Everything Everywhere All At Once, and the Gen X Oscars

John Scalzi

One, I’m delighted that it won, it was my favorite film of the last year, and more widely, it was the most “this story could only be done as a movie” movie of 2022, so a win at the awards that are meant to celebrate the singular nature of the medium is pretty great. And I’m especially delighted by Michelle Yeoh’s Best Actress win. She has been terrific in so many things for so long.

Two, I’m also delighted that we’re in a place in the multiverse where a film like this – indie, genre, Asian, immigrant and queer – could win. Not too long ago, this film would have nailed the Film Independent Spirit Awards (and, in fact, did), but would have been kept to a couple categories (mostly technical) at the Oscars at best. Here in 2023, a film like this wins seven Oscars, including three acting categories. Good job, multiverse!

Three, by being its own weird and authentic self, this film stands as a rebuttal to the wave of racist, nativist and homophobic hate that’s sweeping this country, packaged as politics. As Ke Huy Quan suggested as he picked up his own Oscar, after having been away from acting for 20 years, this is the American Dream. It’s a far better American Dream than the one so many right-wing politicians and professional propogandists are trying to shove the country toward, in their own fear and hate and ambition.

Four, hey, Academy, give James Hong an honorary Oscar next year, okay?

Beyond but including EEAAO, this felt like a real Gen X Oscar night: Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis and of course Brendan Fraser are either part of or icons beloved by that generation. This is not to take away from the Millennial-ness of Daniels (who won screenwriting, directing and producing awards, damn), but the night was infused by the pasts of these actors in particular, who Gen X grew up seeing in The Goonies and Encino Man, and in Indiana Jones and slasher films, and in Hong Kong action films that felt like secret knowledge until, suddenly, they weren’t. There was also the fact that these actors were all ignored, minimized or underestimated for large portions of their career, which, well. Feels pretty Gen X, too. I did not expect this collection of actors to ever hoist their Oscars in triumph, much less on a single night. It’s, again, delightful. I’m glad to have been able to see it.

(Edited to add: Oh! And! Sarah Polley! Screenwriting award! GenXer! Who also did a stint as an actress in formative Gen X films and came back on the other side of the camera! Hooray!)

The only miss for me on Oscar night this year is that my pal Pamela Ribon did not get the statuette for her terrific animated film My Year of Dicks. But you know what? She was in the room, and appreciated and celebrated all the way into that room. As someone who was nominated for a major industry award several times before getting to go up on the stage to hoist it and thank people, I can tell you being in the room is a win in itself. I’m pretty confident she will be back. I will cheer for her again when that happens.

— JS

29 Comments on “Everything Everywhere All At Once, and the Gen X Oscars”

  1. Jamie Lee Curtis also gave a shout out to the genre movie fans that have gone to her movies. Which, come to think of it, is ALSO a factor in EEAAO’s acceptance and success.

    (My tiny connection to the film is that a friend dubbed Michelle Yeoh’s voice in the Cantonese opera segment. Really super cool that she flew down there from the Bay Area, where she was appearing in a show, to walk the carpet and be there for the ceremony)

  2. We noticed last night that, perhaps more than any prior year in memory, there was considerable correlation between the sound of the applause when a nominee was announced and the winning result.

    If that is true, My Year of Dicks was only barely nudged out of being the winner.

  3. I really enjoyed EEAAO – didn’t watch it until this past week, but had a ball watching it. And I think the filmmakers had a lot of fun making it too. Glad for all of the participants. Also – sorry about My Year of Dicks – when you pointed us at it earlier, it was a great watch.

  4. For me it’s a continuation of a trend that started with The Shape of Water several years ago.

    The tipping point between “old Academy” and “new Academy” happened at some point between 2011 (when The King’s Speech won) and 2018 (when The Shape of Water won). While we will still get some traditional picks like Green Book we now live in an era where films that never would have stood a chance before will get some wins. No doubt due in some part to the expanded number of nominations.

