Oscars show some progress — maybe


Everything Everywhere all at Once topped the Oscar winners with seven awards.

By Paul Kranenburg, Staff Writer

On the evening of March 12, history was made at the Oscars. The Daniels’ (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won seven awards in one night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and three out of the four acting categories.

Deadline’s Katie Campione mentions how it is the most awarded film at the ceremony in over a decade after “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight awards back in 2009. Campione also mentioned how the producer, Jonathan Wang, dedicated the award to his father, “who, like so many immigrant parents, died young.” This brings up one of two interesting points about this revolutionary film. Wang’s line highlights the fact that he, a majority of the cast, and one half of the directing duo are Asian.

However, this is not where the diversity ends. The film manages to be several genres at the same time from drama to comedy to sci-fi to action. Its massive victory shows how The Academy tends to have a bias towards diverse films, as well as genre features. This all begs the question: Is “Everything Everywhere All at Once” a sign of change for things to come?

It is worth noting that the Academy hasn’t entirely shut out genre films in the past. Not only have many been nominated but both “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “The Shape of Water” are Best Picture winners. However, these are very much exceptions to the rule. “Black Panther” and “Toy Story 3” may have been nominated but they weren’t expected to win by most people. “Avatar: The Way of Water” received a Best Picture nomination but theonly guaranteed award was for Best Visual Effects.

However, it isn’t just big-budget blockbusters that many decry as being shut out. Many film buffs have made their thoughts clear on horror movies not getting their due at the awards, particularly when it comes to their performances. In the past, many have said that Toni Collette’s performance in “Hereditary” and Lupita Nyong’o’s turn in “Us” were worthy of an Oscar. Yet, come awards season, they weren’t given a nod.

As for this year, Mia Goth played dual roles in Ti West’s “X” and reprised one of them in its prequel, “Pearl.” Many thought that her work deserved awards recognition, but they also went on deaf ears. Josh Rosenberg of Esquire wrote how these films, along with others such as “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and “Nope” had “offered much more than jump scares, but the Academy was having none of it.”

The victory of “Everywhere Everything All at Once” certainly seems to promise a brighter future for this genre of film-making that was once written-off as nothing more than“B-Movies.” However, it is a tune that the movie-going public has definitely heard before. When Guillermo del Toro’s romantic creature feature, “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture in 2018, many were excited by the prospect of a new direction for the Academy to take. However, the divisive “Green Book” was its successor for the title the very next year, which many felt was a very safe choice in terms of both genre type and in its handling of its heavy subject matter.

It could be argued that the Academy only likes to show signs of changing every so often, only to immediately backtrack the next year. A media professor at MCC, Guinevere Mathey, summarized Halle Berry’s historic Oscar win back in 2002 as: “Halle Berry won Best Actress, we did better, and then everything went back to normal.”

The same year as “The Shape of Water,” Jordan Peele won Best Original Screenplay for “Get Out.” While the horror masterpiece was an awards darling, Rosenberg brings up how several Academy members were dismissive of the film as nothing more than a “popcorn movie.” However, the genre wasn’t the only revolutionary aspect of Peele’s win. His victory made him the first black man to bring home a trophy for screenwriting. The Oscars have a much more pressing concern than just genres and that is their issue with diversity.

Michelle Yeoh’s performance in this year’s Oscar darling made her the first Asian to win Best Actress. While this is a clear indicator that progress has been made, it also shows how slow the Academy is when it comes to changing with the times. Mathey believes that the Daniels’ masterpiece could simply be a sign of “appeared change,” calling back to the night-and-day difference between “The Shape of Water” and “Green Book.”

This obviously isn’t the only example of the Academy’s attempt to appear more ahead of the curve than it actually is. While they awarded the acclaimed Korean film, “Parasite,” the Oscar for Best Picture in 2020, it did not receive any acting nods. That’s quite a difference from this year, where three Asian actors were nominated, and two of them winning. When asked if these awards for films with more Asian representation will be helpful, Mathey said, “absolutely 1000 percent.”

On one hand, it could be likely that the Academy could turn right around and have another “Green Book” situation on their hands. On the other hand, it seems as if there have already been attempts to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

Rosenberg mentions that in 2014, it was reported that, “[older] men made up 76% of the voting base—and a staggering 94% of them were white.” In 2021, however, a significant change was made. The Academy invited 395 new members to their voting board. Forty-six percent of them were women and thirty-nine percent of them were people of color. This is monumental but one has to keep in mind that these numbers are still less than half. Before this year’s Oscars, it could have been argued that this act was nothing more than show and that the Academy Awards would remain the same but with a seemingly more diverse palette. However, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” seems to prove that mindset wrong. It seems unlikely that a film like this would have even won just two years ago but it has now.

That is what matters. Progress has been made since the very first Oscars in 1929. Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight. There might be a safer and much more conventional winner next year and the year after. However, the recent victories are indeed a sign that these opportunities given to previously unseen voices will help the state of cinema in the long run, especially in the awards circuit.