughtful, non-Marvel movies can be financed and distributed.
“Six years after nabbing the best picture Oscar for “Moonlight,” the hip, art house studio A 24 succeeded at Sunday night’s Academy Awards on a scale that seemed to surprise even its executives, who entered the post-show Governor’s Ball (the biggest post-Oscar party) with what-just-happened-looks on their faces.
The studio became the first in the 95-year history of the Oscars to capture the top six awards at once: the four acting categories, director and picture. It won nine trophies in all — out of 18 nominations — with seven, including best picture, going to Everything Everywhere All at Once. That film, about a family of Asian immigrants who travel through a multiverse in their quest to find one another, was made for $20 million and grossed $106 million worldwide.
“I’m just so glad they exist because no one else is making the weird stuff that they are, and we all need that,” Paul Rogers, who won the editing Oscar for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” said of A24 after entering the Governor’s Ball.“We need to know, all the weirdos out there, that we’re not alone. They’re helping us and the world realize that it’s OK to be strange. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to tell different types of stories about different types of people than what we’re used to seeing.”
But again, at the same time that I’m celebrating this important milestone, I want to pay tribute to the great movies and filmmakers who were infuriatingly overlooked. So, more to come!
So what are some movies and TV shows you’d like to shout out or hear more about?
Let me know!