  5. True enough, as John says, that Everything Everywhere All at Once could only have been done as a movie, but if you want to read a novel with related themes and a similar feel, I recommend Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki.

  6. I think Everything won these awards in large part BECAUSE it was all those things listed in your piece. Just as they wanted to show they weren’t racist by nominating many black movies a couple of years ago, it went with something very liberal. As much as I liked the movie, I doubt it would have made this haul in a “normal” year when there was more to choose from. Will the theater going experience ever recover?

  7. This is the year that the Academy finally (belatedly) recognized the outstanding performances of two men in Encino Man, giving them Oscars for other works.

    Ke Huy Quan and Brendan Fraser, we salute you!

  8. As someone who became a Michelle Yeoh fan, only to learn that she had given up acting when she got married (this was a thing for Hong Kong actresses back in the day), it was a very happy night.

    My wish for the future would be for publicists to stop pushing every film and performance as being an Oscar contender. Also for fans and filmmakers not to take them seriously when they do. The Oscars are kinda great and really suck at the same time. They are too big and unwieldy to ever conform to anyone’s wishes. That’s part of why they are so fascinating. (She says as she googles Oscar contenders 2024).

  9. I’m super delighted! If I’d been part of an Oscar betting pool, I would have reluctantly bet on Spielberg. Nothing against Spielberg whatsoever, I should add – just that the old-school Academy would have eaten up The Fabelmans and shoved EEAAO to the margins.

    Gen Y here, and completely agree with the Gen X assessment. At the time I was a little too young for Encino Man, but watched teenagers get excited about it. Same with The Goonies and things that Ke Huy Quan and Sarah Polley were doing in the early-to-mid-’90s.

    (I love Sarah Polley – she’s astute and whip-smart and has been doing fascinating work for years. Her 2012 documentary Stories We Tell, about uncovering the messy truth of her own biological parentage and the family she was raised in, is quite something. The film starts out so quietly and conventionally that you don’t notice it get under your skin partway through. I think it’s still free to stream on the National Film Board of Canada site if anyone’s curious.)

  10. Ron Beilke:

    Hard disagree. One, this was a pretty decent year for Best Movie nominees, unless you think Tar, Banshees and The Fabelmans wouldn’t have gotten nominated any year they would have come out (spoiler: They would have) and that All Quiet on the Western Front (which won the highest number of Oscars aside from EEAAO, and swept the BAFTAs) wasn’t a late-arriving legit threat. So the film did not suffer from a lack of direct and serious competition.

    With regard to the theaters ever recovering, 2022 had only 60% of the number of theatrical releases of pre-pandemic years (which is still nearly 500 films, i.e., a lot, and more than any year before 2001), but the films that came out had the highest average gross since 2010. So I think the theatrical experience will come back just fine, has by some metrics already come back, and also, EEAAO, as the 26th highest grossing film of the year (domestically), was probably not notably helped or hindered by its theatrical performance in itself.

    Also something to consider is that the makeup of the Academy has changed significantly (and also, intentionally) in the last several years to be more inclusive and to reach out to potential members who should have been considered on their professional merits, but had not been for… institutional inertia is probably the most polite way to put it. Those new members are (relative to the old Academy) younger and more diverse.

    So it’s entirely possible (and I think probable) that EEAAO’s win is less about sending a message about Hollywood’s liberality – not a message that anyone would be surprised to have come out of Hollywood, honestly – and more about the membership saying, “this is our kind of film and we love it.”

  11. I don’t watch award shows but I’m happy to hear Gen X was honored. I still love Encino Man. I don’t care how kitzy or silly it is. It is a film that makes me laugh and smile. I believe JLC gets more beautiful every year. And Michelle Yeoh is Exceptional.

  12. The only deviation from my picks to win Oscars (in the categories I cared about) was The Right Honorable Lady Haden-Guest win for EEAAO when my pick was for Angela Bassett.

