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Everything Everywhere All at Once Headlines Oscars

Courtesy of IMDB

The Academy Awards are usually a bore to me. We are typically greeted with an unfunny program full of celebrities desperately trying to get a cheap laugh, but failing to entertain and feeling out of touch. Even the awards themselves feel inadequate, often failing to acknowledge the more deserving movies in virtually every category. And I’m not alone in feeling this way: in the years leading up to 2022, viewership had steadily decreased.

However, this year’s ceremony stepped it up. More time was dedicated to the awards themselves, which were, for the most part, given to deserving recipients. These include Best Animated Feature winner Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio – a more niche stop motion film that beat out the big budget Pixar and Dreamworks films that typically dominate the category – and Brendan Fraser receiving Best Actor after years of inactivity and personal hardship. The biggest winner of the 2023 show was Everything Everywhere All at Once, which received seven awards out of 11 nominations, including Best Picture. Perhaps the main highlight of the night was Ke Huy Quan’s poignant speech upon winning Best Supporting Actor. Everything’s Oscar sweep would make it intriguing to anyone who had yet to see it

Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who colloquially go by The Daniels), Everything Everywhere All at Once is a 2022 Sci-Fi Action movie centered around Chinese-American immigrant Evelyn Wang, who must balance family conflict and tax issues while being tasked with saving the multiverse from a parallel version of her daughter, Joy. While an interesting creative tool, the trope of the multiverse has been used to near death across film and TV over the last decade. Everything Everywhere All at Once would have to utilize the concept uniquely for me to justify its acclaim.

The movie does deliver the craziness a multiversal adventure would warrant. It starts off by narrating a particularly stressful day for Evelyn as she attempts to manage a difficult IRS agent while struggling to host a family reunion. However, the movie quickly takes a dive into the deep end, with Evelyn’s consciousness suddenly split across the multiverse. As she tries to navigate this newfound power, she must manage her personal problems along with evil interdimensional forces and vast simultaneous alternate realities.

Part of the movie’s ingenuity is how the Daniels manage everything, well, all at once. Multiple scenes in multiple universes happen simultaneously, often during major fight sequences or emotional beats. It can be a lot of stimulation, but the fact that the story remains followable is a testament to how much care was put into Everything’s screenplay and editing.

Still, Evelyn’s personal struggles remain central to the film. Throughout, Evelyn struggles to find satisfaction in the life she has created as an Asian American immigrant. Her business is on the verge of financial ruin, her endearing but childlike husband seems removed, her lesbian daughter has all but rejected her parents’ culture, and her father is consistently disappointed. The multiverse Evelyn enters is a metaphor for her struggles adapting to a foreign culture and language alongside her familial issues.

As Evelyn starts to see alternate realities during her multiversal journey, her regrets build as she wonders if she could have avoided her biggest mistakes. It’s her journey to find inner satisfaction that really justifies Everything Everywhere All at Once’s existence. The movie can drag a bit in the middle before it links back to the emotional core, but the ending beautifully ties together the personal and science fiction aspects of Evelyn’s journey. Such an emotionally rich story about the American immigrant experience delivered through the vehicle of an absurd sci-fi adventure with talking racoons makes Everything stand out from other contemporary multiverse projects.

The actors go above and beyond to make these roles work. The notable standout is Ke Huy Quan, who plays various alternate-universe personas of Waymond, and sells the emotional heart of the film’s third act. Michelle Yeoh nails the role of Evelyn, and Stephanie Tsu plays Evelyn’s daughter Joy with heart. Although I do not think it is an Oscar winning role, Jamie Lee Curtis is great as an irritable tax agent, and the Academy did her career right by awarding her with Best Supporting Actor.

In many ways, Everything Everywhere All at Once reminded me of this year’s Oscars: through strong execution and resonating emotional moments, both reminded me of what makes cinema truly great. 

Rating: 9/10

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About the Contributor
Zach Halverstam, Senior Editor
Zach is in 12th Grade and is serving as Senior Editor. He enjoys reading, exercising, playing word games like crosswords and Wordle, and playing the saxophone. A fun fact about Zach is that he can place every country on a map (feel free to challenge him).

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