Acting winners Quan, Yeoh, Fraser, Curtis all 1st-time nominees on slapless night in Hollywood.
Everything Everywhere All At Once entered the 2023 Oscars on Sunday with a leading 11 nominations and took home seven after an intense awards season, and an evening far removed from the drama-filled one last year.
The German anti-war drama All Quiet on the Western Front — another ambitious epic, albeit of wildly different stripe — was second with the most Academy Award wins with four.
During an era of streaming domination, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel nodded to the movie-going experience in his monologue at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. He congratulated the evening’s nominees for “the films you worked so hard to make, the way you intended them to be seen — in a theatre.”
After last year’s chaotic show was overshadowed by best-actor winner Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock on stage, this year’s event was driven by the personalities of each category during a relatively muted evening.
First-time nominees ruled the acting categories, with best-actor winner Brendan Fraser winning for The Whale and Michelle Yeoh triumphing as best actress for her performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
If you’re wondering about the elephant in the room, Kimmel pulled no slaps — er, punches — while indirectly addressing the Smith-Rock controversy. Smith slapped Chris Rock, who was presenting the Oscar for best documentary feature, after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Later in the show, Will Smith was named best actor for King Richard.
In reference to the slap, Kimmel deadpanned Sunday: “If anyone in this theatre commits an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech.”
Several of the year’s most acclaimed movies went home empty-handed, notably The Fabelmans, Elvis and The Banshees of Inisherin, which were all nominated for best picture and failed to pick up wins in other categories.
Emotional acting wins for Everything Everywhere
An emotional moment came early as Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Ke Huy Quan, widely accepted as the front-runner for best supporting actor, won after an intense awards season during which he often referenced the challenges he faced working in Hollywood after a decade of child stardom.
When his career tapered off, he feared he’d never work as an actor again — until Everything Everywhere came along almost 40 years later.
“Mom, I just won an Oscar,” Quan said during his acceptance speech, weeping as he addressed his 84-year-old mother, who was watching from home. The actor had plenty of Oscars acceptance speech practice over the past year, having won the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Critics Choice Award, and other major and critics circle awards.
“They say stories like this only happen in the movies,” Quan said during his big moment Sunday. “I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream.”
His co-star, Malaysian actor Michelle Yeoh, took the award for best actress after a tight race against heavyweights like Cate Blanchett (Tár) and Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans).
While Yeoh has had a successful career in Hong Kong cinema, she has spoken of her struggle to gain acceptance in Hollywood, turning down stereotypical roles for Asian women, and facing racism and ageism. Everything Everywhere stars Yeoh as a struggling Chinese immigrant mother who is thrown into a wild multiverse where only she can save humanity’s existence.
“This is proof that dreams dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t ever let anybody tell you you’re past your prime,” said Yeoh, the first woman of Southeast Asian descent (and the second-ever woman of colour behind Halle Berry in 2002) to win the best-actress award. Yeoh kissed her golden statuette.
Jamie Lee Curtis, who won best supporting actress for Everything Everywhere (beating out co-star Stephanie Hsu), yelled, “Shut up!” in surprise after her name was called out. She got emotional as she dedicated the win to her parents, movie stars Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis.
“My mother and my father were both nominated for Oscars in different categories,” Curtis said, looking up with tears in her eyes. “I just won an Oscar.”
A big night for Team Canada
The big Canadian Oscar winners included actor Brendan Fraser, director Sarah Polley, prosthetics designer Adrien Morot and documentary filmmaker Daniel Roher.
Fraser’s awards success has been partly driven by his remarkable Hollywood comeback story. The actor, a movie star during the 1990s and early 2000s, has alleged he was sexually assaulted by the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 2003 and then blacklisted from the industry.
It wasn’t until The Whale that Fraser made a high-profile return to filmmaking. During his speech, he thanked director Darren Aronofsky “for throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the good ship The Whale.”
“I started in this business 30 years ago and things didn’t come easy to me,” Fraser told audience. “There was a facility that I didn’t appreciate at the time until it stopped, and I just want to say thank you for this acknowledgment because it couldn’t be done without my cast.”
During her acceptance speech, Polley, who won best adapted screenplay for Women Talking, a screen version of the 2018 novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews, thanked Toews for writing “an essential novel about a radical act of democracy.”
Toronto director Daniel Roher won best documentary film for Navalny and Montreal prosthetics designer Adrien Morot took an Oscar for his work on The Whale.
While Canadian director James Cameron didn’t attend the ceremony — “you know a show is too long when even James Cameron can’t sit through it,” Kimmel joked during his monologue — his visual effects team thanked him while accepting the award for Avatar: The Way of Water.
Naatu Naatu in spotlight before songwriter’s win
Every awards show should have an iconic dance break, and this year’s was supplied by RRR, the Telugu-language Indian blockbuster that blew away audiences from around the world with its massive scope, vibrant design and epic storytelling.
The explosive centrepiece performance of Naatu Naatu, which won the Oscar for best original song and became a viral hit, was performed on the stage with dancers snapping their suspenders as they executed the movie’s high-concept choreography.
The moment was a refreshing and electrifying taste of South Asian cinema at the Oscars. Not long after, the film won best original song, leading to one of the night’s most memorable speeches as songwriter M.M. Keeravani sang his acceptance speech to the tune of the Carpenters’ Top of the World: “RRR has to win, pride of every Indian and must put me on the top of the world.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jenna Benchetrit is a web journalist for CBC News. Based in Toronto and born in Montreal, she holds a master’s degree in journalism from Ryerson University. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @jennabenchetrit.
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