Did “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Deserve To Win an Oscar for Best Picture?

Everything Everywhere All At Once is first SF movie to win in main category.

Jakub Piwoński

13 March 2023

And it happened. At the 95th Academy Awards, a science fiction film won the main category. For the first time in the history of this award. As much as I am happy about this fact, I am not happy that this historic moment takes place with the participation of a film of such dubious quality.

A short history lesson. During the 95 years long history of the Oscars films representing the science fiction genre were awarded mainly in technical categories, especially for special effects. We know this, but we don’t know that science fiction triumphed in the acting categories (Charly), once even won an Oscar for the screenplay (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). It has been nominated in the main category several times (more often in recent years). But never, I repeat: NEVER, has a film of this genre won the Oscar for Best Picture. Until yesterday.

(I don’t think I need to add on this occasion that the simultaneous win of the film in the most important category and in the three acting categories only strengthens the historicity of this moment).

Of course, one can argue to what extent Everything Everywhere All At Once is pure science fiction, and to what extent it is a comedy and a drama or even an action movie entirely. I am convinced that the film by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert contains elements of all these genres. But most of it is science fiction. It is the multiverse hypothesis supported by quantum physics that is at the heart of the plot of this show, which roughly tells the story of the funny adventures of a certain mother traveling through different, colorful dimensions.

This kind of “contact” situation has happened before. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water won the Oscars in 2017. Then there were voices among critics that we are dealing with the first Oscar for SF. These opinions did not penetrate the mainstream due to the fact that it was difficult to see del Toro’s film through this prism. Yes, the entire scientific base of the secret laboratory where the main character works reminds us a bit of traditional SF locations; also the monster that is part of the experiment looks like it was taken out of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. On the other hand, the story here is clearly fairy-tale in nature and the romantic thread prevails when watching it, not technological or even social.

This is not the case with Everything Everywhere All At Once. This is a film firmly rooted in the style of science fiction. During the first minutes of the screening, an association with the Matrix of the Wachowski brothers, phew, sisters appeared in my head, not only because of the idea of the possibility of “connecting” to other worlds, but also because of the support of the action with kung-fu style fights. Equally strong is the social or even moral theme in Everything Everywhere All At Once, according to which other dimensions are to serve here as an illustration for the main character’s discovery and maturation to independence. And this is a typical science fiction gamble, for which technology and civilization achievements are only a pretext for deeper considerations, often reaching back to human nature.

I’ve written this before, so I’ll quote myself:

The film’s biggest problem lies in its lack of moderation. Yes, it is fair to do him justice, because this is a film that is exceptionally brilliantly made in terms of style, and such editing is here akin to craftsmanship. At the level of metaphors, messages and acting creations, there is also a lot of freshness and surprises. But to be as honest as possible, Everything Everywhere All At Once is, in my opinion, another flashy film, slipping on popular mods (multiverse), which, using their melody and rhythm, creates an intimidating music video for them. However, it takes too long and is too overwhelming.

With this win, the Academy made it clear that the changes introduced a few years ago, extending the main category to ten titles, make sense. After all, a place was deliberately made for blockbusters – cinema hits with attendance – because they were overlooked for years. Gross of the representatives of entertainment cinema is SF. In addition, Everything Everywhere All At Once is said to be a movie for the TikTok generation, and there is something right in this comparison. This is an obvious signal that the way of narration has been appreciated, which is conducive to contemporary trends, is closer to young people, their ways of communication, etc.

Where others see freshness, I see chaos and cacophony. I represent an open approach to cinema, really, I have already seen a lot in this art, I had the opportunity to open myself to many methods. This full-length music video of the duo Daniels, as they are described by the media, did not appeal to me at all. Fantasy with fantasy, messages with messages, but in my opinion we are dealing here with a case of perhaps not the excess of form over content, but certainly a situation in which the showy, over-aesthetized visualization of an idea prevents us from understanding the sense of what the creators wanted to say.

Let’s put it straight. Everything Everywhere All At Once didn’t win because it’s science fiction movie. It won as a film convincingly showing a woman’s desire to regain control over her life, the need to fight for herself and her family. It won as a film that is a very interesting example of international cooperation, in this case on the American-Asian line. He won because he is fashionable and original. Not necessarily good.

Personally, and I emphasize, I am not happy with this win. The supposed advantage of the film in the form of a multiverse became its greatest curse, because it opened the way to an amusement park that is extremely difficult to grasp with the eyes and mind. However, I am glad that what has been seen for years has finally been sealed, when films such as Avatar, Inception, Mad Max: Fury Road came to the fore and the main Oscar category.

Nolan failed, Miller failed, Cameron failed, Scott failed. Earlier, years ago, Kubrick failed as well. The Daniels duo succeeded. And well, congratulations.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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