  13. All good, but you missed one of the most important aspects of the win–for me, the MOST important aspect. Everything Everywhere All At Once is the first science fiction film to win a Best Picture Oscar. The very first.

    (No, The Shape of Water does not count, because everyone from director Guillermo del Toro on down loudly claimed that it was a fantasy film, not that lowbrow sci-fi stuff. It was an homage. It was an allegory. It was every damn thing EXCEPT a science fiction movie.)

    So today I am uncorking a bottle of champagne I’ve been hanging onto for a long, long time, to celebrate a win for the science fiction movie community.

  14. Sarah Stegall:

    Nah, Shape of Water was absolutely a science fiction film. It was also a fantasy film. And also a horror film! It straddled genres. Likewise EEAAO was a science fiction film, and a comedy, and a family drama. It can be a little of everything, all at once.

  15. I am so glad EEAAO has won pretty much all the awards. My daughter and I loved it when we saw it in the theaters. I have yet to convince my wife to sit down and watch.

    Meanwhile it it is so great that Brendan Frasier won for Whale. I have only seen a clip so far, but it was amazing. Gen X, FTW!

  16. I really enjoyed Everything everywhere all at once while my husband who loves sci-fi didn’t.

    I said that Michelle Yeoh character was his mother which changed his view by a bit.
    An Italian immigrant who was isolated by not speaking the language, controlling family & got bogged down in kids, work & everyday things that she never got to do ehst she wanted for herself & found it hard to relate to the Australia her kids knew while she was here but apart.

  17. EEAAO also had a 60 year old woman in an action role, presumably doing all or most of her own stunts.

  18. I wondered where you guys were, blog was inactive, sad!

    I kid. Glad you had a great trip, beach photo shot by Athena Scalzi is great!! Big fun obvious!

  19. Encino Man? Seriously? The same 15% Rotten Tomatoes movie starring Pauly Shore?

    Right. Don’t expect me to take your opinions and reviews seriously if that is your idea of a great movie.

    And keep off my damn lawn!

  20. I loved EEAAO, but its singular success (both aesthetic and commercial) doesn’t take away from the quieter and/or more traditional virtues of the other “best picture” nominees, not to mention those recognized in other categories as well as acclaimed films that Oscar passed over such as Nope, The Woman King and Decision to Leave. (I’d also include Strange World, which would have surely been nominated in animated features if Disney had put some promotional muscle behind it.) In hindsight, 2022 was a terrific year for movies, and as with 1967 and 1999 I think someone will eventually write a book on the past year in cinema.

  21. Jeff M.

    Who said Encino Man was a great movie?

    I cannot find that in the comments.

    Or am I being dense?


  22. Yeah, John describing EEAAO as a “genre” film in the post through me for a loop. I like the New York Times’ description of the film as a “swirl of genre anarchy”.

  23. but there was a grand movie that got robbed back in the 1960s… I stopped re-reading “Flowers for Algernon” because it just made me a weepy wreck for a couple days… movie came very close to that standard and deserved to be oscar’d…

    “Charly (marketed and stylized as CHAЯLY) is a 1968 American drama film directed and produced by Ralph Nelson and written by Stirling Silliphant. It is based on Flowers for Algernon, a science-fiction short story (1958) and subsequent novel (1966) by Daniel Keyes. … The film received positive reviews and was a success at the box office and later in home media sales. Robertson won Best Actor at the Academy Awards.”


  24. There are a lot of great movies, actors, actresses, directors etc. that don’t even get nominated, never mind win. Doesn’t diminish them in the eyes of those that love them.

    Look up the awards that ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ won or was nominated for. Great movie, but you have to look at all the other releases that year. Stunning field. (1972, The Godfather! Deliverance!)

  25. I’d been hoping for Cate Blanchett and Tár to win Oscars as soon as I saw that incredible movie, and was disappointed that they didn’t, but I’m happy that EEAAO won.

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