Is that film with butt plugs and hotdog fingers really going to win?
It is. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the madcap multiverse comedy in which Michelle Yeoh plays a fed-up launderette owner who accesses different versions of herself to save the world (and defeat Jamie Lee Curtis’s villainously dowdy tax inspector) now looks a lock for best picture. It’s won all the key awards in the run-up, broke records at the Screen Actors Guild awards last Sunday and an auction of props on Friday raised more than half a million dollars.
Wow! It must be fantastically good!
Well … how do I put this? Remember how last year The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion’s tense homoerotic western, was pipped to the post by Coda, which looked like something the Hallmark channel put out on a wet Wednesday? The best picture doesn’t always win best picture. Everything Everywhere has split opinion. Some like it for its originality and spunk, quirky anime-inspired visual panache and absurdist humour. Others find it dim, derivative, unfunny, repetitive, overlong, smug and insufferable.
Oh. So why will it win?
Voters love that it isn’t a spin-off or sequel. It’s long been perceived as the underdog, even as it’s moved into pole position. That’s because it has indie edge: distributed by groovy US outfit A24, rather than one of the big studios. The film is also female-led and conspicuously inclusive – Yeoh is the first Asian woman up for best actress; two of her Asian co-stars are also nominated for supporting roles. And it’s – whisper it – popular with real people. Populist, even: a flashy fanboy entertainment much closer to Marvel than most of the competition.
So it’ll be the first superhero movie to win best picture?
Essentially, yes. It shares a sensibility with the wackier end of that genre – as well as, crucially, a fanbase. It premiered not at Cannes or Venice but South by Southwest. The marketing has leant relentlessly on memes. Young people like it, cool people like it, nerds like it: all key target demographics for the ailing Oscars. A precedent will be set.
Hang on, wasn’t The Fabelmans supposed to sweep the board?
Last year, maybe. Times have changed. And the likely wipeout for Steven Spielberg’s drama about his parents’ divorce would indicate the Oscars are no longer in thrall to big beasts of the industry – however brilliant their films. It also shows the curtain is closing on movies about movies being awards catnip. But if you think The Fabelmans has fared badly, spare a thought for Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light and Alejandro G Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths – two other autobiographical films out this year by much-garlanded directors about the magic of cinema. Both wound up with one nomination each (cinematography).