A lot of important things happened last night at the Academy Awards. We saw winners in categories that we’d never seen before. A film and a studio dominated in a way we’ve never seen. Surprising movies went home empty-handed. Beyond all of that, the way we predict the Oscars may well have changed. That’s a bit of what I want to talk about today, as we begin the post mortem of the season. Plus, today is my birthday, so this is what I felt like doing, not that I think any of you will mind…
First of all, history was made last night. Not only was Michelle Yeoh the first Asian actress to win Best Actress, Everything Everywhere All At Once was the first film to win as many above the line Oscars as it did. The movie, along with A24, set some records. When you realize that it’s this specific flick that did it, too…well, you might want to start throwing out the old rulebooks.
A few weeks ago, I wrote here about how Everything Everywhere All At Once had not only cleared the path for big Oscar wins, but had set itself up for potentially a tremendous night. Well, that’s exactly what happened, as the Academy had it sweep above the line. Aside from All Quiet on the Western Front, which did very well, the only other movie to get more than one win was The Whale, interestingly. So, Everything Everywhere All At Once dominated. Not only did this singular work get recognized in this major way, it also stands out in comparison to the films that ended up empty-handed when the night had concluded.
Just look at what got shut out. Babylon, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, The Fabelmans, and TÁR, to name the most notable ones. In several of these cases, they were also the year-in-advanced predicted nominees, or even winners. This gets to the crux of what I’m considering today. The films (though not necessarily the performances) that we used to assume were Academy catnip are no longer surefire wins. Now, they do still get nominated, as we can see with Elvis and The Fabelmans scoring plenty of nominations,, but they don’t win Best Picture. Hell, as we saw yesterday night, they don’t end up winning anything.
Everything Everywhere All At Once seemed like the exception to the prestige rule, but that could be changing. A generation ago, if you’d told an Oscar voter what the film was about, they’d have been confused, to be sure, but also apoplectic at the thought of it winning Best Picture. Now? We may well be entering a period where it just comes down to the work being too good to ignore.
Going forward, as we think about next year’s Academy Awards and very early predictions, perhaps resist the urge to just go for prestige fare? Now, as we saw this season, the Oscars still nominate their old standbys, without question. The change is, they don’t just default to wins, at least in Picture. Below the line, All Quiet on the Western Front had a good showing, just like many a war film in the past. So, consider your options carefully. We’ll see if I follow my own advice when I get around to these predictions (I’m taking a bit of a predictions break, at least for a few weeks), but if nothing else, this is something interesting to chew on…
What will Oscar look like in the years to come? Stay tuned to find out!